FeedBackHalverson and the Deerwood Plat
Back in the February 2018 column I was blowing off about the Halverson panel and the Deerwood Plat. Interpreting old plats can be a time consuming challenge and dependent on ground evidence. Deerwood apparently is hiding some geometric land mines on paper. Fellow rope stretcher Leonard Dowdell of Arizona took the time to try and sort through this bowl of beans. He sent his conclusions over the course of several emails which I have fused together here. Leonard is a veteran surveyor that has not only been around the block more than once; he set the original corners, drew the plat and fought off the indigenous folk for three days with a Jacob staff. Needless to say we have in front of us a reliable expert opinion peppered with many decades of wisdom! Thank you, Leonard, for sharing your time and effort sliding down this rabbit hole.

Leonard’s initial email:
“I’ve been playing around with the Deerwood plat attempting to put it together. That thing is a mess and is bogus bigtime. I don’t know what that guy did to make his calculations, but nothing shown in many places check out. He evidently had a bad book of trig tables and also must have used a rubber chain to do his field measurements. There are some large discrepancies trying to make things fit. There is roughly 50′ floating around in the body of the lots somewhere and his dimensioning is variable anywhere from .2′ to 50 to 70′ or maybe 100′. There is so much omitted data on certain areas that the only way that many lots could only be surveyed in is by using occupation, if there is any. There is no way that this thing can be retraced in its’ entirety, only in some areas that had the stone monuments and could be recovered. Even his section dimensions are bogus. The place where his major error or errors occurred is just an impossible endeavor. I never got on line to check out the county website for any data that they have in their records.”

I thought that was it and trusted his judgement. The plat is broken. A day or two passed and another email popped up in my inbox as follows:
“I think he made a 1 chain bust on the North line of Section 17 where he shows 2706′ from the ¼ corner to the section corner. 2706-66=2640. I think that this is part of his error as some places indicate about this amount of discrepancy.”

This is a great deduction and the way we get the ball rolling, right? Pins and math busts are like clams. When one coughs it give the rest away. Well, another few days passed and Leonard reported back with this:
“What I sent you is about all I have at the present. I haven’t done anything else for a few days as the mess make me bleary eyed. When I think maybe I have isolated a probable error location, further examination will cancel out my gain. I have a drawing started, but it is tough to try to make things fit because nothing will check out. As far as the curve goes, I assume he used railroad curve data, but it also won’t fit and I get unequal tangents according to where he shows the P.C. & P.T. You can use my preliminary evaluation if you want to. If I get back into the mess and come up with some guess work, I’ll get back with you…”

This happens sometimes. We just can’t lock it up with the plat. Now, I must admit I did not spend much time with the plat outside of looking at our lots and seeing the note about a few stones being set. I took things at face value for the sake of the article. I went hard at the Halverson panel but if Leonard is coming up bunco then there really is a problem with the plat. Fortunately for us Leonard beat this thing like it was the Cleveland Browns in the preseason and was able to reconcile the problem. He came up with this a few days later:
“I think I figured out how that guy prepared this plat in the 1890’s. He got a bunch of chickens in various stages of growth, dipped the feet in an ink bottle, set them on a sheet of paper and turned them loose for a little while until he got some semblance of a plat, gave what he had to his scrivener or draftsman to add all the notations and to do some linework.”

I was in hysterics as I read this and rested on Leonard’s intuition. Despite the adversity Leonard kept stabbing westward and did more research:
“I got on the Crow Wing County web site and did download some of the survey plats. Some of these leave a lot to be desired. A lot of them lack data for survey control to even determine how their property location surveys fit in relation to other portions on other sides of the parcel. I haven’t had the time to study each individual plat to see what is on them. Also I didn’t download all that were in the list, only some that might give some idea of what they found in the area of their retracement. These surveys are piecemeal throughout the plat area and would have to be really studied in order to try fitting them in. Any retracement involved would require a thorough search to attempt to locate any original monuments to determine if any are still in place. Then all the piecemeal data would have to be sorted out and incorporated into the database.”

Leonard concludes his efforts as follows:
“As far as trying to do more reconstructing the plat, that is an impossibility without having a lot of survey retracement info. Too many errors. Also too many changes have been made within the original platting.” So maybe I was a bit harsh on the Halverson panel. I agree the plat is a stinker. I do want to point out that Leonard never gave up on the plat. He was ready to jump in the truck and start digging in the field for answers. I bet if we paid his mileage that he’d be right out there. Thanks for your time and effort Leonard. You are a true asset to our profession!

So, I took the prima facie stance that the plat looked good “to me” whereas Leonard ended up over there near the panel after he jackhammered on it for days. So, what are we missing? Well, as Leonard pointed out some field work might answer some questions. We also are lacking local knowledge. Deerwood has been successfully resurveyed many times before and after the Halverson case. Often times the locals have adopted retracement techniques and figuratively “written” a local manual of instruction.
—Jason Foose