Bill Grisoli LTG(R), USA Corps of Engineers
Any surveyor who has ever had to slug it out through virgin territory knows the importance of their “point of beginning.” It marks their initial known point of reference. In the eighteenth century, this normally meant the beginning of the transfer of land to a new owner. Surveyors were in great demand in the new world and held a position of prominence in their communities because of the value of the land they surveyed. Surveying in Early America: Point of Beginning, An Illustrated History brings to life not only the art and science of surveying in the eighteenth century but also how it directly contributed to the development of our nation.
Clint and Dan have written a long overdue book, combining Clint’s passion for history and Dan’s life-long love of photography. A personal friend, Dan and I met through my wife’s family. Dan has had a continuous thirst for aviation history, especially military aviation, and my wife’s family all served in the US Air Force, making our friendship a natural ft.
The authors' choice of telling the story through photographs of re-enactors makes the pages come alive and will appeal to the traditional surveyor and average history enthusiast alike. This living history allows Clint and Dan to capture the exact experiences that make up the story on each page: a story about men faced with tremendous responsibility to public and private landowners to get it right. Armed with simple tools and a basic understanding of how to determine the relative position of points, colonial surveyors were able to meet increasing demands for more accurate property boundaries in early America. How accurate were these surveys? Given that these early colonial surveys often involved mountainous terrain, forestry, and vast distances, the accuracy was superb for the time period. One gains a great appreciation for surveyor’s dedication in the face of these challenges while reviewing the powerful photographs of the reenactors in this book.
The authors also captured my interest by integrating George Washington’s early life as a surveyor, soldier, and landowner and how it influenced his future beliefs. As president, he clearly believed in westward expansion, national defense, and economic growth. He was an early advocate for the establishment of a military academy to produce professional officers and military engineers. This vision led President Jeferson to later found West Point, our nation’s first military academy and home to the country’s first school of engineering. With this formal training, army engineers led the way in the early 19th century in the fields of mapping, surveying, transportation systems, and building our coastal defenses. All these efforts, built on the knowledge gained from early surveyors like George Washington, allowed our young nation to continue to grow.
Surveying in Early America offers a unique portrayal of colonial surveying, leveraging all the goodness of living history—at last telling the story of these unsung professionals and how they helped shape America. Above all, it will pay them a well-deserved tribute. They were truly at the “point of beginning!”