A Guide to the "Wheeler Survey"
Field Notebooks Of The U.S. Geographical Survey
West Of The 100th Meridian
Collection No. NC319

Scope and Content

The geographical surveys west of the 100th meridian of the United States operated under a general plan issued by the Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and were under the supervision of First Lieutenant (later Captain) George M. Wheeler. The first expedition took place in 1869; the last in 1879. According to the general plan, Wheeler's main objective was to survey the parts of the U.S. territory lying south of the Central Pacific Railroad in order to obtain correct topographical knowledge and prepare maps of the region. In addition he was to ascertain everything related to the physical features of the region; discover the numbers, habits, and disposition of Indians in the section; select sites for future military installations; determine facilities available for making rail or common roads; and note mineral resources, climate, geology, vegetation, water sources, and agricultural potential.

The survey's basic method to accomplish these goals was to establish base camps and then use a transit, theodolite with compass attachment, cistern barometer, and odometer wheel to determine the geographical features and produce a map of each region. The total area covered by all survey expeditions to the area west of the 100th meridian was 1,443,360 square miles in the states of what are now New Mexico, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, and Texas. As a result, 164 topographic maps were produced and 41 publications issued.[i]

Wheeler's survey teams varied from one year to the next, but the expedition of 1871 was probably typical. Included on the team were a topographer, naturalist, geologist, surveyor, meteorologist, zoologist, collector in natural history and mineralogy and their assistants; surgeon and two hospital stewards (who doubled as assistants to the above); photographer (the well known Timothy O'Sullivan); cook; and 30 guides, packers, and laborers. Transportation was accomplished with two mule teams of forty and fifty pack mules, an instrument wagon, two instrument carts, two odometer vehicles, and riding animals for the entire party. Troop I, 3rd U.S. Cavalry provided the escort service for all the expeditions. The cost for the 1871 expedition was $50,000; Wheeler asked for an additional $25,000 for the 1872 survey.[ii]

 

The following is a list of the expeditions and the territory surveyed by each, as noted in the report of 1879-1889.

1869. Southeastern Nevada and western Utah. The survey party traveled from Halleck, Nevada on the Central Pacific Railroad to Elko, Ft. Ruby, Hamilton, Pioche, Las Vegas, Indian Springs, Pahranagat District, Railroad Valley, Halleck, and back to San Francisco.
1871. Eastern California, northwestern and central Arizona, southern and southwestern Nevada, and southern Utah. This survey had an unusually long field season because of favorable weather, from early May to late December.
1872. Central Utah, northern Arizona, and eastern Nevada (ending at Palisades, Nev.).
1873. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
1874. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.
1875. California, Colorado, and New Mexico. The California expedition surveyed the Los Angeles basin, the San Fernando Valley, and journeyed north via Tajon Pass to Santa Clara.
1876. California, Colorado, and New Mexico. The route took the party from Ft. Lyon, Colorado to Odgen, Utah; Carson City, Virginia City, Sutro, and Dayton, Nevada; Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains; and from Carson City to Ogden, Utah.
1877. California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The route went from Carson City, Virginia City, Lake Tahoe via Truckee, Tallac Peak, and Carson City, Nevada; Ogden, Bear Lake, and Green River Valley, Utah; Randolph and Evanston, Wyoming; and back to Ogden.
1878. California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas. The survey journeyed from Carson City to Reno, Ft. Bidwell, Ft. Klamath, The Dalles, Des Chutes and Crooked Rivers, Ft. Walla Walla, Ft. Vancouver, Portland, Roseburg, Redding, and Sacramento.
1879. Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and California. This expedition reviewed certain areas surveyed in the previous years, completed the Salt Lake survey, made a special geological examination of the mountain range extending from the Spanish Peaks to Santa Fe Range (Utah to New Mexico), and the peaks surrounding Yosemite Valley. This expedition was forced to leave the field by June 30, 1879 because no further funds were appropriated for field work.

