Joint Boundary Commission Glass Bottles
Where are they Now?
John P. Evans, Jr.
In Part II of this series, we promised the story of a group of Professional Land Surveyors from north Louisiana that became intimately interested in the 1840-1841 Joint Boundary Commission survey and the 1941 re-survey of the boundary by William B. Benjamin. The “Ringleader” of this professional “Band of Brothers” was Gerald Fussell, Professional Civil Engineer and Land Surveyor. Others in his “Band” were Randy Noble, Ricky Wood, Travis Sturdivant, Michael Bowman and Kyle Brownsberger.
“Band of Brothers”
Randy Noble, Gerald Fussell, Ricky Wood, Travis Sturdivant, Michael Bowman
Photograph By Kyle Brownsberger.
Little did the band of brothers know that their ringleader, Gerald Fussell would pass away in the early morning hours of April 6, 2013. Only a few days after his final survey expedition.
The following article was written by one of Gerald’s employees, Mr. Ricky Wood, as a tribute to his friend and colleague. The article originally appeared in the Louisiana Society of Professional Surveyors Journal, L’Arpenteur Louisiane in August 2013 and is used herein with permission from Mr. Wood.
by Ricky Wood
The day started as every other day for Gerald Fussell at Polaris Services. Then, he received a phone call that would spark an interest that grew and spread until it took hold of friends and fellow surveyors in Northwest Louisiana. That phone call, about 7 years ago now, was a client that needed a survey of his property that bordered the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line. His research began like any other project, checking the Clerk of Court and Tax Assessor for records and listings of the property and adjacent owners' descriptions. Then, he started digging deeper for details on the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line and found the usual information that was readily available through his continuous search for information. When the field crew started their work, they found some double monumentation, by concrete monuments, in the same vicinity of the Mile Mounds associated with this survey. That began the never-ending search for an explanation and some type of understanding as to the reason for this double monumentation of the Mile Mounds along the La-Tex Boundary Line.
Gerald had been a long time employee of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, as a Civil Engineer overseeing construction projects in the Northwest area of Louisiana. Gerald "bumped into" Mr. John Evans in, of all places, Fairbanks, Alaska, while both were on separate cruises with different cruise lines in late, 2005. Gerald knew John as an employee of LA DOTD as a surveyor for the Location and Survey Section. In their brief conversation, John said he was now at the State Land Office. Gerald said he would call him later after they returned from their cruises. Well, Gerald did contact John and after discussing and visiting about the SLO Website, they soon began lengthy discussions of the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line. The field work for Gerald's survey work led to some field findings of double monuments at Mile Mounds. John was also interested in the early work on the boundary line between the State of Louisiana and Republic of Texas. Because of his interest, John was able to recall some information on this boundary line that led to lengthy discussions on the subject. Better than that, John was able to find the old, archived documents and maps from the original 1841 Interstate Commerce Survey and archived documents, maps, and affidavits from the surveyors of the Resurvey of the Meridional Boundary Between Texas and Louisiana by the Louisiana Geodetic Survey in 1941. As both men stated, "This is interesting material". This information is still interesting and continues to intrigue surveyors who have had the opportunity to work along this state boundary line to this date.
John sent these numerous documents, maps, photographs, affidavits, and various other pieces of historical information to Gerald for him to begin trying to track down the information and, initially, some history of the double monuments. This work being done in 2006 began a long and, as you know if you attended the LSPS Seminar in Shreveport, April 25-27, 2013, fruitful quest into the surveying history of the Louisiana-Texas Boundary from the 32nd Parallel of North Latitude to the 33rd Parallel of North Latitude (roughly from Logansport, Louisiana to the Louisiana-Arkansas Boundary Line being approximately 70 miles). The important information for this 2006 survey work was discovered, checked and verified by field work, and used to complete this survey. It is all of the historical facts in the Interstate Commission diaries, maps, and photographs that kept Gerald, and others of us, interested and intrigued in this segment of the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line.
The interest in the history of this monumented line kept Gerald and John looking and digging into these numerous pages of the accounts of the surveyors involved in this project. Due to John's position at the State Land Office, he had immediate access to these public documents and spent much of his own time researching this state line. This prompted Gerald, as the LSPS District 4 Chairman, to hold an LSPS District 4 Seminar in January 2007, with the Louisiana-Texas Boundary as the afternoon topic and Mr. John Evans presenting some of this information to the group. This seminar was the first time many of us were introduced to these little known facts surrounding the history and establishment of this state boundary line. This seminar also proved to be the first of several seminars and a state convention, all in Shreveport, that presented more and more information on the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line.
