Thought Leader: A Final Point in Honor of Henry David Thoreau

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Henry David Thoreau was a man with many interests. He was an American essayist, a Land Surveyor, philosopher, naturalist, poet, historian, and writer. He is perhaps, best known for his book Walden and his noteworthy essay Civil Disobediance, wherein he advances the concept of legitimate disobedience in response to an unjust state.

Although he lived to only 44 years of age, his contributions were lasting and impressive, many of which developed while he earned a living, meager as it was, as a Land Surveyor. While mapping Walden Pond and the surrounding communities, Thoreau meticulously documented the natural environment that surrounded him. Over the course of 24 years, the son of a pencil maker eventually compiled two-million words, detailing his vivid and valuable impressions.

After graduating from Harvard University, Thoreau returned to Concord where he befriended the American essayist, lecturer, and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. His mentor, 14 years his senior, introduced him to a number of prominent writers including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bronson Alcott, Ellery Channing, and Margaret Fuller.

On Thursday September 14, the Surveyors Historical Society honored Thoreau with the dedication of a "Final Point" monument at the Thoreau family gravesite, as part of the Annual Surveyor’s Thoreau, the son of a pencil Rendezvous in Concord, Massachusetts. Located in The Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Thoreau rests alongside his former associates, atop the "Author’s Ridge."

The success of the Final Point ceremony is mainly due to a benefactor, Ms. Lorna Hainesworth from Randallstown, Maryland. In an interview with the Concord Journal, Ms. Hainesworth noted that land surveying was "instrumental in the development of the country," and that Thoreau was a "very good, accurate surveyor, who took a lot of pride in his work." She was accompanied by Richard Leu, chairman of the Surveyors Historical Society, who noted that land surveying was the one profession that Thoreau held for the longest period in his life, from 1846 to 1860.

Society member David Ingram, of Mount Crawford, Virginia, had the honor of placing the "Final Point" in the ground. Curt Sumner, the executive director of NSPS, performed the formal dedication of the monument, explaining to the one-hundred plus attendees that the program has been in place since 2003. To date there have been more than 200 monuments placed around the country. In addition to honoring past surveyors, one of the primary objectives of the program is to raise scholarship money. Curt also thanked David Ingram for his extraordinary efforts, noting that Thoreau’s Final Point will serve as a "source of pride" for NSPS and the entire surveying community. Curt’s speech can be found at:

Also in attendance was Patrick Chura, author of Thoreau The Land Surveyor. In a review published in The American Surveyor magazine, in August 2017, Massachusetts Land Surveyor Patrick Garner wrote of Chura’s book:
"Thoreau prospered for more than a decade as a surveyor in the Concord area because he was considered to be both honest and accurate. He often applied the highest levels of science to many of what were, in reality, run-ofthe-mill surveys. The author observes that Thoreau was often subsumed by the beauty of the underlying geometry rather than the job itself."

The Final Point program involves honoring a Land Surveyor with the placement of a brass survey monument, inscribed with the latitude and longitude of the surveyor’s final resting place or, of a location of some other importance. The program is a partnership between NSPS and Berntsen International. For every marker purchased, donations are made to the NSPS Foundation and the Berntsen/NSPS Scholarship Fund. For additional information, go to:

Michael Pallamary, PS, is the author of several books and numerous articles. He is a frequent lecturer at conferences and seminars and he teaches real property to attorneys and other members of the legal profession. He has been in the surveying profession since 1971.

A 1.124Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE