In the last issue I mentioned that Walter Marmon as well as George Pradt came to New Mexico to survey with Darling without saying much about Darling himself. Who was Darling?
The boundary between New Mexico and Colorado is appropriately known as "Darling’s Line". Darling like Marmon and Pradt belongs to a generation of surveyors who saw military service during the Civil War as junior officers in the Union Army. Reconstruction legislation barred former supporters of the Confederacy like Pelham, Garretson and Wilbar from working for the Federal Government, leaving the field for Unionists who went west in the late 1860’s with government survey contracts to establish state and territorial boundaries, survey Indian Reservations, and continue the extension of the rectangular system that had been interrupted by the War. The public generally referred to them by their military rank (e.g. Col. Darling).
Ehud Noble Darling descended from an old New England family. Grandfather Levi Darling had fought in the American Revolution and his father Hiram was a farmer in West Berkshire, Vermont, where Ehud was born the eldest of ten children on December 7, 1832. His education is obscure but he lived on his father’s farm until the early 1850’s when he took Horace Greeley’s advice and made his way to Minnesota Territory (organized 1849) were he settled in St. Paul and began a surveying career. He learned quickly because in 1856 at the age of twenty-three we find him already with a GLO contract to subdivide townships in Wright County, just to the west of Minneapolis.
At the outbreak of the Civil War federal survey activities pretty much came to a halt and in August 1862 Darling enlisted as a private in the 8th Regiment, Minnesota Infantry and in September 1864 as a 1st Lieutenant in the 18th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry. There he served for the duration of the War until mustered out in February 1866.
Darling made his debut in the Southwest on July 19, 1868 at a monument that was set by Captain J. N. Macomb of the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers in 1859. Macomb had attempted to correct an error in an earlier determination of the intersection of the 103rd meridian with the 37th parallel, however the position he established is also in error and is two and a half miles west of the true (present) northeast corner of New Mexico as determined in 1900 by Levi S. Preston of the U.S. General Land Office. Darling had contracted to extend the 37th parallel westward to its intersection with the 109th meridian and to monument that line. It should be noted that this was not quite the entire north boundary of New Mexico because when Arizona Territory was separated in 1863 the west boundary of New Mexico was defined as the 32nd meridian west from Washington. The Washington Meridian is 77º 03’ 02.3” west of Greenwich [1927 NAD] and was legal in the U.S. from 1850 to 1912. Theoretically Darling’s survey should have left a gap of nearly three miles to what would become Four Corners.
Darling called himself “Surveyor & Astronomer” however most of the astronomical observations and calculations were made by Professor John Weissner, who acted as his assistant. On his crew he employed his younger brother Robert as a flagman. The line was surveyed by establishing eleven astronomical stations that were then connected by running and monumenting lines between them, except for a twenty-four mile gap northwest of Aztec were the terrain was too rough to survey. All told he surveyed 331 ¾ miles of line. Because his starting point was 2 ½ miles too far west he overshot the 109th meridian by that amount and then some, with the result that when Four Corners was monumented in 1875 it was a mile and a half to the east of Darling’s terminal monument. Because of errors in latitude and loss of monuments Darling’s line saw two resurveys, both of which the U.S. Supreme Court voided in 1925 when it ordered the Darling Line and thus the original (and present) boundary of New Mexico restored.
Darling completed his survey on November 18. Six months earlier on June 1, 1868 at Fort Sumner General Sherman and the leaders of the Navajo signed a treaty that in Article II contained the legal description of a reservation. Beginning in August 1869 Darling surveyed that treaty boundary, enclosing an area of more than 3.4 million acres that straddled the then still unsurveyed Arizona-New Mexico line.
The southeast corner of the Reservation was located about twenty miles due north of Fort Wingate and Darling used it for the eastern terminus of the Navajo Baseline. This line still has legal significance even though beginning in 1984 the U.S. Public Land Survey System is being extended across a Reservation that since 1868 has quintupled in size.
In July 1870 Darling contracted with GLO for the survey of the 1855 treaty boundaries of Choctaw and Chickasaw lands in what is now south central Oklahoma. By treaty of 1866 these Indians agreed to the survey and subdivision of their lands using the U.S. Public Land Survey System. But first Darling had established that system in the Indian Territory. For the Initial Point he selected a point about a mile south of Fort Arbuckle from which he run Base Line and Indian Meridian. His partner was Theodore H. Barrett, an experienced surveyor who had already surveyed and subdivided Indian Reservations in Dakota Territory. Later that year in December Darling and Barrett were given contracts to survey the Indian Lands between the 96th and 98th Meridians from the Canadian River north to the Kansas line, an area twice the size of the state of New Jersey.
Darling’s activities in the West apparently ceased in 1873, the year when he got married in Washington D.C. which he had selected as his permanent home. He also had a farm in Vermont. I have found no record indicating that he ever had any children.
Old age was not kind to him. In his later years he was in ill health, but his military service had earned him a government pension of $12 per month, which Congress by a private law in 1911 increased to $30. Ehud N. Darling died on June 20, 1912 while visiting his sister in Malone, Franklin County, New York, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
According to his sister he left an estate worth $23, consisting of a few items of furniture and his compass.