The Establishment of the Mount Diablo Initial Point
Surveyors Historical Society
Saturday July 21, 2001
Mount Diablo State Park, Contra Costa County, CA
By: Keith Nofield, PLS
July 17, 1851, Colonel Leander Ransom, General Land
Office Deputy Surveyor, was under instructions from the Surveyor General for
California to establish the initial on the Summit of Mount Diablo (The Devil
Mountain), so he began his journey up the mountain. After reaching the summit and discovering there was no
wood for a flagstaff, Ransom and team went back down the mountain and
returned the following day, July 18, 1851 with a 28 foot long, 4” x 6” wood
flagstaff to support the red and white checkered flag (for sighting) and
finally set the original initial point for the Mount Diablo Meridian.
On Saturday July 21, 2001, the Mount Diablo Surveyors
Historical Society (MDSHS) held the, Sesquicentennial (150th Anniversary
Celebration) atop the mountain.
This celebration at the summit was to recognize the achievement of
Colonel Leander Ransom 150 years earlier.
After 18 months of planning and numerous hours of
meetings, the July 21st event was one that impressed all that attended. Even the Park Rangers commented on
how they have never seen, or heard of an organization come in and
successfully hold an event like the MDSHS performed in the parks 80 year
history. Never had they seen a
smooth operation keep the traffic flowing at the summit and the use of a free
shuttle van (donated by Kier and Wright Civil Engineers and Land Surveyors,
Pleasanton). The shuttle was for
the public attendees to reach the summit from the lower parking lot,
approximately ½ mile from the upper parking lot. The upper parking lot is a small lot, approximately
90’ x 80’, and was blocked off for the days festivities.
The days activities were designed for multiple
functions. First and foremost,
the celebration to recognize the achievement of Col. Leander Ransom 150 years
prior. Second is the ongoing
educational process to educate the public about the history of, and current practice
of land surveying. The
importance of the initial point at Mt. Diablo is unknown to the majority of
the public. During the day’s
activities, the attendees were educated by the numerous MDSHS members in
attendance on the importance or the initial point, and how it controls the
majority of California and all of Nevada for land surveys. By the time they left the celebration
they had a better understanding and appreciation of the initial point, not to
mention the appreciation of the history of land surveying. Everyone seemed amazed to hear that
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson were all land
surveyors in their days.
The middle of the day was when Mr. Michael J. Foley, PLS
gave a brief talk on the history of how Ransom and his crew traveled up the
mountain to set the initial point.
After his talk, Mr. Lance Bishop, Chief Surveyor, from the CA, Bureau
of Land Management (BLM), presented to the MDSHS a copy of “A History of The
Rectangular Survey System”, by C. Albert White for their library.
The layout of the parking lot consisted of a centerpiece,
being three large tents combined to create one area 20’ x 30’ for the public
to gather, and rest out of the sun.
Chairs were set up so individuals could relax, socialize and listen to
Mr. Foley as he spoke. Outside
of the shaded area, along the sides and rear, there were a number of
historical surveying instruments set up for the public to view, look through,
and see demonstration of how they operate. On the asphalt ground to the rear, you would also find a
long piece of white plastic laid out with an old Gunter’s Chain stretched out
for anyone interested to see what it feels like to “Pull Chain”. Around the exterior of the parking
lot, numerous 10’ x 10’ spaces were set up by several organizations with
displays and informational material.
The MDSHS booth displayed a glass cabinet, which contained a 1850’s
surveyor’s compass, 1880’s transit, 1880’s level, along with an old Gunter’s
½ chain, and early 1900’s chaining pins spread out. Other Organizations who participated with an exhibit,
included Bay Area Orienteering Group, Bureau of Land Management, Haselbach
Surveying Instruments (displaying the evolution of the Wild T-16, along of a
Wild T-12, which is a neat little expedition theodolite), Mount Diablo
Interpretive Association, National Geodetic Survey, Save Mount Diablo, Topcon
California, and United States Geological Survey.
The weather on July 21, 2001 for the day’s celebration
was exceptional and everyone who attended from across the state, had a great
time celebrating the 150th anniversary of the setting of the Mount Diablo
Keith Nofield, PLS
To find out more about Mount Diablo itself, click here to visit The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association
Return to Home
MDSHS is a California non-profit
corporation organized under
IRS 501(c)3 (Federal #8916806802, CA 1835904).
Website designed and maintained by Jennifer Pettley.
Copyright 2007 MDSHS.