Indiana and Elkhart County Survey History

Township Plats

Click the above picture to view the original Elkhart County Township Plats, scanned from originals located in the Surveyor's Office.  Pictured above is "Our artist going East" as the caption reads.  The plats are filled with illustrations from their somewhat eccentric artist.

The Office of the Elkhart County Surveyor began in 1831 upon the appointment of George Crawford by the County Commission as the first county surveyor.  It was not Crawford who conducted the county's first survey, however.  The following is a list of United States surveyors that contributed to the original survey of Elkhart County and the dates which they commenced their surveys:

E.P. Kendrick (Established the Michigan/Indiana state line) - 1827
William Brookfield - May 8, 1829
C.W. Christmas - October 3, 1829
Thomas J. Todd - October 12, 1829
Reuben J. Dawson - December 27, 1833

Outline Map of Indiana Surveys
Outline Map of Indiana Land Treaties
(Right-Click/Save Target As... to save)
Source: Wilson, George R. Early Indiana Trails and Surveys.  (No Publisher Info).  Located in the Indiana Room of the Goshen Public Library.

Townships

In 1784, the Continental Congress began debating the sale of western lands, based upon a report delivered by Thomas Jefferson.  On May 20, 1785, Congress approved the 1785 Land Ordinance.  This Ordinance proclaimed that surveys of newly acquired land would establish townships 6 miles square, consisting of 36 square-mile sections, with section 16 reserved for the maintenance of public schools, a system based partially on surveys already conducted in the state of Ohio.  A year later, in 1796, the section numbering system was changed to the system used now, with the numbering beginning in the northeast corner, and numbering consecutively back and forth across the township (See diagram 1.1).  Indiana townships themselves are given a two-part number designation based on the Base Line, which runs east to west just south of Vincennes, and the Second Principal Meridian, which runs north and south through the middle of St. Joseph County and bisects the Base Line.  Elkhart Township, for example, is "T36N-R6E," which stands for "Township 36 North, Range 6 East," as it is the 36th township north of the Base Line, and the 6th township East of the Second Principal Meridian.  Civil townships, however, do not necessarily correspond with surveyed townships, which is why in Elkhart County the townships of Baugo, Cleveland, Locke, Olive, Osolo, Washington, and York have less than 36 sections. Click here for the number designations of all the Elkhart County Townships.

Linear Measurement
1 Chain = 100 links/66ft.
1 Mile = 80 chains/5,280ft.

Area Measurement
1 Acre = 10 sq. chains/43,560ft.²
1 Square Mile = 640 acres

Survey Method

Law prescribed the chain as the unit of linear measurement for public land surveys.  This chain was modified by Benjamin Rittenhouse from the original design by Edmund Gunter, a 17th century English Astronomer, and declared the standard by the United States Land Office.  A 100-link length of chain equaled 66 feet, and 80 chains equaled a mile.  Survey crews were comprised of ax men, "blazers," chain-men, and in the lead a "flagman" wearing a red flannel shirt that he might be more easily seen.  The flagman may have been on horseback.  The survey crews were not large, but had a good amount of supplies on packhorses with which to brave the wilderness.  The original notes indicate that the crews set wood posts to mark section corners, more-than-likely acquired from surrounding woods.  Most of the notes refer to these markers as "ash posts."  Solar and/or Polaris (North Star) observations were frequently made to correct bearing lines for true north.

Elkhart County Surveyors, Chronologically*

1831-1834 George Crawford
1835-1858 James R. McCord
1859-1860 E.J. Wood
1861-1872 A.W. Watters
1873-1875 George T. Ager
1876-1877 Marion C. Proctor
1878-1890 Henry Cook**
1891-1894 Charles L Kinney
1895-1900 James D. Lowell
1901-1902 Defoe F. Cordrey
1903-1906 John L. Cooper
1907-1908 John W. Cornell
1909-1910 Harold A. Keith
1911-1914 Ben E. Wise
1915-1916 Albert A. Reith
1917-1924 Charles L. Kinney
1925-1930 Orin B. Weaver
1931-1934 Ben E. Wise
1935-1944 Robert P. Weaver
1945-1956 Carl A. Cozzi
1957-1964 Wilden L. Snyder
1965-1972 Donald C. Rock
1973-1976 Wilden L. Snyder
1977-1980 Ray D. Pharis
1981-1988 Donald C. Rock
1989-1992 Wilbur E. Peak
1993-2016

C. Blake Doriot

2017 Philip C. Barker
   

*Special thanks to Wendy Hudson of the Elkhart County Clerk’s Office for this information

Current Information

The Elkhart County Surveyor, like all Indiana County Surveyors, has three main responsibilities to the public: keep a detailed record of all legal surveys performed in the county, to maintain county section corners, and to plan projects for and advise the county Drainage Board.

The Elkhart County Surveyor does not perform private property surveys. Please consult the Yellow Pages to find a private surveyor if you need a property survey.

Section Corners

Section Corners are the points that mark out the sections of each township within the county. Elkhart County has 16 townships, 9 of which have a full 36 sections (each a square mile), while the remaining townships have less. Each of these sections is defined by points which were set by the original survey teams that surveyed the county, during its formation, between September 1829 and February 1834. 

Since the “Perpetual Corner Records Act of 1965,” the County Surveyor has been required to reference these points (most were originally set with a wood post) and to install new monuments when needed in order to preserve them. Most section corners are found at the intersections and half-mile marks of county roads (as most county roads were designed to follow section lines) and a variety of different monuments have been set to represent the corners since the Perpetual Corner Records Act went into effect.

The current standard marker for Section Corners in Elkhart County and adjoining counties is the Harrison Monument, which can be adjusted vertically to reach the surface after roadwork, saving the county the cost of setting a second monument each time a road is repaved. However, several other objects have been used over the years to mark section corners, including: stones, iron pipes, railroad spikes, nails, and 2”x2” and 2”X3” metal county monuments encased in concrete, among other things.

These points provide a standard from which private surveyors can perform surveys, and by which property corners can be determined. In addition to perpetuating the corners, the County Surveyor is required by law to maintain a Corner Record Book, which describes the location of each of the county corners and provides a standard reference for private surveyors. Many of these records are quickly becoming digitized and some are available on this site.

There is a sign in my yard, which reads “Do Not Disturb nearby Survey Marker” Why is this survey point important, and what happens if I move it?

This is an example of a USGS/NGS reference point.  This particular monument is known as a "HARN" point (High Accuracy Reference Network), as it is contained within a nationwide control network.  This is the only HARN point in the county, and it is located in Oxbow Park

This sign could identify one of two different markers.  The first is a County Marker, usually a rebar (a long, cylindrical metal stake) encased in concrete, which is usually used as a reference monument for a nearby Section Corner or other important marker.  If the monument needs to be removed, please contact our office first.  The other object the sign may reference is a point set by the National Geodetic Survey and the United States Geological Survey.  These points are usually green in color (corroded bronze) and provide control data for surveys are regulated by the Federal Government, making the removal or damage of an NGS/USGS point a Federal offense.