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We Are Proud of Our Predecessors

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GLO Map This beautiful area we call our home has been put on the map as a great location for tourism, commerce and military activity, which causes me to reflect upon those responsible for putting us on the map – actually, they made the maps. Today we may leave our homes within manicured subdivisions and travel across roads and bridges to visit the newest beachfront establishment. In this and future posts I’d like to tell of those who made this possible – the surveyors who first traversed this land in its original state and marked, measured, and mapped the area.

Beginning in the early 1800s the U.S. Government through the General Land Office (GLO) contracted with surveyors to measure new territories in a grid pattern of horizontal township lines and vertical range lines. The terrain of Florida was extremely rough and the pay was low (the government contracted $4 a mile from which crews were paid and equipment and supplies were purchased).

Property Appraiser

Property Appraiser

W.H. Parker surveyed in the early 1900s for the St. Andrew Bay Land Company, subdividing many sections into saleable five-acre tracts. At this time, what is now Bay County was then Washington County and was very rural. Buchanan & Harper today relies on Mr. Parker’s quality work when surveying in these sections.

John W. Pennel was both a registered civil engineer and land surveyor. He hailed from Virginia and found his home in Panama City through marriage to a Southern lady. He was the civil engineer for the Panama City Airport as well as other local projects. Buell Harper worked with Mr. Pennel as he was winding down his practice in the early 1960s and Mr. Harper was just beginning his. Mr. Harper acquired Mr. Pennel’s field books which have been a reliable resource for Buchanan and Harper.

Field Notes

Field Notes

Mr. Harper also had the opportunity to associate with J.B. Hathaway. Mr. Hathaway taught school and then became a bookkeeper for a large turpentine operation. During his tenure working in the turpentine industry, Mr. Hathaway honed his skills as a land surveyor. His superior knowledge of the woods was an asset in his surveying approximately one-half million acres for the St. Joe Paper Company.

We in the Bay County surveying and civil engineering profession are proud of our predecessors. These men were intelligent as well as men of integrity. We are thankful for their skill and duty to doing the job correctly which laid the groundwork for our endeavors.

Top picture:  1831 GLO map of Township 1 South, Range 15 West in Bay County, Florida.  Middle picture:  Aerial view from the Bay County Property Appraiser’s website depicting how Section 1 (upper right hand corner of the GLO map) appears today.  Bottom picture:  Surveyor R.D. Harris’ 1825 field notes for the east line of Section 1.   He states he has begun at the northeast corner of the township and run south.  The land is 3rd rate pine land.  At 40 chains (2,640 feet), he set a quarter section post.  At 56 chains (3,696 feet) from the northeast corner he encountered “a pond 15 chains wide.”

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