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not my real name
(@not-my-real-name)
100+ posts Registered

Sometimes I think surveying rural stone walls is some kind of exacting science for some. The stone wall was constructed to clear a field and the property line is a convenient place to pile the stones. It is good to know the difference.

If there is a stone wall on land that is in a rural setting, and, that stone wall is not mentioned in the deeds as being a monument, and, in fact, there is a given (compass) bearing and distance given in the deed instead, then the intent was to make a straight line between the corners marking the land.

If the extrinsic stone wall or a fence has been standing for many years and there is no other evidence to rely upon then there may be some reason to consider the stone wall a monument, but, to make an angle point at every slight change in direction or stone that fell out of the wall is beyond the intention of the conveyance that was made.

It was long ago. Surveyors did their best, and, made astoundingly precise measurements with greater effort than is necessary now. The stone walls that came afterward are not made of perfectly square or even similar sized stones. They were a means to place stones that were cleared from a field in an agrarian society.

When a deed shows evidence of being surveyed long ago, and a linear regression of all the data points taken on the location of a stone wall fit within the width of these piled stones, then, I conclude that the wall builders did a good job of following the surveyed line. The record and the intent are still a straight and surveyed line.

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Posted : September 13, 2017 11:17 am
Paul in PA
(@paul-in-pa)
5,000+ posts Registered

Colonial surveyors might set a stone at each corner, but it took hundreds of years of field clearing to fill out some stone rows.

I would only call it a stone wall if it was actually laid up as a wall. The majority of stone walls were laid up prior to the Civil War by contractors that brought slave labor up from the South to work through the winter. Some NE rural attics still have steel rings to lock the shackles to on the floor.

Some stone walls were entirely built on the subject property so you might be wrong to split the walls.

Some stone rows were built up equally by farmers on each side. Other stone rows were only contributed to by the farmer on one side. Best evidence of that is a long plowed field on one side and a heavily wooded original forest on the other. Again you would be wrong to split the stone row.

Then there are the most recent stone rows created by modern construction equipment clearing out multiple stone rows to turn small fields into large fields. Generally the tree row on one side of the rock row is the best evidence.

Most confusing is where two stone rows were 1 rod apart with a farm lane between them. Farmer A's deed was to the stone row to the East of the Lane, but Farmer B cleared his field of that stone row and farmed to the West of where the lane had been.

I would break a long straight call if the adjacent deed was of several parcels, differing bearings and an iron monument in place at the break point.

Paul in PA

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Posted : September 13, 2017 12:19 pm
JPH
 JPH
(@jph)
500+ posts Registered

Well now you're after getting into the occupation vs record. Many times stonewalls were built intentionally as the boundary, and not just as a place to throw the fieldstones.

I'm not entirely sure that most courts would hold record M-B over an old stonewall that generally follows the deed line, whether it's mentioned or not.

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Posted : September 13, 2017 4:11 pm
Mark Mayer
(@mark-mayer)
1,000+ posts Registered

That old classic, Boundaries and Landmarks, by A.C. Mulford, contains the following passage with regard to field rocks along boundary lines:

[INDENT]There is one other arrangement of stones which may be regarded as a very good landmark. It is a common custom to throw the small waste stones picked up on cultivated fields under the fences which border these fields. These collections of stones often furnish an excellent method of determining the general location of a long vanished fence, as you will see by Fig. 10. The belt which they occupied is often several feet wide, and they may originally have been thrown only on one side of the fence; but they are often of the very greatest service in determining the approximate position of a boundary line. They must not become confounded with the "fence stones" among which they may lie.[/INDENT]

EDUCATION, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

EXPERIENCE, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.

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Posted : September 13, 2017 8:36 pm
kjypls
(@kjypls)
100+ posts Registered

I hear what you're saying, but allow me to play the devils advocate for a minute:

Now the surveyor is making a problem because everyone thought it was the "wall", which has now been discounted. Your client can now claim the bird bath in Franks yard is now actually on his property because of the wall wiggle. What a precious 4 sq.ft. that turns into.

And, that's one way neighbor wars start...

Just because something isn't mentioned in a deed doesn't mean it's not worth its $.02 when you're doing the survey. I don't hesitate to put an angle point in a wall where I feel it's needed and appropriate for the situation.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 2:04 am
Hack
 Hack
(@hack)
100+ posts Registered

The custom in this area is to locate all the angle points.I agree some overdo it.Our field crews are instructed to just "stay on the wall" to pick the angle points.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 4:59 am
Peter Lothian - MA ME
(@peter-lothian-ma-me)
100+ posts Registered

Paul in PA, post: 446622, member: 236 wrote:

I would only call it a stone wall if it was actually laid up as a wall. The majority of stone walls were laid up prior to the Civil War by contractors that brought slave labor up from the South to work through the winter. Some NE rural attics still have steel rings to lock the shackles to on the floor.

