PLSO The Oregon Surveyor January/February 2022

The Lost Surveyor 24 The Oregon Surveyor | Vol. 45, No. 1 continuedT Photo 2: Park sign illustrating Minto-Brown Island Park boundaries, trails, and fishing areas. portion of the island in 1867. Isaac “Whiskey” Brown purchased his portion of the island in 1857. While not a surveyor, Brown was notable character of Salem, Oregon. I recommend looking up Brown’s obituary and reading about his colorful life. The park [Photo 2] spans more than 1,200 acres today and contains a 30-acre off leash dog park, 29 miles of trails, wildlife conservation areas, fishing opportunities, and the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge. While the old park sign claims Minto was a surveyor, the new park signs and the website don’t even mention him. One has to dig deeper to discover the answer. [Photos 3 and 4] Research into John Minto’s obituary, the Oregon Historical Quarterly, the tribal history website Quartux, and other websites reveal no reference to him being a surveyor. Minto was definitely a pillar of the Salem community and part of Oregon lore. He traveled over the Oregon Trail in 1844 and he was a prominent member of our early legislature for nearly 30 years. His obituary states, “No man, according to his friends, among pioneers had a clearer conception of the duties of citizenship or a more prophetic mind regarding the future of the Northwest.” He was remembered by some as one of the ablest members of the legislature. Judge WilliamGalloway, in a memory published shortly after Minto’s death, credits Minto as a legislative leader for women’s rights in Oregon. Galloway states, “In Oregon no sex inequality or sex inferiority is recognized by law, and it can be truthfully said that no man living or dead has done more to incorporate those sacred inalienable rights of the people into our statutes than our departed and beloved John Minto.” Minto was known as a prolific writer, respected legislator, and an experienced farmer. He appears to have been well respected among, and respectful of, the local indigenous people, yet the mystery of Minto as the surveyor remains. An article in the Oregon Historical quarterly written by John Minto himself sheds light on the facts. Minto, acting on information he received from a hunting party, pushed the county board of commissioners to investigate the existence of a pass through the Cascade Mountains to Eastern Oregon. This would become the Santiam Pass that we know today. Minto Pass, which is a bit further north near Marion Lake, is now accessed by Forest Service Trail #3437. Minto and others were actually appointed as road viewers andmembers of the survey party. The survey was directed by T.W. Davenport (The Sage of Silverton—Lost Surveyor Sept/ Oct 2019). It seems the mystery and extent of Minto’s surveying career is solved by his own account. While he may not need those continuing education credits after all, his surveying party’s efforts led to development of a road we have all likely traveled from time to time crossing the cascades between Salem and Bend. Minto’s land holdings are another piece of Oregon surveying history which affects all of us performing riparian surveys. Brian Portwood’s first book, The Land Surveyors Guide to the Supreme Court of Oregon (2018), highlights the case of Minto v. Delaney (7 OR 337(1879)). It is from this case, and not his limited survey experience, that Minto may have actually had the biggest impact on our profession in the state of Oregon. Quoting from Portwood’s writings, we learn from the court transcripts “…meander lines are run…not as boundaries, but for the purpose of defining the sinuosities of the banks of the stream... the water course and not the meander line…is the boundary…” During the next conference in Salem, while we remember our peers who have preceded us, remember John Minto and the lessons he gave us from across the street. Yet, as we remember Minto as an early member of the Robert Burns fan club in Salem, we learn another lesson. Robert Burns, the National Poet of Scotland, is the real surveyor in this story. For the only formal training Robert Burns received in his youth was as that of a land surveyor. In November 2012, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RCIS) in the United Kingdom, founded in 1792, awarded Robert Burns the title of “Honorary Chartered Surveyor” for “his fantastic work as a land surveyor.” Their website goes on to say that while Burns is recognized around the world as a poet, he never made his living from this. His training was in surveying and geometry under a man named Hugh Rodger who at the time was celebrated as a great land surveyor and geometrician. Artifacts of Burns’ surveying career can be found at The Writers Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. The next time you belt out a verse of “Auld Lang Syne” you’ll have a new appreciation of your surveying roots. Raise a pint to both Minto and Burns in the process! x