Joseph S. Harris and the U.S. Northwest Boundary Survey, 1857-1861

by Anne P. Streeter



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 5/8/2012

Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 476
ISBN : 9781466936232

About the Book

Precis of Joseph S. Harris…

In 1857, twenty-year old Joseph Harris joins the U.S. Northwest Boundary Commission whose assignment was to define the boundary between the United States and British Canada.  As an astronomer and surveyor, he has been trained by the U.S. Coast Survey to use the new Zenith telescope and the new Talcott method of astronomical surveying. In over 200 letters to his family and in his Autobiography, he describes the task of surveying 410 miles along the 49th parallel from the Gulf of Georgia to the crest of the Rocky Mountains.

In accomplishing this, Harris describes the political difficulties of working with a parallel British Commission, of the outbreak of the ‘Pig War”, and of working with local Native Americans. The Survey team astronomically surveys an unchartered wilderness crossing both the Cascade and Rocky Mountains With their recalcitrant mules, they not only negotiate steep mountains and cross dangerous rivers but they also cut a 20 foot swath through much of this wilderness, connecting 14 astronomical stations.

After three years, the field work has to be rushed to a finish because Congress would approve no more appropriations now the Civil War had started. Since the Official Report was lost, this account stands as the only record of this important Survey.

About the Author

Anne P. Streeter was born in Chestnut Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia, graduated from Smith College, taught school briefly, then married my husband, Ronald Streeter. As an insurance executive, his path to promotion required moving five times during 15 years. When we moved back to West Hartford in 1968, my husband became a vice-president of the company, insuring that we would not move again. During those previous years I had been active in the League of Women Voters in Fairfield, San Mateo and West Hartford, serving as president in the last two places. In 1975 I became a three term Mayor of West Hartford and in 1982 a two term State Senator representing the Fifth Senatorial District of Connecticut. For three wonderful years we had lived in the San Francisco area on the “West Coast” and this is one of the reasons why I am so interested in its history. She's an 84 year old mother of five and grandmother of seven grandchildren, most in their twenties. I am working on a five year plan to downsize my belonging, so am tackling my five filing cabinets of material, throwing out much, giving some to grandchildren, summarizing digitally others, and producing this book. I feel this story is worth telling because it is based on the over 200 letters of Joseph Harris and the Journal of Clinton Gardner. These are the few primary resources about this Survey since most of the official material was lost later on. I think Harris is a very human protagonist, morally upright yet also reflecting the prejudices of his day. He underplays the physical hardship he endured by living in the wilderness for four and a half years. He won the praise of all his superiors, including Admirals David Porter and David Farragut, for his leadership. The Survey did prove Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, (the title of the book) because the United States has lived in peace with Canada ever since the boundary was demarcated.