Thursday, April 2, 2009

Artifact of the Day - Surveyor's Compass and Chain

Augusta, Georgia's second oldest city, was founded in 1736 on the western bank of the Savannah River. General James Edward Oglethorpe, the colony’s founder, ordered the settlement and chose its location at the head of navigation of the Savannah River below the shoals created by the fall line.
Oglethorpe’s vision was to establish an interior trading post for purchasing furs and other commodities from Native Americans to compete with New Savannah Town, a small outpost on the South Carolina side of the river. Augusta thrived as a trading post from the beginning, with several of the South Carolina traders moving their base of operations to the new settlement. By 1739 a fort was completed (Fort Augusta), and the official surveyor of the colony, Noble Jones, laid out the town. Noble Jones' colonial plan of Augusta was similar to that of Savannah, but not quite as elaborate.

Jones' plan of the "Old Augusta Town" included one large square or plaza, was four streets deep and three streets wide. Fort Augusta was adjacent to the 40 town lots on the west side near the river. Augusta named two of its original streets for Georgia’s colonial governors: Reynolds Street for John Reynolds, and Ellis Street for Henry Ellis. These streets are still prominent features of the Downtown Augusta and Piched Gut (now Olde Town) historic districts.

Here is Noble Jone's original town plan for Augusta:

Above are two artifacts on display in Augusta's Story - a Surveyor's Compass and Surveyor's Chain. Noble Jones would have used similar equipment to lay out the town of Augusta in 1739. The Surveyor's chain was used to measure distances during land surveys, and is made of bent metal, hooked together much like a crude metal fence. The Surveyor's Compass was used to determine exact location. This finely made compass includes levels, mounting hardware, and a wooden travel case.
Check them out and learn more about the founding of Augusta on your next visit to the Augusta Museum of History.

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