People / Surveying History

Surveying History

The Lindley Family Chain

In the summer of 2011, a local resident by the name of Dan Lindly visited the Abraham Lincoln National Museum of Surveying. The assistant director was doing a little research on Springfield, Ill., and recognized the Lindly name: Simon Lindley was credited in a county history book with surveying the new county seat of Sangamon County in Springfield (although he did not sign the plat). As it turns out, Simon was Dan’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather (the family later dropped the e in their name), and Dan had Simon’s surveying chain--perhaps the same chain used to survey the county seat. The chain is on loan to the museum for an indefinite period of time.

$37.50 - That’s about how much you would have had to spend to get all the surveying equipment you needed in 1856.

Taylor G. Chase, cousin of Samuel Chase, the Secretary of Treasury under Lincoln, moved to what is now Brighton, Ill., in MaCoupin County in the late 1830s. He purchased title from a land office and took a 40-day-plus wagon ride to his new property, where he soon became a prominent farmer. In 1856, Taylor bought a Gurley compass, a Gurley staff, a Gurley chain and Gurley chaining pins from Troy, N.Y., for $37.50.

Why he purchased this equipment is pure conjecture since the equipment wasn’t used on any official surveys. However, many men of the 19th century had surveying equipment and were familiar with surveying in some form--similar to the widespread use of commercial GPS navigation systems today. A notebook of surveys of the Chase farm indicates the most likely use of the equipment.

Richard and Mary Freiburg, two college professors from Jacksonville, Ill., eventually purchased the equipment from an antique dealer in Alton, Ill. They donated the equipment, original bill of sale and various other surveying tools to the museum soon after it opened.

What was the first surveyor’s tool?

Check back in July for the answer and more glimpses of surveying history from the museum. Or visit the museum for yourself!

The General ‘State’ of Surveying

One of the first things visitors see when they enter the museum is the Hall of Banners. While all the states are not yet represented, visitors love trying to find their state. This hall gives the museum curators a chance to talk about the professional requirements of surveying and the importance of professional associations.

“As our case is new, we must think and act anew.”

--Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s National Museum of Surveying is the only museum and tourist attraction of its kind in the country. Located in Springfield, Ill., the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, the museum preserves the legacy of surveying while ensuring its future through vivid images, superb storytelling and dynamic multimedia. Through the Reaching Our Orbit Capital Campaign launched in March 2012, the museum is raising funds to pay down its mortgage and expand its educational programs. An undisclosed source has pledged to match every donation received, up to $200,000, by the end of 2012. For more information and to find out how you can support the museum’s efforts, visit


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