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A county surveyor is a public official in many counties of the USA. At the bottom of this page are working "External Links" as at 4 November 2011 to websites of a selection of such County Surveyor's departments. Most of these officials are elected on the partisan ballot to four-year terms. They administer the county land survey records, re-establish and maintain the official government survey monuments, and review property boundaries surveys and subdivision plans. Other duties vary from state to state. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are nominated by the National Association of County Surveyors (NACS).
NACS is part of the National Association of Counties of the USA (NACo). The NACo website sets out its perception of the history of county government in the USA, tracing it to Anglo-Saxon England (initial division of land into holdings for government purposes called 'shires', hence 'shire-reeve', the origin of 'sheriff'), Anglo-Norman feudalism (renaming shires conquered by William I as 'counties' and establishing his allodial title to them via the Domesday Book survey), and the increasingly "plural executive structure" commissioned by his successors to the royal throne of England to defend the peace and enforce the complex of chivalric, common, and statutory laws of England (and of Wales from the reign of Edward I) up to the time of the first county government established in America (County of James City, Virginia). This triad of origins is fundamental to understanding the organisation role that county surveying plays in the administration and development of the real estate of many states and nations around the world, even though sometimes it goes by other names. It was the framework that the King of England applied to his colonies in America and sufficiently successful as to have since been adopted by many other states.
In 1749, "an ambitious George Washington", aged 17, was appointed as the Surveyor-General for Virginia by the College of William and Mary, and became the first registered County Surveyor in America (Culpeper County, Virginia). The composition of the duties and capacities expected by the King of a 'county surveyor', and the means of qualifying, chartering and commissioning incumbents were already tried and tested aspects of county governance by the English Crown (there is substantial evidence of similarly named positions having been created during the colonisation in Ireland much earlier than this date). However there is hardly any available pertinant documentary evidence of any such established 'qualifying, chartering and commissioning' organisation in England attached to the Crown at this time.
A clue to this enigmatic 'qualifying, chartering and commissioning' organisation may lie in the fact that George Washington was not only one of the most famous colonial County Surveyors of America; but one of its most famous Freemasons. According to Jacobs' study of Freemasonry and British Imperialism, 1717–1927, freemasonry "had a strong presence in the official institutions of empire...simultaneously helping construct its architecture and constitute its ruling establishment".
England, as we know it today, was born of imperialism and colonisation (by the Romans) and subjected to waves of further imperialism and colonisation (Angles), (Saxons) and (Normans), before the homogeneity necessary for what the NACo website calls the 'plural executive structure' of English county governance to flourish; and there is substantial evidence of freemasonry having become engrained in England long before the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717. Jacobs picks up on some masons feeling so 'anciently justified' that, after the First World War, they envisaged "English-speaking", "Anglo-Saxon", Freemasonry as "guardian of the post-war world".
The earliest publicly known historical masonic document (Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem) refers to a 'counterfeit' guild of masons, called a 'craft', involving the entire hierarchy of Anglo-Saxon central and local government - king (Æthelstan), 'lords', 'dukes', 'earls', 'barons', 'knights', 'squires', 'burgesses' and 'aldermen' - maintained at county level by the 'sheriff' of that county and at city level by the 'mayor' of that city. To this very day, the building representing the ceremonial and administrative seat of local government of the City of London in England is still known by its ancient, Anglo-Saxon name, guildhall, as in many other such seats of local government in both England and Wales. The manuscript praises the Euclidian invention and promulgation of geometry (Ancient Greek: γεωμετρία; geo- "earth", -metria "measurement"); and, according to the Masonic Dictionary, "Geometry ... is the science upon which [freemasonry] is founded."
That ancient manuscript, together with some 37 other documents, overall collectively known as the Old Charges reveal as explained in the Foreword of the January 1915 edition of the National Masonic Research Society journal, 'The Builder', "that the Craft-lodges of the olden time were in fact schools, in which young men studied not only the technical laws of building, but the Seven Sciences (Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy) and the history and symbolism of the Order". The dearth of historical evidence of the continuity of the craft and the guild between the 15th century and the 18th can probably be explained by the suspicion of the aims and objectives of gatherings that began to prevail in England at the beginning of that period, and their persecution / suppression by Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I, due to suspicion they supported Papism (see Oddfellows) which necessitated the establishment by the Crown of a new means of testing and qualifying candidates for the role of County surveyor, which they transferred by charter to the universities they permitted and encouraged to flourish, and that became the way that George Washington qualified (he qualified as a County Surveyor in 1749 and became a Freemason in 1752). With the expansionism and technical developments resulting from external exploration, conquest, defence, colonisation, and exploitation, between the 16th and 18th centuries, the range of necessary competencies must have increased enormously. A clue as to this range can be found in the Rules and Regulations of the Royal Military Academy of the Master-General of the Ordnance as drawn up by Lieutenant-Colonel James Pattison circa 1764-1772. They include, "practical geometry and mathematics, particularly applied to the raising and transporting of heavy weights, the art of surveying and levelling, with their application to the conveying of water or draining morasses...the science of fortification in all its parts, with the manner of attacking and defending places, as likewise the use, conduct and direction of mines...the rudiments of military architecture, particularly the method of making plans, elevations and sections of powder magazines, guard rooms, barracks, storehouses, and other buildings that may be necessary in fortified towns....the theory of artillery, viz. the doctrine of projectiles, so as to apply the same to gunnery, the principles on which the several pieces of ordnance and their carriages are constructed, and the method of forming exact draughts of the same, according to the tables used by the office of ordnance, likewise the names, uses and dimensions of all other engines and implements of war....the principles of arithmetic, algebra, the elements of geometry, the mensuration of superfices and solids, plane trigonometry, the elements of conic sections, and the theory of perspective, as also geography and the use of globes....the method of sketching ground, the taking of views, the drawing of civic architecture, and the practice of perspective." Little wonder then that George Washington was found so capable of leading the Continental Army to victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War.
