Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 3, No. 1
April, 1925

Page 81


The first land survey in Oklahoma was that of the Southern boundary of the Cherokee Outlet. The contract for the survey of the boundaries of the Cherokee Outlet was undertaken by Rev. Isaac McCoy, the noted Baptist missionary who devoted a large part of his active life to labor among the Indian tribes, mostly living east of the Mississippi and north of the Ohio. He was one of the projectors of the proposed Indian Territory in the western wilderness and was largely instrumental in persuading a number of the tribes to move to new reservations west of the Mississippi and in helping them to select suitable tracts of land for such occupancy. The work of surveying the boundaries of the Cherokee Outlet was performed by his son, John C. McCoy, in 1837.1

In 1851 and 1852, the boundary between the Cherokee Outlet and the Creek Nation was resurveyed by Capt. Lorenzo Sitgraves and Lieut. Israel C. Woodruff, both of the Corps of Topographical Engineers2. In 1857, Jones & Brown were employed to survey several lines in the Indian Territory, including the Ninety-eighth Meridian from Red River to the Canadian River, the One Hundredth Meridian from Red River to the Cherokee Outlet-Creek Nation boundary, another resurvey of the last mentioned line and the boundary line between the Chickasaw and Choctaw Aations.3 The Kansas-Oklahoma boundary line was surveyed by a party under escort of troops commanded by Lieut. Col. Joseph E. Johnston, of the 1st Cavalry, in 1857.4 The Oklahoma-Texas boundary line (One Hundredth Meridian) from Red River northward to 36° 30’; and thence westward to the One Hundred and Third Meridian, was surveyed key Daniel Major, in 1859.5

Page 82

In 1870, preparations were made for the subdivision of the lands of the Indian Territory, then recently relinquished or ceded to the United States under the treaties of 1806, into townships and sections. An initial point, marking the intersection of the Base Line and the Indian Meridian, from which ranges should lie numbered north and south and townships numbered east and west, respectively, was selected near Fort Arbuckle, on the boundary line between Garvin and Murray counties, six miles west of the Washita River, in 1870, The work of subdivision into townships and sections was begun shortly thereafter, that same year. The lands of the Chickasaw Nation were surveyed, though no subdivisional surveys were contracted for in the reservations of any of the rest of the five civilized tribes. As appropriations became available, other contracts were made until all of the lands east of the one Hundredth Meridian in the western half of the present state of Oklahoma were surveyed and the plats for the same were approved between the years 1871 and 1875, inclusive.

No provision was ever made by law for the appointment of a surveyor general for the Indian Territory, as there was for the supervision of the public land surveys of all other western states and territories. The subdivisional surveys were therefore made by contract deputy surveyors whose work was executed directly under tae supervision of the commissioner of the General Land Office. The plats and field notes were approved by the commissioner and, when the lands were opened to homestead entry in accordance with the several acts of Congress providing for the disposal of the public lands, the triplicate plats were filed in the district land offices in the respective jurisdictions of which the lands were placed. It is understood that, in some instances at least, copies of the field notes were also filed with district land offices.

The lands of the No-Man’s-Land area were not surveyed and subdivided into townships and sections until 1891, the plats for the same being approved in 1892 and 1894. Authority for the survey and subdivision of the lands of the Indian Territory (i. e., the reservations of the five civilized tribes and the lands of the tribes under the Quapaw Agency) was provided for under the terms of an act of Congress ap-

Page 83

proved March 2, 1895.6 The work in this instance was done under the supervision of the director of the Geological Survey and all field-work was performed by the topographical division of that bureau. This work was done much more accurately as well as in much greater detail than any previous subdivisional land surveys previously made, maps and plats including contour lines and other physiographic features.

Under the regulations adopted for this survey, provisions were made for but two sets of field notes and plats—one of which was filed with the office of the commissioner of Indian Affairs and the other was retained on file in the General Land office. As a consequence, there are no extra copies of the records of such surveys on file in any of the state or county offices or in the Government land office at Guthrie, where copies of the records of the Government land surveys of that part of the state which was embraced within the Territory of Oklahoma may be found. However, copies of such plats and field notes may be obtained on payment of the legal fees therefor, namely, fifteen cents per page for field notes and fifty cents each for photolithographic copies of plats, with twenty-five cents extra for seal and certification if desired.

