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Armstrong, John (13 October 1717–09 March 1795), soldier, surveyor, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in County Fermanagh, Ulster, Ireland. The identities of his Scotch-Irish parents and circumstances of his youth are unclear, but his father may have been named James. A trained surveyor, John Armstrong evidently received some education fairly early in life. Sometime in the mid-1740s Armstrong immigrated to America, settling initially in Delaware and then in Pennsylvania, where he worked as a surveyor. It was probably at some point after his arrival in America that he married Rebeckah Armstrong. The couple had two sons (the younger, ...

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Bradley, William Czar (23 March 1782–04 March 1867), politician and attorney, was born in Westminster, Vermont, the son of Stephen Row Bradley, an attorney and U.S. senator, and Merab Atwater, who died soon after his birth. He contracted scarlet fever at age two, and it is likely that the disease resulted in hearing loss, which became pronounced. During his early years Bradley lived with his grandparents in Cheshire, Connecticut, and began school at Charlestown, New Hampshire....

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Terry S. Reynolds and Barry C. James

Burt, William Austin (13 June 1792–18 August 1858), surveyor and inventor, was born in Petersham, Massachusetts, the son of Alvin Burt and Wealthy Austin, farmers. In 1802 Burt’s father, in financial difficulties, moved his family to Freehold, New York, and a year later to Broadalbin, New York. In 1810 the family moved again, this time to Wales Center, near Buffalo, New York. Because his labor was needed on the family’s farm, Burt’s formal education effectively ended at the age of nine, save for three-week stints at the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Burt, however, avidly pursued self-education, largely teaching himself the principles of astronomy, mathematics, and navigation and inventing a shorthand system for his own use. He also developed an aptitude for mechanics. By the age of twenty he was surveying lands in western New York and erecting flour and saw mills....

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Clark, Abraham (15 February 1726–15 September 1794), surveyor, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, the son of Thomas Clark, a farmer, town alderman, and county judge, and Hannah Winans. Although he was referred to as “the poor man’s counsellor,” as far as is known he had no formal education or legal training, having turned as a young man to surveying and writing land conveyances because a “frail” constitution made him unfit for active farming. He did transact a good deal of legal business, including drawing up deeds, mortgages, and other papers. He married Sarah Hatfield (or Hetfield), probably in 1749. They had ten children, six or seven of whom survived childhood....

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Cluskey, Charles Blaney (1806–? Jan. 1871), architect, surveyor and building contractor, was born in Tulloware, King’s County, Ireland. His dates of birth and death, family background, and education are obscure, though the sophistication of his architecture suggests that his training went beyond the study of contemporary Irish neoclassical design. One of several Irish immigrant architects, including the more talented and productive ...

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Davidson, George (09 May 1825–02 December 1911), surveyor, geodesist, and astronomer, was born in Nottingham, England, the son of Thomas Davidson, and Janet Drummond. His family emigrated to Philadelphia when he was seven, and he attended its public schools. At Central High School, ...

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De Brahm, William Gerard (20 August 1718–03 July 1799?), surveyor-cartographer and military engineer, was born in Koblenz, Germany, the son of Johann Phillip von Brahm, court musician to the elector of Triers, and Johannetta Simonet. A member of the lesser nobility, De Brahm secured a broad education that included exposure to the burgeoning experimental sciences of his day. After attaining the rank of captain engineer in Charles VII’s imperial army, De Brahm married and renounced the Roman Catholic faith. Forced to resign his army commission because of his renunciation, he and his bride, Wilhelmina de Ger, found themselves nearly destitute....

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De Witt, Simeon (25 December 1756–03 December 1834), cartographer, surveyor, and land developer, was born in Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York, the son of Andries De Witt, a physician, and Jannetje Vernooy. His early education was typical of what a scattered agricultural community could provide in that period. Later he received classical instruction from the local minister, and then, on the eve of the American Revolution, he enrolled at Queen’s College (later Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was granted a B.A. degree in 1776 and an M.A. degree in 1788....

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See Mason, Charles

Image

Andrew Ellicott. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98345).

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Ellicott, Andrew (24 January 1754–20 August 1820), mathematician, astronomer, and surveyor, was born in Buckingham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Ellicott, a millwright and clockmaker, and Judith Bleaker. The family belonged to the Society of Friends. After attending a Quaker elementary school in Solesbury, Ellicott was enrolled at the age of fifteen in ...

