GeoCarta Has Moved

Nov 8, 2005

Surveying Missouri's Past

Interesting story today in the Columbian Misourian about a project by Missouri University geographer Jim Harlan who is preparing a digital map of the state as it appeared to settlers in the 1800's. Mr. Harlan, with a team of 45 undergraduate and 10 graduate students has taken 660 volumes of surveyor'’s notes and prepared a map of the state as it looked in the 1800's. He hopes that the project, which is 95 percent complete, will help bring Missouri'’s history to life in schools, for the general public, and correct some false perceptions about Missouri'’s natural history. In addition to the general public, the Nature Conservancy plans to use the maps to assess land in the Mark Twain National Forest in order to understand what the natural vegetation was like before settlers changed the habitat.

The surveyor's mapped out, and marked the land prior to the settler's arrival. As they surveyed off the land, traversing swamps, river bottoms, forests and underbrush, they noted the natural features they encountered. These notes, recorded in books with quill pens are first-hand descriptions of what the land looked like before the settler's began to clear and settle it.

When the project is finished, the map and data will be made available by the Missouri Spatial Data Information Service. Mr. Harlan plans to publish a book, detailing the travels of the surveyors and piecing together the humor and the tragedies.