Archive for October, 2010

F. W. Beers’ map of 1875 Concord continued the erroneous placement of the Hawthorne Lane Bridge as shown on Gleason’s 1906, Walling’s 1854 and USGS’s  1894 maps.

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On August 11, 1852, Thoreau records in his Journal:

“Alcott says I should survey Concord and put down every house exactly as it stands with the name.”

In fact, Alcott kept talking about the proposed atlas and went so far as to suggest in his now famous Superintendent of Schools Report of 1860 and 1861, that Thoreau should make an illustrated Atlas for use in the community and the schools.

Unfortunately, Thoreau died before he could accomplish this, but his surveys and “Field Notes” book have been kept together in the Library and have often been used by people to identify ownership of Concord land.

Thoreau had various jobs as a surveyor such as the subdividing of woodlots and the  Ministerial lots for the sale of the wood and the privately owned lots into smaller ones for housing. Many times it was necessary for him to retrace boundaries as ancient as two hundred years old.

The earliest mention which we have of his woodlot surveying is a signed receipt from the Misses Hosmer for surveying of their woodlot and making a plan of the same dated Dec. 18, 1845. However, we do not have the survey itself. This plan was made before he started keeping his Field Notes in 1849 with the brief notes on the survey for Isaac Watt’s. They continue on up to December 1860. “

A CATALOG OF THOREAU’S SURVEYS IN THE Concord Free Public Library (CFPL) Edited by Marcia Moss


I have added each survey’s estimated geographic location which is  sketched and and labeled with it’s CFPL index # or Concord Museum map  # on Gleason’s 1906 Map of Concord.


All errors are mine.

Please send suggested corrections to:


The earliest map in the CFPL,  Concord Museum online collections or the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass is a Plan of the Town of Lincoln in the County of Middlesex from Survey Made in 1830 by John G. Hale Fayette Street Boston [copy; n.d.]


Next is A Plan of the Public Lands in the State of Maine Surveyed under Instructions from the Commissioners & Agents of the State of Massachusetts and Maine…, Boston, 1835 [one section (that including Mount Katahdin) of a multi-sectional map]

This map could have been used by Thoreau to plan his three trips to the backwoods of Maine in 1846, 1853 and 1857.


Thoreau’s surveys include farms with buildings, house lots, woodlots, roads, streams, ponds, machinery, etc.

The following maps illustrate the chronological order of creation and the estimated geographic location of many of Thoreau’s surveys from 1846 to 1860 available online in the Concord Free Public Library (CFPL), The Concord Museum,  the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA.  or The  Pierpont Morgan Library & Museum  at the NYPL and used with their permission.

Thoreau mentions in his journal how in early 1846 while living at Walden Pond he surveyed the Pond through the ice to map its subsurface topography.



http://www.concordlibrary.org/scollect/Thoreau_surveys/133c.htmNote: North is down on Thoreau’s map sketch of Walden as it is on many of his surveys.

This survey can be seen as Thoreau’s view drawn from  his Hut in the cove looking toward Walden Pond.

From this point forward all maps are shown in the order they were created by Thoreau as listed in his “Field Notes of Surveys Recorded by Henry D. Thoreau (November 1849 – December 1860”

.A bold numeral preceding a comment indicates its source as a page number in Thoreau’s “Field Notes of Surveys”.

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