Point of Beginning

Grid lock: On a limestone hill southwest of Three Forks, the Initial Point divides, defines Montana

March 23, 2010
It's a good thing LeRoy Miller has good shocks. Two recently retired surveyors and a couple of newspapermen took up the 74-year-old rancher on his generous offer to haul them up a historic hill in the back of his pickup in the middle of his busy work day last week. They careened up a steep, boulder-infested pitch for the last quarter of a mile to the final destination: the Initial Point. (A reenactment video is included.)

Written by KIM BRIGGEMAN / Photographed by TOM BAUER of the Missoulian | Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010 

Missoulian.com: WILLOW CREEK - It's a good thing LeRoy Miller has good shocks.

Two recently retired surveyors and a couple of newspapermen took up the 74-year-old rancher on his generous offer to haul them up a historic hill in the back of his pickup in the middle of his busy work day last week.

They careened up a steep, boulder-infested pitch for the last quarter of a mile to the final destination: the Initial Point.

A faint X scribed in one of the flatter rocks on top, and a brass cap placed in later years, marked the spot where the rectangular surveying system in Montana began in 1867.

It was the pinnacle of a pilgrimage for Bill Weikel and Ron Milam, Missoula men who spent careers interpreting the mysteries of chains and sextants and sections that serpentine in systematic fashion through townships six miles square across Montana.

The two men comprise one-third of the Montana Surveying Reenactors Corps that sets up shop during Bannack Days each third week of July. ...

To read the rest of the story and view the 2:13-minute reenactment video, click to missoulian.com/lifestyles/territory/article_d91360c0-33a1-11df-97a0-001cc4c002e0.html.