A long time ago (call it 1983) in a place far, far, away (call it Mountain Home State Forest), a small band of courageous neophyte surveyors began a project that many in the California Department of Forestry hierarchy felt to be impossible. We started work on finding, and then marking, the precise boundaries of Mountain Home State Forest.
History of Mt. Home
California bought Mountain Home from the Michigan Trust Company on January 6, 1946 for $550,000. The deed delineated all the boundaries based on the section corners and quarter-corners of such-and-such section of townships 19 or 20 south and ranges 30 or 31 east of the Mount Diablo Base Meridian (normally abbreviated MDBM). On paper the acreage of the holding totaled around 4615.77 acres and was, mostly fiction. Mostly fiction because the total area based its value on townships of 36 one-mile square sections. Many of which had never been surveyed.
The US Public Land Survey System
Pretty much all the arable land (remember that term “arable”) that isn’t contained within the original thirteen colonies is supposed to have been placed into a grid known as the Public Land Survey System. Its basic units of area are the township and section.
Within a 6-mile by 6-mile township, the upper right section is Section 1 the section west of number is Section 2. The numbering moves left to all the way Section 6, the section south of Section 6 is section 7 and the number and progresses in a serpentine manner all the way to Section 36. There should be no Section 37.
In the 1880s, surveyors contracted with the General Land Office of the federal government on a per-mile of surveyed line basis to survey the land now known as Mountain Home. In the San Joaquin Valley, surveying went quickly. The land was flat and had few obstacles to get in the way. But the forested mountains were another challenge altogether. Hmm, a federal contract, thousands of miles away from Washington DC, based on the number of miles surveyed in mountainous terrain with trees. What could possibly go wrong?