Beginning in 1851, the federal government began the survey of what is now Oregon and Washington in order to facilitate the settlement of the Oregon Territory. The survey began at the Willamette Stone, located on what is now the border of Multnomah and Washington Counties between W Burnside St. and NW Skyline Blvd. Land was divided into six mile by six mile townships, each of which contain 36 one square mile sections. Many sections were further divided into one-quarter sections. The corners of these units of land were marked by monuments, most of which consisted of wooden posts driven into the ground, which were referenced by bearing trees in order to perpetuate their positions.
After statehood, the responsibility for maintaining these monuments was passed to the County Surveyor of each county. The boundaries of all properties within the state are directly or indirectly tied to these corners, making it imperative that these monuments be maintained into perpetuity. In Multnomah County, we are fortunate that the County Surveyor’s Office has done extensive work over the years to restore and maintain these corners, beginning in earnest in the 1880s and continuing to this day. Many of the public land corner monuments that exist today are direct perpetuations of the original locations set by the federal government.
County Surveyors have perpetuated the location of these corners with durable monumentation, beginning with stones, iron pipes and other items. Today, the large majority of our public land corners are marked with brass disks imbedded in the tops of concrete posts which are set in the ground and referenced with small copper disks, iron pipes, bearing trees, and other durable references. There are over 2,000 public land corners in Multnomah County, and the County Surveyor’s Office actively maintains over 1,000 of them on a recurring basis.