Early Surveyors Compass

SURVEYING THE SEVEN RANGES OF THE NORTHWEST TERRITORY

On July 4th, 1776, Philadelphia could claim that "the United States began here."

On September 30th of 1785, Geographer of the United States Thomas Hutchins planted a marker near what is now East Liverpool, Ohio, denoting the "Point of Beginning" of the rest of the United States.

It was at this point that Hutchins began surveying the "geographer's line of the Seven Ranges," the line from which all the townships were to be measured and marked.

Eight states sent deputies to assist the survey:

Compass and Chain

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: EDWARD DOWSE
  • MASSACHUSETTS: BENJAMIN TUPPER
  • CONNECTICUT: ISAAC SHERMAN
  • NEW JERSEY: ABSALOM MARTIN
  • NEW YORK: WILLIAM MORRIS
  • VIRGINIA: ALEXANDER PARKER
  • MARYLAND: JAMES SIMPSON
  • GEORGIA: ROBERT JOHNSTON

The surveyors were to run their survey lines by measurement of the "true meridian" rather than a magnetic compass. This meant that they were to take sightings on Polaris and the sun to assure accuracy. This was long and tedious work. They were paid my the mile, not by the day, and only two dollars a mile!

The team worked for a week and measured four miles before abandoning the project due to threats from Indians.

In 1786, Congress realized that some changes had to be made if the survey was to be completed. First, they suspended the true meridian requirement for the less accurate but quicker magnetic compass method. Then they agreed to send troops to protect the surveyors. Those troops were from the First American Regiment who then built and occupied Fort Steuben.

Although most of the original survey markers have disappeared, in 2012 a marker from 1830 was uncovered by ODOT workers clearing a hillside along Rt. 7. In 2013, the stone marker was moved and installed at Historic Fort Steuben...a unique artifact of the great American survey.

A Surveying Museum is in process of being developed in one of the blockhouses in Historic Fort Steuben under the sponsorship of the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio.