March 23, 1852

SurvChain

 Gunter’s Chain**

March 23

1852 Tuesday. Alson and wife dined here and spent

the afternoon at Edwins  He has been running

out lines for Edwin & Melvin Randall  Orinthia

went home with them.  Was at tea in Edwins

& this evening with Augusta at Augustus’

Augustus has gone to New York.  Susan is staying

there to night went just after dinner.  Oliver & wife

went to Boston this morning   Rained untill early night.

The Gilmore clan was moving around today. Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore, was headed for New York City on business for his boot company or the Ames shovels, or both. Evelina’s brother (and Augustus’s father), Alson Gilmore, and his wife, Henrietta Williams Gilmore, had midday dinner at the Ames house. Alson was in the village helping another son, Edwin Williams Gilmore, and an Easton man, Melvin Randall, run out lines.

The phrase “running out lines” is open to interpretation (ice fishing is a possibility!), but the most likely meaning is that ground was being measured, perhaps for the new factory buildings soon to be built. A running measure is the cumulative distance in a straight line from a fixed point. The standard instrument used to get a running measure, at least in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a Gunter’s chain. It was used in conjunction with a compass and a transit (for establishing straight lines) to measure ground.

Invented by an English clergyman and mathematician, Edmund Gunter, around 1620, the Gunter’s chain “played a primary role in mapping out America.”** The Army Corps of Engineers would have owned such chains in bulk. The chain’s 100 lines measure 4 poles, or 66 feet, or 22 yards, depending on how you care to count it. Eighty chains equal one mile.

The Gunter’s chain, however, helpful as it was, was apt to be hand-made and thus subject to variation. It was eventually replaced by the more accurate surveyor’s tape.

By the way, for those readers who follow the game (or watch Downton Abbey), the length of a cricket pitch is exactly one chain.

*Thank you, Frank Mennino, for your assistance on today’s blog.

**Image from Colonial Williamsburg, courtesy of http://www.history.org