Assembly required a point of reference. I selected “a marked tree on the head of a marsh called St Ursula’s Marsh” identified in William Lewis’ patent for 2000 acres (2/537 dated October 26, 1649 surveyed by Robert Clarke). St Ursula’s Marsh was located immediately upstream from the present town of Port Tobacco. The marked tree is of course long gone and the boundaries of St Ursula’s Marsh in 1649 can only be approximated, but I had a place to start.
Surveyors were generally literate men from Charles County who learned their trade from books and field experience. Those surveyors laid the economic foundations for this county and documented much of its history. One non-local surveyor who figured in the history of the County was a New Yorker, Simeon DeWitt. DeWitt was the Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army during the Revolution. In November 1781, after the American/French victory over the British at Yorktown, George Washington instructed DeWitt to survey a road between Williamsburg, VA and Bladensburg, MD. DeWitt’s map is the earliest survey of any road in Charles County.
The setting for this picture is near what is now Purcell Road. The colonial road south from Port Tobacco followed present day Chapel Point Road, but it did not extend to St Thomas Manor/St Ignatius as it does today. Instead, as shown by DeWitt, it climbed to the present US 301 corridor along Purcell Road. In this painting a surveyor is consulting with property owners near Purcell Road on the location of a particular marked tree. The basic tools of a colonial era surveyor are shown. A theodolite is featured prominently in the foreground while a jumbled 66-foot-long Gunter’s Chain lies on the sand in front of the man with the blue coat. Oil on canvas 24x48 inches