Uintah Indian Reservation Boundary Project

The intention of this CEL grant was to provide the students and the surveying community with an opportunity to rediscover some original and historically significant survey monuments. Many questions were asked of members of the Utah Council of Land Surveyors (UCLS) through the History and Education committees, what monuments should be located that may be important and useful for their profession. These members had several suggestions but finally it was decided to pursue the idea of rediscovering some of the key monuments which delineated the boundary of the original Uinta Indian Reservation. This reservation was determined and described in a treaty signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. Since 1910 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), originally known as the General Land Office (GLO), has been and continues to be tasked, among other things, with the responsibility of preserving and perpetuating government surveys and survey records for public lands. So, it was with the help of Frank Profasier and the Public Room at the BLM office in Salt Lake City that we were able to obtain current maps, copies of original field notes, plat maps, and special instructions given to the deputy federal surveyors who worked on this boundary. Although the treaty was signed in 1864, and in spite of three different attempts to complete the delineation of the boundary it was not until 1904 that the original treaty boundary line was actually completed by Arthur and Fred Brown, both Deputy Federal Surveyors of the GLO.

With copies of the original records in hand faculty and students began reviewing these documents for clues as to the actual location of the boundary monuments. Current digital topographic maps and USDA Forest Service maps in conjunction with computer-aided drawings of the boundary, the latitude and longitude coordinates were determined which represented a best guess location of four key monuments, the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and mile post 23 (starting point for one of the surveys). Equipped with these coordinates, current maps, and a description of the monuments as described by Fred and Arthur Brown we headed into the field to make our rediscovery. This may sound like a simple task but just the preparation alone took nearly 100 hours. Since these monuments were 75-100 miles away from Orem and from each other we decided to break up the search into 4 different excursions, one for each monument.

The field process involved driving as close to the monument as possible and then donning the backpacks and hiking. Since handheld GPS units are only accurate to within 12-20 feet and since it was difficult to ascertain how accurate the coordinate, and given the variation in measurements of the original surveyor the search areas in some cases were more like plus or minus 100 feet. Additionally, these monuments were set 1903 and could have been disturbed by any number of people since then as well as the ravages of time having there affect. All these factors and others made us unsure about exactly what we would find. After all what does a 106 year old sandstone chiseled monument look like anyway? We were unable to find one of the monuments because it was only a pine post with one stone and mound of earth and two pits which meant we could be standing on top of the point today and never know it. The pictures shown herein depict a few of the monuments we rediscovered. After making these finds we were asked by the BLM to document their actual coordinates, take pictures, and provide a written description of the monument and surrounding area as well as a descriptive guide on how to get to the monument.

In conclusion, this project took the combined effort, cooperation, participation, and expertise of professional surveyors, faculty, government agencies, and students. Students benefited the most because of the hands-on engaged learning process. This was not only a rediscovery of survey monuments but also a part of our nation’s history and the great outdoors of Utah.

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