Vanguards of the Frontier: A Social History of the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains from the Earliest White Contacts to the Coming of the Homemaker

By Everett Dick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
THE VANGUARD OF SETTLEMENT

IMMEDIATELY in advance of the vast tide of settlement which inundated the virgin lands marched the surveyor with compass, chain, flags, and stakes. The Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington had general charge of the public domain, and under his supervision on the frontier were land districts comprising the land now included in a state or sometimes in two states. The surveying of each district was in charge of a surveyor-general. From time to time, as Congress appropriated the money for surveying the land, the surveyor-general let contracts for surveys within his district. Such an arrangement was drawn up between the surveyor-general and the contractor, who was known as a deputy United States surveyor. The covenant included a legal description of the land to be surveyed, an agreement about the methods to be followed in the work and the making of plats, notes, and description of the land, together with a guarantee of the amount of pay. The surveyor furnished guaranties in the form of bondmen who would forfeit their bonds if the work was not completed or was poorly executed.1

About three hundred different individuals and firms did surveying in the present state of Minnesota. Many of these had a number of contracts at different times, swelling the whole number of contracts to double the number of individual contractors.

The deputy surveyor took an oath that he would faithfully discharge his duties, and all the members of his party likewise swore that they would do their work truthfully and accurately. On

____________________
1
Dwight Agnew, The Government Land Surveyor as a Pioneer, Ms., Master's Thesis, University of Iowa, 1938, p. 9.

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