Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Trees mentioned in property surveys

Surveyors need to know their trees!

This oak tree in rural Christian County, KY,
probably marks the corner of a piece of property.

In 2010, it's still common to read in Christian County newspapers (and all across the Commonwealth) legal  descriptions of property that list natural features as corner markers. Quite often, the natural corner marker is a tree, and quite often, the tree is an oak.

The following paragraph, describing a Christian County property, is quoted from the June 20, 1988, Kentucky New Era.   This property description is noteworthy because it mentions seventeen trees -- and nine different species of trees.  (Emphasis added in the quote below.) 

BEGINNING at a red elm on the East bank of Pond River; thence North 67-1/2 East 86 poles to a planted stone; thence South 53 East 68 poles to a white oak and hickory; thence North 77 East 42 poles to a sugar tree; thence North 1-1/2 East 7 poles to a small crooked poplar in a drain, C. L. Pepper's corner; thence South 77 East 60 poles to a hickory and elm, Pepper's corner; thence North 33 East 65 poles to a white oak, Pepper's corner, thence South 27-1/2 East 34 poles to a black oak and sugar tree pointers; thence South 35 East 17 poles to a black oak; thence South 14 East 18 poles to a sugar tree; thence South 25, East 14 poles to a black oak; corner to Park Spring School House; thence South 20 East 34 poles to a white oak, A. Johnson's and Pepper's corner; thence South 41 West 76 poles to a stake and pointers in a line of a 100 acre survey; thence with it due West 16 poles to a stake in A. Johnson's line; thence North 55, West 92 poles to an elm; thence North 63-1/2 West 24 poles to a beech; thence South 49-1/2 West 5-1/2 poles to a box elder on the East side of Pond River; thence down said river with the meanders thereof to the BEGINNING, containing 100 acres, more or less. (Source)

The box elder tree, mentioned in the property description above, stood a good chance of dying before the next time the property was surveyed. If a box elder lives sixty years, it's an old tree. Presumably, it was already a tree of a few years and some size when the surveyor used it as a corner marker.

And what does a surveyor do when the trees in a property deed have died, been cut down, or cannot be found at all? Here are some examples of remedies:

"Beginning at a hickory and sycamore tree called for but now a stone planted..."

" a stake, formerly a black oak, standing on the East side of the road..."

"...thence with a cross fence north 6-1/2 west 59-1/2 poles to a dead white oak;"

"...identified by ancient description as beginning at the sugar tree on the bank of Coal Creek, near a spring; thence South 80 East 39 poles to a hickory called for but not found, a white oak marked as a corner..."

" Beginning at a fallen sycamore on the east bank of Coal Creek..."

"...thence south 75-1/2 W. 140 poles to a stone, a dogwood called for in old deed...thence N.E. 19 poles to a stone, a black oak called for..."

"...thence 87 E 84 poles to a stake in the edge of an old field (some black gum bushes and white oak called for, not found)..."

"Beginning at four (4) fallen pin oaks that grew in a two foot crevice between two large rocks (trees are lying there)..."

"...thence with his line South 50 degrees West 40-1/4 poles to a rotted stump, corner of the Jones tract..."

3 comments -- please add yours:

Laurrie said...

How interesting! I love that they describe properties by the dead or missing trees that used to be there. Great post on the prominence of trees as individuals in our forefathers' lives.


Metes and bounds can a tangled mess when proving rights to a certain part of your land because of the simple fact trees die. But it served a good form of land ownership over a long period of time. Today, because of the fuzzy lines created by such surveys we have resorted to going the legal survey route. This avoids bad feelings between neighbors. Good post. -- barbara

Genevieve said...

Thanks, Laurrie and Barbara. Really, planted stones and stakes aren't any more permanent than trees. They can be moved or removed. Big rock formations that are embedded deep into the ground are more permanent. Only an earthquake or dynamite would dislodge them.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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