Historical marker commemorates survey lineJuly 16, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
HAYSVILLE — Local history buffs gathered on the west side of U.S. 231 just south of Haysville Saturday for the unveiling of a new historical marker.
The marker, which is a project of the Dubois County Historical Society, commemorates Buckingham’s Base Line, an east-west survey line that Ebenezer Buckingham, Jr. drew in 1804 to help establish a land grid on the lands the U.S. government acquired in the 1803 Treaty of Vincennes.
“It was so important because this was one of the main reasons people came to Indiana,” said Bill Bartelt, a Dubois County native and member of the board for the Indiana Historical Bureau.
Those people included Abraham Lincoln’s family and Toussaint Dubois, the first person to purchase land in what became Dubois County and the county’s namesake.
Base lines are east-west lines that intersect with north-south meridian lines to create a rectangular system to measure land. The grid divides land into townships that are six miles square, and the land can be further divided from there as property owners desire. The system is still used by surveyors today, County Surveyor Ken Brosmer said.
“Every piece of land (in Dubois County) relates to this line,” Brosmer said.
In U.S. history, the Land Ordinance of 1785 allowed the method to be used when the government sold land to settlers after the removal of Native Americans. Buckingham’s Base Line, which begins in Illinois and intersects with the north-south Second Principal Meridian in Orange County near Paoli, was a key part of the surveying system in Indiana. Together, the lines served as markers for the grid system that allowed early settlers to claim land ownership based on land surveys rather than based on landmarks, as was done in other areas such as Kentucky. The grid system gave early settlers a stronger claim on their land and lessened land disputes, making Indiana an attractive place to settlers.
To create the line, Brosmer said, Buckingham and his crew traveled the land by foot, measuring the line as they went. The process meant accounting for the hills and forests in the area to create a straight line. If the map on the marker is any indication, the team did a good job, as the map shows a line that cuts straight across the lower fraction of the state.
“It was just incredible what he did,” Brosmer said. “I’m really proud to walk in his footsteps.”
The Dubois County Historical Society worked for two years to bring the historical marker to the county. A marker previously stood on the east side of the highway, but it was destroyed in a car accident. The new marker celebrates Dubois County’s bicentennial and is the only state historical marker in the county.
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