Taking a few steps back in history now, we learned the first definition of the boundary line between Louisiana and Texas was established in a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819. The boundary was written as:
"The boundary line between the two countries shall begin on the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Sabine River in the sea, thence north along the west bank of the Sabine river to the 32nd parallel of north latitude, thence due north to the Red River."
The next definition of the said boundary line was between the United Mexican States and the United States of America in 1820. This treaty recognized the boundary as defined in the previous treaty of 1819 as binding and thus defined in the identical terms.
When the State of Louisiana was admitted to the Union in 1812, the boundary was defined by the Act of Admission as following the middle of the Sabine River to its intersection with the 32nd parallel of north latitude, thence due north to the 33rd parallel of north latitude, which was named as the Act as the boundary line between Louisiana and Arkansas.
The final definition of the Louisiana-Texas boundary Line, from the Sabine River to the Arkansas Line, was fixed by a Convention between the United States and the Republic of Texas, in Washington, D.C. in April, 1838. This convention recognized the definition of the previous two treaties as binding, thus describing the boundary in the identical terms.
Prior to 1839, the General Land Office (GLO) surveys had arrived at the approximate location of the meridional boundary of the line between Louisiana and Texas. These surveys of the GLO were deemed to have very little sound basis for a claim to have legally fixed this state boundary. This led to difficulties in the legal administration of this territory of the United States and the State of Louisiana, contiguous to the boundary line between the two states. In an account of the lawless conditions and atrocities by mobs and Indians, General Hunt concluded the establishment of this boundary line would have a powerful effect in checking, if not eliminating, these conditions and cruelties in this area. This situation led to the organization of a Convention between the United States of America and the Republic of Texas. A Joint Commission was formed with the task of surveying and marking this boundary line in the shortest time possible.
Early in 1839, appointed members of this commission began meeting to plan and gather the equipment necessary for the survey work. The commission, with representatives from Louisiana and Texas, met on October 15, 1839, at the mouth of the Sabine River. Due to many difficulties and unseasonable weather, the commission was not able to effectively begin work until November 12, 1839. The commission dealt with many setbacks and obstacles such as conditions, terrain, supplies, transportation, and allocated funding for the first year and half. During some of this down time, numerous calculations were checked and rechecked waiting for the time for them to resume their work.
April 23, 1841, in the evening, finally, a granite block ten feet long and nine inches square was set five feet in the ground. On the south side of this block was engraved "MERIDN BOUNDARY, ESTABLISHED A.D. 1841 (can still see 1840, see later comment); on the east side "U.S."; and on the west side "R.T.". At the southwest corner of this granite block, at four feet deep, a bottle with a ground stopper was closed and sealed containing a note on parchment. The note generally stated the granite was placed to mark the boundary between the United States of America and the Republic of Texas on the 22nd day of April 1841. The note continued, stating this location is two miles and 1998.5 feet north of the 32nd parallel of north latitude where it intersects the western bank of the Sabine River. The members of the commission, present at this time, were also listed on this note. This granite block, described in these 1841 notes, is the same granite monument we can visit today in Logansport, Louisiana. A side note to the previous reference of "can still see 1840", apparently, with the establishment of this Joint Commission, granite blocks, ten feet long and nine inches square, were to be placed at the location of the mile mounds. All of these blocks were said to be engraved the same as the one in Logansport. The blocks were engraved with the year of 1840. When the block was placed in Logansport, the date was actually 1841. An attempt was made to engrave a "1" on the left hand vertical side of the "0". The "0" is still visible on the monument today. An account in the commission diaries makes note of a barge, loaded with these granite blocks intended to be placed at each mile, sank in the Sabine River, at or near, Logansport. This account is noted as being from a Sabine and Red River Captain at the time of the 1940's retracement survey of this line by the Louisiana Geodetic Survey.
