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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Dominion Land Survey: Part Three

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Surveyors working for the Dominion Land Survey during the 1870s had to meet a stringent set of criteria before they were hired. As historian Merrily Aubrey points out, being at least 21 years of age was the easy part.

You had to have served as a pupil of a deputy surveyor and passed your examinations in the first six books of Euclid, plain trigonometry, measuring of superficies, plotting and map drawing, spherical trigonometry, astronomy, geology, the keeping of field notes, and the performing of practical surveying operations and use of instruments.

One of these instruments was the altitude algomith transit theodolite, and they were worth about 300 dollars in 1871.

But what you see from all of this was that the Surveyor General was trying to set a very high standard to ensure quality results, so they wouldn't have to do it again.

Running the survey was an expensive proposition. The earliest accounts show a daily budget of $13.60.

A lot of it, of course, was for wages. The deputy surveyor, or the chief of the crew, made four dollars a day, each of the chainmen got one dollar, each of the two axe or flagmen got a dollar, the cook was paid a dollar, the horse and cart cost a dollar, and they were allowed 60 cents a day to cover the cost of rations per person.

As the Dominion Land Survey progressed, more men were hired. A crew consisted of 12 men. They signed-up for several months of hard work, and spent their time roughing it in frontier camps.

The ideal crew included the chief, the assistant, a first and second chainman, a picketman, three axe men, two mounders, a cook, and a teamster.

The head of the survey, he was a professional engineer - he was the guy that had to know all about that mathematical kind of stuff.

He was a commissioned Dominion land surveyor, who contracted to be in charge of a crew for the survey season. He was responsible for the hiring and maintenance of the crew, equipment purchase and maintenance, and, most importantly, the recording of all surveying data.

All this had to be done to mark off the sections and quarter-sections that would soon be offered to homesteaders on the Alberta prairie.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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