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Principal Meridian Project
  The goal of this project is to photograph all of the Principal Meridians at their corresponding Base Lines and post them here.

 

 
Map of the Principal Meridians
List of the Principal Meridians
C Albert White
 

All of these initial points are historically significant as most of the land in the United States is referenced to one or another of them. If you are interested in participating in this project by photographing an initial point contact me by email and we can discuss the location you wish to photograph. Basically I need a picture of the general site, the marker, and then one picture each facing N, S, E, W. A short story on your trip to find it and any historical data about that point.

A very brief description follows:

In 1785 Congress enacted a law stating that the land in the new States were to be surveyed by a grid system consisting of townships 6 miles square and the said townships were to start at a principal meridian and its base line. These initial points were established as needed across the country.

 Each township was further divided into sections of one mile square and divided into quarter of quarters. By verbiage in the legal description alone a piece of property can be located on a map within 330 feet, a far cry from the metes and bounds system that described property by its perimeter and location in respect to its neighbor. If you don't know where the neighbors property is you don't know where the subject property is.

Actual surveying was difficult and dangerous, more than a few surveyors were killed by accidents or  Indians. The originals markers, in the prairies anyway, were made with material at hand. In many cases large poles or stakes were put in the ground along with a mound of dirt. Later in the mid to late 1800's many were replaced with some type of a large rock. By in large, the location of the original markers are still used today even if they are inaccurate. For example, if you own a 1/4 section of land, it is 1/4th of the section it is in even if that section is not exactly 1 square mile. 

We are certainly pleased with the various people who have discovered this site and have contributed photos and encouragement. Thank you!

 

John N Shankland
12/01/04

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The Principal Meridians 

First Principal Meridian, OH 1798 40 59 21.76 84 48 11.59
Washington Meridian, MS 1803 30 59 56.00  91 09 35.00
Second Principal Meridian, IN 1804 38 28 11.21 86 27 19.78
St Stephens Meridian, AL 1805 30 59 52.09 88 01 21.07
Third Principal Meridian, IL 1805 38 28 26.14 89 08 40.38
Louisiana Meridian, LA 1806 31 00 32.06 92 24 56.25
Huntsville Meridian, AL 1807 34 59 27.06 86 34 16.58
Fifth Principal Meridian, AR 1815 34 38 42.90  91 03 07.95
Fourth Principal Meridian, IL 1815 40 00 50.00 90 27 12.00
Michigan PM, MI 1815 42 25 28.85 84 21 53.33
St Helena, MS 1819 30 59 56.00  91 09 35.00
Choctaw Meridian, MS 1821 31 52 29.00

90 14 42.00

Tallahassee Meridian, FL 1824 30 26 04.12 84 16 37.59
Fourth Principal Meridian, WI 1831 42 30 25.88 90 25 36.15
Chickasaw, MS 1833 35 01 58.00

89 14 47.00

Great Salt Lake Meridian, UT 1847 40 46 10.26 111 53 28.76
Willamette Meridian, OR         1851 45 31 10.24 122 44 37.90
Mount Diablo Meridian, CA 1851 37 52 54.12 121 54 50.96
San Bernardino PM, CA 1852 34 07 12.96 116 55 51.60
Humboldt Meridian, CA 1853 40 25 02.40 124 07 13.32
Sixth Principal Meridian, KA 1854 40 00 07.10 97 22 09.12
New Mexico Meridian, NM 1855 34 15 35.95 106 53 14.96
Gila & Salt River PM, AZ 1865 33 22 37.83 112 18 22.00
Principal Meridian of Montana 1867 48 47 12.82 111 39 35.57
Boise Meridian, ID 1867 43 22 20.14 116 23 37.09
Navajo, NM 1869 35 45 06.90 108 32 14.50
Indian, OK 1870 34 29 32.00 97 14 50.00

Wind River, WY

1875 43 00 40.96 108 48 51.78
Uintah, UT 1875 40 25 58.36 109 56 07.34
Black Hills Meridian 1878 43 59 43.90 104 03 18.43
Ute Meridian, CO 1880 39 06 22.50 108 32 01.32
Cimarron Meridian, OK 1881 36 30 05.00 103 00 08.60
       
Newly posted or revised Meridians  
Meridians not yet visited

Note 1: The Latitude and Longitude readings given in the chart above were established by using Google Earth/Maps and examined by the people who visited the sites. Many of the sites have recognizable landmarks. The Lat Lon on other pages were probably determined by interpolation from maps, not as accurate, and with some entry errors. A few locations might have been determined by hand held GPS devices. The idea is that while the gps may not be exactly on you can get a good map of the area if you would like to visit one of these sites.

In addition there are 5 Meridians in Alaska

Copper River 1905    
Fairbanks 1910    
Seward 1911 60 07 34.5 149 21 33.4
Kateel River 1956    
Umiat 1956    

This site was partially inspired by the work being done at www.confluence.org