Joint Commmission Contract Labor Agreement
John P. Evans, Jr.
How would you like to cut a survey line through dense unexplored woods along the bank of the Sabine River for $1.00 per day plus food and lodging with no days off?
Check out the following agreement offered to laborers, or operatives, to work with the Joint Boundary Commission for surveying and marking the boundary between the Republic of Texas and the United States.
Joint Boundary Commission Contract Worker Agreement
We the undersigned do hereby engage to John H. Overton and Memucan Hunt, United States and Texian Commissioners, for surveying and marking the boundary between the two countries; to serve the Joint Commission for said survey and demarcation in such capacities as axemen, chain bearers, station markers, instrument carriers, signal carriers and such other capacities as may be requisite for the execution of said service; the said Commissioners paying or causing to be paid to us $30 per month each for our said services; and finding us in food and tents to lodge in; also allowing us each two blankets to use for lodging, they to be returned to the said Commissioners when we are discharged. And we do bind ourselves to serve the said Joint Commission from the time the party shall leave New Orleans until said survey and demarcation shall be finished provided the same shall not continue more than six months, and provided we are not to be discharged before three months from the time of leaving New Orleans aforesaid, unless we or any of us should fail to give satisfaction to the said Joint Commission or the officer or officers serving on said duty under whose orders we may be placed; and also to obey willingly and promptly all orders of the aforesaid Joint Commission and officers in reference to said duties. Our wages to be paid us once a month, if demanded, in current money of the United States; and in case we or any of us do not obey the orders given us as aforesaid and use every exertion in our power to give satisfaction in the performance of our duties, the said Joint Commission is to have the power to discharge us, or any of us, from that time and the wages that may be due us to be forfeited to the governments represented by said Joint Commission.
Witness our signatures made with our hands
at New Orleans this January 18, 1840.
The wages of the above mentioned laborers to commence January 24, 1840.
One of the jobs of the United States surveyor, John Conway, was to recruit laborers to serve on the Commission survey party. Upon arrival at the mouth of the Sabine River, he determined that operatives were scarce in the vicinity. He returned to New Orleans where he engaged several men to serve on the Commission survey crew.
Conway and his new recruits departed New Orleans and proceeded to the mouth of the Sabine River to begin the survey. Within the first month of employment, Conway found that most of his recruits were below average woodsmen and not suitable for chain carriers, station markers, signal carriers or other survey related jobs. The recruits were also afraid of cold water and alligators! Conway wanted to fire the men at the end of the month but had no money to pay them. He was forced to keep them on for a second month until Commissioner Overton arrived with money to pay the men in order to terminate their employment.
Surveying the West Bank of the Sabine River
The original intent of the Commission was to accurately measure directions and distances along the winding west bank of the Sabine River from the Gulf of Mexico to the intersection of the 32nd degree of north latitude. With the survey of the boundary running about a year behind schedule, the long process of accurately measuring the west bank of the Sabine River was abandoned.
An alternate survey plan was developed that involved measuring the direction of the river and estimating distances as Commission boats ascended the river. Astronomical observations would be taken each night to determine latitude and longitude and the days estimated directions and distances would be adjusted to fit the latitude and longitude determinations. The process of accurately marking the boundary between the two countries would only be used to mark the meridian part of the boundary north of the 32nd degree of latitude.
Using the alternate plan, the Commission was able to map the west bank of the Sabine River from the Gulf of Mexico to a point near the 32nd degree of North Latitude in one week. A review of Commission maps shows that only the Sabine River map has a latitude and longitude grid.
Information contained in this article is adapted
from pages 204 and 205 of Evolution of the
Texas - Louisiana Boundary: In Search of the
Copyright © 2017 by Jim Tiller and John P. Evans, Jr. .
Article Posted 9/02/2019
This is the second article of a series
provided by John P. Evans,
The subject being addressed is the Boundary Survey of 1841, Between
The Republic of Texas and The United States. This survey was the first
attempt to locate on the ground the boundary of The Louisiana Purchase. Today it is the common boundary of Texas, Louisiana & Arkansas.
(Each article in this series will remain posted for 60-90 days.)
We will provide articles for this space on a periodic basis. The subjects will be related to items, subjects and/or exhibits featured in the museum.
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