Several Dryden residents had the opportunity to find out what their property may have looked like when it was being surveyed back in the 18th century when they attended a presentation hosted by the Dryden Historical Society on Oct. 24.
Resident David Waterman presented a copy of John Konkle’s field book of Dryden at the Dryden Village Hall this past Thursday. Konkle was a local land surveyor who measured and marked every lot line in 1790 to 1791, and recorded the data in a 117-page field book. Waterman presented the findings from a copy of the actual field book, which is located at the Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University Libraries.
Waterman began his presentation by describing the process in which Konkle surveyed and plotted the property lines of Dryden. Konkle and his team of workers used a “Gunter’s chain,” which was a chain divided into 100 links that ran 22 yards long, about the length of seven parking spaces. Konkle’s team featured chain bearers, who would carry the Gunter’s chain along, and axemen, who would trim away the brush to clear the path for the chain bearers.
“An area of 10 chains is equal to one acre,” Watermans said. “So if it’s one chain wide and 10 chains long, that’s one acre, or if it’s two chains wide and five chains long, that’s an acre.”
While his team of workers measured out the lengths of each property, Konkle used a tripod with a mounted compass. Waterman said the mounted chain allowed for Konkle to make certain that the chain is extended precisely in the correct direction. He also said Konkle mounted a clinometer onto the tripod to measure inclinations up and down the slopes.
“They have to know what that angle is when you’re going up and down hills,” Waterman said. “Whenever the slope changes enough … they have to stop there, take a measurement of the slope at that point and write down how many chains that was, and then start again from there so they can make that mathematical correction.”
“So they get to that point where the slope changes, and the chain bearer then sticks one of those stakes through the chain, and he holds a vertical stick that’s marked at the same height that the tripod is. Then the surveyor mounts this clinometer on top of the tripod, sights through crosshairs, levels it and then sights through crosshairs and reads the angle measure off the pivot point.”
Waterman said Konkle worked for Moses DeWitt, who was the cousin of Simeon DeWitt, the founder of Ithaca. He said the first 10 pages of the field book showed that Konkle was initially being tested by Moses DeWitt as to whether or not he would be capable of plotting the property lines.
“The first 10 pages, he’s doing things that they already knew,” Waterman said as he pointed out sections of the field book. “Here, he said, ‘Going across the northside of Dryden,’ and he’s putting stakes every mile, even though when he’s doing the actual survey he’s going to be doing it 77 links and 46 chains or something. That took me a while to figure that out – how come there was 80 chains for a while, then there was this and then there was that.”
During his presentation, Waterman noted Konkle’s descriptions of multiple landforms, such as Cascadilla Creek, which Konkle described as “the brook that comes down Mr. Hinepaw’s” house. Konkle was referring to Peter Hinepaw, who was one of the first four settlers of Ithaca. Waterman said Konkle stayed at Hinepaw’s house on several occasions.
“At 361 chains, he mentioned, ‘The road leading from Cayuga Lake to Owego,’ and that’s what’s now Route 79,” Watermand said. “That’s how they got to Owego. From Owego up to Ithaca at that time is where the trail went, which was an Indian path before then. It had only been made wide enough for an ox cart when the poor settlers of Ithaca went to Ithaca. They had to widen that trail. So then it became a road.”
Following the conclusion of his presentation, Waterman helped the property lines outlined in the field book for those who brought their own land surveys to the event. For people interested in looking up their own property lines, the copy of Konkle’s field book is available to examine at the Dryden Historical Society. The historical society is located on 14 North St. and is open on Saturdays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., or by appointment.