Attention was recently called to the fact that the monument marking the initial point, or intersection of the Indian Meridian and the Indian Base Line, had been displayed and cast aside, presumably as the result of the mischieviously destructive activities of some unduly curious searcher after a mythical "buried Spanish treasure." The matter having been called to the attention of Mr. C. M. Lawrence, civil engineer and surveyor, of Holdenville, Oklahoma, (who is an active member of the Oklahoma Historical Society), he addressed a letter to the director of the Geological Survey, at Washington, offering to restore the monument to its original position. Inasmuch as the original surveys had been made under the direction of the commissioner of the General Land Office, Mr. Lawrence’s letter was referred to that official. Under date of December 12, 1924, the following letter was addressed to Mr. Lawrence, from the office of the commissioner:

Page 84

Mr. C. M. Lawrence,
Civil Engineer and Surveyor,
Holdenville, Oklahoma.

My dear Sir:

By reference from the Geological Survey, this office is in receipt of your letter of November 26, 1924, wherein you report, on information supplied by Mr. Justice Warren, of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, that the monument marking the initial point of the Indian base and meridian, Oklahoma, is overturned and loose and wherein you suggest that it may be possible for you to take steps looking to its restoration in connection with a proposed visit to that locality.

The General Land Office appreciates your interest in this matter, and although not specifically charged with the maintenance of the monuments of the public land surveys, it is always glad to co-operate with those interested in their perpetuation, and in order that the monument may be properly identified I am appending its description as taken from the field notes of the original official survey of the Indian meridian as executed by Deputy Surveyor E. N. Darling, in or about the year 1870.

"Initial monument at point between two small streams, both having a northerly course making a junction about 20 chains north.
"Set Sand Stone 54x18x18
marked on west side I. P. on east side Ind. Mer., and on north side 1870, in a mound of stones, 6 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, from which Flag Staff at Fort Arbuckle bears N. 7 ° 37’ W.
"East end of Mesa bears N. 46° 17’ W.
"East end of Mesa bears N. 47 ° 42’ W.
"East end of Mesa bears N. 55° 56’ W.
"Black Oak 10 in. dia. bears N. 70°
11’ W. 617 lks. dist. Rock on East side of
Brook marked thus (III) bears S. 14° 12’ E.
1365 lks. dirt. Cedar 8 inches dia. just left of rock."

In addition to he foregoing, it should be noted that in connection with surveys executed under the direction of the Geological Survey this initial point was identified in the year 1897, the monument being described as a Sandstone 54x19x18 inches above ground, firmly set in a mound of stone 6 feet base, 2112 feet high, marked and witnessed as described by the General Land Office.

It will of course be understood that any action looking to the perpetuation of the point in question should be taken without disturbance, removal or alteration of the existing monument, and this office will be glad to receive a report of such action as you may find it practicable to take in this connection.

Very respectfully, (Signed) D. K. Parrott,
Acting Assistant Commissioner.

Page 85

To this letter, Mr. Lawrence replied, under date of Feb. 15, 1925, as follows:

Hon. Comm’r Gen’l Land Offce,
Washington, D. C.


Re Initial Point, I. M. Okla.—Your 1161542"E"CGT— 12-24-’24.I have honor to report that on Jan. 7, 1925, I checked hearings of existing accessories, as described in Field Notes:

Lapse of fifty-four years has eliminated "flagstaff at Fort Arbuckle" and the "black oak tree." The "rock on east side of brook marked thus (III), S. 14°-12’ E. 1365 lks. dist." is a peculiar (Frank’s) conglomerate, much subject to weathering, so that no marks can now be distinguished, and the—about 5 ton—piece, due to undercutting and frost wedging, has sloughed down toward the stream bed. The "Cedar," "diam. just left of rock," is now about 14" diam, bearing S. 14°-27’E., and being otherwise worthless, is now the most valuable reference object.

Bul. 564, p. 36, states "copper bolt set in rock in place, four feet south of Initial Point." A hole in rock shows plainly where bolt has been pried out, thus further verifying exact locus of the monument.

Found monument lying as shown by Photo No.1. Erected it, with portland cement mortar, about 6 ft. diam, and 3 ft. high: As shown by "1870" on, "Ind. Mer." on east and "I. P." on west sides, in a bed of photo No. 2.

Present and assisting were Messrs. C. H. Lamb, Pierce Larkin and C. D. Richardson.

Respectfully submitted,
(Signed)     C. M. Lawrence.

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