Page 10 - 2021 Summer
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HISTORY YOU SHOULD KNOW



                                  By: James Mclefresh, plS



                                  About the Author:
                                  James McLefresh resides in Spokane, WA. He is listed as a GPS Surveyor at Spokane County and
                                  teaches Autodesk Civil 3D 2020 Fundamentals for Survey Technicians at Spokane Community College

          ohn B. Preston esq., was appointed by President Millard Fill-  enabled the surveyor to run true lines.  In general, the meridian
        Jmore as the first Surveyor General of the Oregon Territory.  At  lines established the starting point of all additional lines.
        the time of his appointment, Mr. Preston was the City Surveyor
        for St Louis.  One of the first tasks assigned to Mr. Preston’s was   Starting at the same point as the north-south Principal Merid-
        to create a system for surveying the land within the new Oregon   ian the east-west, the Base Line was set.  This line must be set on
        Territory.  he was appointed in december 1850, and lost his posi-  a true east-west line.  As with the Principal Meridian, the Base
        tion in 1853, he then “drifted into obscurity.”         Line is set using a solar compass.  While setting the base line the
                                                                surveyor would set quarter-sections and section corners at in-
          On June 4, 1851, John B. Preston set a “Red Cedar Stake” to  tervals of 40 chains (2640 ft.).  Standard township corners were
        indicate the starting point of all public land surveys in what  set at 480 chains (31680 ft. or 6 miles). (1 chain = 66 feet).
        was then called the Oregon Territory.  This is the same bound-
        ary that later makes up the states of Oregon and Washington.     using the Principal Meridian as a starting point Standard Par-
        Later, on July 25, 1885, the Red Cedar Post was replaced with a   allels, also known as correction lines, were established every 24
        carved stone.                                           miles, north and south of the Base line.  They were run east and
                                                                west of the Principal Meridian.  The Standard Parallels were de-
          Mr. Preston set the point deep in the hills west of Portland,  signed to counteract the error that otherwise would result from
        where he believed there would be little chance of the stone be-  the convergence of meridians; and, because the public surveys
        ing disturbed.  Another reason Mr. Preston selected this location  have to be governed by the true meridian.  These lines also
        was so the base line would not cross the Columbia River and the  served to reduce errors arising from inaccuracies in measure-
        meridian would lie west of Vancouver Lake.              ments.  The first Standard Parallel line north of the Base line was
                                                                labeled “First Standard Parallel north.” The first Standard Parallel
          The stones original location is now indicated by a stainless steel   line south of the Base line was labeled “First Standard Parallel
        marker in The Willamette Stone State heritage Site, an Oregon   South.” each standard parallel line is labeled consecutively.  (Ie:
        State park approximately four miles west of downtown Portland.     Second, Third, Fourth . . . Standard Parallel) n
        The Stake and later The Stone established the base point, or the
        start point for the Willamette meridian.

                           From this starting
                         point, using a solar
                         compass,  deputy Sur-
                         veyors  James  e.  Free-
                         man and  William Ives
                         then ran the line south
                         and north from the ini-
        tial stone.  The north-south lines, or Principal
        Meridian, were completed with astronomi-
        cally procedures using a solar compass. The
        solar compass, invented by William A. Burt,
        u.S. deputy Surveyor of Michigan, soon be-
        came the standard compass for use in the
        u.S. public land surveys.  It functions astro-
        nomically, and except when the sun is not
        out it does not depend upon the magnetic
        needle in any way.  The lines run with it are
        true courses, and when used by a skilled
        surveyor, the results can be accurate to
        within 1 to 2 minutes.  The solar compass


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