Surveying History

U.S. Deputy Surveyors

The West was surveyed by the U. S. Government just before or after settlement occurred. In Oregon and Washington, this started in 1851. The habitable countryside was divided into square miles, called Sections, with controlling corners being set about every one-half mile. Wooden posts or stones monumented the corners, and trees were marked nearby to reference the corner. An important guiding principle is, "...these original corners on the boundaries of the surveyed Sections were to govern the property lines within, even if the corners were obliterated, if their positions could be perpetuated by other evidence." Surveyors are continually asking themselves questions such as, "Is this where the monument was set in 1873?"

Surveyors have naturally developed an appreciation of history, and seek out sources of historical information to aid them in their property surveys. Employees of Olson Engineering have found documentation, photos, lists and maps to help them better understand the surveying past. Some are posted here to help other surveyors and to expand the understanding of surveying.


John A. Benson, head of the Benson Syndicate, criminal surveyors, 1880’s
Justin Chenoweth, USDS, surveyed 3 townships at Orchards, Camas and Battleground, 1855
David D. Clarke, USDS in Yakima and Spokane, 1870’s.
William E. Elwell, USDS, Dole Valley, North Chelatchie, 1890’s
Charles A. Homan, surveyed two townships East of Yacolt in the 1890’s.
Butler Ives, USDS, townships from Hazel Dell to Ridgefield, 1853
William Ives, USDS, Willamette Meridian, 1851
William Strong, USDS, namesake of William Strong School in Battleground.
John Trutch, USDS, surveyed several townships from Battleground to Yacolt, 1850’s
David Clarke, surveyed at Yakima in the 1870's
Isaac Smith, surveyed along Puget Sound in the 1850's’s
John Hurlbut surveyed in Oregon at Bull Run in the 1870’s
Eugene P. McCornack, USDS at Carson