By: Issac Stevens
Date: 1853-54 / 1861 (pub.) Washington D.C.
Dimensions: Each Map 25 x 36 inches (65.5 x 91.5 cm)
A complete set of survey maps produced in an effort to map the most feasible route for a transcontinental railroad along the 47th and 49th parallels from St. Paul, Minnesota to Puget Sound in the Washington Territory. Much of the important route would later become the path of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Events that Led to this Surveying Expedition for a Transcontinental Railroad.
The proposed route along the 47th and 49th parallels was the northern-most route of the four potential paths the Transcontinental Railroad might take in connecting the United States from coast to coast. Much of this route closely approximated that proposed by Asa Whitney, an international business man who first pushed the idea of a transcontinental railroad to congress in 1846, but was voted down in 1849. He desperately wanted an overland route to connect his imports of Chinese tea, spices, and other goods from the harbors San Francisco to New York and everywhere in between.
Soon after congress turned down Whitney, they passed they the provisions of the Army Appropriation Act of 1853 which would fund numerous expeditions into the American West under the direction of Jefferson Davis, who was then Secretary of War. This change in attitude toward a transcontinental railroad was fueled by the addition of 525,000 sq. miles of land in the southwest to the United States with the signing of the Treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo and the discovery of gold in California in 1848 that brought about a massive wave of fortune seekers to the western coast. Additionally, emigrants had been settling in the Oregon Territory for over a decade and the need to link them to the eastern states was only growing with annual the increase of settlers.
Map No.1. St. Paul to Rivere des Lacs
This map presents what is now much of present-day Minnesota and North Dakota, extending from St. Paul to Fort Union, which was built where the Missouri River forks with the Yellowstone River. The western reaches of Lake Superior appear in the right hand portion of the map with three proposed routes stemming of the main route that are described as lines to Lake Superior. Other noteworthy places and annotations within the map include the Plateau of the Bois de Sioux, Rolling prairies with numerous small lakes and ponds, Camp Davis, Fort Clark and Fort Berthold.
Map No.2. Rivere des Lacs to the Rocky Mountains
The second map of this set encompasses the entire width of present-day Montana, with much of the proposed route following the path established by the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-6. Numerous mountain ranges are noted with established names, such as Bear's Paw Mountains, Little Rocky Mountains, Judith Mountains, Snow Mountains, and so on. Routes of prior expeditions and reconnaissance missions are also delineated throughout the map and include those of F.W. Lander, A.W. Tinkhart, J. Dotty, and Lieut. Mullen to name a few. The map also includes Fort Pierre, Fort Union, and Fort Benton which is known as the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Montana.
Map No.3. Rocky Mountains to Puget Sound
The third and final map of this remarkable set is the earliest large format, land survey of the Washington Territory, which was established by congress on March 2, 1853 which this expedition began in St. Paul, MN. It stretches from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island down to the Columbia River and eastward to just beyond the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains and as far south as Fort Hall, which is located just 40 miles south of present-day Idaho Falls. The map is loaded with detail and annotations noting rugged mountains with pine forests, table lands destitute of timber, and valleys with pine forest interspersed with small prairies. In addition, there are numerous regions that are still unexplored and labeled as such.
The map includes many noteworthy forts, early settlements, landmarks, and places of interest, such as Fort Walla Walla, long established trading post in the Rockies, St. Ignatius Mission, Fort Colville, Mounts Baker, Rainier, and Olympus, Seattle, Fort Nisqually, and Fort Vancouver. In the lower left is an inset map a titled "Reconnaissance of the Railroad Route from Walla Walla to Seattle via the Yak-e-mah River and Snoqualmie Pass by A.W. Tinkham, in January 1854." Tinkham's route among others are shown throughout the map.
Issac Stevens (1818 - 1862) was an American Military Commander and first Governor of the Washington Territory. He is known for his gallant bravery during the Mexican–American War, seeing action at the siege of Vera Cruz and at Cerro Gordo, Contreras, and Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and the Battle for Mexico City, where he was severely wounded. Stevens was appointed governor of the Washington Territory by Presidern Pierce in 1853 and as he traveled west to the territory he would govern: he oversaw the surveying expedition that would produce these maps for railroad route across the northern United States.
As governor, he is most remembered for declaring martial law against the Native Americans in 1856, siting that "war shall be prosecuted until the last hostile Indian is exterminated." His governorship would end the following year and Stevens would return east to fight in the Civil War until he was killed at the Battle of Chantilly, while at the head of his men and carrying the fallen colors of one of his regiments against Confederate positions.
A Noteworthy Omission in the Maps
When reflecting geographic locations of these maps and the period in time which they were created, one might notice the omission of the many Native American tribes that not only lived, but thrived throughout the northern United States during the mid-19th century. The Dakota, Sioux, Mandan, Crow, Blackfeet, Arapaho, Flathead, Nez Perce, and Walla Walla are just a handful of the many tribes that could have easily been included within the maps. The southern counterparts of this map all include information pertaining to their approximate whereabouts and range. It is possible that Stevens's actions of 1856 in declaring martial law against indigenous tribes can explain his rationale for not even recognizing their existence in the maps that bear his name.
Condition: These maps are in B+ to A condition, professionally linen backed for preservation and presentation purposes. Fold separations have thus been mended and paper toning along fold lines which is common among these maps are light and do not distract for the overall image.
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