Walking in the Footsteps of Pioneers


Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Mike, one day before the heat death of the universe, you and I need to go out into the woods together.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    My ancestor also had a land grant in Kentucky as payment for Rev. War services, but later moved to Indiana.

    His ancestors had land in the Eastern shore of Maryland, and I have a photocopy of a description of the land that is both nearly illegible (due to the writing style) and makes reference to landscape features that likely to not exist today.  But someday I would love to figure out where that property is and walk upon it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      James, the land grant system after the Revolutionary War was extensive. Most of the grants were in Kentucky though some in other areas. As a result Kentucky’s early leaders were pretty much all veterans of the war.

      The way it worked was that you got your grant (usually 1,000 acres for an officer) and then paid a surveyor to go there and plot out your land. You might give him some instructions about what you were looking for but it was generally understood that everyone wanted clean water and flat ground for crops. The problems arose because the boundary markers were so vague and often temporary (as you have probably discovered). They might use a tree or a bend in a creek or a pile of stones. Also, many of the surveyors simply weren’t very good at their jobs or didn’t bother to file their surveys properly. This resulted in other people claiming the same property and overlapping property lines called ‘shingled’.

      Daniel Boone spent much of his later years paying off debts he encured with poor surveying work.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Actually I didn’t know that, but having heard it, I find it not just plausible but nearly inevitable.  If there’s anything government does well (besides war) it’s marking and recording ownership, but only when they use specialized bureaucrats for the purpose.

        I learned last summer that the U.S./Mexico border in the Gadsden Purchase area was initially poorly surveyed, partly because there weren’t lots of good landmarks, partly because some folks bribed the surveyors to be on a particular side of the border, but mostly because the space is so godawful empty and unproductive it didn’t really matter much where the border went.  It all had to be redone, iirc, in the 1950s. But even then, not to satisfy conflicting private claimants, because it’s still godawful empty and unproductive!Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          A few years later and a bit farther north, the Four Corners monument was placed, defining the point where present-day Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah come together.  The surveyors placed the monument within 1800 feet of where it was supposed to be, remarkably accurate for the available tools of the day.  From time to time, articles appear about how the marker is in the “wrong” place.  Under established law, though, once placed and agreed to by the parties involved, the marker becomes “right” by definition and further measurements are made relative to it.  In addition to the four states, the Navajo and Ute tribes have also agreed, since the same marker identifies where the Mountain Ute and Navajo reservations meet.

          Georgia and Tennessee have been scuffling over a portion of their border for 170 years.  A few years ago Georgia revived their claims, in an effort to get  access to the Tennessee River and divert some amount of the river flow into northern Georgia, which faces increasing problems with their water supply.  Living in a Western state, I find it amusing that any place that average 50 inches of precipitation per year has a water shortage problem.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          I’ve known people from Deming. At a population of 14k, it’s a fairly large town by New Mexico standards; 12th largest in the state.
          There used to be a lot of drilling around there. A lot of cattle. Mining, mostly copper, molybdenum, and gemstones.
          Not a bad place to be.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:

        Sorry I have to disagree with your statement that, “most of the grants were in Kentucky though some in other areas.”  The future states of Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio, and Tennessee were all affected by land grants from the states they originated from.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


          I misspoke to James so thanks for the corection. James said that his ancestor had a land grant in KY so I assumed he lived in Virginia or Maryland. You are right that other states gave their land grants elsewhere (NC gave land in present-day TN for example). I should have been more clear about that.