The subsequent boundary markers, or mounds, were constructed as earthen embankments five feet high, with a base of fifteen feet in diameter, having a border of eighteen inches. In the center of each mound, a wood post of the most durable wood found was placed. The post was eight feet in length with the portion above the top of the mound was squared to eight inches. On the east side of the post was carved "U.S.", the west side "R.T.", the south side carved a number to indicate the miles north of the 32nd parallel of north latitude with the intersection of the western bank of the Sabine River. At the foot of the post, a glass bottle closed with a ground stopper and sealed was placed eighteen inches below the top of the mound. A parchment note was placed in each bottle on each mound indicating the purpose of the mound, the date it was placed, the miles north of the said 32nd parallel of north latitude, and the members present at that time. This same work continued, working their way north, along the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line all the way to mile mound 70. It was noted, in the commission diaries, a post was set 1692 feet north of mound 69 to mark the 33rd parallel of north latitude, the limit of the west boundary of Louisiana and the commencing of the west boundary of Arkansas. Maps of this survey, however, indicate a location for mile mound 70. In 1895, J.R. Barbour, Deputy Surveyor made a resurvey of George Morse's Survey of 1846 and retracement of the Louisiana-Arkansas boundary to establish the called "correct" location of the northwest corner of Louisiana. He established a ten inch square stone post at this location. This post still exists today and was included in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now N.G.S.) as Triangulation Station Lou-Tex-Ark.
Those of you that attended the seminars and convention, where this boundary information was presented, should remember various pictures of 1841 bottles recovered during the 1939 resurvey by the Louisiana Geodetic Survey and an actual bottle presented by Ms. Nita Cole, Curator for the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport. Ms. Cole has presented this bottle on several occasions, the latest being the LSPS District 4 Spring Seminar, April 25-27, 2013, in Shreveport. At that seminar, presented in Gerald's honor as a testimony to his efforts as a dedicated surveyor and retracing the footsteps of previous surveyors, were two bottles recovered based on the 1939 resurvey and 1941 monumentation of this Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line. Included with all of the information John Evans sent to Gerald, were letters, notes, and accountings of the 1839 survey, the 1846 Morse survey, the 1895 Barbour survey, the 1939 Louisiana Geodetic Survey's retracement and 1941 re-monumentation. Gerald, as his time allowed, continued reading through all of this information. The information from the 1941 monumentation contained the affidavits of the surveyors and crew members present as to the settings of monuments and three bottles buried at three specific mounds noted in the affidavits. Obviously selecting three locations that may be preserved, the surveyor was continuing the footsteps of the 1839 surveyors by placing a glass bottle at the locations of the original mile mounds. Gerald Fussell and Randy Noble, owners of Polaris Services, L.L.C., worked on this information together, with the hope of one day seeing if these 1941 bottles really existed. Time, again, to take a few steps back to the 1939 resurvey and 1941 re-monumentation.
At some point in time, after the 1839 survey, it became important to identify this section of territorial limits by geographical and geodetic position in addition to lines of latitude or longitude and to monument this boundary line with more permanent monuments. With funding and equipment from the Work Projects Administration in Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Highways, the Louisiana Geodetic Survey was tasked with this work. The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now N.G.S.) had already established first order control stations that would be used as the framework for the basis of this retracement survey. The retracement survey work began in January 1939 at point of beginning of this meridional boundary and proceeding north along the said line through each mile mound as noted from the 1839 survey. Throughout the course of this survey, wherever a mound could be identified, presumably by finding the 1841 bottle, or wherever any evidence indicating the approximate location of a mound, a station was set. These stations were 6 inch square concrete monuments 4 feet long with a Louisiana Geodetic Survey Traverse Station bronze disk stamped "(Name)" corresponding to the former Louisiana or Texas Governor’s name chosen for each location. The history behind some of those names chosen is another story, for another day, but interesting, nonetheless. This survey was terminated in October of 1939, with Louisiana Geodetic Survey suspending operations in November,1939, shortly after this survey was completed. No further work on this survey was done until the summer of 1941.
Computations and adjustments of the loops in the survey yielded numerous discrepancies in the expected location of the original mound markers. In May of 1941, Mr. William B. Benjamin, Cadastral Engineer of the Louisiana Geodetic Survey, was given the task of an in-depth review, reconnaissance, and search for all evidence lending itself to identify the original location of boundary mound markers. Using the information from the 1839 survey and the 1939 retracement, notes from 1846 Morse survey, and notes from 1895 Barbour survey, Mr. Benjamin was able to make fairly educated, yet assumed, guesses as to the location of the original boundary mound markers. With that information, he spent a busy summer and winter in 1941 surveying and monumenting what we now have and use along this boundary line.
