Also known as School Trust Lands, 16th Section Lands were lands that were reserved for the benefit of public schools. The practice of reserving land for schools is actually an English custom that was continued in the colonies. After the Union was formed, this practice was written into the Land Ordinance of 1785 by Thomas Jefferson who would later be president at the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. As a result, this tradition was continued in the new territories. School Lands in Arkansas were established on January 6, 1829, by a Congressional Act which provided that “…such laws are needful regulations as they deem most expedient to protect from injury and waste the 16th section in all townships of land in said territory, where surveys have been, or may hereafter be, made, which sections are reserved for the support of public schools in each township…”
In 1843, Congress amended the law by granting the legislatures of Illinois, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas the authority to sell lands that were originally reserved for the use of public schools in those states. The legislature(s) were further authorized to make any law or regulation necessary to sell, lease or otherwise invest these lands in the “…most secure and productive manner, until the whole proceeds of the fund belonging to such township or district shall be adequate to the permanent and support of schools within the same…” Over the years, the laws regarding 16th section lands have been amended several times. Act 446 of 1971 is the most recent.
The documents are organized in eleven plat books and three patent books. Looking on the plat will show you which patent book contains the patent information. The first image of each plat book will show a diagram of the counties contained in the book and will help by showing what page a particular township and range is located.