Such organisation was probably deemed necessary for governance, defence, well-being, and improvement of the realm under the laws of chivalry and commons that applied then (particularly the trimoda necessitas in the history of English land law) and emerged more into the open in the late 16th and early 17th centuries due to the need of the Crown for additional qualified surveyors arising from the Bridges Act 1530, Supremacy Act 1534, Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, Dissolution of the Monasteries 1536-1541, Tudor conquest of Ireland 1541-1607, Highways Acts 1555-1562 and the beginnings of the development of the British Empire abroad with Virginia (1583 charter of Elizabeth I to Sir Walter Raleigh and 1606 charter of James I to the Virginia Company). According to Kegley, the owners of the early plantations in Virginia came from the middle-classes of England, mostly "squires and yeomen" [most probably - 'fellow craft' freemasons (the squires, officially called 'esquires', hence royal militarily and civilly qualified surveyors) and 'entered apprentice' freemasons (the yeomen, hence royal militarily and civilly qualified assistant surveyors)], and, once the colonial territory had thus become better established and secured by the Crown, the opportunities for settlement were seized by "all classes of society".
The lack of written evidence about the influence of freemasonry in this era can be explained by the need to keep it confidential for the sake of the guild and for the sake of the nation's defence, but also, as Fichen explains, "the 'gentlemen' of each era have traditionally shown their superiority by denigrating the artisan and relegating him to an inferior status in society ... What they did not understand they either ignored or belittled. This patronising attitude ... has prevailed everywhere, in almost all eras and civilized cultures ... between those who worked with their hands ... and those who talked and/or wrote." and he cites Leonardo da Vinci's outrage at this treatment as an example. Such a consideration could not touch on the self-esteem of county surveyors as they were "esquires" of the crown and as such, higher in the social pecking order of medieval England than "gentlemen". In his Preface, Fichen explains thus how he has coped with the research difficulty of lack of written evidence - "Lacking ordinary types of documentation, authentication has had to rely to a large extent on inference and deduction, on reasoning and informed common sense."
The 'matter-of-factness'/'matter-of-necessariness' of the presence/utility of freemasonry comes out quite remarkably in Jacobs' 'Builders of Empire'; as too does the apparently automatic membership of the Crown's local 'Surveyor-General' to the most respectable lodges of the colonies. The militarily defensive role of the trimoda necessitas is clearly apparent in the John Smith 1624 map of Bermuda showing its fortified and unfortified buildings, artillery emplacements, roads, bridges, waterways and watch tower. Significantly, the State House (bottom left detail of map) has been "rented by the government to the local Freemasons for...one peppercorn annually" since state government business moved from St Georges to Hamilton in 1815.
It would be wrong to suggest there was a great deal of modern science behind the architecture and engineering of this era: 'design successes' often arose more by luck than judgement, as exemplified by the history of the Old Bridge, Pontypridd in Wales, which took over 100 years for the original commission to be fulfilled, including four unsuccessful attempts by the 'bridge-building mason', William Edwards (his final one, a 'marvellous stone bow bridge', is a single span with its upper surface comprising series of steps and incapable of carrying vehicular traffic, so didn't do the job that was asked - and conspiracy theorists might care to count the number of steps to the apex from 'ground' levels on either side and compare with the names of nearest churches/chapels on those sides (Tabernacle and Sion) and the route to the nearest druidic circle (Pontypridd Common), and from this conclude Edwards was a Royal Arch mason). Perhaps it was this aspect of 'modern' freemasonry that justified the so-called 'antients' calling it 'speculative' as distinct from 'operative'. The early colonisation of the Americas had a similarly 'speculative' feel, which, perhaps, explains why it resulted in the 'thirteen colonies' going to war to win their independence from the Crown.
Chapter V 'The Development of an Extra-Legal Constitution', of 'English Local Government from the Revolution to the Municipal Corporations Act: The Parish and The County' by Sidney Webb and Beatrice Potter Web, describes the increasing chaos that began to prevail within this same period on the 'county surveying' front in England and Wales. Eventually, the military defence component of county surveying in the UK began to separate from the civil in 1791, with the Crown's 'Board of Ordnance' being commissioned to carry out a comprehensive survey of the South Coast of England which, as a result of 'the last invasion of Britain 1797', at Fishguard in South West Wales ultimately extended to all of the UK. With that shift in emphasis, county surveying began to concentrate more on its civil engineering and civic architecture roles, producing the historically famous British county surveyors such as Thomas Telford, John Loudon McAdam and John Nash; the expression, "County Surveyor", became a UK statutory title (Bridges Act 1803); and, in England and Wales, its incumbents were appointed by elected councils as of the coming into effect of the Local Government Act 1888 rather than being Crown-appointed by Justices of the Peace (hence the need for the UK Official Secrets Act 1889 to safeguard interests of the State from disclosure by elected councillors and appointed officials that were not subject to the oaths of freemasonry).
The advent of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, required considerable liaison between UK county surveyors and the Ministry of Defence (throughout WWII, the Ministry of Transport was termed the Ministry of War Transport), with the result that the 20th century became noteworthy for a rash of Official Secrets Acts and virtually every local authority in the country founded its own Freemasonry Lodge; creating so much public and parliamentary paranoia that the 21st century began with the Local Government Act 2000 requiring (inter alia) elected council officials to declare their personal interests and affiliations. The UK equivalent of NACS, namely, the County Surveyors Society (CSS) founded in 1885, was subsumed into the pluralistic Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) in 2010.