Stone walls are a significant part of the heritage of New England and New Hampshire and a signature characteristic of our present day landscape. As a land surveyor I have spent much of my professional life finding, following and measuring stone walls, documenting their location as well as admiring their beauty and durability. They are the product of a time when agriculture was a profitable endeavor and, given their abundance and the technology available at the time of their construction, should in my opinion come under consideration as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
For many surveyors encountering stone walls as boundaries, typical field procedure involves placing their survey lines alongside the wall and documenting its location by taking periodic measurements to the wall corners and intersections. We prefer, with abutter permission, to cut the brush on the wall itself enabling us to see directly down the wall to more accurately determine the location of any turns. We set drill holes or rebar at the angle points in the wall and utilize these points as part of our survey traverse, occupying with our instruments the actual boundary line, the stone wall.
We believe this procedure is superior to other methods for two reasons. First, the survey is made directly on the stone wall, rather than off to one side, resulting in a more accurate representation of the wall’s true location. Second, the points set in the wall, the drill holes and rebar, will remain in place as long as the wall itself remains, allowing future surveyors to readily “tie in” to our work, thereby reducing the cost to the landowner for any subsequent survey work on the property. On many occasions I have had the opportunity to set up an instrument over a drill hole set by my father as part of a survey done long before I was born.
When compared with not cutting the brush along the wall and simply surveying beside it, our methods often require more time in the field and sometimes more cost to the client. In my opinion, however, the result is a product that respects the legacy and labors of the original builders while offering the landowner a survey of superior accuracy and lasting value.
For more information on the history and preservation of New England’s stone walls, please visit the Stone Wall Initiative at https://stonewall.uconn.edu/
Donald R. Mellen, Wilbur C. Nylander and Norman Marquis during winter survey. Houlton, Maine - January, 1943.
Donald R. Mellen, James C. Schoenthaler, Wilbur C. Nylander and Norman Marquis outside U.S. Engineer Office, Norridgewock, Maine, summer 1943.
1948 Winter survey, Loosac Lodge, Bedford, Massachusetts.
© Donald R. Mellen Surveyor, LLC