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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

George Washington Land Surveyor




In my novel Love's Compass the characters embark on a survey of the southeastern boundary of Colorado Territory prior to its statehood. Although my story is fictitious, I include an event that really happened. This was the survey in U. S. Land Grant Office Survey led by surveyor and astronomer, Chandler Robbins, who became a character in my novel. He had to place a marker at the four corners where the states of Colorado, Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet. Surveying and marking the perimeters of a territory was an essential step before statehood could be established. And thus it was in the colonies in the 18th century. Tracts of land had to be surveyed before it could be granted to proprietors. Once this important task was completed a patent could be issued and private property could be established. Some of this large areas became our original colonies and later our states.


Many years ago when I visited the Natural Bridge in Virginia, I recall seeing George Washington's initials carved into the rock. This is when I first learned that he had been a surveyor. He had learned the skills of surveying and measuring land as a student and practiced surveying the property of his boyhood home, Ferry Farm. The instrument he and other surveyors of the 18th century used was the "circumferentor," which was a brass encased surveying compass with perpendicular sights attached. This was mounted on a Jacob's staff (a tripod) with one or more survey chains. Washington also relied on the 8th edition of the a surveyor's manual entitled, The Art of Surveying and Measuring Land Made Easie by John Love. Mr. Love was especially concerned about those who were taking up grants of land in America without surveying knowledge.


At age 16, a neighbor, George William Fairfax, invited Washington to join him on a surveying party measuring tracts of land in the western frontier of Virginia. The following year, Washington received his first professional commission as a surveyor, at the recommendation of Fairfax, which launched a career that spanned some fifty years. He was appointed the Surveyor General of Virginia, and served as first official county surveyor in the colonies. Even when George Washington did not survey professionally, he still put his surveying skills to work. Using his earnings, he bought land and began to build his fortune. By the age of twenty-one, he had purchased 1,558 acres of land. In all, he held 69,605 acres in 37different areas, 24 city lots, and one city square in his possession. He laid out the boundaries of his own agricultural fields of his continually expanding estate, Mount Vernon. He continued survey his land until about five weeks before his death in 1799. All in all, Washington surveyed 199 tracts of land in his lifetime.

From The Granger Collection, New York
Its also important to note that George Washington's experience as a surveyor, mapmaker, and the back country skills that he acquired benefited him in the military. In the French and Indian War he  served as a lieutenant colonel. He was responsible for laying out construction roads and setting up a chain of forts spanning 400 miles. He was involved in the awarding of land claims to veterans, of which land needed to be first surveyed. During the War of Independence, Washington instituted the office of Geographer to the Army for the purpose of surveying and mapping the nation for aid in military operations and future surveys.


Examples of George Washington Surveys.






Best-selling inspirational romance author Carla Gade writes adventures of the heart with historical roots. With ten books in print, she is always imaging more stories and enjoys bringing her tales to life with historically authentic settings and characters. A native New Englander, Carla writes from her home amidst the rustic landscapes of Maine. An avid reader, amateur genealogist, photographer, and house plan hobbyist, Carla's great love (next to her family) is historical research. Though you might find her tromping around an abandoned homestead, an old fort, or interviewing a docent at an historical museum, it's easier to connect with her online at https://www.facebook.com/CarlaOlsonGade/.  

5 comments:

  1. Great post, Carla. I've always found George Washington to be one of the most fascinating, multi-dimensional historical figures, a true Renaissance man.

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  2. Thank you, Carla, for this interesting post. I've just borrowed a book from inter-library loan about George Washing as a spy master in research for my current WIP. He was, indeed, a multi-dimensional man.

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  3. I read a wonderful biography of Washington (years ago) and I really enjoyed it. As Janet said, he's a fascinating character! Thanks Carla!

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  4. Very interesting post Carla. George Washington is a very impressive & fascinating man in many ways.
    Blessings, Tina

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