Although cartography is a real science and an immense amount of information about mapmaking exists, much of it online for the Googling, i want to make it easy for you to locate properties on the historical maps of the Mattole Valley i am going to put up, in a few easy steps. Nothing new here for history, real estate, or map enthusiasts.
If you have either the legal description of a certain parcel, or if you can locate it on a recent USGS topo map, you will be able to find the same spot on these maps once you understand a couple of basic things.
First, know that 36 single-square-mile Sections (each 640 acres) are lined up within squares or blocks designated Township (relating to north-south location) and Range (east-west location). The 36 Sections are counted up from the upper right of the Township-Range squares and loop back and forth to the lower right in an unusual configuration, like this:
(You are looking at the bare graph of a 36-square-mile area.) Now, each of these squares is located as Township (T) and Range (R) as in, i live in Section 25 of T2S,R2W– read that Township 2 South, Range 2 West. In the case of our Mattole squares, we happen to be south of the Humboldt Baseline which runs east-west through Mt. Pierce– the Monument– up near Rio Dell. Our west or east is in reference to the Humboldt Meridian which runs vertically on the map through Mt. Pierce and Honeydew. Thus, most Lower Valley locations are Range_(whatever)_West, and Wilder Ridge or Bull Creek are Range_East; and all are Township_South.
Then, the 640-acre square-mile Sections are further broken down into (4) 160-acre quarter-sections: the NE, SE, SW, and NW. Next, quarters of quarters, which are 40-acre or 1/16th sections– though parts of Sections can be described in halves, also. Here is an example of A.W. Way County Park, easy to recognize inside the east hoop of the “W” in the river about 5 miles upstream from Petrolia. The bulk of its location might be described as:
The south 1/2 of the NW qtr. of Sec. 30, T2S, R1W (sometimes you see “HB & HM” after this, to locate the Township and Range relative to Humboldt Baseline and Humboldt Meridian– but i generally don’t bother, once we know where we are in the lower Mattole Valley).
(Actually, A.W. Way Park probably extends into the north 1/2 of the NW qtr. of Sec. 30– it’s hard to say with much accuracy on the older maps.)
On most maps, you will find the number (1-36) of the square-mile Section smack in the middle of the square. It’s an easy-to-use system once you have the basics.