Guest Column: Surveyors Aid Tri-State Remonumentation
During the Utah Council of Land Surveyors (UCLS) 2016 Convention that was held at the Dixie Convention Center in St. George Utah, Daniel W. Webb, chief cadastral surveyor in the Utah State Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), approached several UCLS board members and hinted that UCLS should consider re-monumenting the Tri-State Monument located at the northwest corner of Arizona, the southwest corner of Utah and the easterly state line of Nevada. This wouldn’t be the first time UCLS and BLM had worked together. Two of the more recent remonumentation efforts included the Uintah Special Meridian (USM) Initial Point in 2009 and the Tri-State corner located at Idaho, Nevada and Utah in 1999.
During its June 11, 2016 board meeting, the UCLS executive board discussed this remonumentation project and unanimously approved moving forward with the project. Seeing that the project was located within the boundaries of the UCLS Color Country Chapter, it was assigned to them. Todd E. Jacobsen, PLS, Color Country Chapter president, sent a formal email to the BLM Arizona, Nevada and Utah cadastral survey chiefs, outlining and requesting BLM’s involvement as well as emails to the Arizona Professional Land Surveyors (APLS) and the Nevada Association of Land Surveyors (NALS) association boards seeking their assistance in the project as well.
Initial Visit and Efforts
On July 6, 2016, Todd Jacobsen, Bob H. Hermandson, PLS, Color Country Chapter vice president, and Michael Draper, PLS, UCLS Color Country member, visited the site to get a feel for what it looked like, what condition it was in and to see what would have to be done to make this project work. After some preliminary discussion, the crew decided to hold a chapter luncheon and start discussing the details and getting answers to the what, why, how and who of making this happen.
At this point the existing monument was a red sandstone shaft that, according to survey notes, had a shaft of 6 feet long, 16 inches broad and 12 inches thick. From the top down it was dressed (or smoothed out) 8 inches and was marked with letters 1½ inch square deeply engraven in the stone. There are four sides to this monument, with the NEVADA on the N.W., UTAH on the N.E., ARIZONA on the S.E. and INTL. MONT 37 N. L. 1901 on the S.W. faces.
Also, according to the survey notes, there was a raised mound of stones with a 5½ foot base, 2½ feet high surrounding the shaft, most of which were still there. This monument also stood about 3 to 3½ feet above the ground. It was set in 1901, and when examined on the three surveyors’ visit showed signs of weathering and some graffiti (engravings from some of its visitors). It was in decent condition.
The Color Country Chapter began to hold luncheon meetings where a number of designs for the new monument were presented and discussed. Also on the agenda were what types of tools and materials were needed for the remonumentation effort. The goal was to complete the project before the next UCLS convention scheduled for February 2017. The group wanted to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony in conjunction with the convention.
Because the BLM, APLS and NALS organizations couldn’t attend the luncheons due to distance and time to travel, Jacobsen stayed in touch with them via emails and phone calls and kept everyone up to date on the plans for the remonumentation project. During this same time the BLM was busy doing its own planning for a proposed re-survey of the state lines. They were also performing records research, resulting in a number of excellent pieces of information which would ultimately aid in this project.
Around August of 2016, plans started coming together and a fundraiser was organized. Collaboration from the BLM, APLS, NALS and UCLS was formed. Cost estimates for products and material were prepared. Cost estimates came in at roughly $8,000. APLS, NALS and UCLS kicked off a fundraiser with large donations. Rapidly, individual surveyors and surveying companies started sending in their donations. This fundraising effort was complete in only a few months, with donations arriving from surveyors and surveying companies located in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. In all a total donation of $8,675 was received.
The funds were used to procure the necessary materials:
- Three 15-foot flag poles, one for each state, and one 20-foot flag pole for the flag of the United States of America. Four solar LED lights, wayfinding signs and additional flags - $3,715
- 48-inch diameter, 1½-inch thick granite stone - $700 (partial donation by Southwest Marble & Granite)
- Engraving the design on the granite stone - $800 (partial donation by Kenworthy Signs & Monuments)
- Materials (nine bags of ready-to-use concrete mix, silicone, fencing materials, thin set) - $283
- Two basalt boulders with laser engraved black tiles - $500
- Commemorative medallions and easels - $2,680 In addition, a number of materials were donated for the project:
- 60 bags of ready-to-use concrete mix, one 42-inch diameter-by-3½-foot-long sonotube, four 24-inch diameter-by-3½-foot-long sonotubes, two tarps, rebar cages for concrete, sand (donation by Clyde Companies)
- Flags (donation from James A. Olschewski, PLS, CET, SR/WA, UCLS member)
- Stainless steel center pin for the monument (donation from Adam Allen, PLS, UCLS Member)
- There were also hundreds of hours of service completed by many surveyors who wanted to be part of this impressive accomplishment.
Those that donated their time, money or materials all received a commemorative medallion to display.
The first step in this remonumentation project was to perform a retracement survey, which was performed by the collaboration of the three states’ BLM offices (AZ, NV and UT). On Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, the three BLM offices, along with members of the three state professional land surveyor societies of the APLS, NALS, and UCLS met to perform this retracement survey. There were approximately 25 people in attendance. The day was started with a brief history of the surveys that had been performed over 100 years ago given by Dan Webb. After the history, three survey groups were formed, one group heading north on the Nevada and Utah state lines, one group heading east on the Arizona and Utah state lines, and one heading south on the Arizona and Nevada state lines.
