About this Google Earth map ...
If you're a resident of Grand Forks, British Columbia, and curious about its early settlement, you may find this map useful in your own personal research. The above graphic is a screen capture of a tilted Google Earth Map of Grand Forks with a single transparent overlay depicting the locations and boundaries of historic Crown Land Grants within the Grand Forks town-site as well as the Sion and Spencer areas west of the city. The parcel boundaries for the transparency were determined using current web resources on the BC Ministry Parcel Map website. This same map, in its interactive form, is accessible below. It includes an additional layer which further identifies the individual Grants and links them to online copies of the actual Grant records.
More about this map and the Grand Forks land survey
Firstly, looking at the above map ... one can immediately observe what appears to be a unique survey pattern in terms of the division of land and the orientation and shape of the individual grant parcels. Their alignment with the US border is obviously apparent, as is clear evidence of a repeated rectangular parcel configuration, some parcels as squares and others as rectangles, twice in size ... all apparently vertically or horizontally aligned to cardinal compass points. It also appears that the parcel boundaries demonstrate an almost total disregard for topographical influences, aside from the meandering Kettle River. Although its river banks are not indicated or traced on this transparency, they generally define outer perimeter parcel boundaries. The footprint or territory covered by rivers or lakes, is itself, generally considered Crown Land in perpetuity.
Beyond these simple observations, one would need to do a bit of research to better understand the history and foundational logic or rationale behind the survey systems in use, both then and now. But even here, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that early provincial surveyors essentially implemented a variation of the Township survey system first implemented in the United States and later, on the Canadian prairies in the 1870s. The prairies were first surveyed into square blocks called Townships, measuring six miles by six miles. These Townships were then subdivided into 36 smaller square parcels called Sections, one square mile each in size, enclosing 640 acres. The Sections themselves were further sub-divided into more manageable 160 acre parcels called Quarter Sections. This survey effectively prepared vast tracts of empty flat-land in readiness for prospective prairie settlers, but it was not ideal for addressing mountainous terrain. British Columbia, nonetheless, later conformed to this survey pattern to some degree where practical. Grand Forks (the Sunshine Valley) lies within Townships 71, 72 and 73, but the smallest square grant parcels on this map, though not legally termed Quarter Sections, have in reality retained many of their characteristics. BC "Quarter Sections" are not, however, nested nicely in regular patterns within Townships.
Since that time, most BC Crown Grants have been privately carved up into even smaller parcels that have also likely changed hands multiple times. Nonetheless, it's interesting to note that these same original boundaries and legal lot descriptions still remain on our official government cadastral maps and property titles.
About the interactive layer
Duplicates of the original Grand Forks Crown Grant records have now been digitized by ministry technicians and copies are currently freely available on the BC GATOR website. The Grand Forks records are categorized under the Osoyoos or SDYD (Similkameen Division, Yale Land District) section.
An additional interactive layer has been added to the basic Google Earth grid map above to facilitate quicker access to these records. It includes clickable labels identified with the names of the original Land Grantees, their District Lot Numbers and Dates of issue. Each label links to a specific BC GATOR webpage with copies of the associated records, including Grant Certificates and a sketch map in Acrobat pdf form. Most links within the map are active except for District Lot 364 and 365 for which records are not available. Their label identities were determined from other sources.
View the interactive version of this Crown Grants Map ...
Be cautioned that this map is a work-in-progress, and as such may contain link errors, or the grant links may not open or work with certain browsers. Also be aware that the GATOR website itself occasionally appears to be offline, and even when available, there may be restrictions in terms of GATOR content usage and download. Consult the GATOR website for additional information.
Grand Forks Settlement history
A fair amount of early Grand Forks settlement history can be learned from these records. The two Columbia and Western Railway (CPR) Land Grants (live links DL 2700 and DL 2701) are particularly informative, their sketch maps offering a wider angle view of the Kettle Valley, including the larger parent Township boundaries, a 1901 view of Crown Grants within the city, the track of the railway, locations of adjacent towns, mining camps, roads, trails and streams.
Comparing Grant Dates ... it appears that the earliest District Lot was granted to a Roger Moore in 1878 (live link DL 108 - a 160 acre quarter section). In their book, "The Life and Times of Grand Forks - Where the Kettle River Flows", local historians, Alice and Jim Glanville, identified him as a sapper with the Royal Engineers who were employed to survey the southern international boundary across British Columbia. His grant certificate reveals that he was given the 160 acre parcel for "diverse good causes and considerations", as was often the case for retiring Royal Engineers. Other records reveal that on his retirement, his compensation also included 30 Pounds Sterling. Roger Moore's parcel subsequently changed hands several times before ultimately taking its place within the newly incorporated city of Grand Forks in 1897.
Grand Forks residents are sure to recognize a number of other familiar names on this map, many leaving their mark in local history as place names in geographical gazetteers. A number of excellent family stories also appear in local Boundary Historical Society reports.