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General Overview

There are two main types of property among the early settlers of Wayne County, Ohio.

  1. Real Property: This includes land.
  1. Personal Property: This includes anything not land. Early settler were taxed on the number of horses and cattle. These are often referred to as chattel.

Both types of property may be found in our collection. We have land deeds from 1812 to 1910. For more recent land transactions, please visit the Recorder's Office located in the Administration Building; 428 W. Liberty St.; Wooster, OH.

A chart showing what our department holds regarding property taxes may be found on the Personal Property page.

Federal Land

It is important to review many of the historical laws to gain a better understanding of who was entitled to land, where the land was available and by what means the land could be purchased.

Measurements and Description

In the early land deeds, a researcher may find reference to terminology no longer used to measure land. Listed below are some of most common terms found. Also, some conversion information is provided.

1 chain =
  • 100 links
  • 4 rods
  • 0.10 furlongs
  • 1/80th mile
  • 22 yards
  • 66 feet
1 link =
  • 7.92 inches
1 furlong =
  • 10 chains
  • 1,006 links
  • 40 rods
  • 1/8th mile
  • 664 feet
1 rod =
  • 0.25 chains
  • 0.025 furlongs
  • 0.003125 miles
  • 16.5 feet
1 mile =
  • 80 chains
  • 1,760 yards
  • 5,280 feet
  • 320 rods
  • 8 furlongs
1 acre =
  • 160 rods square
  • 10 square chains
  • 43,560 square feet
  • 4,840 square yards

Additional measurements may be found on page 63 of the book, Land & Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone.

A common way to describe land in early deeds was in metes and bounds. In simple terms, the metes and bounds system uses physical features of the local geography. The description starts at one point, walks along the boundaries of the parcel, and eventually returns to the original starting point. Roads, rocks, streams/creeks, farm houses, and trees were common descriptors given in deeds.

With geographic descriptors, the direction is also provided. North or south, followed by a degree measure out of 90 degrees, followed by the measurement, followed by another direction, east or west. An example could be N 42 degrees 35 feet W (N 42o 35’ W) or sometimes it may be written N 42 degrees W 35 feet (N 42o W 35’). These types of measurements could be plotted out with a protractor and graph paper.

To gain a better understanding on how to understand the descriptors, refer to the book, How to Plot Land Surveys: A Basic Primer for Drawing Deeds, Surveys and Other Land Descriptions by Neal Otto Hively. The call number is R 526.9 Hively. Plat Maps

Plat maps show divisions among property. Names of the property owners are listed. In addition, churches, cemeteries, school houses, quarries, coal mines, and much more are shown. For the city and towns, plat maps also show streets and alleys.

We have several plat maps for Wayne County, OH. The plat maps in the book, Early Land Records of Wayne County, OH date around 1820. The 1826 Tax List of Wayne County, OH includes plat maps dated 1826. These two early plat maps do not show many details. The name of the individual is shown. There is an index in both books and both books are organized by township. The next plat map we have dates to 1856. The original 1856 Baker’s map of Wayne County, OH hangs on our east wall. This was restored and preserved a few years ago. We have a duplicate in book form located with the maps of Wayne County, OH. The 1856 map is not clear and there is not a list of those individuals residing within Wooster. However, there is a business directory for Wooster listed. The 1856 book is indexed. The next two plat maps are for the years 1873 and 1897. Both of these are indexed and located in map case.

Our collection for plat maps during the 20th century is very incomplete. We have them for the years: 1922, 1939, 1950, 1952, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, and 2003. None of the plat maps for the 20th or 21st century includes a listing of property owners in the villages, towns, or cities. They include only rural land owners.

