Monday, March 3, 2008

At the Geodetic Center for North America

The pasture-land site of the Geodetic Center of North America was homesteaded by William H. Meade in 1885. Other pioneer families were associated with the site before the marker was first put into place in 1891.

One of these families was the parents of Pearl Sharp, who came with them as a small child in a covered wagon in 1878. Pearl lived most of her life just a few miles south of the Geodetic Center site, first as a child, and later after her marriage to S. C. Robinson.

Their son, Frank Robinson, purchased the pasture-land site in 1936. Its ownership has remained in the family since his death in 1969. Now owned by the Robinson's grandson, Kyle Brant.

According to the late Mrs. Robinson the Geodetic Center was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on October 9, 1973, and the 144th Kansas site to be listed on the Register.

The Geodetic Center marker has been in place over 106 years, and for over 61 of these years has been owned by the Frank Robinson family. Both solitude and significance surround the site in its native pasture-land.

The following are a few of the many articles written about the Geodetic Center of North America:

The Osborne County Farmer (Thursday, July 15, 1971) -- Miss Patti Palmer, Portis, graciously consented to pose as "Miss Geodetic", at the Geodetic marker

It was in 1891, when Osborne was 20 years old, that the Geodetic Center was set on what was called the Meade's Ranch, southeast of Osborne.

The Osborne County Farmer, November 22, 1973: Letter to the editor:

Dear Sir: Having read the article in last week's Farmer about the Geodetic Center on the Meade's Ranch brought back some memories. As a boy my folks lived down the road about three miles on the Lucas-Downs road, and I saw the big Army wagons with four big mules go by as they went to Lucas for supplies. They had several men, some in uniforms, lots of little tents and big covered wagons. I think they were there most of the summer and had a high striped pole where the marker is now. It stood for many years. It was fenced with barb wire. Soon after 91 my sister and her husband, the late John Doane of Osborne, moved on the Meade Ranch and I was at the marker many times. Florence Chapman of Osborne was born on the ranch. Geodetic Center is one of the most important points in North America and should have a large marker and a road in from the highway. If this civilization is ever destroyed by atomic bombs, they will make their calculation from that very spot. I wonder how many are left who were there when the marker was born?--George W. Standley

Historical Atlas of Kansas by Homer E. Socolofsky and Huber Self, 1971:

Of more scientific interest is the North America geodetic datum, established on Meade's Ranch (later known as Robinson's Farm), Osborne County, some forty miles south and east of the historical geographical center. This geodetic datum of North America is the controlling point of all land surveys whereas the geographic center of the nation was shifted to the state of South Dakota with the admission of the new states of Alaska and Hawaii.

Meade's Ranch Triangulation Station

Frank L. Culley, Senior Mathematician

United States Coast and Geodetic Survey

In open, grassland country, on what is known as Meade's Ranch, in Osborne County, 18 miles south of Osborne, Kansas, there is an unpretentious monument which one is not likely to see unless he is looking for it, and knows where to look. This monument consists of a bronze disk, 3.6 inches in diameter, set in the top of a block of concrete 24 inches square at the top, 36 inches square at the base, and 3 feet high, set in the ground so that its top surface is 6 inches above the ground. This disk like many hundreds of thousands of other Coast and Geodetic Survey disks in the United States and its possessions, bears a legend cast into it, which reads: "US Coast and Geodetic Survey Triangulation Station. For information write to the Director, Washington, DC," with an added warning of penalty for disturbing the mark. Also stamped on it is "MEADES RANCH." This is not to tell the world that this spot is on Meade's Ranch, but to indicate that it is the triangulation station named Meade's Ranch, and is the reference point for all property lines and city, county, state and international boundaries on the North American continent that are tied to the national triangulation networks of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

If anything should happen to this monument, which is of such great national and international importance, there is another monument below it.

When triangulation station Meade's Ranch was first established in 1891, is was just one of the many in the transcontinental arc stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. It was marked underground with a bottle filled with ashes and buried about 3 feet deep. On the surface it was marked with a marble post bearing the letters "U.S.C.S." Cut into the top of the marble post were two grooves placed at right angles. The intersection of these indicated the center of the station. In 1922 these markers were replaced by the present ones.

