JACKSON, MI – Two centuries ago this year, something monumental happened
in the wilderness that became Jackson County.
"Wait a minute," you might say. "Jackson County
had nothing in 1815 except native tribes, large mosquitoes, and untamed
True enough, but history happened when government
surveyors arrived to mark a spot at what's now the northern boundary of
Rives and Henrietta townships.
That spot was ground zero for surveying Michigan.
Virtually every property description in our state is still measured from
that "initial point."
"That's nice," you might say again. "But what's
the big deal about surveying?"
First, the 1815 survey was an adventure.
Six survey crews did work complicated by fears of
hostilities with Indians. Natives had seen enough frontier expansion to
know surveyors were followed by floods of settlers.
Surveyors slogged along a meridian line north
from Defiance, Ohio, and an east-west baseline starting from what is today
Eight Mile Road in Detroit.
The initial point was established in October,
weeks before surveyors quit for the winter. They recorded being
"completely worn out" after "wading in ice water for three days."
Survey work went on for years. It opened
Michigan's interior to settlement, and shaped life in ways we rarely
consider. Among other things, surveyors laid the foundation for township
government, school districts, and straight country roads.
Surveyors also made a mistake. The east and west
baselines missed at the meridian line by 935 feet, giving Michigan the
distinction of having two initial points. That mistake explains the slight
jog in the boundary between Jackson and Ingham counties.
Michigan government owns the initial-point site
and 40 years ago had big plans for a historic park. But the
Meridian-Baseline State Park was landlocked, so two monuments there
remained inaccessible to the public for decades.
Suddenly, the little-known and landlocked park
has received unfamiliar attention.
The Michigan Department Natural Resources
purchased property off Meridian Road two or three years ago, so the
monuments are no longer landlocked, said Gary Jones, park manager.
Then a local group called 1815 Surveying Michigan formed spontaneously in
2014 and began proposing 200th anniversary plans.
Encouraged by the surge of interest, the DNR
built a gravel parking lot in the fall. It hopes to team with Boy Scouts
to open a half-mile trail from the parking lot to the monuments this year.
The 1815 Surveying Michigan group intends to
organize a 200th anniversary event in October, and it is raising
$5,000 for a historical marker. Tax-deductible donations can be made
through Ella Sharp Museum.
What happened 200 years ago? That's when Jackson
County and Michigan stopped being uncharted wilderness and started being
the place we know today.
It was a monumental change that deserves being
-- Contact Brad Flory at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with the permission of the Jackson Citizen Patriot and mlive.com.
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