Thursday, February 7, 2008

More Than 200 Years of Confusion

Pete and I continue piecing together the various land patents that comprised the area in and around Port Tobacco. The pieces often are difficult to fit together and today, we found an important reason why we often encounter trouble. Take a look at the plat for Moore's Ditch Resurveyed, dated January 1, 1790, and patented (Certificate 756) for 305 acres.

As you can see, surveyor Theophilus Hanson noted the placement of Moores Ditch relative to three other tracts: Goodrichs, Lines [aka Lynes] Delight, and part of Beeches Neck. Notice the profusion of lines? These tracts overlapped in some areas and, in other areas, were separated by vacant lands.
Even Theophilus Hanson, with his precise distances and bearings, could not make perfect rational sense of the patented lands. He contended with 'elder' surveys that were not only imprecise, but inaccurate. Broken topography and rolling hills, thick forest in some places, and crude surveying instruments (that probably required, but seldom received, periodic maintenance and recalibration) contributed to the confusion. Surveyors also were aware that magnetic north constantly shifted and they tried to account for the change when resurveying older tracts by assuming one degree of variance every twenty years.
The result is a hodge-podge of surveys that can be reconstructed and related to current maps, but there remains always a degree of imprecision and uncertainty.

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