In the United States and the prairie provinces of Canada, 18ᵗʰ – 21st century, a unit of land area, = 1 square mile = 640 acres (approximately 259 hectares).

The section was first defined by an act of 20 May 1785, and subsequently in the Land Act of 1796.

U.S. Revised Statutes, 2395 (a1877).



The plats of the townships respectively, shall be marked by subdivisions into lots of one mile square, or 640 acres, in the same direction as the external lines, and numbered from 1 to 36; always beginning the succeeding range of the lots with the number next to that with which the preceding one concluded. And where, from the causes before mentioned, only a fractional part of a township shall be surveyed, the lots protracted thereon, shall bear the same numbers as if the township had been entire. And the surveyors, in running the external lines of the townships, shall, at the interval of every mile, mark corners for the lots which are adjacent, always designating the same in a different manner from those of the townships.

From the Ordinance of 20 May 1785.


SEC. 4. Be it further enacted, That whenever seven ranges of townships shall have been surveyed below the Great Miami, or between the Sciota river and the Ohio company's purchase, or between the southern boundary of the Connecticut claims and the ranges already laid off beginning upon the Ohio river and extending westwardly, and the plats thereof made and transmitted, in conformity to the provisions of this act, the said sections of six hundred and forty acres (excluding those hereby reserved) shall be offered for sale, at public vendue, under the direction of the governor or secretary of the western territory, and the Surveyor General: such of them as lie below the Great Miami shall be sold at Cincinnati; those of them which lie between the Sciota and the Ohio company's purchase, at Pittsburg; and those between the Connecticut claim and the seven ranges, at Pittsburg. And the townships remaining undivided shall be offered for sale, in the same manner, at the seat of government of the United States, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, in tracts of one quarter of a township lying at the corners thereof, excluding the four central sections, and the other reservations before mentioned: Provided always, that no part of the lands directed by this act to be offered for sale, shall be sold for less than two dollars per acre.

May 18, 1796. CHAP. XXIX. An Act providing for the Sale of the Lands of the United States, in the territory northwest of the river Ohio, and above the mouth of Kentucky river. (FOURTH CONGRESS. Sess. I. Ch. 29. 1796, page 464.)

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