Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana (10 of 13)
The lateness of the season and peculiarities of this climate rendered it necessary to use all possible haste. I have done so and given you my movements in detail as each step was taken.
I have used all possible energy and promptness with the field as well as office work. So great has been the trouble and hardships I have had to endure for the purpose of having everything done properly, that at one time I was laid at the point of death.
I wish here to add that my course in selecting the initial point and conducting the surveys has been sanctioned by every man in the Territory competent to judge, and the surveys pronounced the best and most commplete of any yet done for the government.
I sincerely hope the work may not be detained as it is highly important both to the government and everyone connected with these surveys that it may progress as rapidly as possible.
I am now satisfied that when you get all my letters and reports before you there will be no hesitancy in approving what I have already done with regard to the surveys of Montana. Hoping these explanations may prove entirely satisfactory, I have the honor to be, Very respectfully,
Your Obedient Servant
Gen. Sol. Meredith
Having been recommended to you as a Civil Engineer and Surveyor by profession and one who had passed several years in the Territory, and was well acquainted with its topography, you requested me to assist you in searching for an Initial Point should the Beaver Head Rock, as you believed to be the case, prove to be an unsuitable place for the Initial Point. You also stated that you are satisfied from personal inspection that there was more favorable ground around the Three Fork of the Missouri, for obtaining a long and favorable Meridian and Base Line than at any other point which you had seen.
We then proceeded to the Beaver Head Rock, accompanied by Prof. Marsh, taking with us an excellent instrument for the purpose of making accurate observations.
Arrived there, we found as follows: a Meridian Line North would in a short distance run in the Canyon of the Big Hole or Wisdom River, where it is walled in on either side by perpendicular basaltic rocks, and thence would pass for about 15 miles on a succession of deep and precipitous gulches and ravines, which culminate finally in Table Mountain, a flat topped peak, which is surrounded on every side by deep and almost impassable gorges, some of which are hundreds of feet deep. I speak of this from personal knowledge, having explored this part of the Rocky Moutains, both to the North and South of it, as well as climbed with much difficulty to the summit of the Moutain. We could (illegible) from where we were form an excellent idea of the rugged and forbidding charactor of the Range. The Meridian would pass directly over the summit. Leaving this point, the line would pass for at least 80 miles over high mountains (illegible) with hardly any level spot between.
South from Beaver Head for about 10 miles the line would pass over rolling foot hills--thence would enter a mass of rugged mountains, and continue in them beyond the limits of the Territory.
West, the Base Line, for about 12 miles would run over rolling and sometimes very broken ground to the foot of the dividing ridge between the Big Hole and Beaver Head Rivers, and thence would have to cross this Range, one of the highest and most rugged chains in the Territory.
East, the Base Line would have to pass two ranges of mountains before reaching the Madison Fork, and would also pass thru where they are both very rugged. After leaving that stream, it would pass the dividing ridge between that river and the Gallatin Fork, passing the latter stream where it runs for many miles through a narrow canyon. It would then enter the mass of mountains separating the Gallatin from the Yellowstone. It would be needless to particularize further.
I am enabled to speak with confidence of the country mentioned, having been on all of the streams and ranges, and taken bearings and distances for future use.