STEUBENVILLE - An Ohio Department of Transportation worker walking the hillside above state Route 7 first saw the 3-foot long flat stone protruding from the ground.
And, after a careful examination of the stone, the worker knew he had discovered a surveyor's marker that had been placed by surveyors on the hill side in 1830.
"The hillside was heavily wooded with thick brush, so it's not surprising no one has seen this marker for some time. One of our staff workers from the District 11 planning and engineering office determined the historical significance of the stone, so we contacted Jefferson County Engineer Jim Branagan and asked for suggestions on where the stone should be placed. Jim agreed with our staff the best place for the marker would be the Historic Fort Steuben," related Becky Giauque of the ODOT District 11 office of communications.
TOUCHING HISTORY — Judy Bratten, executive director of the Historic Fort Steuben, traced the letters and numbers carved into an 1830 sandstone surveying stone that was found on a steep hillside above state Route 7 near Rush Run. The Ohio Department of Transportation brought the stone marker to the fort Thursday because ODOT is removing tons of rock and dirt to eliminate mud slides in the area. Joining Bratten, were, standing, from left, Terry Papola, a volunteer at the fort; Jerry Barilla, president of the Old Fort Steuben Project; and Adam Lytton, ODOT project manager for the Rush Run project. - Dave Gossett
"We knew we had to move the stone because of the planned removal of the hillside above the highway near Rush Run. It is part of a $22 million landslide repair project to eliminate the mud slides in that area. So we put straps around the stone and pulled it to the top of the hill, where we placed it in a vehicle. It was a lot easier pulling it up the hill than trying to get it to the bottom of the steep hill side," explained ODOT Project Manager Adam Lytton.
And, on a cold, windy Thursday afternoon, Lytton delivered the stone marker to its new home at the Historic Fort Steuben.
"I have never seen a marker with so much detail work carved into the stone. On one side of the flat sandstone is the date 1830. On the front of the stone is carved Range 2, Township 5 and Section 8. Those letters and numbers refer to the Seven Ranges of Ohio which includes Jefferson County. This is truly an historical discovery and I am glad we were able to save the marker and bring it to the fort, where a surveyor's museum is set to open later this year," Lytton added.
The Seven Ranges of Ohio included what would become Monroe, Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson counties, and portions of Carroll, Columbiana, Tuscarawas, Guernsey, Noble and Washington counties.
According to Philip Lawrence of the Jefferson County engineer's office, "finding this marker is amazing."
"Given the steep terrain of that hillside it makes you wonder how they got the stone to that point and put it in the ground. A 1901 topography map suggests the hillside was as steep back then as it is now. The hillside was cut back in the 1960s when the highway was expanded to four lanes," explained Lawrence.
"And with such a commanding view of the Ohio River, that hillside was probably a prime piece of property at one time," Lawrence added.
Lawrence said records indicate Jefferson County Surveyor William Lowry probably had the 1830 stone marker placed on the hillside and it was probably replaced in 1880 by county Surveyor Henry Lewis.
"But the property on the hill side was included in the original survey of the Seven Ranges," said Lawrence.
"This is quite a significant discovery because so few markers were actually set. It is almost like finding an artifact," he remarked.
"We plan to start a surveyor's museum in one of our blockhouses this spring to show the skills and techniques used by the surveyors who first arrived in the Ohio country in 1786. The original Fort Steuben was constructed and manned by the First American Regiment to protect those surveyors as they roamed the Ohio lands," cited Judy Bratten, executive director of the Historic Fort Steuben.
"We will be receiving a donation of surveying equipment from Professor Thomas Besch of the University of Akron when he retires. He will also work with us to obtain additional appropriate artifacts and surveying tools for our museum," said Bratten.
After Jerry Barilla helped unload the 300-pound stone marker from the ODOT vehicle, the president of the Old Fort Steuben Project said it was exciting to handle the marker that had been placed in the ground 183 years ago.
"To put my hands on the same stone that was handled so long ago by surveyors is a moving experience for me. This will be a great learning experience for the students and adults who visit our fort every year. This is a significant piece of history for our area and we can now share it with everyone here at the fort," declared Barilla.