Land Survey Activities:
Converting Measurements - Chains and Links

Purpose: This is a simple exercise to incorporate into other mathematical exercises, or to be used along with a discussion of land surveys, and their importance in describing original vegetation.

A) In the late 1700s the United States government devised a plan for locating, describing, and selling land to the settlers as they moved westward. Think: Why was it important to have a reliable, uniform way of describing plots of land?

1) It was necessary to have a common means of measuring plots of land so that the buyer was sure that, in effect, an acre was an acre, and no more or less.

2) Descriptions of the land, such as timbered with oak, and wet, not fit for cultivation were very important to settlers who intended to farm the land.

3) Land had to be precisely located. The blazed trees and mounds of earth set
for section and quarter section corners helped settlers recognize their propertys boundaries.

B) Land surveyors measure distances in chains and links.
1 link = 7.92 inches
100 links = 1 chain How many feet in a chain?
How many chains in 1 mile? 80.
1 acre = 10 square chains

Townships were surveyed into six miles square, and divided into 36 sections, one square mile each. Students may select parcels of land of different acreages within a fictitious township and convert boundaries to chains and links.

Students can manipulate the distances and express them in different systems. Chains, for example can be converted to miles and acres, even hectares (1 hectare = 100 m per side). There are, for example, 4 rods to a chain, and 10 chains to 1 furlong.

Illinois State Museum State of Illinois IDNR Search, Last modified September 1st 2011, 03:13PM.