Paul in PA

This is interesting, I've never heard of this practice. Do you have any references to cite on this subject? I would like to learn a bit more about the time period and locations that this took place.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 5:19 am
not my real name
(@not-my-real-name)
100+ posts Registered

New England states were not slave states and the amount of indentured servants was minimal.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 8:08 am
Hack
 Hack
(@hack)
100+ posts Registered

Actually it was legal to own slaves in Massachusetts and NH until the1780s.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 8:15 am
Tom Adams
(@tom-adams)
2,500+ posts Registered

I haven't dealt with stone walls a lot on boundaries (so this are just some of my thoughts). But one thing to consider is if the wall is called for then the wall is the original monument. If a wall or pile of rocks exist without being called for it is simply evidence to consider as to where the original boundary was. You need to discover the intent of the wall to best utilize it's location. I know that I am repeating what others have already said, but just throwing in my two cents worth.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 8:34 am
SReeserinPA
(@sreeserinpa)
20+ posts Registered

Walls have been a much misaligned topic in the boundary world. Like another other type of evidence, they must be weighed out for their value in determining the location of a line. Two pet peeves of mine when dealing with stone walls are:

  1. Placing multiple 'kinks' in a line described in record as straight, but the wall is not and;
  2. Calling a stone row a stone wall, in my mind there is a difference which has value in evaluating the evidence. A stone wall is a feature that has been purposely constructed to keep something either out or in. A stone row is a linear pile of stones resulting from clearing agricultural areas. While a stone row may accomplish the function of a wall, its primary intent is different and therefore may play a part in my evaluating its weight in evidence.

My 2 cents for the day... looking forward to other thoughts and opinions to broaden my knowledge base!

Scott R.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 8:53 am
Paul in PA
(@paul-in-pa)
5,000+ posts Registered

Vermont outlawed the buying and selling of slaves first in 1777. But a slave from the South was still a slave when he was in the North, which is why so many runaways were returned over the years.

What I am talking about is Southern slave owners renting their slaves to contractors that took them North during the winter. Slaves did 30% of the work on the US Capitol Building, worked alongside freemen to build the Erie Canal, but most often did mundane and menial jobs such as picking rocks from agricultural fields.

The call from a stone to a stone in 1752 deed, does not guarantee that a stone row was built immediately or ever. After each winter new stones would reach the surface of plowed fields. Typically the stones in rock rows are large enough to be an impediment to plowing and were removed with much labor.

An interesting note on the US Capitol, the figure on the dome was cast as plaster in France by American sculptor, Thomas Crawford, and shipped to the US. The only person available with experience to turn that plaster into a bronze was Philip Reid a South Carolina slave. By the time it was set on the dome in 1863, Philip Reid was a free man. That bronze is called the Statue of Freedom.

Paul in PA

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Posted : September 14, 2017 9:01 am
kjypls
(@kjypls)
100+ posts Registered

Even a simple "stone row" has frequently been supplemented by wood posts and generations of barbed wire, or, used as a "base" for a rail fence to keep the rails from sitting on the ground and rotting away.

In those cases, it doesn't need to be built up any higher than it already is.

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Posted : September 14, 2017 10:04 am
Hack
 Hack
(@hack)
100+ posts Registered

SReeserinPA, post: 446725, member: 6126 wrote: Walls have been a much misaligned topic in the boundary world. Like another other type of evidence, they must be weighed out for their value in determining the location of a line. Two pet peeves of mine when dealing with stone walls are:

  1. Placing multiple 'kinks' in a line described in record as straight, but the wall is not and;

Scott R.

If I read this correctly you suggest holding the ends of a wall and ignoring angle points. How do you account for any unwritten rights along the wall?

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Posted : September 14, 2017 10:37 am
Paul in PA
(@paul-in-pa)
5,000+ posts Registered

I'll tell you how I consider unwritten rights. Assuming you had a kink in a wall that was to your benefit. Simply by rewriting your deed to put in writing such unwritten rights you would put on notice that these rights may need to honored. Having not done so it is easy for others to assume that you have failed to protect those rights and in course may lose them.

Paul in PA

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Posted : September 14, 2017 10:52 am
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