Witness Trees I

Point I: “South Shore of University Bay Between Sections 15 & 16”

Original Land Survey, Twp 7N, Rge 9E, 15-16 N

This is among the survey lines of greatest interest to modern visitors to the Preserve, since this route between sections 15 and 16 starts at the intersection of modern Linden and Walnut Streets (by what is today the WARF Building), runs north to intersect University Bay, and finally emerges from the lake to cross Picnic Point, ending near the modern Picnic Point Beach House.

Running this kind of line was always a challenge for the surveyors, not only because it was broken up by the lake, but because a sizable portion of the route passed through wetland. At this location, Deputy Surveyor Orson Lyon intersected the lake and had to leave the section line to walk around University Bay before commencing again at Picnic Point.

Before doing so, though, he set a post here and sighted to a tree he described as follows:

“Black Oak 16N 43W 2057”

Surveyors were required to establish their posts by sighting to two bearing trees, but Lyon only added the following very telling note: “No other near”

These are very revealing scraps of information. If a surveyor couldn’t find a tree to establish a point, he was required to do the very labor-intensive work of constructing a high earthen mound. So it’s not surprising that most went to great lengths to find any available tree to avoid building that mound.

The only tree Orson Lyon was able to find was a single black oak (of unspecified diameter, an omission that might mean it didn’t meet the minimum requirements for a witness tree) 2057 surveyor’s links away. Converted to a more familiar modern measurement, Lyon’s lone black oak was 1357 feet – a full quarter of a mile – from this post on the southwest shore of University Bay. It would be hard to imagine better evidence of just how treeless and marshy this land was in 1834!

Learn how to read and interpret this data with the help of our page Original land survey notes for the Lakeshore Nature Preserve vicinity, December 1834.