Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana (11 of 13)
Having expressed yourself satisfied from personal observation that the Beaver Head Rock was unfit for the Initial Point, the party proceeded to Virginia City, and thence to Hot Spring Creek in the Madison Valley where Prof. Marsh and myself, under your direction, occupied ourselves in examining the country with a view to locate the Meridian. We finally went about 3 miles south of Hot Spring Creek, where we could see the whole length of the Madison Valley, and having fixed a point where the line could pass up the valley for about 30 miles, without any obstacle, we ran a trial line due North from thence for about 18 miles to Willow Creek, on its west side, to the summit of a prominent hill. From there Prof. Marsh and myself (illegible) your orders went on West to South Boulder Creek, to ascertain the best and most feasible point for the Base line. We ascended the mountain beyond the Creek, at a place where they are much lower and less rugged than the range south of there, of which they form a part, and gave the whole region a critical examination. We found that as more then in the most favorable spot for the Base Line to pass, the country being much less rugged to the South of the Jefferson River than to the North of it, and more favorably situated for surveying the bottom lands of that river. We could also see to the East of us the Mountains beyond the Gallatin, with whose passes I am very familiar and I am thus enabled to show my companion Prof. Marsh, the exact spot where the line would strike, and locate it, by the points which I know.
We then returned, running a trial line back due East to Willow Creek, coming out with it not far from the prominent hill mentioned before. We then accompanied you across the Jefferson River, to a point from whence one could see the Crow Creek country to the West of the Missouri River, for about 20 miles, and having obtained the exaction prolongation of our trial Meridian by a (illegible) sight we were enabled to next find the exact point at which the line would cross the Crow Creek Mountains most favorably, and all of us were more or less acquainted with that part of the country. We then returned to our camp.
These trial lines and your own examinations having proved eminently satisfactory, you then, with the hearty concurrence of Prof. Marsh and myself, fixed the Initial Point of the surveys of Montana Territory near the point where our trial lines had intersected each other, on a limestone hill about 800 ft high above the river, about 3 miles south of the Jefferson River, half a mile West of Willow Ck and about 12 miles S. W. of the Three Forks of the Missouri River. From it, the country around for many miles can be seen, particularly the Gallatin Mountains with their passes.
At noon the Latitude was obtained by the Solar Compass and also by the sextant, and the exact position of the North and South and East and West line obtained. The Initial Point was then designated by a cross cut in the solid rock, and also by monuments of stone.
I would here remark that I have been in this Territory since 1859, when I came as Civil Engineer with Lieut. Mullan's Military Wagon Road Expedition, and that I have since visited and explored many parts of the Territory from the Bitter Root to the Big Horn River, and I can conscientiously say that there is no other part of the Territory where the same uninterrupted length of the Meridian and Base Line could have been secured.
This has since been proved very conclusively by the survey of those lines of Prof. Marsh. I would also remark that having inspected this work in the field I have never seen it equalled for the accuracy and thoroughness, and fidelity of the work to the manual instructions.
I would also remark that the Meridian and Base Line as now located will accomodate a larger scope of the agricultural and mineral interests than could be done in any other part of the country.
All of which is respectfully submitted
Department of the Interior
Jos. S. Wilson