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Emory, William Hemsley (07 September 1811–01 December 1887), soldier, surveyor, and cartographer, was born on the family plantation, “Poplar Grove,” in Queen Annes County, Maryland, the son of Thomas Emory and Anna Maria Hemsley. In July 1826 William Emory enrolled in the United States Military Academy, where his classmates, to whom he was known as Bold Emory, included ...

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Ferris, Benjamin (07 August 1780–09 November 1867), surveyor and Quaker leader, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Ziba Ferris, a cabinetmaker, and Edith Sharpless. Part of an active and influential Quaker family, Ferris was mostly self-taught. After being apprenticed to a clock maker in Philadelphia, he opened a business there in 1801 and prospered enough to wed Wilmingtonian Fanny Canby three years later and to invest $7,500 in a large lot in 1806. Of the couple’s ten children, three died in childhood. In the City of Brotherly Love, Ferris learned French, read widely—at one time his library housed more than eighty religious books by non-Quaker authors—cultivated cosmopolitan tastes, and made numerous contacts among fellow believers before returning in 1813 to Wilmington, his home for the rest of his life....

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Filson, John (10 December 1753?–01 October 1788), author, historian, and land surveyor, was born in East Fallowfield Township near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Davison Filson and Eleanor Clarke, farmers. After attending common schools in the vicinity of his birthplace, Filson studied Greek, Latin, mathematics, and surveying at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Maryland. He inherited part of a modest estate following his father’s death in 1776, but, eschewing life on the farm, he taught school and surveyed lands in the area during the American Revolution....

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Freeman, Thomas (?–08 November 1821), surveyor, civil engineer, and explorer, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1784 to America. Nothing is known of his parents, early life, or formal training, but he apparently had a background in the sciences. He may have acquired employment at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as an inspector and surveyor. In 1794 ...

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Fry, Joshua (1700–31 May 1754), professor and surveyor, was born in Crewkerne, Somersetshire, England, the son of Joseph Fry. His mother’s name and his parents’ occupations are unknown. He graduated from Wadham College at Oxford University and moved to the colony of Virginia, where the first record of his presence is his service as a vestryman in Essex County. He married Mary Micou Hill; they had five children. Fry became master of the grammar school connected with the College of William and Mary in 1729, and he became a professor of natural philosophy and mathematics at the college in 1731. His Oxford education paved the way for these important positions, since English-educated gentlemen were rare in early eighteenth-century Virginia....

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Geddes, James (22 July 1763–19 August 1838), civil engineer, judge, and surveyor, was born of Scottish parents (names unknown) near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As a youth, Geddes studied mathematics with a tutor and studied languages independently. In 1793 he visited the area that later became New York state’s Onondaga County; he moved there the following year. He organized one of the state’s first salt works, helping to establish the salt industry, which would dominate the area’s economy for many years....

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Gist, Christopher (1705–25 July 1759), explorer, surveyor, and Indian agent, was born in Baltimore Country, Maryland, the son of Richard Gist, a judge, and Zepporah Murray. His grandfather was Christopher Guest, but the surname was changed to Gist around 1700. Gist was highly educated for his time and place. During his youth in Maryland he acquired literacy and other skills that enabled him to develop a vocation as a cartographer and explorer in the service of the Ohio Company. In 1750, while he lived in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley (where he knew ...

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Hutchins, Thomas (1730?–28 April 1789), cartographer and surveyor, was born on the New Jersey frontier. Orphaned before the age of sixteen, by the end of the French and Indian War, in 1756, he was an ensign with Pennsylvania troops. In 1760, after several years of frontier service, he took leave to become an Indian agent. His most publicized assignment was a diplomatic mission to tribes of the Northwest. Hutchins prepared well-written narratives of his travels and generally included maps with surveyed areas. In some instances he was the first person to attempt a map of a large region. His maps and reports led to an offer of a regular British army commission, without purchase fees. Hutchins accepted and gradually became North America’s premier frontier surveyor and mapper. In 1764, 1766, and 1768 he accompanied parties exploring the vast region of the eastern Mississippi River Valley from Minnesota to New Orleans. Other assignments also contributed to his geographic expertise. In 1763, for example, he traveled through the southern colonies as an army recruiter....