Star Crossings & Stone Monuments

A 782Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

I was very pleased to receive an autographed copy of the USGS Circular #1362 ("Star Crossings and Stone Monuments­Field Astronomy by the Wheeler Survey in 1870s Colorado," by William E. Wilson, PhD). You may recall the story of the Wheeler Monument in Georgetown, featured on the cover of the August 2007 issue of Side Shots. The PLSC, along with Hixon Manufacturing, provided the funding for a bronze plaque and a steel shelter to minimize any further weathering of the historic marker. The PLSC donation was prominently acknowledged in the circular.

The complete story of the six Wheeler monuments across Colorado has been meticulously researched and documented in this 38-page, color-illustrated book by Dr. Wilson. It is highly recommended reading for any surveyor interested in Colorado history.

The Wheeler Survey, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was one of four competing government-sponsored surveys mapping the West during the 1870s. The Wheeler Survey was the most ambitious of these; its plan was to systematically map the entire country west of the 100th meridian, which runs through western Kansas. Before Wheeler could complete his task, however, Congress disbanded all of the surveys in 1879 and in their place created the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes the activities of one of Wheeler’s astronomers, Dr. F. Kampf, to determine the latitude and longitude at six locations in Colorado during 1873-74. The framework of the story is based principally on Kampf’s journal, or "Recording Book," which the author discovered among a collection of original Wheeler field notebooks at the archives of the Norlin Library on the CU campus. Kampf installed blocks of sandstone monuments on which to place his transit to observe the stars and use those observations to determine the coordinates of each site.

Wilson augments the story with information he obtained from more than 100 references that he cites. He visited each of the six sites to look for the stone monuments; in addition to the one at Georgetown, he found only two others, at Trinidad and near Julesburg. The ones at Florence, Colorado Springs, and Brighton have apparently been either moved or destroyed.

Included in the report are various sidebars that highlight some interesting aspects of the story, including, among others, details on the methods Kampf used to determine latitude and longitude, a controversy in the press over the source and lithology of the stone monuments, Wilson’s research to identify who Dr. Kampf was, and the story of the Mormon observatory at Salt Lake City.

Dr. Wilson, a USGS retiree, lives in Georgetown with his wife in a house that was built in 1870, three years before Dr. Kampf installed the Georgetown monument and made his observations. He has indicated that he would appreciate receiving comments, questions, and new information at

You may obtain copies of this publication (USGS Circular 1362) from any one of several sources: 1) Online at http:// You must log on (green tab at the top). In the left column fill in the box labeled "Enter Search Term" with the product number, which for this publication is 244366, then follow instructions. You may order 1-5 free copies this way, but a $5.00 handling charge is added for each shipment, regardless of the number of copies ordered. 2) Visit Building 810 (Map Sales) at the Denver Federal Center, Lakewood (use the visitor entrance off of Kipling Ave.). At the salesroom, ask for Circular 1362; no charge. 3) Purchase at the Georgetown Gateway Visitor Center or from Historic Georgetown, Inc. ($3.95 plus tax; discount for members of HGI).

J.B. Guyton is Chairman and CEO of Flatirons, Inc. and editor of Side Shots, journal of the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado.

A 782Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE