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3 August 2013 - Thanks for the Education

I must admit, I was truly surprised at the response I received to last week’s commentary. . . ‘Who did all this hard work?’, talking about surveying the United States.

Let me share some of the comments:

- A farmer in Illinois shared this with me... “What you were talking about dates back to the Continental Congress after the Revolution. They had little taxing power but lots of land for sale, specifically the Northwest Territory which in the treaty with Great Britain was everything west of the colonies and north and west of the Ohio River, south of Canada and east of the Mississippi. That area ultimately became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Minnesota. A method of surveying was spelled out in a Northwest Ordinance, either the 1785 or 1787 - not sure which.”

He then offered a detailed description of how the surveying was done. I don’t have time to go into that, but here is the concluding paragraph. . . “How they surveyed with prairie grass taller than horses, timber, hills and streams is a mystery to me but they were quite accurate. Intersections of the sections were to be marked by digging a hole and burying something of metal or rock. Lacking those, a hole was dug and the campfire ashes were dumped in. The corrections are usually obvious at township lines where the road makes a jog.”

- Then, this from another gentleman who spent 50 years in farm management, rural appraisal, agricultural real estate and as a land auctioneer in central Illinois. He said “ I have been involved in many land transactions and, like you, I have really gained respect for the work that went into the original survey of this land. With the few tools they had to work with, it is amazing how good their work was and how it has stood the test of time. I have been told that those original surveyors were riding horseback and dragging a rope. It must have been a long one! It appears that the surveyors always allowed for a margin of error. Whenever we sell 80, 160, etc. acres that need a survey, normally we find that there is an overrun in acres of approximately 1-2%. Very seldom do we find an acreage shortage when doing the new survey. Those guys did a good job!”

Well, you did a good job, too! Thanks for educating me and answering the question . . . “Who did all this hard work?”

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.