If all existing land marks were obliterated,
leaving no means of identifying the surface of country comprising Monroe County,
Iowa, the boundary lines would be relocated by going down to the mouth of the
Arkansas River, where there is an imaginary line running east and west, known as
a "base line." Here the surveyor would find another imaginary line,
crossing the base line at right angles and extending north and south. This
latter line is called a meridian line, and that one which the surveyor would
have to follow in the search for Monroe County is known as the Fifth Principal
Beginning where these two lines intersect, and extending east and west, and north and south, are lines marked by spaces 6 miles apart, which are numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. Six miles north of the base line, on the meridian line, township 1 is marked, and the township adjoining it on the west would be described as township 1, range 2, west. Proceeding northward until township 71 is reached, here the surveyor should turn his course due west, and proceed a distance of 16 townships, as indicated by the sixteenth range line west from the Fifth Principal Meridian. These range lines, which are those spacings on the base line, are exactly 6 miles apart; but, in order to keep them equidistant, their course has to be slightly rectified about every 40 miles, else the distance between them would increase with the curvature of the earth. These shiftings of lines are known as "correction lines." These lines are 24 miles apart north of the base line, and guide or meridian lines are 54 miles apart. Meridian lines are astronomical lines.
By following the course indicated, the surveyor would arrive at Urbana Township, situated in the southeast corner of Monroe County. This township is therefore described as township 71, range 16, west of the Fifth Principal
Meridian, and by this system, all the land in the State of Iowa
was surveyed by the Government.
In making this Government survey, section lines were also run off, 1 mile apart, east and west, and north and south; and as each congressional township was laid out 6 miles square, there are 36 sections in each Congressional township, and 640 acres in a section.
In all cases where the exterior lines of townships to be divided into sections and half sections exceeds or does not extend 6 miles, the excess or deficiency is specially noted, and added to or deducted from the western or northern ranges of sections; hence fractional subdivisions of sections are found on their northern or western borders.
To number the sections in a township, beginning is made at the northeast corner section of the township, and the sections are numbered from 1 to 36, by numbering from east to west and from west to east alternately. Thus section 6 is the northwest corner section, while section 7 adjoins it on the south, and section 12 would be next south of section 1; section 13, likewise, would be the second section south of section 1, and so on.
Monroe County is in the second tier of counties from the southern line of the State; and is the fifth county in the tier, from the Mississippi River. All the counties in the tier west of Henry County have but 12 Congressional townships each, having 4 townships in tiers running east and west, and 3 north and south. Monroe, therefore, is less by 4 townships than her northern and southern neighbors.
The townships of Monroe County lie in the following in order, enumerating them from east to west, and beginning at the southeast corner of the county: Urbana, Monroe, Franklin, and Jackson; Mantua, Troy, Guilford, and Wayne; Pleasant, Bluff Creek, Union, and Cedar.
Albia, the county seat, is situated in the northern half of section 22.
Monroe County is from 500 to 700 feet above the level of the sea, and varies somewhat, in both geological arrangement and exterior character. While its drift formation is not different from that of its neighboring counties, the southwestern portion of Monroe County is probably outside of the region of the great coal producing portion of the lower coal measure of the State. While this fact has not hitherto been positively admitted by geologists, investigations of
recent years prove pretty conclusively that the townships of
Jackson and Franklin lie west of the western border of the lower coal bearing
district, and it is quite probable that the western portion of Monroe Township
also extends beyond these limits, as the lower coal bed apparently disappears at
the town of Moravia.
The southwestern portion of the county is a plateau, which seems to blend abruptly into the geological structure of the great southwestern water shed. Its drift deposits are of greater thickness than those in eastern Iowa and other localities within the district of the Des Moines basin.
While it is true that the lower coal beds extend farther westward, along the Cedar Creek, to the north of this locality, it is barely possible that the coal worked on Cedar Creek and White breast may lie at a great depth beneath a vast accumulation of drift. If it does, it probably lies at a depth of from 300 to 400 feet, as a drilling was made at Moravia to a depth of 300 feet without finding any trace of the lower coal bed.
The only fact to encourage this conjecture is that the Cedar basin seems to have cut itself to a great depth in this drift deposit.
Monroe and Urbana Townships occupy a lower elevation, and are drained by the headwaters of Soap and Avery creeks.
Little or no prospecting for coal has ever been made in Urbana Township, yet it is quite probable that in addition to the upper coal bed, which crops out everywhere along Avery Creek, and which is about 3 feet in thickness, with an interval of fire clay of about 8 inches in the center, the locality is underlaid by a rich deposit of the lower coal, which in Monroe County reaches a thickness of 8 feet in some localities.
As the upper portion of Monroe Township, particularly a few miles north of Foster, is on rising ground, no special effort has yet been made to locate the coal, which doubtless lies at a depth of about 300 feet; and as Troy Township rises still higher, prospectors have not yet been tempted to make much search in this township, in the vicinity of Albia.
By referring to a profile of the C., B. & Q. Railroad survey
it will be seen that Albia is situated on a high knoll or eminence, and whether
the coal strata pass through this rise, unbroken, is a matter for conjecture.
Not until the Government had surveyed Iowa into Congressional townships were the counties established and surveyed. Counties were created by legislative acts of the Territorial Council and General Assembly, which later took the place of the Council when the State was admitted into the Union. The State Constitution provides that in organizing a county it shall be composed of not less than 12 Congressional townships.
As all surveys are subject to slight inaccuracies, later surveys do not exactly conform to the original Government survey. For instance, a county surveyor, beginning to survey a township, starts at the southeast section and runs north. The section lines which the Government has established he adopts as his survey - i.e., he makes his own measurements to conform to them, the variation in measurements of the two surveys result in what are known as "fractional tracts," and as the surveyor runs westward after reaching the north line, these same variations occur on the west line of a section. Thus fractional tracts are found on the north and west lines of townships, and what was intended for a forty acre tract by the first survey becomes by the second either more or less. Deeds of transfer are for this reason worded thus, in speaking of the amount to be transferred: "More or less, according to the United States survey of the same."