About Survey Division
The Survey Division is comprised of the County Surveyor’s Office. We are a division of the Washington County Public Works Department.
The County Surveyor is a licensed land surveyor appointed by the Washington County Board. Statutory functions include the preservation and maintenance of U.S. Public Land Survey corners, review and approval of subdivision plats, review of Torrens applications, and filing of surveys for public view.
In addition to these statutory functions, the Survey Division produces digital land parcel maps, the GIS base map, half-section maps, acquires aerial photography, establishes and maintains an accurate network of survey control, performs boundary surveys for highway right-of-way and other county property, maintains an archive of maps and land survey records dating from 1847 to the present, and provides customer service to private businesses, government agencies, and the public.
Original Government Survey
The original survey of the land now encompassed by Washington County was performed by U.S. deputy surveyors in 1847. At the time, it was all part of Wisconsin Territory. Township lines were established at six-mile intervals; after which, each township was divided into one-mile squares making 36 sections. Wood posts were set to visibly mark the section corners, and maps were drawn at the Surveyor General’s Office in Dubuque, Iowa. This process, known as the United States Public Land Survey, was carried out to identify land parcels for sale to the general public.
In 1847, Harvey Wilson was the District Surveyor for St. Croix County, Wisconsin Territory. He found and used many of the original government survey markers, replacing some with more permanent markers made of stone. After Wisconsin became a state in 1848, the land lying west of the St. Croix River became part of the Minnesota Territory. Washington County was established in 1849 from that part of St. Croix County that lay west of the St. Croix River. Wilson continued to perform surveys in Washington County through 1851.
Vernier Compass made by Jacob Blattner - St. Louis, Mo - Circa 1860
This surveyor's compass was used by Myron Shepard, Washington County Surveyor from 1883 to 1892. It is part of the collection of the Washington County Historical Society.
Past County Surveyors