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Front Page » June 2, 2009 » Emery County News » Historical society learns about surveying in the early da...
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Historical society learns about surveying in the early days of the county

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Guest Writer

Ben Grimes set up a slide presentation in the Courthouse Canyon room about A. D. Ferron. Grimes lives in Elmo. He said that, "He is a newcomer though, because he has only lived in Elmo 36 years." Grimes is a professional land surveyor and works currently for Carbon County as a surveyor. He has worked for several companies in Utah as a surveyor over a period of 40 years. Grimes started the meeting answering questions about surveying problems he has observed in Utah.

Grimes told the group that the early surveyors used latitude and longitude by taking readings from the sun and the stars to their location on the globe. They did not have GPS equipment in those days. When early surveyors started in this country they brought over the English system of using latitude and longitude. As equipment improved the surveyors upgraded. In 1927 the NAD or North American Datum was established. Government surveyors figured out where the United States was on the globe and they called that the NAD and gave it at a certain location. The major problem surveying is that you have a round earth that you are trying to map. But you cannot draw a round map, you have to flatten it out, you have to figure out what they call projections as a way to make the round earth flat, then you can map it. This flattening brings in a lot of other problems.

In 1983 the NAD was revised and they just revised it again in 2007 or 2008. The new NAD has not been published yet but soon will be available. With new GPS equipment we get more precision all the time. Grimes said, " I can set up my GPS equipment and tell you within one centimeter where you are on the earth."

Grimes said, "The problem we have in some surveying cases is trying to locate and compare old maps with new maps. One of the biggest problems is people putting fences where they should not be and people writing legal descriptions for property that do not know what they are doing. About 80 percent of the deeds in Utah are written by attorney's and title companies and they have messed up every single one of them. Because they did not rely on a survey to write up the legal description."

Grimes commented that in some cases Joe Blow would write up a legal description and take it to the recorder and get the description recorded with no questions asked and 98 percent of them are wrong. Then you have people who put up fences for convenience or where they want the fence to be. They do not have a survey done to tell them where the fence should be. Then they end up with problems. Ben estimated that 98 percent of the fences in Emery County are not in the right spot. He said "I know mine are not at my house and every survey I have done in most of the counties of Utah the same situation exists." It is rare to get a deed that has the fences where they are supposed to be, unless you are up along the Wasatch Front where the price of property is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre. Then they are almost always right.

A half a foot here and a half a foot there on the Wasatch Front makes a big difference. A joke was told by Bert Oman, that some of the surveyors use Gracie's cow as a survey reference point.

Every state has a central location survey point. In Utah it is the Southeast corner of Temple Square. That's where everything is started from for Utah surveys. That southeast corner of Temple Square is 0 0 and you go North, South, East and West from there.

Grimes said the Four Corners area was possibly put at a convenient location like many people put up their fences.

Homestead Act from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says, "The Homestead Act was a United States Federal law that gave an applicant freehold title to 160 acres (one quarter section or about 65 hectares)-640 acres (one section or about 260 hectares) of undeveloped land outside of the original 13 colonies. The new law required three steps: 1. file an application, 2. improve the land, and 3. file for deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. Government, including freed slaves, could file an application and a list of improvements made to a local land office. The Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862."

Eventually 1.6 million homesteads were granted and 270,000,000 acres (1,100,000 km2) were privatized between 1862 and 1986, a total of 10 percent of all lands in the United States.

Grimes presented photos of Augustus D. Ferron's maps of Emery County surveys starting in 1873 and ending in 1916. A.D. Ferron an immigrant from Russia started surveying in Emery County in 1863 at the age of 26. At the age of 33 he married Helene Solomon and settled in Emery County Nov 1877. It was the 1873 surveys by Ferron that showed the first potential of Emery County for irrigation, farming and settlement.

In 1874 when the Homestead Act was changed, Ferron was hired by the US Government General Land Office and given the assignment to survey for farm and irrigatable land in Emery County. He did not survey the mountains. His survey was to map the streams for irrigation and land that could be farmed. His maps are quite detailed. He even shows the early roads and trails like the Father Escalante Trail and the Gunnison trail.

Early settlers tried to raise sugar cane and sugar beets in an effort to obtain sugar, a precious commodity. Those efforts were unsuccessful. Sorghum was finally successfully grown along Huntington Creek in Emery County and milled for sugar.

A township map covers an area six miles by six miles (as specified by the Public Land Survey), and is defined by the township and range coordinates mapped out from established meridians and base lines. A section is one square mile.

The United States Public Lands Survey is known as a cadastral survey. Cadastral surveys are those which establish boundaries for land ownership. Since the primary purpose of the USPLS was to sell land, it was important for defining land boundaries.

Ferron used a 66 foot chain to measure land boundaries, brass tally markers of various design identified every 10th link. The accuracy of the chain was enhanced by the length adjustment at the handles, which compensated for the lengthening of the chain through use. "Pulling the chain" was a term used by surveyors when measuring land in those days.

In 1884, Deputy U.S. Surveyor Ferron, the first person into Range Creek, discovered a small, stream of good water in an unoccupied canyon on the Tavaputs plateau. He called the stream Ranch Creek. The following year, Ferron and four partners from New York and Pennsylvania renamed the stream Range Creek and formed the Range Valley Cattle Company. The company claimed all the land and water on the West Tavaputs plateau between the Price River on the South and Nine Mile Canyon on the North. These partners intended to pursue mining and railroad interests in Utah. None of them had any experience in cattle ranching. Ferron recognized the value of this previously undiscovered range and convinced the group to join him in the venture. They filed seven desert land entries along the creek, securing the valuable water and blocking the only trail to the upper plateau.

Range Valley Cattle Company continued operation until 1902. They sold the land to Preston Nutter. The government opened Range Valley to homesteading in 1915. There were many legal battles between Nutter defending his property and small ranchers seeking a piece of the canyon. Nutter retained control of the canyon until 1951 when he sold his Range Creek ranches to Ray Wilcox and his sons Don and Waldo who divided the ranch following the death of their father, with Waldo retaining the Range Valley portion until December 2001, when it was sold and transferred to the BLM. It was then transferred to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Ferron Creek received its name as a result of Ferron getting tossed into the creek. His crew told him that if he would let them throw him into the creek they would name the creek after him.

A history of the town of Ferron and Range Creek can be found on the Internet as well as other towns in Emery County. The first homesteaders arrived on Ferron Creek in 1877. Early settlers had to live on their land to prove up on it, under laws designed primarily for the agricultural regions of the Midwest, which required homesteaders to reside on their farms in order to obtain title to the land. This was different from the norm of earlier Mormon colonies where everyone lived in a town for protection and went out of the town to farm their land, much like it is done in Germany to this day. Emery County was established by the 1880 territorial legislature. In that same year Huntington, Castle Dale, Orangeville, and Ferron townsites were platted.

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June 2, 2009
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