As settlers began to arrive in Iowa, first they needed to buy land. The
federal government had to measure and map the land before it could be
sold. This process is called surveying.
When the land was surveyed it was laid out in townships. A township is
a square section of land that measures six miles by six miles.
Each township contained 36 sections. Each section was 640 acres or one
mile by one mile.
But a pioneer farmer couldn't plant a whole section. Most
pioneer settlers started with 80 acres. That way several pioneer families
would live on a single section of land.
When the government had surveyed the land, they set up a
land office where they sold the land at auctions.
Land usually sold for $1.25 per acre. That was a lot of
money in the 1830s and 1840s.
Another way the settlers got their land was from the railroad
companies. The government gave railroad companies the land to encourage
them to build railroad lines in the new territories.
The railroad companies would sell some of it to farmers
for a much higher rate. They advertised the land sales with beautiful
posters describing the land and the terms of payment.
By 1842, nearly half
of the state of Iowa had been surveyed and was open for pioneer settlement.
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