Just what is a "Witness Tree"?

In the world of boundaries, the greatest issue is one of peace between neighbors. This fact necessitates that the boundary markings be created in such a way as to come as close as they possibly can to being permanent. In an attempt to achieve this permanence, the rules of the United States Public Land Survey System required that, in addition to the corner monument itself, a certain number of objects that reference the corner point should also be set. A "witness tree" (also called a bearing tree) is an additional object that references the true location of the corner. In the original U.S. Government Land Office surveys, the surveyors, after setting the corner stone, would measure the bearing and distance from that stone to the "witness tree" and record that information in their survey notes. The tree would have a flat surface chopped into it on the side toward the corner and writing was carved into the wood of the tree that identified the corner. The tree then became an official part of the marking of the corner.

As a Christian surveyor, this term has dual significance to me. In the surveying world, the "witness tree" references the true corner point. In the world of the Church, the tree that Christ was hanged on (The Cross) reminds me of the "True Corner Stone" Jesus Christ. The reason I chose the Cross for my company logo is to remind me (every time I see it) of the standards that govern my conduct.

Witness Tree Witness Tree Scribing

(Above)
Witness Trees are still required today. This one is on a project in Joseph Canyon just north of Enterprise, Oregon.




(Left)
A witness tree in Union County, Oregon scribed by U.S. Deputy Surveyor Herman D. Gradon in 1882.

(Right)
Stephen's father, David Haddock, scribing a witness tree during the Indian Cadastral Survey done for the United States Forest Service in 1986.

A Land Surveyor scribing a Witness Tree