These guys were perfect
Perhaps this should be under humor.
1859---Government contractor lays out section. East, west and north lines are precisely 80.00 chains and south line is 80.08 chains.
1875--- County surveyor wishes to set the center corner. East and north quarter corners must be lost. He starts at northeast corner, crosses significant river, finds that his line hits the southeast corner dead on and at exactly 80.00 chains. Returns back to the 40.00 position and sets new stone to mark east quarter corner. Then heads west from the southeast corner and finds the south quarter corner at exactly 40.04 chains. Heads north, parallel to east section line and sets center corner at 40.00. Continues north, crosses river again and finds north line at exactly 80.00 chains. Measures east to northeast corner and finds it at exactly 40.00. Returns the 40.00 west and sets stone for north quarter corner.
Call me overly skeptical if you like, but, I don't believe any of it.
Of course, nothing agrees with any of that today. Proration or no proration.
A BIG part of [Professional] Retracement, is understanding the nature of "Field Notes" within the context of how, why, and when these NARRATIVES were created. While many of the "courses" where actually run as described, many were not (run, or run in the direction, or by the methodology described).
The FORMAT of these narratives were strictly defined in the various "manuals," and IF the contractor (or GLO surveyor) wanted to get his survey APPROVED (and therefore get paid), then the NARRATIVE had to follow the format and structure required by the "manual." A few links (or even ½ a chain per mile at times) was not as big a deal then, as it is (or might be) TODAY.
Some Deputies (and early GLO Surveyors), were much better than others, some were much WORSE, but MOST did a reasonable (if not admirable) job, considering the conditions and technology of their time.
There were all sorts of short-cuts, non-standard methods, and less than ideal decisions that factor into RETRACING historic Boundaries (PLSS Rectangular, Mineral Surveys, Homestead Entry Surveys, etc.), but that is what often makes this job so satisfying (and sometimes frustrating).
"Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves."
Gandalf, The Two Towers