One can compare the construction of a map to the construction of a building. First a rigid frame is constructed to carry the load and to hold the shape of the completed structure. In mapping, the arcs of triangulation form the framework. The Eastern Oblique arc had been established from Maine to New Orleans, but if a map of the entire United States were to be made, the frame would have to extend to the Pacific Coast. Thus, the first large arc was surveyed. A vertical member, the 98th Meridian arc, extending north and south from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande near its mouth, and about midway between the East and West Coasts, was established next. Meade's Ranch was one of the stations in the junction became a little more important than the others.

The geographic positions were computed through these chains of triangles from the Oblique arc on what was known as the New England datum, which was adopted for the northeastern and eastern parts of the United States in 1879. After completing computation of the transcontinental triangulation in 1889, it was decided to adopt one datum for the whole country.

A position for any point on the earth's surface may be determined from observations on the stars. But due to the deflection of the vertical, or the amount of plumb line is attracted by a mountain mass, or the difference between a land mass in one direction and the lack of it by ocean depths in the opposite direction, this astronomic determination at almost any point is somewhat in error. A study was made of the positions determined by astronomic means and those computed on the New England datum through the geodetic triangulation, with the position of Meade's Ranch was as small as could be expected in any part of the United States.

In 1901 the Superintendent of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey selected Meade's Ranch as the initial triangulation station from which positions of all triangulation stations should be determined. The geographic position for Meades Ranch, which had been determined to be 39 degrees, 13 minutes, and 26.686 seconds North Latitude and 98 degrees, 32 minutes, and 30.506 seconds West Longitude, together with the azimuth to nearby triangulation stations Waldo and the Spheroid determined by Clarke in 1866 were chosen as the definition of the United States standard datum but the definition remained the same.

In 1927 and the following years, a readjustment of all the triangulation in the United States was made. The datum adopted is called the North American datum of 1927. The definition is the same as the old North American datum except that the azimuth from Meade's Ranch to Waldo was reduced slightly and finally adopted as 75 degrees, 28 minutes, and 9.64 seconds, as Laplace corrections were made to fix azimuths on lines joining stations at frequent intervals. The latitude and longitude of Meade's Ranch remained the same and Clarke's spheroid of 1866, which proved to fit North American continent, was used again.

During the years of World War II, missing links of triangulation were added to the Alaskan triangulation, so that now there is a continuation from the Russian and United States boundary between the Diomedes Islands and from Attu Island at the tip of the Aleutian chain through Alaska, Canada and the United States, through Meades Ranch and on down through Mexico to a point near the mouth of the Rio Verde on the Pacific Coast of the Mexican State of Oxaca. Meades Ranch is connected by triangulation to every corner of the United States and even to Newfoundland. This year Mexico and Guatemala plan to connect their triangulation networks in the vicinity of Tapachula and San Benitio on the Pacific Coast. It will then be possible to base the Central American surveys on Meades Ranch as the initial survey point.

The Military Engineer

March-April 1949

Meade's Ranch is often confused with the center of Continental United States (exclusive of Alaska), which was determined to be about latitude 39 degrees 50 minutes north and longitude 98 degrees and 35 minutes west, near Lebanon, Smith County, Kansas. Citizens of Lebanon formed the Hub Club, hired engineers to determine the exact position on the ground and erected a monument.

Although Meades Ranch is not at the geographic center of the United States, it is not far there from, as such a survey station, under ideal conditions, should be. It is just a few miles south of the great circle passing through New York City and Los Angeles, and a few miles northeast of the great circle passing through Miami and Seattle. It is of political importance because of property lines defined by coordinates determined by the triangulation network over the continent. It is important to commerce, transportation, and communication, and all users of maps and charts, since all maps and charts must fit together as parts of the whole map of the continent. It is possible to fit together all of these parts because they are controlled by a single triangulation network on a single datum.

Triangulation station "Meade's Ranch" should be marked with an impressive monument in keeping with its importance and dignity.


Technician 101 said...

Topeka employers pay their workers an average of $30,314 annually with the utmost percentile receiving $36,212 and the undermost percentile gets $23,325. Those who are located in Wichita have a medial annual pay of $31,751 with the top 10th bracket making $37,928 and the bottom 10th bracket earns an average of $24,430. Dental Assistant Salary in KS

phlebotomist said...

The State of Kansas now has a 'Shoe Tree', a 'Chairy Tree', and now a 'Tag Tree'. Get out there and Explore Kansas.... you never know what you will find along the way. As Marci Penner, Director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and the Kansas Explorers Club, says, "It's The Journey"!
phlebotomy graduation in KS