In the United States land is measured in acres. Traditionally, an acre was described as the area of one chain multiplied by one furlong. A chain is an old fashioned unit of distance measuring 66 feet and a furlong is 660 feet. An acre is 1/640 of a square mile. It is 43,560 square feet. Six hundred and forty acres make up a square mile. There are approximately 400,000 acres in Bullock County. That makes us Alabama’s 47th largest county. There are about 22 million acres of land in the State of Alabama and 2.3 billion acres in the United States. The largest State, of course, is Alaska, followed by Texas.
In the United States only 3% or 66 million acres are classified as developed land. In the State of Alabama, 67% of the total land area is forest land. The largest land owner in the country is a man named John Malone. The second largest is the founder of CNN, Ted Turner. Both own over 2 million acres.
Historically, the development of land measurement has to do with agriculture. In olden times, a chain, described above, was the length of four rods. A rod was the length of an ox-goad. The furlong was thought to be the distance a team of oxen could plow without having to rest. This was the length of 40 rods. An acre was the amount of land that a man, using one ox, could plow in a day. I guess that means that Mr. Malone and Mr. Turner would each have to own over two million oxen if they wanted to plow up all their land in one day.
In our western culture ownership of land has always been associated with wealth and status. This was not true, however, in all cultures. In the 25th chapter of the Biblical book of Leviticus God, speaking through Moses, sets out some specific rules and statutes regarding the redemption of land during the year of jubilee. The purpose of the rules was probably to preserve the holdings of the clans. But the Lord makes it clear that man never has full ownership of land. “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.” That should give us something to think about.
Lynn Jinks is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.