Transfer of Land in North Carolina. It's History by "Metes and Bounds"

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with REAL ESTATE RESOURCES & NETWORK 209970

Land transfers in the State of North Carolina may bring with them metes and bounds and mystery. Be prepared for bits of history written between the lines in old land surveys, and also be ready for a challenge when you decipher them. Interested in definitions?...Metes... "A boundary defined by the measurement of each straight run, specified by a distance between the terminal points, and an orientation or direction. Bounds... "A more general boundary description, such as along a certain watercourse, a stone wall, an adjoining public road way, or an existing building."

 When you first encounter a metes and bounds survey you may find yourself traveling back in time  to the days when your family's "Old General"   having been granted twenty-five thousand acres for his services in the Revolutionary War, strode the land in North Carolina.  That's where bits of history come in.

Land records are excellent sources of family history information. Land ownership and the accompanying records were precious to many of our crop-growing ancestors who tried to keep land in the family, and created valuable records.

Deciphering land records using the metes and bounds method of describing land can be challenging. This was the method of choice here in North Carolina for centuries.

Back in 1777, a bill that explained how, after locating property, a settler wished to claim that land, was written. It required that a description of the location and boundaries of the property be provided by a surveyor. So a surveyor was dispatched into the mountains, hills and valleys or coastal regions to survey and produce two plats of the land. Each contained a scale, description, angles, distances, marks he had made, any water he had crossed, and, total acreage done in the metes and bounds method that had originated in English Common Law. After a short period of time in which any conflicting claim might be found, the settler was given a copy of the land description, with another copy going to the surveyor as a warrant to survey the land.

Now jump forward a couple hundred years. You are involved in a land transfer and you find yourself looking at a metes and bounds survey. You have come face-to-face with a document a treasure-hunter fairly relishes. Having read the above, you probably have surmised that These documents are complex, and oftentimes downright mysterious. With that old-time surveyor, now you follow along with a series of distances and directions until you arrive back at the point of beginning.

The directions may read,                                                    
"Beginning where Standfield's donkey and goat always stand  
at the crest of the southmost knoll. . ." continue "then go north 15º east
with the center of Sprinkle Creek 90 poles,
thence north 100º east 100 poles to a grave stone,
thence South 10º west 130 poles to a pile of rocks with a cross on it,
thence South 100º west 100 poles to the point of beginning,
containing approximately 92.15 acres, more or less."

Margaret Mitchell's Gerald O'Hara tells Scarlet,
"Land . . . 'tis the only thing that lasts . . . ." Land is a tangible artifact that remains of our ancestors where the history of families is written in the transfer of lands.

 

Resource: List of North Carolina Land Grants in the National Archives   

List of North Carolina Land Grants, 1778-1791

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Rainmaker
1,179,733
David Spencer
Keller Williams Northland - Kansas City, MO
Show Me real estate in Kansas City
I teach license law in Illinois. When I have the class on land description. I have to explain the 3 methods of describing land, One of these is metes and bounds, and I explain that this method was used to describe land in the 13 colonies. They usualy find it confusing and can't find the difference between a POB and a Benchmark.
Dec 30, 2006 03:02 AM #1
Rainmaker
513,562
Leigh Brown
Leigh Brown & Associates, RE/MAX Executive - Charlotte, NC
CEO, Dream Maker - Charlotte, NC
what a fun post to read!  we have the old metes and bounds description of our family farm saved, dated back into the 1700s.
Dec 30, 2006 03:25 AM #2
Rainmaker
577,873
Dena Stevens Coriz
Rocky Mountain Realty - Canon City, CO
Putting The Real Into Realtor Since 2004
I'm so grateful I don't live back east. This would drive me nuts! But on the other hand I sell passive solar homes.  The house has to be set no more than 10 degrees off of true south not magnetic south. This drives my clients nutty.
Dec 30, 2006 05:53 AM #3
Ambassador
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David...It may be confusing, but tell them, it really is FUN! If your students could go out on a "field trip" and walk the land, they would know why I say it is FUN!
Dec 30, 2006 08:14 AM #4
Ambassador
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Hi Leigh...When you wrote...we have the old metes and bounds description of our family farm saved, dated back into the 1700s. ..I got to thinking that your far-grandparents may well have known mine! Isn't it great to be in the Carolina's?
Dec 30, 2006 08:16 AM #5
Ambassador
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Dena...As I said ..it REALLY is FUN! Come on over to the Appalachians and I'll show ya' what I mean...these mountains have stories to tell;;;
Dec 30, 2006 08:18 AM #6
Rainmaker
613,042
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg FL - CRS CIPS CLHMS RSPS
When I was leasing mineral rights in Tennessee, I was also in the land of "metes and bounds". Points such as janeAnne mentioned, and some like the fallen oak tree (back in the 1800s, so try to find it now). Add that some owners neglected to state in their deed that they didn't have the mineral rights, and you have some interesting situations. I will admit, though, it was really fun to trace back the deeds. Fortunately the old county attorney took me under his wing and showed me where things were misfiled, and which people changed their names in between deed transfers.
Dec 30, 2006 09:57 PM #7
Ambassador
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Sharon... it IS really fun to trace back. And always good to have an attorney "on the team"...
Jan 01, 2007 01:47 AM #8
Anonymous
John Thomas
I am interested in large tracts of land in rural areas near Asheville. Is the metes and bounds survey someting that is going to cause me problems?
Jan 01, 2007 05:31 AM #9
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John...Not to worry about the metes and bounds survey, especially when you are in the company of a competent real estate professional and her team of experts :-) Definitely more fun than worry!
Jan 02, 2007 11:50 AM #10
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