PLSO The Oregon Surveyor Nov/Dec 2018

22 The Oregon Surveyor | Vol. 41, No. 6 Featured Article M ost “older” surveyors have had the opportunity to search for corners set by the Deputy Survey- ors hired by the General Land Office (the “GLO”) in the execution of the Rectangular System. This treatise is intended for the “younger surveyors” in our profession who may not have had the opportunity to delve into the nuances of these “orig- inal surveys” that are the foundation of almost everything we do, in some way or another. In Oregon and Washington, the first corners were established beginning in 1853 with the survey and monumen- tation of the Willamette Meridian and Base Line. Subsequent surveys of town- ship boundaries and subdivision of those six-mile square blocks into sections fol- lowed soon after and were generally completed for the lands most suited for habitation and cultivation in Ore- gon and Washington (previously part of the “Oregon Territory”) by about 1900. The monuments and marks that repre- sented these corners took many forms. Early monuments were usually wooden posts with appropriate numbers and letters carved into them with a “marking iron” (also called a “scribe” or “timber scribe”) to represent a unique point in the rectangular survey system. Later instructions to surveyors (beginning in about 1890) called for stones to be set for monuments with either notches or letters and/or numbers chiseled into them when practical. Those rocks were obviously much more durable than a wood post which was susceptible to de- struction by fire or natural decay. With the end of the “contract survey system” and the advent of the “direct method” in about 1910, government employees now made up the field survey crews instead of Deputy Surveyors (who were inde- pendent contractors). From then on, the monuments set were usually iron pipes with brass caps. Regardless, the retrace- ment of those “Original Surveys” and recovery of either the monuments set in them or the accessories established as a reference in case the actual corner points were lost or obliterated, has be- come a noble “game” for those surveyors (and other zealots) who desire to play it. Those corners set so many years ago are still the foundation upon which most all property boundaries depend. For me, this pursuit started in the summer of 1964 while working for the US Forest Service in the Detroit, Oregon area where I grew up. Occasionally, a helper and I would be handed the notes for a partic- ular section corner and told to go look for it and tie it in to the p-line or timber sale unit boundary for mapping purpos- es. Without any real “training” in this task, we would stumble around like blind men. We may have been “sighted” but unfortu- nately, had no idea of what to really “look” for, which would explain why we always “drew a blank.” After almost 50 years of playing the “game,” I have developed a pretty good idea of what to look for now. Sometimes, the traces of those old cor- ners and bearing trees are very subtle, as anyone who has been similarly per- plexed and/or exasperated can attest. Some of my more memorable instances of successful retracement and recovery are recounted here. T3N, R3E, W.M.; Northeast corner of the Township, Clark County, WA This township is located in a vast area lo- cally known as the “Yacolt Burn,” site of a major forest fire in southwest Washing- ton that took place in 1902. It destroyed two hundred and forty thousand acres, containing 12 billion board feet of fine old growth timber. That forest fire was the largest ever in the State of Washington up until the summer of 2016, when one on the eastside of the state surpassed it! The GLO surveys had already been done in most of the area burned in 1902. Most of the corner points were marked with wood posts in the 1850s through 1890s with many others being marked stones set in the 1890s and later. The 1902 con- flagration consumed most of the posts and a great many of the accompanying bearing trees. The township corner in questionwas originally established on June 20, 1857 by a US Deputy Surveyor named John Trutch. He set a wood post and also marked 4 bearing trees to witness it. The bearing trees were 3 small Hemlocks 6 to 10 inches in diameter and a 72-inch Fir. I had first arrived on the scene in June of 1967 as a recent graduate of Oregon State Improbable Corners I Have Come To Know Figure 1: DNR Office at the Larch Mountain Honor Camp in 1967. Figure 2: View looking southeasterly from the “mesa” on top of Bell Mountain, 1969. By Chuck Witten, PLS