The United States Public Land Survey was established by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to plat property for sale and settling. In 1807, Major Thomas Freeman, Deputy U.S. Surveyor, established a marker on Alabama’s state line and began surveying south toward the middle of the state. The line, known as the Huntsville Meridian, is the reference for all property surveys in North Alabama. The Huntsville Meridian runs from the Alabama-Tennessee state line to southern Shelby County, intersecting with the Freeman Baseline.
The Alabama Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ASPLS) placed a historical marker at the Initial Point on the state line in 1977. To celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial, ASPLS volunteered to recover the marker and prove the terminus. ASPLS’s historic committee met and located survey markers and evidence along the Freeman Baseline and the south end of the Huntsville Meridian. Although they retraced the correct path, no evidence identified original bearing trees or stumps.
Last October, several members of Sain’s survey department worked with ASPLS surveyors at the Shelby Iron Works site in Shelby County. They searched for the possible location of the Terminus of the Huntsville Meridian on the Freeman Baseline. Roger Joiner, Todd King, and Vince Joiner assisted in performing some of the field work required to make this determination.
After a day of excavating the site, volunteers found railroad iron rail possibly driven by a surveyor in the 1920s. Wood rot appeared at the bottom of the iron and suggested the authenticity of the Initial Point. The new evidence encouraged the volunteers to restore and document other survey corners around the state. ASPLS will begin the retracement of the Terminus of the St. Stephens Meridian later this year, and we hope that our Survey Team can be part of the adventure.