OR and WA HISTORY YOU SHOULD KNOW
John B. Preston Esq., was appointed by President Millard Fillmore as the first Surveyor General of the Oregon Territory. At 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 to create a system for surveying the land within the New Oregon Territory. He was appointed in December 1850, and lost his position in 1853, he then "drifted into obscurity."
On June 4, 1851, John B. Preston set a “Red Cedar Stake” to indicate the starting point of all public land surveys in what was then called the Oregon Territory. This is the same boundary that later makes up the states of Oregon and Washington. Later, on July 25, 1885, the Red Cedar Post was replaced with a carved stone.
Mr. Preston set the point deep in the hills west of Portland, where he believed there would be little chance of the stone being disturbed. Another reason Mr. Preston selected this location was so the base line would not cross the Columbia River and the meridian would lie west of Vancouver Lake.
The stones original location is now indicated by a stainless steel marker in The Willamette Stone State Heritage Site, an Oregon State park approximately four miles west of downtown Portland. 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 Surveyors James E. Freeman and William Ives then ran the line south and north from the initial stone. The north-south lines, or Principal Meridian, were completed with astronomically procedures using a solar compass. The solar compass, invented by William A. Burt, U.S. Deputy Surveyor of Michigan, soon became the standard compass for use in the U.S. public land surveys. It functions astronomically, 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 enabled the surveyor to run true lines. In general, the meridian lines established the starting point of all additional lines.
Starting at the same point as the north-south Principal Meridian the east-west, the Base Line was set. This line must be set on a true east-west line. As with the Principal Meridian, the Base Line is set using a solar compass. While setting the base line the surveyor would set quarter-sections and section corners at intervals of 40 chains (2640 ft.). Standard township corners were set at 480 chains (31680 ft. or 6 miles). (1 chain = 66 feet).
Using the Principal Meridian as a starting point Standard Parallels, also known as correction lines, were established every 24 miles, north and south of the Base line. They were run east and west of the Principal Meridian. The Standard Parallels were designed to counteract the error that otherwise would result from the convergence of meridians; and, because the public surveys have to be governed by the true meridian. These lines also served to reduce errors arising from inaccuracies in measurements. The first Standard Parallel line north of the Base line was labeled “First Standard Parallel North.” The first Standard Parallel line south of the Base line was labeled “First Standard Parallel South.” Each standard parallel line is labeled consecutively. (IE: Second, Third, Fourth . . . Standard Parallel)
J.E. Freeman surveyed the exterior boundaries of T23S, R14E, MDM in 1855. We are visiting Section 27 this week, it was surveyed by William Minto in 1872.
@ruffbrew The park is kinda unremarkable. Our local PLSO chapter did a volunteer "spruce up" day this past spring. (I did not attend.) The marker is down a slope and now surrounded by trees. When you get there you think "how did they survey out of this?"
It's easy to get to and a good little field trip for every local surveyor a least once.
Here is a great book all about it. Definitely worth a read for anyone in Oregon and Washington and maybe other PLSS areas as well.
In some ways the Willamette Stone site and park can be described as unremarkable, but in other ways it is quite remarkable and meaningful. Partly due to the ease of access, I’ve been dozens of times and enjoyed each visit.
Several decades ago I had a couple of co-workers get hitched at the Willamette Stone. Seemed appropriate since they are both surveyors. The park was barely big enough to hold a wedding.
To clarify, what I meant to imply by "unremarkable" is that to me, as a surveyor, this park is one of the most important land marks in the Pacific Northwest. It should have a grand arched entrance, manicured lawn, exquisitely maintained landscaping, etc.
Alas, the parks department doesn't hold it in the same esteem.
I visited the stone last Saturday afternoon, for the 2nd time in 26 years. I had the place completely to myself. It is a 5 minute walk on a fairly steep paved path from the parking lot on Skyline Blvd to the stone.
The monument itself
I was at Powells flagship on Burnside several years ago in the rare book room, and asked, " What is the most expensive book you have in here right now?"
No surprise it was a 1st copy of Lewis and Clark. Only 35k then. Pretty frickin cool!
My Ex-wife and inlaws routinely mocked me every time we cruised by the Skyline Cafe and I joked about stopping by the burger joint to get one. THis is cooler than that, and well, glad to know they're not interested in this kind of stuff either so i'll never see them visiting there either.
My gps says its off... 😉