Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana (2 of 13)

Sidney Edgerton, who led the delegation, was appointed the ̃rst Territorial Governor. By the middle 1860's, the population of the territory had grown to something less than 20,000. Mining claims had been staked, and towns had been laid out. Farms and homesteads were being marked and claimed. Frank Kirkaldie was a struggling farmer in the Gallatin Valley through the middle sixties--in a letter to his wife written 27 May 1866 he told her that 3000 to 4000 acres of wheat would be planted in the valley that year, while two years before there had been less than 5 acres! Obviously a survey system as followed in the States and other Territories became necessary. This brings us to our examination of the location of the initial point.

Principal Characters in the Location of the Initial Point
There are three main characters in Montana in our episode of the location of the initial point: Meredith Solomon, Benjamin F. Marsh, and Col. Walter Washington de Lacy.

Solomon Meredith
The leading role was taken by Solomon Meredith, the first Surveyor General of the Territory, who was no stranger to action and controversy. Mr. Meredith was born 28 May 1810 in Guilford County, North Carolina. At the age of 19, he moved to Indiana, and in 1838 purchased a house and lot in Cambridge City, Indiana, in the southeastern part of the state. He served as sheriff, was elected to the state legislature, and in 1848 became U. S. Marshall. In July 1861 he was commissioned by Governor Morton of Indiana as the commanding officer of the 19th Indiana Regiment. He was injured at the battle of Brawner Farm, and was temporarily relieved of duty.

Upon resuming acting duty, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 6 October 1862 and given command of the Iron Brigade, which consisted mainly of volunteer regiments from Indiana and Wisconsin, including his old command of the 19th Indiana Regiment. At the battle of Gettysburg, General Meredith was severely injured when his horse was shot from under him, and was disabled until November 1863. His brigade, as the name implies, acquired a reputation for courage; when the brigade was called to the attention of President Lincoln during a review, the president said he was aware of its reputation, and that General Meredith was the only Quaker brigade commander which he had. He was ordered to the command of Cairo, Illinois early in 1864 and then to the command of Paducah, Kentucky, in September of that year, where he remained until the end of the war.

The private papers of General Meredith contain a letter from General Meredith on 12 May 1865 to the Assistant Adjutant General noting that he had been relieved of his command, and asking that he be mustered out. Three days later in a letter to Secretary of War E. M. Stanton he notes that he has been removed from command on account of sympathy with traitors and other charges; he withdraws his request for muster-out, and asks for an investigation. His papers for the spring and summer of 1865 contain recommendations from the Governor of Kentucky and others in the spring of 1865 that General Meredith be promoted, and letters vindicating his performance in his command. One such letter states "your administration of affairs in this District rivals yours deeds of valor and heroism at the head of the invincible Iron Brigade." On 14 August 1865 he was brevetted major general of volunteers. He had a commanding presence, standing six feet seven inches tall, and was an accomplished speaker.

Benjamin F. Marsh
A supporting role was taken by Benjamin F. Marsh, who received the first contract for surveys. He was born in Windsor County, Vermont, on 7 November 1815. He received his education at the American Literary, Scientĩc, and Military Academy in Norwich, Windsor County, Vermont. The name of this military academy was changed to Norwich University in 1834; in 1845 Benjamin Marsh was appointed to the chair of mathematics at that institution. On 22 August of that year he married Mary D. Blish. Shortly thereafter, he left the university and worked with Moncure Robinson for two years on an extensive survey in North Carolina.

In 1837 he began service with the Southern Railroad Engineering Bureau in Georgia as a draughtsman, where he remained until 1839. At that time he accepted employment with the Georgia Railroad as a construction draughtsman until 1843, when due to failing health he returned to Vermont. After regaining his health, he again served in the chair of mathematics of Norwich University, until employed by the Concord and Lebanon Railroad Company, where he was given the supervision of its mountain division department of construction. In 1847, he became a division superintendent of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, where he worked until he accepted the position of chief engineer of the Jefferson Railroad in Indiana. After completing that work, he occupied the same position with railroads in Ohio. Following this, he served as chief engineer of the Eastern Texas Railroad.

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Land Boundary Monuments, Past and Present
Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana