A Butchered Up Country

What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.
Bertrand Russell

In sifting through my files I found copies of two letters that had been sent to the Washington D.C. office of the Bureau of Land Management. The first one was written by a landowner who was bewildered by a recent [1982] survey involving his property. Even though the survey was in Oregon, the letter could have been written by just about anybody who owns land described by aliquot parts in the Public-Land-Survey states, and who is perplexed by the rules of re-establishing property corners. To those of my readers who are involved with that type of surveys, the complaint will sound familiar.

To protect the privacy of the writer I have omitted all references to location. Here it is:

Help, help, help, help.

The first of 1982 I received a letter from the U.S. Forest Service requesting permission to come onto our property to survey mutual boundary lines. The surveying was completed in the summer and that was when I began to discover after seeing the results of the survey and talking to several registered land surveyors that there must be a large part of the land in this country butchered up because of the laws made in the beginning of land surveying in this country.

It is time Congress and State Law Makers revise some of these laws and bring them into the 20th century, especially where a mistake is discovered and it is agreed by everyone involved, the mistake must be corrected as near as possible.

I discovered land surveyors are programed like a computer, they all went to the same kind of school, they back each other, they accept mistakes made in the past as being where it is suppose [sic] to be.

I discovered measurements, straight lines and degrees are not important. I was told by [name withheld] County land surveyor lines can be in a zig zag manner and magnetic declination is not very important, the only thing important is where the monument is, it doesnt make any difference how far it is from where it should be.

This sums it up. The monument is not where it should be but where the monument is set is where it is suppose [sic] to be now.

Also checking the results of the surveying of our property I discovered at least 12 sections in the area does [sic] not have one correct measurement and from that point of view there is a good chance there is not one correct measurement in the whole township. Which means there is a lot of this country butchered up by out of control surveyors for over 200 years. Which means all of our land maps are incorrect, they are fakes.

It seems to me it is criminal for the tax payers to have probably paid billions for land surveying and have ended up with a botch [sic] up, butchered country.

Enclosed you will find an out of scale for clarity sketch showing the survey of our property, how it should be to fit the legal description with solid lines when homesteaded and approved and how it looks as surveyed now with broken lines and as you now can see no way does it fit our legal description. The legal description is as follows. [Description withheld]

I feel now I am a million miles from everyone, saying as loud as I can, survey is all wrong lets make it right and no one will ever hear me!

Best Regards,

Signed [name withheld]

The second letter might give you a headache, as it probably did to the hapless bureaucrat who had to answer it. The writer [name withheld] lived in Roy, New Mexico, and the letter was written in 1923. I did not have the heart to correct the spelling.


I am riting you for information in Homestead Entry, where a woman have made Entry and then marries a man and then dies and then the Husband gets married to another woman who have a Homestead Entry of 640 acres and then the Husband dies who have several children, who would be the rightful hear to make final proof on the first wifes entry would it be the Husban children or his last wife.

I remain truly yours,

P.S. The children belongs to Husbands former wife and not the one that died as she have not any children of her own, she being his second wife, and the one that have 640 acres being his third wife, and his first wife being dead also.
[End of letter]

An appeal to my readers
I am scraping the bottom of the barrel searching for something to write about. The present column is the 129th since I began ANTEPASADOS in 1988 and I am nearing the end of my rope (make that: a 50 links chain). If you like to see a continuation of the column I invite you to furnish me with ideas and/or material. You can call me at home at (505) 585-2425 or e-mail roeder@ZiaNet.com. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

About the Author

Fred Roeder, LS

Fred Roeder lives in Tularosa, New Mexico. He emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1957 and spent most of his surveying career in the Southwest, working for the U.S. Forest Service. Now retired, he started writing a regular column for the New Mexico Professional Surveyors Newsletter in 1988. In 1994, NMPS produced Antepasados, a book of his columns. Many surveyors are good writers, especially about technical or legal matters. However, it's not often that we find a surveyor/story-teller who can present historical facts in a manner that makes them fun to read. Fred Roeder is such a writer and we are pleased to present more than 80 of his stories here. Bibliography is a list of the books Fred used in his writings, and includes a numbered index of the articles. Index is a list of all the articles Fred has written and when. Editor's pick: The King Who Had No Title
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