Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana (9 of 13)

From the time I arrived in Montana 22nd June last, I began making inquiries and examinations about not only Beaver Head Rock but if there were other suitable and prominent places for an initial point of the surveys. My authority for doing this was taken from your instructions to me of May 9th 1867 Sec 3rd saying--"Your first duty will be to determine the initial point of surveys, or the point for the intersection of a Principal Base with the Principal Meridian line to govern all the public surveys in Montana. It is desired that "Beaver Head Rock" a remarkable land mark overhanging the river of that name be taken as the initial point--unless a more prominent and suitable point exists."

Acting upon this I proceeded to Beaver Head Rock in July last to make personal examinations, not having the necessary instruments at that time to make scientific experiments. In passing through the country, conversing with many intelligent and scientific men whose characters and integrity deserve certainly some weight, and my own personal observation led me to believe that Beaver Head Rock was neither suitable nor prominent--there being so many mountains and high positions around it, and that the point now selected by me would suit the purposes you explained to me much better.

On returning to Helena I executed the contract with Deputy Marsh for several reasons and then started to make scientific investigations as I thought the Department would be satisfied with none other. Why I made the contract at that time is here given.

1st To make scientific investigations I had to have scientific men and must necessarily take them with me. Prof. B. F. Marsh and Col. W. W. deLacy both accompanied me. The expenses of the whole trip I have had to pay from my own pocket.

2nd To return to Helena for no other purpose than to make the contract I thought was not only too much trouble but of too great expense.

3rd Prof Marsh had no acquaintances in other parts of the Territory to act as Bondsmen nor were the proper officers at hand should we have thought best to execute the papers at another place.

4th I was satisfied in my own mind that a point near the Three Forks was the only place where the lines could be successfully run from and gave as definite a description of the place as my limited knowledge and information would allow.

5th I retained the Contract and Bond in my own hands that I might ascertain to a certainty, thinking they could be remedied should the point then selected by me not answer the purpose.

6th The season was advancing and it behooved me to make all possible haste to say nothing of my enormous expense.

My authority for making said contract was derived from your instructions May 9th 1867 section 26th as follows: "By the 1st section of the act of Congress approved 30th May 1862 entitled" An act to reduce the expenses of the surveys and sale of the public lands in the United States," the Commissioners approval of surveying contracts is prerequisite to their becoming binding "except in such cases as the Commissioner shall otherwise specially order." In view of the remotesness of your field of operations from this place, it is accordingly hereby ordered that the said exception shall apply to contracts for the surveys which may be made in Montana under the aforesaid appropriation of $25,000, and in strict accordance with law and the Manual of Instructions.

To this end the Commissioners sanction in all such legally executed contracts is given in advance."

After making the contract named and taking the necessary instruments we proceeded to Beaver Head Rock and found it as I had supposed wholly inpracticable as an initial point for the surveys. I communicated to you this fact from Gallatin City per express to the nearest Post Office then to be mailed, under date of August 13th 1867, giving an account of my previous actions.

This was done in accordance with your instructions before spoken of, Section 16th as follows: "You will communicate with the Department as soon as practicable after having instituted the surveys of the Base and Meridian lines."

I also gave full description of lines which would run from Beaver Head Rock were it taken as the initital point; in my report to you dated October 26th 1867 together with a definite description of the point selected for the beginning of the present surveys.

I beg leave to say that I have in every way acted in accordance with instructions--one little informality, that of executing contract before making a scientific test, is all that can be urged, and then the papers were held in my own hands for safety.

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The Best Kept Secrets in Montana Surveying Law
Curtis M. Brown, Land Surveyor and Author
How to Live in the Woods
Land Boundary Monuments, Past and Present
Solomon Meredith and the Initial Point of Montana