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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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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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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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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....

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Mackay, James (1759?–16 March 1822), explorer and surveyor, was born in the Parish of Kildonan, county of Sutherland, Scotland, the son of George Mackay, a judge, and Elizabeth McDonald. A surveyor by trade, he was well educated, fluent in both French and Spanish, and played the violin. In 1776 he left Scotland for Canada, where he became a fur trader for the North West Company. Under the employ of the English he explored the upper lakes and Western region of Canada and stayed for a time at Fort Espérance (in Saskatchewan), near the Qu’Appelle and Assiniboine rivers. In 1787 Mackay, along with an expeditionary force of a few men, went south to the Mandan Indian towns, where they spent ten days. It was apparently one of the first contacts that the Mandans had with white men. The Mandans honored Mackay and his party by carrying them on buffalo robes into their earthen towns. During his travels he mapped the area toward the Rockies. These maps would be of great benefit to later explorations. After returning to Canada, sometime between 1792 and 1794, Mackay went on to St. Louis, where he was one of the first English-speaking settlers of Upper Louisiana. In St. Louis he became a Spanish subject....

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McCoy, Isaac (13 June 1784–21 June 1846), Baptist missionary, surveyor, and U.S. Indian agent, was born near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of William McCoy, a clergyman. His mother’s name is unknown. When he was six years old, his family moved to Kentucky, where he attended public schools. At nineteen he married Christiana Polke, who had strong religious convictions and missionary spirit and became his dedicated partner throughout his life. They had thirteen children....