Where on Earth in Champaign County: Township Numbers, Ranges, and Directions

When looking at a Title Abstract or the Grantor/Grantee index, one can find the legal description of a piece of land along with its location. For example, The Urbana Free Library is located in Section 17 of Township 19 north, Range 9 east. This refers to the Library’s location on a plat map.

Plat Map

This blog post will take a look at the number and direction associated with the township as well as the range number, and what these terms actually mean. It is important to note that “township” in this context refers to an area of land recognized by the United States Public Land Survey System. Within Champaign County, there are a total of 28 townships that can all be found on a plat map.

Each township will have a number, followed by either north or south, and will have a range number that is followed by either east or west. See example below:

Plat Map Title

The north and south designations refer to the direction of the township in relation to the baselines recognized by the United States Public Land Survey System (PLSS). Each baseline corresponds to a particular principal meridian. Here in Champaign County, our reference point is, for the most part, the third principal meridian. For Champaign County townships, the numbers will always be followed by a north direction because the baseline of the third principal meridian originates in Centralia, which is far south of Champaign County. For Champaign County, the township number will be between 17 and 22 north. The township number refers to the “tier” of land that the township is located in. You can think of a tier as a large rectangular swath of land that stretches horizontally across the area on a map. An example of a tier is pictured below:

Tier of Plat Map

Speaking of principal meridians, they are also the reference points for the east and west designations in the location of a township. The numbers are a reference to the “range” a township is in. Ranges are similar to tiers except instead of stretching horizontally, they stretch vertically. The range number and direction are in reference to the third principal meridian. Unlike the baseline direction, both directions of ranges exist in our county. Portions of Kerr and Compromise Townships exist within the boundaries of range 14 west of the second principal meridian. The number and direction of these ranges tell us their location in relation to the named principal meridian. Here is an example of a range from a plat map.

Range Plat Map

Knowing this, let’s go back to the example from earlier. The Urbana Free Library is located in the township of Urbana, which is located within the boundaries of Township 19 N and range 9 east of the third principal meridian. Next to Urbana Township is Champaign Township, which is also within the limits of 19 N but lies in Range 8 east of the Third principal meridian. From this information, we can tell that both of these townships lie in the same horizontal area, and that Urbana Township is located east of Champaign Township.

That’s all for this post. Hopefully, you walk away with a better understanding of the terms associated with townships. In the next post, we’ll take a look at another map-related topic.

- Shalini S.

Archives Assistant