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Which way is North?

There is an old song that goes something like, "How can you keep them down on the farm once they have seen Paris?" The spirit of the song has always hinted that the big city is for people who have experienced life and adventure or had an impact on the world. Charles A. Manners who settled in Christian County, Illinois in the mid-1880s proved that wrong by proving which way is North.


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By the middle of the nineteenth century, Charles Manners had already left his native state of New Jersey and set sail on the sea. He eventually sailed around the world several times. Then, in 1850, when he was only 23 years old, he traveled west to settle in Christian County, Illinois. He stayed five years in this sparsely-populated county before he tried a new venture.

Manners' biography in the local history books states simply that, in 1855, Manners was employed by the United States Survey Department to fix the boundary between the States of Kansas and Nebraska]]. I was curious what it meant to "fix" the state boundaries.

Genealogists use maps all the time and we trust they are accurate. Manners and Joseph Ledlie of nearby Springfield, Illinois received a government contract to literally "fix" part of the Nebraska & Kansas border, the First Guide Meridian East and the 6th Principal Meridian, so maps would be accurate. The borders had already been surveyed. Manners and Ledlie had the task of checking the surveying to see if it was correct - and fixing it, if it wasn't.

The work Manners and Ledlie did was to establish the true north line and the beginning point of all the sections, townships and ranges in all or part of five states, according to Erik J. Hubl. The Kansas Society of Land Surveyors, explain that this point defined the American West as we know it. This survey carved Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and part of South Dakota from the public lands.

Manners and Ledlie discovered the original survey was quite flawed and they literally "fixed" - or corrected - the latitude and longitude we use today, specifically for Nebraska and Kansas.

The contract required Manners to go to a survey point on a Missouri River bluff and replace a wooden post with a permanent cast iron monument, along with verifying and correcting the original survey. This was to be the beginning point of the project.

That marker established the 40th Parallel, the 6th Principal Meridian. It is the longest baseline in the United States and marks boundaries West to the Colorado-Utah border. This was the demarcation line separating slave and free, North and South, during the American Civil War.

Visitors who see this monument, that stands today, typically wonder how Manners moved the marker to its location. On May 8, 1855, he and Capt. Thomas J. Lee of the [[|U. S. Army]] Corps of Engineers set in place an iron marker estimated to be 500-600 pounds, one-inch thick, and having a 16 inch square base. But it remains in place today off Highway 7 - and 150 feet overhead.

So the next time you use a map, think of Charles Manners from a small town in the Midwest. The biography of Manners says he returned to his hometown, in 1860. He remained there the rest of his life, investing in railroads.

Granted, Manners probably never saw Paris. But he saw five of our States before they were states. He was the first white man to see hundreds of miles of wilderness. And then went back home and created railways that made it easier for others to eventually visit the new West he helped establish.


For more information, see the following:

  • [[|Leadership Link]], June 2006, volume 9, issue 14.
  • The [[|Kansas Society of Land Surveyors]]
  • [[|The American Surveyor]]
  • Biography of [[|Charles A. Manners]]
  • [[|Photo]] of the 40th parallel marker

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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