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The World’s Oldest Profession: Then And Now

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
Job 38:4-5 (NIV)

So you see that the world’s creator was the original surveyor, the world’s oldest profession.

When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
28 When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
29 When He set for the sea its boundary,
So that the water should not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
Proverbs 8:27-30 (NASB)

Here He seems to have a helper.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 (NASB)

The garden of Eden had its boundaries.

The following is a brief speech given to a Rotary group by my boss L.G. Woods.

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am a Land Surveyor.

Some of you undoubtedly think of Surveyors and Surveying as a relatively modern creation but in fact surveying can be traced back almost to the beginning of man.

There are certainly a number of Biblical quotations referring to us and our work. For example - Cursed is he who moves his neighbours boundary mark - Deuteronomy 27:17. There are others in that book and in Proverbs and this one which I think is the ultimate insult. "The princes of Judah have become like those who would move a boundary. On them I will pour out My Wrath. - Hosea 5:10.

Surveyors were around when Cleopatra floated down the Nile. When the spring floods of this river took place, boundary markers would be buried in the silt or washed away and the Royal Surveyors would be called in to re-establish the property limits.

In those days the "surveyors" or "dividers" were the wisest of the wise. Surveyors were looked at with awe and reverence. The ability to re-establish lost boundaries and be comfortable with astronomy and other calculations gave the surveyor a mystical, semi-religious quality, he occupied a high position in the kingdom and people bowed down to him.

Surveyors through the ages have been a combination of scientist, astronomer, mathematician, cartographer, and engineer. This person designed dams and aqueducts, created land holdings, made maps, determined areas, explored uncharted lands and recorded his findings and prayed for peace between neighbours.

We still hope for peace between neighbours but nobody bows down to us as we pass by.

Surveyors Mark Boundaries - You all know what a boundary is. Simply stated, a boundary is an imaginary line between two properties.

Back in the 50's there was a short film entitled "Neighbours". It was a tale of two city neighbours who came to blows about the possession of a flower that blossomed exactly on the property line. It was a saga about co-operation but also about ownership and legalities.

I don't have time to give you more than a very broad brush look at my profession but quite often our clients are purchasers who want to know what they are getting, as opposed to hoping that what they see is what they get.

Sometimes our clients are sellers who realize a current survey will help sell their property, or the survey was a condition of sale.

Sometimes our client is a solicitor with flawed paper title and there are lots of these.

Sometimes the client is a developer and you design and layout streets and lots etc.

Sometimes the survey is for a severance, almost always a condition of Land Division approval.

Sometimes the client is a utility who wants to know the limit of their easement.

Sometimes it's a rural client who is buying or selling property and an exact acreage is needed.

Sometimes it's because of an obnoxious neighbour and our client wants to build a board fence or plant a hedge and isn't sure where the limit is.

Sometimes the survey is for an addition or accessory garage and a survey is usually a prerequisite for a building permit.

Sometimes it's a boundary dispute that escalated from a minor difference to a situation where the police were called. Sometimes I’m in court as an expert witness.

Sometimes it's just stupidity, a neighbour cutting down your tree or ripping out your hedge, or building a shed on your property and it happens more often that you might suppose. If you're not involved perhaps it's even funny.

A survey often resolves most of the above examples.

A surveyor is an arbiter in society and only a licensed surveyor can establish a boundary.

The first surveys in the Hamilton Area were made about 1790. In 1792 Augustes Jones PLS, was instructed to proceed to the head of bateau navigation and lay out a road on a bearing of N 77 E to intersect the military road between York and Michilamacenic. He started near the Canadian Tire Store in Dundas and laid out Highway No. 99 and the Townships of Ancaster, Beverly and West Flamborough.

The previous year Barton Township was defined.

Everything we do today is based on lines defined by previous surveyors and the difficulty is to re-establish the fabric of yesteryear where it was, not where it should have been. An axle planted 100 years ago, wire on a tree stump, the base of a rotted post, an old iron pipe, a mark made on a brick wall, a blaze on a tree, a reference to a concrete foundation noted in 1910 are all important bits of information which tell us where lines were established.

It is a requirement to obtain survey records from other survey offices since a survey might have been made of our property in 1910 or 1950. Much of the evidence is lost by construction of streets, sidewalks, careless fencing, and the ravages of time.

It's also a requirement to obtain registry office records and sometimes to determine priority of title before we can define an old limit, particularly when there is controversy.

I suspect you know I could talk about my profession all day. It is intriguing, exciting, often controversial, seldom dull.

I know of nothing else I would prefer to do with my time.

I thank you for your attention to my remarks and I hope you found this interesting.

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