Web exclusive! Surveying Legacies of Pennsylvania

December 3, 2001
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Honoring surveying pioneers of years past.

Stanley F. Moyer's north arrow.
We in the land surveying profession become familiar with the names of surveyors gone but still cited in deeds today. We sometimes fall prey to formulating personal opinions about the overall competency levels of certain surveyors, usually based upon our earliest experiences retracing their works. Fortunately, I have had the pleasure of formulating a reverence for many surveyors who have sustained their careers in the Pennsylvania counties with which I am most familiar.

Stanley F. Moyer

Any surveyor working in Bucks or Montgomery counties, Pa., has likely encountered the works of Stanley F. Moyer. Moyer lived and died in the Souderton vicinity located along the county line between Bucks and Montgomery counties. His career carried him deep into each county. Many who encounter Moyer’s name have a positive regard for him, but how many of us really know anything about him?

I had the privilege of meeting with Francis Y. Goehring, who spent many years working for Moyer (among others). Goehring maintained ownership of Moyer’s records for many years after Moyer’s retirement. (Some locals may have had brief encounters with Goehring when acquiring a copy of an old Stanley F. Moyer plan.) In meeting with Goehring, I learned a little more about this legendary man and other surveying legacies of Pennsylvania.

Moyer's seal. The earliest plan bearing Moyer's seal was on Aug. 23, 1932.
Moyer was born in 1904 and graduated from Souderton High School in 1922. He then attended Penn State University, whereupon he received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1926. The earliest plan bearing Moyer’s surveyor seal was on Aug. 23, 1932, at which time he was a licensed surveyor. Moyer later acquired his professional engineer’s license in the early 1940s. Moyer and John Lewis, PE, designed the city of Souderton’s sewer system as one of the many Work Progress Administration (WPA) projects that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt orchestrated as part of the New Deal.

As part of another WPA project, Moyer prepared tax maps for Montgomery County. In those days, plans were drafted with ink pens, and every drafter had his own modification of a north arrow on his plans that many of us today recognize as a “signature.” That is, many of us can predict who prepared certain plans simply by observing its characteristics, namely its penmanship and—you guessed it—its north arrow. Moyer’s north arrow was bisected by a floweret that was made of six circles in a rotational pattern. The interior floweret generated by the six intersecting circles was darkened in. This was Moyer’s signature; it can still be found on many Montgomery County tax maps today.

Moyer is buried in the St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery in Telford, Montgomery County, PA.
During the 1950s, Moyer worked part-time as an engineer for the Borough of Lansdale. Interestingly, Lansdale was named after Phillip Lansdale Fox, a surveyor for the North Penn Railroad Company. In the early 1960s, Moyer retired from surveying to become a full-time engineer for Lansdale. Moyer spent his retirement enduring several knee operations and a heart bypass. He died in 1987 and is buried in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Telford, Montgomery County, Pa.

George Reid Nevells' seal. Nevells was the last surveyor to hold the public office of county surveyor in Bucks County.

Francis Y. Goehring and George Reid Nevells

Francis Goehring also graduated from Souderton High School but in the year 1930. From 1943 through the war, he worked second shift at Mack Trucks in Allentown and spent his mornings performing field surveys with Moyer. Eventually, Goehring worked full-time for Moyer, performing field surveys as well as drafting. Goehring inherited Moyer’s north arrow design and continued using it on plans for other surveyors after his years with Moyer.

In 1961, Goehring accepted an invitation to go to work for George Reid Nevells, a man who worked for Moyer in the 1950s. Nevells left Moyer to go into business for himself, trading as GRN Associates. He started out of his home on Elephant Road in Bedminster in the 1950s and relocated to 7th Street in Perkasie from 1960 until 1961. Then, until 1964, he shared a building on Broad Street in Quakertown with Cowan Associates. From 1964 until 1970, Nevells operated with two field crews out of a building in Quakertown on Route 309 at Trumbauersville Road. From 1970 until 1978, his office was in Sellersville on Ridge Road and Old Bethlehem Pike. Although allegedly retired thereafter, jobs managed to find Nevells through old business associates and friends. He continued working through his part-time retirement with his son and Goehring.

Nevells at his favorite Maine retreat.

Nevells attended Drexel University from 1942 until 1953, and was a licensed land surveyor in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He served as a private first class in the U.S. Army during World War II from 1943 through 1945. Some well-known sites surveyed by Nevells include the Upper Bucks Vo-Tech School, Trexler Game Preserve and the layout of facilities at Nockamixon State Park. Nevells was the last surveyor to hold the public office of county surveyor in Bucks County. By the 1960s, the position was simply a political office, prompting no conventional duties of a land surveyor. Nevells died in 1997 and is buried in the Kellers Church Cemetery at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pa. Nevells had three sons: Paul, Thomas and William. Thomas continues to survey for Allan Myers Inc.

In 1961, Goehring accepted Nevells’ invitation to work for him. Goehring retired in 1976, having finished his career working for Nevells. On many plans by George Reid Nevells, we will find Goehring’s north arrow, originally signed by Moyer. During his career with Nevells, Goehring worked part-time for G. Marvin Hendricks. Some of Hendricks’ plans bear the familiar north arrow.

Bucks County, Pennsylvania Surveyors

For a brief segue into the county surveyors, I was able to assemble a complete list beginning in 1850. Prior to 1850, the position was appointed by the surveyor general from the land office and was titled “deputy surveyor.” Essentially, deputy surveyors and county surveyors were responsible for original surveys and monitoring of lands distributed by the commonwealth to ensure that all land was singularly allotted.

The list of county surveyors for Bucks County that are recorded in the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg is as follows:

  • 1850: Frederick G. Hillpot
  • 1853: Frederick G. Hillpot
  • 1856: Frederick G. Hillpot
  • 1859: G. Watson Case
  • 1862: David O. Heibbs
  • 1864: Levi H. Rogers
  • 1865: Levi H. Rogers
  • 1868: Thomas McReynolds
  • 1871: M. D. Frankenfield
  • 1877: Samuel H. Laubach
  • 1880: Samuel H. Laubach
  • 1883: David H. Hess
  • 1886: John M. Zuck
  • 1889: Henry P. Ely
  • 1892: Henry P. Ely
  • 1895: Edward R. Kirk
  • 1898: Edward R. Kirk
  • 1901: Harry T. Shelly
  • 1904: Oscar O. Bean
  • 1916: Edward W. Utz
  • 1939: Amos J. Kirk
  • 1956: Edward Pickering, III

    The conclusion of the list of county surveyors for Bucks County that is recorded with the Board of Election in Doylestown is as follows:

  • 1959: Donald S. Weisel (Rep.)(defeated Democratic opponent Mitchell D. Mitnick)
  • 1963: Benjamin C. Queen (Rep.)(defeated Democratic opponent Ezra Golub)
  • 1967: George R. Nevells (Rep.)(defeated Democratic opponent Edgar A. O’Neil)

    Nevells died in 1997 and is buried in the Kellers Church Cemetery at St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pa.
    I visited the gravesites of some of these great men, somewhat disappointed to find no mention of the careers for which they are long honored. Their grave markers simply memorialize their names, birth years and death years. I suppose it would be unusual for them to have memorialized their professions on their grave markers. But I am saddened that entire lives and careers that will exude respect for generations are summed up with no more explanation than a simple, quiet dash or space.

    I hope that when future onlookers reflect on my dash, they see a life that made a difference upon the earth.

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