Historical Details

Tri-State Boundary Marker

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 09/13/1989

To dedicate a plaque in honor of early surveyors, who established the common corner of Nebraska and South Dakota on the Wyoming eastern boundary, some 250 people traveled the dusty, dirt roads and trails from south, north and west Wednesday, September 6, , for ceremonies starting at 10:30 in the morning.

At the location were the small limestone marker carrying the day of Sept. 6, 1869, and a larger quartzite terminal marker, which had been set in 1893. The first had been located and set by Oliver N. Chaffee, astronomer and surveyor, and his crew; the second had been located by Joseph Jenkins retracing earlier surveys. The bank on which the monuments had been set precariously had been filled in and a concrete reinforcement slab poured and covered with dirt to restore the original appearance. Around the area a chain-link fence had been erected to protect the monuments from livestock. Last October, the Gillette office of the Bureau of Land Management had used the Geographic Positioning System to confirm the Chaffee monument position and found the corrected site to be only 230 feet south, revealing the amazing accuracy of the pioneer surveyor. The GPA utilizes computers at three positions taking readings from passing satellites.

Driving toward the area Wednesday morning one could see dust arising from convoys approaching from the other directions. Within a half-hour, the cactus-floored arena of the barren, drought-dried prairie was filled with people, many carrying lawn chairs for themselves and visitors. A flat-bed trailer was moved in for the stage facing east toward the monuments, and the sound system was tested.

As the ceremonies started, a color guard presented the American flag flanked by flags of Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. These banners were posted beautifully at the four corners of the fence about the monuments.

The flat arena area was on the Wyoming side of the ranch of Bob and Velma Jordan. He had worked with a crew of young people from the Pine Ridge Job Corps in erecting the fence and preparing the site, and encouraged the project from the beginning.

Master of ceremonies, appropriately, was Chadron surveyor Rollin Curd, who as early as 1984, started research and then enlisted the assistance of the very active Sioux County Historical Society inn planning the dedication event.

Curd was the first president of the Nebraska Surveyors Society when it was organized in 1964.

President of four state surveyor societies spoke briefly: Arthur Hipp, Denver, represented the president of Colorado; Scott Pearson, Jackson, Wy.; Warren Fisk, Rapid City. S.D.; Robert Pruitt, Lincoln, Neb.; Charles Tatley, Storm Lake, Iowa, and the president-elect of the National Society of Professional Surveyors, gave the keynote address. Herb Stoughton, Cheyenne, Surveyor of the 6th PM, was introduced.

Through all the talks, there was emphasis on the importance of past surveys and public attention to the markers that dot the land. Fisk pointed out that the discovery of gold in the Black Hills demanded the survey of that area, a survey that started from the Chaffee monument. Hipp paraphrased from a Robert Frost poem that "surveys (fences) make good neighbors." Pruitt joked that Mt. Rushmore featured three surveyors and another guy.

Special recognition was given to Jordan, who with his wife, Velma, have given physical and moral report to the project. David Kennedy, supervisor of the Pine Ridge Job Corps, presented Jordan with a plaque for volunteer service. As a gift from the surveyors, Curd presented a print of a painting, "Surveying the Sandhills in 1904," by Mel Gerhold. Virginia Coffee, president of the Sioux County Society, presented life memberships to Mr. and Mrs. Jordan.

Signing the official field notes regarding the occasion were Dennis Bland with the Bureau of Land Management, Cheyenne; Gene Thompson, Nebraska State Deputy Surveyor, Lincoln; and Rollin Curd.

Robert Wickersham, board member of the Sioux Society, was chairman of the program and stressed the importance of the occasion. Representatives of the three historical societies who spoke briefly were: Mabel Gillis, Fall River County, S.D.; Gerald Bardo, Niobrara County; Mrs. Coffee, Sioux County, Nebraska, who expressed appreciation to those who had helped make the ceremonies possible.

During the proceedings, the students of the Job Corps who had worked at the site were introduced. Harrison Grade School arranged for a number of pupils to attend.

Following the program, many of those attending drove back south to the beautifully green Bill Coffee Warbonnet Ranch, where the Harrison Community Club served lunch.

Attending from Niobrara County were: Ray Taylor, state commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Robert Miller, VFW member, who performed as colorguard members; Annabelle Hoblit, director of the Stagecoach Museum, and other society members including Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Hansen, Darryl Manring, Joe Klemke, Burr Bryant, Edmond Cook, Mr. and Mrs. Bardo. Noal Larson who had represented the Niobrara Society in early planning of the monument dedication, provided the two rest stations, equipment used on the Whale Ranch Prairie Coach operation. 

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Related/Linked Records

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Historical Three Corners: Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska View Record