When it was first put into use in the United Kingdom, the art of land surveying wasn’t especially well honed. Though the British had accomplished an incredible feat of land surveying with the Domesday Book, the physical measurements behind the land surveys therein had a tendency to be somewhat short-lived and inscrutable. The origins of the rectangular land survey system were born of this frustration just before the Revolutionary War.
The way things used to be
Before the advent of the rectangular land survey system, British land surveyors relied on the physical features of the property to inform their assessment. Features like streams, large trees or lakes became the baseline metrics by which a site was judged.
The problem with that strategy is that trees can fall down, and streams can change course. These “metes and bounds” were impermanent. What’s more, without these natural landmarks in front of them, the land surveys were impossible to discern. That made most land surveys useless to someone reading the documents from a distant location.
The influence of the origins of the rectangular land survey system and the rest of the world is incalculable.
Following the French and Indian War, renegade Native American chief Pontiac rallied the defeated Native American tribes and directed their rage toward the British. The British government was forced to respond. They sent troops west after Pontiac and his men. One of the commanders of this military was Henry Bouquet, an officer in charge of 1,500 men.
While Bouquet set about winning this new war, his chief engineer, Thomas Hutchins, set about recording events. He eagerly surveyed the land the troops marched through. Instead of using the traditional metes and bounds system, Hutchins surveyed the land in rectangles.
Hutchins’s surveying method was repeatable, easy for anyone to understand and, most importantly, exceptionally accurate. Hutchins also completed a plotted and drafted map of the route, drawn to the scale of 1:62,500. That’s the same scale still in use today for U.S. Geological Survey maps.
When Hutchins’s accounts of the expedition were published in 1765, the appendix included a complete manual of his revolutionary rectangular mapping system. These notes became the basis for the United States’ Public Land Survey System and were used to survey a significant portion of the U.S. That would include the area within the Louisiana Purchase, which was just a few years down the road.
Your Texas surveyors
It’s impossible to say enough about the origins of the rectangular land survey system. In Texas and elsewhere, these rules paved the way for the state-of-the-art techniques in use today by D.G. Smyth & Co., Inc.
We have become the go-to name when clients need a broad variety of land surveying services, including surveying for gas and oil well locations, pipeline right-of-way acquisition and construction alignment. We’re also happy to provide determination of original survey boundaries, title boundary surveys, topographic surveys and construction staking. We can even mediate property disputes.
When you need a team of genuine pros, contact D.G. Smyth & Co., Inc. We’re here for you!