Maps of Louisiana Land, 1907

Although I’ve long ago gotten used to crazy things turning up around campus, every so often even I get surprised. Last week I got an email from a very nice woman in Lovett Hall asking if I’d be interested in an old metal tube that had turned up. It was labeled “Rice Land Lumber Company – original tracings, permanent records. DO NOT DESTROY.”

Well, yes, I’d like to see that.

The tube was full of tightly rolled . . . something. The first things that came out were delicate tracings, so brittle as to be, in essence, dust held together by inertia.

IMG_1309Happily, though, once we got them out the other rolls turned out to be beautiful, intact linen copies, dated November, 1907:


Note, by the way, that these maps were made by Frank Shutts, who I talked about a couple years ago here. The very early date answers a question that I’ve sort of idly wondered about: Did President Lovett hire Elmer Shutts’s father or did he admit Frank Shutts’s son? It must have been the latter.

As you might suspect, it’s going to take a little time to get these properly unrolled but in the meantime I was fascinated by this:



There were long lists on each map, detailing section by section which trees were where–mostly pine but also a bit of sweetgum and holly. What I’m curious about is what “old government trees” might be.



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2 Responses to Maps of Louisiana Land, 1907

  1. almadenmike says:

    From what I can tell from a few webpages found by searching for [“government tree”] or [“old government tree’], a government tree was created to be a defining landmark in early surveying. They are typically identified by a “blaze” — a smallish pattern of bark cut off from the tree.

    Here’s a description in an Evansville (Indiana) Press newspaper article (August 5, 1910; page 1):

    “Can You Locate the Old Government Tree?

    “Here’s a good game for the kids. See if you can find the old government tree in the neighborhood of the fiar grounds that was blazed by government engineers many, many years ago when Vanderburgh Co. was laid out. In running their lines in the old days, the government engineers frequently located their corners by an oak tree. There were frequently many of them in Evansville, bearing the marks of the pioneers’ axes. But time and progress has left but few of the old blazed trees standing In the county. The government engineers would chop out a circular piece of bark and on the smooth surface of the tree write whatever section it represented as a corner. In time the bark grew over the legend but the trees still served as landmarks for modern civil engineers, who could readily distinguish the trees, chop away the new bark and read the lettering left by the engineers of years ago. One of these government trees is still standing in the neighborhood of the fair grounds.”

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