Surveyor’s Journal Entry Twelve
The Harrison Act Establishes Rules for Public Land Purchases
The Harrison Land Act, passed by congress in 1800, established the first rules by which land companies and independent settlers could purchase federal lands in the Northwest Territory. The minimum purchase level was set at 320 acres at a cost of two dollars per acre. Half of the price, plus administrative fees, were due at the time of the transaction. The other half was to be paid annually over a four year period.
The first federal land offices were established at Steubenville, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, and Marietta. They administered public land auctions and the private sale of unsold acreage.
To enhance affordability, the minimum land purchase amount was lowered to 160 acres by the Land Act of 1804, which still called for a two-dollar per acre sale price and the payment of an unpaid balance over a four year period.
Although the land acts were meant to control the price and promote the sale of U.S. Congress Lands, they set the standard for pricing and the extension of credit for land sales throughout Ohio in the Virginia Military District, United States Military District, and Refugee Tract.