History of the Iron Monument

By Bill Schock
    The history and importance of the Iron Monument, located high on a bluff on the Nebraska-Kansas state line southeast of Rulo, was brought into sharp focus by Gene Thomsen, deputy state surveyor, Saturday afternoon, Aug. 22, at the annual meeting of the Richardson County Historical Society at the Historical Museum.
    Thomsen has been a deputy state surveyor since l987 and has written articles for the Professional Surveyor Association of Nebraska. He worked with the three Boy Scouts who did an excellent job the past three years of restoring the Monument area in earning their Eagle Badges. See adjoining article for their accomplishments.
    (The youths include Austin Schaible, Tapsee Ogden and Isaac Berry, all members of Troop 396, sponsored by the Lions Club.)      
    Thomsen told his audience the Iron Monument dated back to the futuristic thinking of President Thomas Jefferson who, in the development of the West,  wanted a way for citizens to be able to own land. Thus, the Monument was the point of beginning of the public land surveys of sections, townships and ranges of public land in Nebraska, Kansas and parts of Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. Its location was determined by extensive surveying. Thomsen said the first land in Nebraska made available to the public sold for $l.25 per acre.     
    The speaker related the difficulty of moving the seven-foot, 800-pound cast  iron monument from St. Joseph to its location southeast of Rulo in l854. Accompanied by 24 workers, it was transported by wagon to the eastern bank of the Missouri River. There an Indian was talked into taking the 800-pound load across the river in his canoe. Those aboard the canoe said it came within inches of being swamped during the river crossing.
    Then came the equally difficult task of moving the heavy monument to its location and getting it set.
    Thomsen concluded his presentation by answering questions from the audience.     

Aug. 23, 2014 Annual Meeting
    The annual membership meeting of the Richardson County Historical Society was held Saturday, Aug. 23, at the museum. Richard Meinzer opened the meeting and thanked all who had volunteered at the museum during the past year, mentioning John Seeba’s mowing, Ramona Godemann’s recruitment and scheduling of docents, and Ann Meinzer and her helpers’ catering of meetings and events at the museum. Outside maintenance included caulking and painting basement windows and the installation of a new floor in the upstairs kitchen donated by Jo Ann Auxier in memory of her sister. Society activities during the year included the Waffle Man event in September, the Festival of Trees in December, the grand reopening in March, the Spring Tea, and a quilt show in July. The Society entered a float featuring a full-size replica of the Iron Monument in the Cobblestone Parade. The float was awarded third place in its category, and a member suggested its participation in the Humboldt Fair parade.                        
    Secretary Gary Nelson read the minutes of the Aug. 24, 2013 meeting. Bill Schock moved and Bob Ferguson seconded that the minutes be approved as read. The motion carried. Jo Ann Auxier presented the treasurer’s report and reported that the Society currently has 134 life members and 190 annual members. Bob Ferguson moved and Bill Schock seconded that the treasurer’s report be accepted. The motion carried. Ramona Godemann reported that Jan Deckinger and Leon Wilhelm had agreed to serve on the Society’s Board of Directors, replacing JoAnn Koso and Richard Zentner, whose terms had ended. Bill Schock moved and Bob Ferguson seconded that the two be elected unanimously. The motion carried.
    Jo Ann Auxier reported that the Iron Monument renovation had been completed by Austin Schaible, Tapsee Ogden, and Isaac Berry as Eagle Scout projects and that Richard Meinzer had restored benches from the site that are now on the museum’s front porch. She reported that donated artifacts included two Victrolas and other items from the Swisegood-Friedley family, a shawl with gold trim worn by Nina Sefried at a ball for President Harding and a Brunswick Victrola from the Sefried family, a desk more than 100 years old owned by George Fischer from the Leininger family, the wedding furniture of Henry and Martha Zoeller from Melody and Bob Scott, a printing press from Mary Whitehouse, and a braided rug from the Sperry family.
    The business meeting adjourned and Deputy State Surveyor Gene Thomsen presented an interesting presentation on the Cast Iron Monument and its relationship to every piece of property in all or parts of five states. Thomas Jefferson transacted the Louisiana Purchase and his inception was that land be surveyed and that “yeoman farmers” own property. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act created the Nebraska Territory, which was then surveyed using the monument site south of Rulo on the Kansas-Nebraska line as the starting point for the subsequent surveying of Kansas, Nebraska, most of Wyoming and Colorado, and a small part of South Dakota. That specific point was determined by topographical engineer Thomas Lee in 1854, and most of the land in Richardson County was surveyed in 1855 and 1856.  Rectangles 48 miles wide and 24 mile high were divided into six mile by six mile townships, which in turn were divided into sections and individual pieces of property with legal descriptions. Refreshments were served by Ann Meinzer after the program.

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