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps were the product of urbanization and fire devastation. Following the London fire of 1666 that destroyed 396 acres of homes and burned for five days, the practice of insuring buildings came into practice. The first policy covering a business in the American colonies was dated 1728 (Boston, MA). The coverage was provided by The Sun Company of England. The problem of distance between England and the American colonies presented a dilemma that was not resolved until 1788 when Edmund Petrie was commissioned to prepare a fire insurance map of Charleston, SC. It was published in January 1790. However, the phenomena of fire insurance maps in the United States did not experience much fame until the mid-1850s when William Perris, an English engineer, seven volumes of fire insurance maps for New York City between 1852 and 1855. His company, Perris and Browne continued until 1889 when the Sanborn Company absorbed them.

Fire insurance maps were drawn primarily for larger cities. They include a lot of detail. On the Sanborn fire insurance maps of Wooster for August 1884 and October 1888, outlines of structures are provided. It gives the footage of alleys and streets; indicates how many floors the dwelling has; provides information on the type of lights, power, heat, fuel used, and other particulars. It gives names of businesses, too.

Through the Cleveland Public Library and Clevnet, we are able to access digitized images of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Wooster from 1884 to 1945.

School Lands

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 required that one of the 36 sections in each township was to be set aside for the support of the schools. The lands were leased at 6 percent of their value of $2 per acre. This equaled 12 cents per acre per year. Later it was decided that section 16 would be set aside as school lands.

School lands were leased for 7-15 years. The occupant had to clear a given number of acres, plant an orchard, and build some fence. The occupant would pay the lease to a land agent. In turn, the land agent was responsible for collecting the rent. This lasted until 1817 when the task of leasing the lands was turned over to the township trustees. The leases could extend to 99 years and were renewable forever. Appraisals were made every 33 years. The plan was not successful. As a result, Congress passed an act in 1826 permitting the state to sell the land. The citizens of each township had to vote in favor of selling the school lands. The money raised through the selling of the school lands was placed in the State Treasury. The interest collected would go to the township schools. In 1968, the General Assembly agreed that the money was to be paid directly to the school boards.

Military Bounty Lands

Military bounty lands were given to veterans as payment for their service in the American Revolution. The Congressional Act of 16 September 1776 offered individuals who enlisted in the Continental Army a parcel ranging from 100-500 acres. The amount of acreage depended on the rank achieved. Acts in 1780 offered up to 1,100 acres for major generals. (See page 36 of Along the Ohio Trail.) Later on, military bounty lands were issues for those who served in the War of 1812, the Mexican War (1848), and various Indian conflicts. Many of the bounty lands were redeemed by heirs of the qualifying veteran.

The military bounty lands of most interest to Wayne County, OH researchers are those found in the U.S. Military District (including part of present day Holmes County and the southern part of Wayne County, OH pre-1825). In 1796, the U.S. Congress set aside 2.5 million acres of land to take care of outstanding military land warrants from the American Revolution. The amount of acreage was based on rank; however, it was not limited to the residents of only one state.

For more information pertaining to military bounty lands, refer to chapter 9 of the book, Land & Property Research in the United States.

We do have the microfilm for the U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrants …in the U.S. Military District of Ohio. We have those warrants issued under the act of 1788, 1803, and 1806. There is an index for 1788 but no index in our collection for the years 1803 and 1806.

Some land warrants were completely handwritten while others were recorded on a pre-printed form. On the next page is one example of a military bounty land record. This record states, “I do Certify that Zaccheus Biggs, Assignee of John Shaw, heir at law to Sylvanus Shaw, late a Captain hath surrendered his Military Land Warrant No. 158 for three hundred acres granted for his services during the late Revoluntionary War…” The warrant goes on to explain that he has three lots situated in range 2, township 3, quarter 4, lots 30, 31, and 32. It is dated 31 July 1804.

Homestead Act

The Homestead Act was passed by Congress on May 20, 1862 and took effect January 1, 1863. To be eligible for the Homestead Act, individuals had to meet the following criteria:

  • 21 years of age or older or head of a family
  • U.S. citizen or have filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen
  • Never borne arms against the U.S. government
  • Never given aid or comfort to enemies of the U.S. government

An interested individual would submit an affidavit declaring he had met the above criteria along with his application and $10. The individual could request up to 160 acres land with a minimum price of $1.25 per acre or up to 80 acres of land with a minimum price of $2.50 per acre.

