Definitions

land office

General Land Office

The General Land Office (GLO) was an independent agency of the United States government responsible for public domain lands in the United States. It was created in 1812 to take over functions previously conducted by the United States Department of the Treasury. (Starting in 1785, the Public Land Survey System had already surveyed the "Northwest Territory" including what is now Ohio.)

Placed into the Department of the Interior when that department was formed in 1849, it merged with the United States Grazing Service (established in 1934) to become the Bureau of Land Management on July 16, 1946.

History

The GLO oversaw the surveying, platting and sale of the public lands in the Western United States and administered the Homestead Act and the Preemption Act in disposal of public lands. The frantic pace of Public Land sales in the 19th century west led to the expression "Land Office business," meaning thriving or high-volume trade.

The GLO was placed under the Secretary of the Interior when the Department of the Interior was formed in 1849. Reacting to public concerns about forest conservation, Congress in 1891 authorized the president to withdraw timber lands from disposal. Grover Cleveland then created 17 forest reserves of nearly , which were initially managed by the General Land Office. In 1905, Congress transferred responsibility for these reserves to the newly created Forest Service, part of the Department of Agriculture.

From 1900, the GLO focused on conservation. Beginning in the early 20th century the GLO shifted from a primary function of land sales to issuing leases and collecting fees and royalties from minerals off lands recently withdrawn from disposal under the Withdrawal Act of 1910, and other custodial duties.

On July 16, 1946, the GLO was merged with the United States Grazing Service (established in 1934 under the Taylor Grazing Act) to become the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the Interior Department responsible for administering the remaining of Public Lands still in federal ownership.

An early commissioner was John McLean, later an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The BLM makes images of General Land Office records (Federal Land Patents and Survey Plats) issued between 1820 and 1908 publicly available on its website.

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