The Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society


In Memorial


Colonel Leander Ransom

September 5, 1800 - May 14, 1874

[Photograph copied from "The Fantastic City - Memoirs of the Social and Romantic Life of Old San Francisco" By Amelia Ransome Neville]

[Note this is a short version of Ransom’s Life. Check back for a more complete version at a later date.]


Ransom, who was born on September 5, 1800 in Colchester Connecticut, moved with his parents when he was young to New York State where he was educated.


In 1825 he went to Ohio where he was married and had three children. He evidently liked California and brought his family to live in there in 1856 where they settled in San Francisco.


Early in his career, Ransom was employed by the Ohio Canal Company. In 1826 he was appointed to locate a portion of the Ohio Canal. Later he was appointed as Commissioner to the Ohio Canal Commission.


In 1836 he was appointed as President of Board of Public Works of Ohio, a position he held for 13 Years.


Colonel Leander Ransom came to California in 1851 with Samuel D. King, who was the U. S. Surveyor General for California.


King and Ransom left New York by steamer for California in May of 1851. They left their ship and crossed the Isthmus of Panama overland where one of their equipment trunks was stolen. They also lost the keys to the safes and two boxes of papers fell overboard and suffered damage. The bordered another steamer and continued their trip to San Francisco. They landed in San Francisco on June 14, 1851 and set up offices there.


On July 8, 1851 King issued special instructions to Ransom for the establishment of the Initial Point on Mount Diablo and the initial surveys of the Meridian and Base Line. King charged Ransom to "Go to Mount Diablo and provide that: an east and west Base and north and south Meridian line be run and established passing through the most prominent peak of Mount Diablo."


From July 1851 to September 1851, Ransom conducted the first Public Land Survey in California as Deputy Surveyor.


The Mount Diablo Principal Meridian and Base Line extending from the Mount Diablo Initial Point, established on July 17, 1851 by Ransom, controls Public Land Surveys within two-thirds of California and all of Nevada. (See a separate article about the MDIP.)


In August of 1852, King ordered Ransom to examine the southern California region of San Bernardino Mountain to see if it would be feasible to establish an initial point on it’s summit. Ransom report to King that it would be possible. In September of 1852, King issued instructions to Henry Washington, Deputy Surveyor to establish the San Bernardino Initial Point. (See a separate article about the SBIP.)


After completing these tasks, Ransom served as Chief Clerk in the California Surveyor General's Office in San Francisco from 1851 to the 1860’s.


In 1853 Ransom became a Charter Member of California Academy of Sciences. In addition, he was an early and active member of the Academy, serving as President for eleven terms beginning in 1856.


Ransom died on May 14, 1874 as the result of an accident. He was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco, CA. The cemetery was later closed and the bodies were moved in 1939-1940 to Cypress Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Colma, California just a few miles south of San Francisco.


In 1916, the Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated a bronze plaque near the summit of Mount Diablo in the memory of Leander Ransom.


On October 24, 1926, the American Society of Engineers of San Francisco dedicated a mountain spur to the memory of Ransom. The Spur is shown on the quadrangle map as “Ransom Point”.



Information for the above bio was taken from a copy of an unpublished book titled “A Golden Bear by the Tail,” written in 1983 by George N. Darling, Land surveyor, Santa Cruz, California. Mr. Darling donated this work to the Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society. Information was also taken from the book titled “Initial Points of the Rectangular Survey System” by C. Albert White.



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