The Resource Agency history of the Virginia Land Office
- Agency history of the Virginia Land Office
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- The act that established the Land Office in 1779, provided for a Register to be at the head, who would be "appointed from time to time, by joint ballot of both houses of assembly...." It was the responsibility of the Register to carry out the very carefully structured legislation which provided the procedure for obtaining waste and unappropriated lands. So thorough was the system that no major change in Virginia's method of distribution of virgin land was made until the mid-20th century.
- Under the act, any person could purchase as much vacant land as desired upon payment to the treasurer of a fee of £40 for 100 acres desired. The receipt given in return for the fee was taken to the auditor of the commonwealth. For this treasurer's receipt the auditor issued a certificate noting the amount of land to which the person was entitled. This certificate was taken to the Land Office where the Register issued a warrant. This warrant authorized any surveyor to lay off the quantity of land.
- The warrantee entered a claim to the land he desired by depositing his warrant with the surveyor of the county in which the land lay. The act specified the method to be employed by the surveyor in returning his survey of the land. Once the survey had been completed, it and the depleted warrant on which it was based were returned to the warrantee whose responsibility it was to deliver the paper to the Land Office. There, all papers were examined initially for technical error and, if correctly executed, were filed for a period of not less than six months. If, within that time, no caveat was entered on the survey, the plat and certificate of survey were recorded and the grant was issued by the Register. Once written, the grant was signed by the governor, sealed, recorded, and delivered to the grantee.
- During the first years of operation, the Land Office was mainly concerned with issuing warrants for military bounty, and satisfying claims originating under the colonial government. Since much of the available land was located in Kentucky, the Register was authorized in November, 1781, to appoint a deputy who would locate his office there.
- Following the reorganization of the Land Office, recited in the Virginia Code of 1950, the localities were charged with the responsibilities of issuing titles to vacant lands, while the state issued grants for escheated lands only. To counter dissatisfaction with the existence of the Land Office, which first surfaced mid-19th century as the amount of wasteland declined, the General Assembly adopted the solution of assigning more duties to the Register. First, the office of Superintendent of Weights and Measures was abolished by an act of February 9, 1867, and his duties were transferred to the Register. Then, by an act of February 28, 1874, amended April 29, 1874, the responsibilities of the Superintendent of Public Buildings were assigned to the Register, and the former position was abolished. Next, in March, 1875, the Register was made the Secretary of the Board of Immigration.
- Finally by legislative action of March 20, 1924, it was decreed that when the next vacancy in the position of Register of the Land Office occurred, that office was to be abolished and its duties transferred to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. The duties of Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, performed by the Register, were to be taken over by the Superintendent of State Office Buildings, who would assume the former title. This transfer of duties was accomplished by January 1925.
- In 1948 the records of the Land Office which were in the custody of the Secretary of the Commonwealth were transferred to the State Library and, by Act of Assembly, March 5, 1952, the duties of the Register of the Land Office were transferred from the Secretary of the Commonwealth to the state librarian.
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