The homesteader could obtain a patent certificate after continuously residing on and cultivating the land for 5 years. The homesteader would need to submit another affidavit attesting to the original requirements. In addition, he had to state that he had not sold off or given away any part of the land. Affidavits from two witnesses had to be submitted. An additional fee was charged. If the homesteader was not a U.S. citizen at the time of his original application, he had to become a U.S. citizen before receiving the Homestead Patent. No debt could have been accrued against the property. The patent certificate needed to be applied for within two years of completely the five year residency and cultivation requirement.

Property Conveyance Fee History

Occasionally, questions arise on property conveyance fee history and what the fee, or tax, structure was over time.

Periodically, on old deed records you will notice the price of a property is stated as, $1 (one dollar) and other valuable considerations, and you want to know what the purchaser really paid for the property as you know the property was worth more than one dollar.

You have to examine the deed of record for either an Internal Revenue Service stamp(s), sometimes referred to as revenue stamps, or a Conveyance Fee charge. Then calculate the price by the fee structure imposed during the time period of the property transaction:

Originally, the federal government regulated the fees charged for deed conveyances via the Internal Revenue Service which issued Internal Revenue Service stamps, that looked like postage stamps, that were placed on deeds.

The Internal Revenue Service fee structure prior to 1968 was $0.55 cents per $500 (five-hundred dollars) or a fraction thereof of the total consideration paid for the property which would equate to $1.10 per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars).

As an example, if you saw revenue stamps on a deed that added up to $5.50 (five dollars and 50 cents), you would divide 5.50 by .55 which results in 10. Then multiply 10 by 500, and then you know the purchaser(s) paid $5,000 for the property. Alternatively, you could divide the revenue stamp total: 5.50 by 1.10 which results in 5, and then multiply by 1000 to see that they paid $5,000 for the property.

In 1967 the fee charged changed from $1.10 (one-dollar ten cents) per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars) to $1.00 (one-dollar) per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars).

By January 1968, the federal Internal Revenue Service conveyance fee tax was no longer in effect and various states elected to assume the duty. Ohio enacted a law to set the charge for conveyances effective January 1, 1968. The Ohio fee structure from 1968 to 1975 was $0.10 (ten cents) per $100 (one-hundred dollars) or a fraction of $100 which would equate to $1.00 (one dollar) per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars).

After 1975 the State of Ohio allowed counties to pass a resolution to enact a permissible conveyance fee not to exceed $0.30 (thirty cents) per $100 (one-hundred dollars) or a fraction thereof. In December of 1975 the Board of Wayne County Commissioners adopted a resolution to levy such a tax at the rate of $0.10 (ten cents) per $100 (one-hundred dollars) or $1 (one dollar) per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars) effective January 5, 1976.

Therefore, starting in 1976 and adding the State and Wayne County charges the conveyance fee is $2 (two dollars) per $1,000 (one-thousand dollars) which is still in effect to this day.

See Also

Location of Deeds

  • Land patents and warranties may be found online at the Bureau of Land Management website.
  • Land deeds are often times found in courthouses or the Recorder's Office.
  • State Archives, State Libraries and Archives, public libraries, or government depositories may house land deeds.

Department Resources

External Links

  • 1895 State Maps
    Digitized atlas originally printed and copyrighted in 1895 by the Rand McNally Corporation, called: "The New 11 x 14 Atlas of the World". Contains state and county maps for all states and index of towns & cities by state.
  • County Formation Maps
    Links to county formation and state census maps for Ohio and all states.
  • Historical Map Collection
    The David Rumsey Collection includes 18th and 19th century historical North and South American atlases, globes, school geographies, maritime charts, and separate maps including wall, pocket, and manuscript.
  • US Bureau of Land Management
    Provides live access to Federal land conveyance records for the Public Land States. Also provides image access to more than three million Federal land title records for Eastern Public Land States, issued between 1820 and 1908.

Wayne County, Ohio External Links