My grandmother recently passed away.  I know that’s a rather morbid way to start off a column (and I know my publisher is about to come out of his chair…) but, again, it’s part of establishing a rapport.  And, it got me thinking in a number of different directions.

My grandmother gave birth to my mother who, of course, raised me, and now I have children of my own.  Four generations of a lineage that extends back to a hazy past and forward into an unknown future.  My mother, myself, my children and theirs constitute my grandmother’s legacy.

The old saying, “you can’t take it with you,” is true; the best we can do is our best while we’re here, including raising a family to carry on into the great unknown with character and integrity.

One of the things I cherish as a surveyor is that I am able, through my work, to create a legacy of another kind. Many careers—and even some of the other professions—don’t have that ability.  There are only a few out there that do, and I think this sets us apart from most.

How many people go to work every day pushing paper, crunching numbers—even saving lives—but go unnamed and unremembered? (Not that healing people is unimportant; indeed it makes a profound impact in situations like what I recently experienced.)

We surveyors place not only our names but also our reputations out there to be found and evaluated for any and all to come.  Our written work, in the form of plats and descriptions, is recorded in the public land records and available to most anyone who has interest to look.  And our physical work is manifested in points in the ground: monuments to ourselves (pun intended). Some of us tend to shy away from sharing our work or opening ourselves to any more public scrutiny than is absolutely necessary.  But I think this historical record of our life’s work is important and meaningful, not only to our clients and the public at large, but also to us as individual practitioners.

As we close out 2011 we recognize the 150-year anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  In any period as significant as the Civil War there are many important events, but one tends to stand above the others as the iconic battle and location: Gettysburg.  Some may learn of Gettysburg as the site of Lincoln’s Address, but it’s the rolling countryside outside of town—the blood-soaked fields of battle—that holds our interest today. 

We have enlisted the generous help of Curt Musselman, NPS Cartographer at Gettysburg, to share the story of surveying and mapping of the battlefields.  In this month’s first installment, Curt outlines the historic work done, commencing just after the war.  Next month, Curt talks about some of the surveying and mapping work currently being conducted by him and his team.  Also, be sure to catch video interviews with Curt, taken on location at the battlefield, on our website.
I certainly hope our country never again has to endure an event like Gettysburg, let alone the Civil War.  But as a surveyor, with an interest in history, I can think of few other more meaningful “jobsites” on which to establish a legacy of one’s own work, while helping to protect and restore the legacy of those who fought, and died, those three brutal days nearly 150 years ago.


About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at tj@profsurv.com.

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