Thursday, 3 April 2008. Twenty-five men and women cross an uncultivated and very soft and muddy cornfield on ATVs to reach a 6-inch square of land. They carry with them 800 pounds of sackcrete, one bag of portland cement, three reinforcing rods, 12 inches of ¾-inch pipe, 15 gallons of water, an 8-inch length of 12-inch-diameter plastic pipe collar, a wheelbarrow, two garden hoes, a #2 shovel and a manual posthole digger.
Onlookers may see them as odd. But to this group, their purpose is monumental.
The group consists mostly of members of the Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors (MSPS) and the Indiana Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ISPLS)--professional surveyors and technicians with a passion for the history of surveying. On this bright and sunny April day, they set out to properly monument the recovered remnants of a 6-inch square white oak post that has served as an angle point (corner) of the Indiana-Michigan border. And they set out to add a page to the history books.
The post, placed by U.S. Deputy Surveyor Eleazer P. Kendrick in late 1827, was the 110th and final marker placed on the official state boundary line dividing the two states. Between 1871 and 1905, George Mark, surveyor for Hillsdale County, recovered the white oak post on several recorded occasions. But it was 180 years after its establishment that this devoted group of surveyors from both states showed up to honor the marker with due permanence. And it took them a lot of footwork to get there.
Some of the distinctive group were members of the “State Line Committee” founded in October 2004. The committee consists of elected county surveyors of the jurisdictions abutting the state line and numerous volunteers, including Chairman Jack Owens, Co-Vice Chairmen John McNamara and Wayne Mostrom, Recording Secretary Norman Caldwell, MSPS liaison John Quine and ISPLS liaison Christian Marbach.
From its beginning, committee members logged several attempts to recover the original post at the angle point to no avail. However, with grit, determination and data provided by local volunteers, Owens mathematically “reconstructed” the position of the angle point said to be recovered by Mark in 1905.
This spurred another trip to the field. On Nov. 1, 2007, Owens, Caldwell and Quine, accompanied by two Michigan bureaucrats, visited the site to search for the elusive marker. That day, they recovered, in the firm and undisturbed clay soil, an outline of the decayed original post. To hold history in place, a ½-inch x 20-inch section of reinforcing bar was placed in the center of the square.
And on April 3, that point was set permanent 36 inches below grade with a subsurface marker. A 4-inch bronze cap stamped with the details and license numbers of Owens (on behalf of Michigan) and Steuben County Surveyor Ross Ruckel (on behalf of Indiana) mount the pipe. At the surface, an identical bronze cap mounted in a cylinder of concrete marks the point--forever.
To many, that 6-inch square of land was just that. But to this group, the April 3 event was monumental--figuratively and literally. They put their dedication and romance for surveying into hours of research, reconnaissance, preparation, networking and material gathering. They also employed public relations efforts by collecting donations to cover the costs of materials, including brand-new monument caps. And that’s not to mention the “elbow grease” applied to position the monument permanently.
I was an invited guest on April 3 but, regretfully, was unable to attend. Not to worry, however, because as Caldwell said, “There are 109 more of these things … Plenty to go around.”
So maybe I’ll get to be part of another “great day in surveying” in the near future. I don’t mind pushing a wheelbarrow.