Hiram C. Fellows, Deputy Surveyor

Mr. Fellows performed the original government survey of nine townships in Langlade County. In trying to recover corners set by Mr. Fellows, I have discovered that some of his work is not as recorded in the original field notes. This document contains some information on his survey work for the benefit of anyone trying to “follow in his footsteps”.

Between the dates of June 6, 1859 and June 29, 1859, Mr. Fellows surveyed 90 miles of the exterior lines of some of the same townships that he later subdivided. While doing these exterior lines, he progressed at the rate of 6.5 miles per day. 

Mr. Fellows surveyed the interior of nine townships (Ranges 9, 10 & 11 East, Townships 31, 32 & 33 North) in Langlade County. Between his noted starting date (August 18, 1860 in 31-9) and the ending date (October 26, 1860 in 33-11) there are 70 calendar days. His rate of progress computes to be an average of 7.7 days per township! This is pretty amazing considering the amount of work that had to be done, but it should also be pointed out that the vegetation, presumably stands of virgin timber, may have provided ideal working conditions to allow this pace. It’s interesting to point out that the remaining 15 full townships in Langlade County were originally surveyed by others at an average rate of 12.2 days per township. 

In doing a proper subdivision of the interior of a township, a surveyor had set approximately 85 corners and walk approximately 118 miles within each township. Considering his starting and ending points in each township, and the miles between them, Mr. Fellows theoretically logged 1,132 miles while surveying the interior of these nine townships, which averages a little over 16 miles per day. (1,132 / 70 = 16.2). This would mean that in addition to walking over 16 miles a day, he also had to cut posts (they made their own corner posts out of local trees) and set and witness an average of 11 corners every day while measuring everything and keeping notes. 

The exterior township lines that he surveyed in 1859 were done at the pace of 6.5 miles per day while his pace when doing the interior lines surveyed in 1860 was 16 miles per day. One can only wonder what methods Mr. Fellows devised over the winter of ’59-’60 that allowed him to speed up his work so much! Shortcuts?........

On the South line of Sec. 6-32-9, the North Branch of the Pine River is located between the S ¼ corner and the SW corner. This river is approximately 20-30’ wide at this point. It is not mentioned in the original survey notes of Mr. Fellows. It should also be noted here that the South line of this section was reported by Fellows as 79.8 chains (5267 feet) when it is actually 4860 feet. This distance difference and the missing topographic call are indicators that he didn’t measure at least the west half mile of this line.
On the line between Sections 1 & 2-32-10, Mr. Fellows reports that the ¼ is in a cedar swamp and he left the swamp at 11 chains north of the ¼ corner. In reality, the cedar swamp ends about 11 chains south of the ¼ corner which is on a town road and is surrounded by a nice stand of large oak and maple – nothing at all like his description of being in a cedar swamp.

In 1890, only 30 years after Fellows did the work, B.F. Dorr noted that the East line and the South line of Section 2-32-11 were “not run by government survey” (which may account for the large distance differences on these two lines – see below).

LineOriginal dist.*Measured dist.Difference
S1/2 mi. E. line 6-31-112640’1832.5’-807’
S 1/2 mi. E. line 8-32-112640’2167.5’-472’
E 1/2 mi. N. line 35-32-112653.2’±1900±-753’
E line, 2-32-115255.6’5643.0’+387’
S line, 1 & 2-32-1110577’11257.3’+680’
S ½ mile, W. line, 1-32-092640’2090.4’-550’
S. line, 12-32-105301.12’4290.68’-1010’
S. line, SE1/4 11-32-102661.124108.64’+1447’

Note: On the above comparisons there is information in the County records that confirms the current location of the government corners found on these lines.

*Original survey distances were reported in “chains” but have been converted to “feet” for ease of comparison.

In 1886, B.F. Dorr in his book ”The Surveyor’s Guide”, explains a “remarkable case of obliterated corners” which happens to be in 31-11E, one of the townships that Fellows surveyed. In discussing Section 9, Mr. Dorr states that “no sign” of the west ¼ corner or the southwest corner has ever been found. This is less than 26 years after the original government survey! He does say that at two places: roughly 60 chains east of the southeast corner of Section 9 and at about 50 rods west of what turns out to be his computed proportionate position for the West ¼ corner of Section 16, he found two trees marked 1/4S at both spots but “they do not agree with the Field Notes in any particular”. For him to say there is “no sign” of the corners but found scribed BT’s at unexpected positions could make one believe that Mr. Fellows, in addition to taking shortcuts or stubbing-in corners, also did a bad job at recording what he marked for BT’s at each corner. 

On page 54 of Dorrs’ book, he comments about another area in 31-11E that Fellows surveyed: “If you start at the S.W. corner of section 14, and run east 76 rods, and then north 20 rods, you will find two trees marked for a ¼ P.; but they are about 90 rods from where the government Notes say the ¼ P. is, and do not agree with the Notes in any particular.” Another indication of Fellows problems is pointed out by Mr. Dorr regarding Fellows’ work in 33-10E: “It is supposed that the deputy surveyor found he had made a mistake on that line; that he made new corners, and defaced the old ones, but forgot to change his Field Notes”. 

Obviously, trying to verify existing corners by searching for original bearing tree evidence may also yield poor results.

It’s safe to assume that Mr. Fellows took “shortcuts” by either not measuring certain lines at all, or by “stubbing in” corners from one direction. This assumption is supported by Mr. Dorrs’ observation that certain lines were “not run by government survey” and also by the distance differences pointed out. 

It’s obvious that any effort to retrace Mr. Fellows’ corner locations, based strictly on distances, may be fruitless and reliance on the original topography calls wouldn’t work much better. Obviously “better” positions for missing government corners might be determined if existing occupation lines, when compared to old resurvey records, were considered instead of trying to justify dimensions of the original government survey. But if re-survey records are not available for areas in which Mr. Fellows did the original government survey, one will have a very difficult time in ascertaining the positions of the original PLSS corner locations. 

10/10/02: Recently I’ve noticed how lakes that were supposedly meandered by Mr. Fellows, seem to be consistently a bit smaller that what he reported. In some cases the existing lake is shaped very similar to what he reported, but the actual size is not at all what he indicated. In a couple places, the lake doesn’t exist at all. I’ll be doing more research and updating this document in the future regarding this issue.

Compiled by David E. Tlusty, RLS, Langlade County Surveyor. This document is never finished. Comments are certainly welcome. As more information on Mr. Fellows and his survey work can be obtained, this document will continue to evolve.