During this time, an exhaustive search was made, and considerable amounts of earth was moved trying to uncover the original bottles, from 1841, marking the mounds. Some bottles were recovered intact, others were recovered broken or were broken during the excavation. They learned that the bottles were buried upside down from the ones found intact with the wax seal unbroken. Moisture had penetrated the seals in most of these bottles causing the parchment to be reduced to a crystalline residue. Where the parchment was still intact, it was in such a state that it could not be unrolled and the writing was illegible. However, one bottle was found with the parchment perfectly preserved. This parchment was sent to the Chemical Laboratory of the Criminal Bureau of Federal Investigation (F.B.I.), where the parchment was retrieved in their labs, photographed, and treated to preserve the document. Reproductions of this photograph are still available today. Photographs of the other bottles recovered have been seen at some of Gerald's seminars especially at the latest one in April 2013. Twenty-one bottles and the location of their respective mound were found during this survey work. It is noted that three of the bottles were deposited in the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport, with eighteen being delivered to the Louisiana Department of Highways, all with affidavits certifying to the time and place of their recovery. The said affidavits indicate that when a bottle was found, it's exact location was surveyed and they placed a fat pine hub with a 1/2" iron pipe on top of the hub. These bottles providing substantiated evidence of the original mound location were mounds: 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, 25, 27, 29, 33, 34, 36, 37, 56, 60, 61, 63, and 67. The Arkansas line falls between Mounds 69 and 70.
Information from Mr. Benjamin's reports and affidavits indicated, in these areas where bottles were recovered, they set a 7-3/4 inch, square concrete monument, 4 feet long with a Louisiana Geodetic Survey bronze disk stamped "Mound No. __" and “(Name)”corresponding to its location. Noting that monuments had previously been set in 1939, this led to locations with double monuments. In the 1941 affidavits, the bearing and distance from the 1939 monument were given from the previously set monument. On top of the previously set monument, marking the improper location of the mound, the surveyor scribed an arrow pointing in the direction of the actual and proper mound monument. Remember, the bearing and distance to the proper monument is contained in the 1941 affidavits.
During all of Gerald and Randy's work and review of these historical notes and field information along this boundary line, this next piece of information sparked an adventurous flame in them, and once presented, sparked that same flame in the rest of us in Northwest Louisiana. In these affidavits of Mr. Benjamin, was one pertaining to the "Mounds where the new glass bottles with the brass sheet tablets were buried". Mile Mounds 15, 25, and 60 were revisited on December 20, 1941, after the new monuments had been set, and glass bottles were placed in tin containers and buried at the edge of the said monument. This information led to Gerald's planning for the April 2013 LSPS Seminar. This time Gerald wanted to search and try to find one of these bottles, if they still existed. This planning started in early to mid 2012. In his planning, Gerald wanted to have a Saturday field exercise were the surveyors interested could actually go to some of these Mile Mounds and collect some static GPS data. His hope was not just in collecting data on these monuments but to get some surveyors together, from different areas of the state, to work collectively on a project and to visit and share information and experiences from their respective work as surveyors. His plan was set in motion, and he had an agenda for the upcoming seminar.
In January 2013, Gerald came down with a cold, like so many of us had at that time of the year, but he was not having much luck getting over his cold. He continued working and making preparations for the seminar in April. The search was on to try to locate and visit as many of these mounds as possible to see which ones would be the best for the Saturday field exercise. The documents, maps, and affidavits were available to Gerald, Randy, and Polaris Services, L.L.C. because of the interest and assistance from Mr. John Evans. Armed with this information, Randy Noble sent and assisted, Mr. Kyle Brownsberger on these weekend adventures to locate these mound markers. For several months, Kyle had a good bit of luck finding, photographing, and collecting some survey data on many of the monuments in the Shreveport area. Of these mounds, two of them were Mile Mound 15 and 25 which were said to have new glass bottles from the 1941 affidavits of Mr. Benjamin. This was the opportunity Gerald had been looking for. This was early March 2013, and Gerald was still sick and getting obviously weaker. Within several weeks, mid to late March 2013, Gerald had test results indicating tumors were present in his abdomen. He was still interested in these bottles from 1941 and whether or not they could be found.