The crews to the east and south went out a mile looking for and tying in old survey markers, while the crew to the north went about 1½ miles looking for old survey markers as well as evidence of the 1870 survey mentioned in the history. This re-survey took most of an eight-hour day. Each crew used survey grade GPS equipment, which gives sub-centimeter accuracy. The measurements and descriptions will become part of the Public Land Survey System Plat and the field notes that are recorded for land managers and the public use.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Cadastral Survey Program is one of the oldest and most fundamental functions of the United States government, with origins in the Land Ordinance of 1785. Cadastral surveys are the foundation of our national land tenure system, creating, reestablishing, marking and defining land boundaries.
After completion of the retracement survey, crews like those mentioned above went out on Jan. 27, 2017 to record and remove the original Tri-State Monument set in 1901 and prepare the ground and pour concrete for the new monument and flag poles. As the 1901 monument was carefully being dug out, the group was anxious to see what was in the ground beneath the monument because when Carpenter’s astronomical observations determined that the 1870 monument set by James was set 111.51 chains too far north he indicated that he destroyed the corner set by James. The survey crew that headed north on the Nevada and Utah state line from the Nov. 4, 2016 survey, looked for evidence of this destroyed monument, but little evidence was found.
After removing the 1901 monument set by Carpenter, the group was ecstatic to find that he actually inverted the 1870 stone and reshaped the bottom end (now the top). It was decided to take the old survey monument, set in 1870 and 1901, and display it nearby at the Washington County Administration Offices located in St. George, Utah.
After allowing the concrete to set, another crew went out on Feb. 3, 2017 to set the 48-inch diameter-by-1½-inch thick granite stone monument on its 42-inch diameter-by-3½-foot-high concrete base. A combination of thin-set mortar and silicone was used to secure the stone to the base. The 42-inch-diameter base was formed using sonotube with 1 to 1½ feet sticking above the ground. In the middle of this concrete base is a 24-inch-diameter sonotube filled with dirt and rocks. This was done to cut back on the number of bags of ready-to-use concrete mix needed, but still provide the strength and stability it needed. The 1901 rock mound was then restacked around the new monument. The concrete bases for the flag poles were also poured and the fencing near the monument was fixed and the area was cleaned up.
During the 2017 UCLS Convention, Feb. 22-24, many had the opportunity to view the top of the 1870 monument that was set by James on display at the convention.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, the day after the closing ceremonies of the 2017 UCLS convention a group of about 50 people headed out to the Tri-State Monument site where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held. The UCLS invited members from the BLM, APLS, NALS and others to this small ceremony. Several news agencies were also there reporting. After installing the flag poles in their bases and also placing commemorative plaques with the corner history and the remonumentation participant’s names, Todd Jacobsen and Dan Webb said a few short words. Flags were then raised signifying the completion of the moment was shared not only by surveyors but families and friends as well.
In about a year’s time, the remonumentation went from a seed being planted with a few UCLS executive board members, to planning and raising funds, to performing a re-survey, to recovering the 100-plus-year-old monument that was set by Carpenter, to completion of the new replacement monument that is hoped to last another 100 years.
It is estimated that the flags will last about six to eight months before they will need to be replaced from being worn by the wind, rain and sun. With the few dollars that were left from the fundraiser, five sets of flags were purchased so that immaculate flags can continue to fly at the site for a few years to come. At the top of each flag pole is a solar LED light so the flags will be properly lit at night.
Sidebar: History of the Monument
1870 - Under General Land Office Contract dated Aug. 16, 1870, Isaac P. James, astronomer and surveyor, surveyed the Eastern Boundary of the State of Nevada. The survey was commenced Oct. 17, 1870 and completed Dec. 26, 1870. During the survey James established at the 37th Parallel North Latitude, the corner of Utah, Arizona and Nevada, at mile 298 and 56.00 chains from his Initial Point to the north on the Central Pacific Railroad.
1900 through 1901 - Under General Land Office Contract dated Oct. 13, 1900, Howard B. Carpenter, U.S. surveyor and astronomer, was directed to survey the boundary line between the State of Utah and the territory of Arizona. The survey was commenced Mar. 24, 1901 and completed July 1, 1901.
Learning from local people living on the Virgin River near where it is crossed by the line between Nevada and Arizona, that old corners on the line were still in existence and that the sandstone shaft erected by James in 1870 to mark the 37th parallel was still standing, Carpenter proceeded out from St. George, Utah and Beaver Dam wash in Arizona and found the 1870 James state line corners. After astronomical observations, it was determined that the “James Monument was 111.51 chains too far north. Therefore pursuant to instructions I destroy the James corner and proceed to establish the initial corner at the intersection of the 37th Parallel with the James line."
“At the intersection of the 37th parallel north latitude with the James line I set a red sandstone shaft 6 ft. long 16 ins. broad and 12 ins. thick, dressed 8 ins. down from the top, diagonally in the ground, for the Initial Monument, marked with letters 1 ½ ins. square deeply graven in the stone NEVADA on the N.W. UTAH on the N.E. ARIZONA on the S.E. and INtl. MONT. 37 N. L. 1901 on the S.W. faces. Raised a mound of stone 5 ½ ft. base 2 ½ ft. high around the shaft and dug pits 36x36x18 ins. N. E. and S. of corner 6 ft. dist. No trees within limits.”
In addition to the 1870 and 1901 state boundary line surveys, Public Land Survey System surveys adjoining the state lines are:
- Arizona, T. 42 N., R. 16 W., GSRM, approved Jan. 25, 1922 (Davis)
- Nevada, T. 11 S., R. 71 E., MDM, approved Dec. 2, 1881 (Myrick) – This survey was suspended Aug. 18, 1964
- Utah, T. 43 S., R. 20 W., SLM, approved April 2, 1938 (Nelsen & Winwood)