On March 26, 2013, Mr. Travis Sturdivant picked up Gerald to take him to the location of Mile Mound 15 "Lubbock" located several miles South of Springridge in South Caddo Parish. Upon their arrival at the location, which was just a short distance from and old dirt and gravel road, Randy Noble, Kyle Brownsberger, and myself were already there. Mr. Michael Bowman joined us at this location, for whatever we may or may not find. Gerald was weak, but very excited about this adventure that was about to unfold. He didn't know if a bottle would be found or not, but the anticipation was extremely high for all present. The bottle was said to be in a tin container in 1941, but expecting it to have deteriorated by now, the north side of the monument at Mile Mound 15 "Lubbock" was probed and excavated slowly. At a depth of about two feet, the surveyor's essential "all around tool", a machete was used to gently probe and loosen the soil for about another half of a foot. Rust in the soil was a possible indicator of the old tin container. At this point, laying on the ground and hand digging in a hole two and a half feet deep was the opportune method of searching. I was the one on the ground, hand digging when I felt the smooth edge of a glass bottle. Excess dirt was removed from the outer limits of the bottom of a glass bottle. More hand loosening and the bottle was recovered from the North base of Mile Mound 15 "Lubbock" intact and as described in the affidavit dated December 20, 1941. Almost 72 years after the bottle had been placed by Mr. William B. Benjamin, Deputy Surveyor, we had recovered the "time capsule" placed in honor of the efforts of the surveyors from 1841. Gerald was like a kid in a candy store with this discovery. The importance of this day's adventure was not taken lightly then, or as we reflect on it today. Gerald's interest in the history and facts of this boundary line had inspired much of the interest in many of us. His dedication to the surveying profession inspired, those that knew him to seek his advice in particular situations. Those that worked with him were inspired to dig for information until they found all they could possibly find.
STATION LUBBOCK in Background and STATION MOUND 15 in Foreground
Glass Bottle in Mile Mound 15
One of Gerald's biggest interests had been fulfilled by the finding of this bottle. I should note that on this same day, the bottle noted at Mile Mound 25 "Roberts" was also recovered by Randy Noble and Kyle Brownsberger later in the afternoon. We have since been informed by Mr. John Evans, that he was able to verify that the 1841 bottle at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport is indeed the bottle from Mile Mound 25 "Roberts". Both of these bottles, still sealed, were cleaned and prepared for display at the upcoming seminar. Little did we know, Gerald would be diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and pass away in less than two weeks in the early morning hours of April 6, 2013. The April 2013 Seminar was planned and put together by Gerald Fussell prior to his passing. The information and documentation on the Louisiana-Texas Boundary Line was provided by the Louisiana State Land Office and Mr. John Evans. Field reconnaissance, copies of information, and field support were provided by Polaris Services, L.L.C., Mr. Randy Noble, and Mr. Kyle Brownsberger. None of this would have even been possible without Gerald's interest and involvement in the history of surveying the Louisiana-Texas Boundary.
The information loosely referenced in this article is still available through the State Land Office in Baton Rouge. I have been informed the information is now in digital format thus making it more readily available for anyone interested obtaining copies. As for now, if you are interested in any of this information, you should contact the Louisiana State Land Office.
It was my honor and privilege to have known Gerald for the over 20 years and to have worked directly with him at Polaris Services, L.L.C. for over 3 years. Even now, it is an honor and privilege to be able to write this article in tribute to Gerald and serve as the LSPS District 4 Chairman after his untimely passing. Gerald was a knowledgeable and dedicated surveyor, a patient teacher, and a good friend. He is, and will be, missed by any and all who knew him. This is an interesting piece of our surveying history.
Thanks Gerald, for the adventure!
Gerald Fussell With Bottle Recovered From Mile Mound 15
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The Museum of Measurement and Time would like to thank
John Evans for providing the information used in this series.
This series of articles is unique in it's publication of the information found by the authors Jim Tiller & John Evans, during their research
of The 1841 Joint Commission Boundary Survey.
We hope this production has provided additional information to Surveyor & Historians. If you do not already own copies of these
two books, we hope you will add them to your library of important surveys in American history.
This is the final part of the series Louisiana-Texas Boundary Survey 1841
We hope you have followed the publication of this historical information. The museum extends it's thanks for the time, effort and dedication of John Evans and Jim Tiller for their publication of this boundary and it's history. Their book will be a source of study for many years. A special thanks to John Evans for the additional information he has shared.
Posted May 2022
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