Scope And Content

The forty-two notebooks in this collection date from 1869 to 1878. All but four were produced during the "Wheeler Survey" in Nevada from 1871 to 1878. The following list records information from the labels affixed to the notebook covers. Titles actually printed on the notebooks are underlined, dates in square brackets do not appear on the label but were extracted from the contents. Measurements for each notebook are provided. Only pages containing written information are numbered.

Information regarding the Wheeler Survey can be found in the following publications in the Special Collections Department:

United States. Army. Corps of Engineers.
Preliminary Report Concerning Explorations and Surveys Principally in Nevada and Arizona... Conducted under the Immediate Direction of 1st Lieut. George M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers. 1871. F 841 .A33.

United States. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.
Annual Report upon Geographical and Geological Explorations and Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana by George M. Wheeler. 1874. 917.8 Un581a.

United States. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.
Progress Report upon Geographical and Geological Explorations and Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, in 1872, and under the Direction of Brig. General A.A. Humphreys, Chief of Engineers, United States Army by First Lieut. George M. Wheeler. 1874. QE 74 .W5.

United States. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.
Report Upon United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, in Charge of First Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler... Under the Direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army. 1875-1889. 7 vols. QE 74 W6

United States. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.
Topographical Atlas Projected to Illustrate U.S. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian of Longitude under the Authority of the Honorable the Secretary of War... 1st Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler. 1874. Oversize shelf 21.

"The Wheeler Survey in Nevada," Harper's New Monthly Magazine. June, 1877, pp. 65-76. 979.3g .H23 1877.

Box 1

Book 1.  Sextant Observations.
Book No. 1. 1869
From Camp Halleck, Nev., June 19 to Monte Christo Mill, Nov. 18.
Observer: Wheeler, Lockwood
6 5/8: x 7 15/16. Cover + 150 pp.

Book 2.  Fieldbook
Book No. 2. 1869. [ODOMETER]
Party No. 1, Main Section
Camp at Hamilton, Nev. Lt. Wheeler in charge of party.
5" x 7 5/16". Cover + 82 pp.

Book 3.  Reconnaissance
Sheep Ranch _______ pass to Vegas via St. _______
River, Colorado ___________ “Surveys for Military Defenses, Military Dept. of California. George M. Wheeler, U.S. Engineers, 1869. Book No. 6. "Hamel No.6"
5 1/16" x 7 5/8". Cover + 99 pp.

Book 4. Reconnaissance Quartz
Potosi to Halleck V. Vegas, Indian Springs, Quartz Canon, Logan Springs, Hamel No. 7.
"Surveys for Military Defenses, Military Dept. of California. Geo. M. Wheeler, U.S. Engineers, 1869 Book No. 10"
5 1/16" x 7 9/16". Cover + 88 pp.

Book 5. Comparison of Chronometers 1871
Book No. ___ 1871 & 1872. May 8th to Nov. 5, 1872.
Astronomical Records. “Chron Comparisons.”
Miscellaneous
7 9/16" x 9 9/16". Cover + 34 pp.

Book 6. Observations for Time
"Copy of Observations at Carlin, Battle Mountain and Austin."
"Austin" 6. [May 11, 1871 - June 10, 1871]
5 1/8" x 7 5/8". Cover + 68 pp.

Book 7. Observations for Latitude
"Carlin, Nev., Austin, Nev., Battle Mountain, Nev., Camp Independence, Cal. 1871"
"48". [May 17, 1871 - June 26, 1871] 5 1/16" x 7 5/8". Cover + 58 pp.

Book 8. Book No. 16 [?], 1871 [Odometer]
Camp at Carlin Nev., May 21, 1871, to camp at Bullion City, May 23, 1871.
4 3/4" x 7 3/16". Cover + 43 pp.

Book 9. Book No. 5, 187 [Odometer]
Camp at Carlin, Nev., June 6, 1871, to Camp Mohave, Sept. 13, 1871
4 3/4" x 7 3/8". Cover + 54 pp.

Book 10. And Data Explorations Engineers' Department, 1871"Computation Book from Carlin to Camp Mojave P.W. Hamel."
5" x 7 11/16". Cover + 112 pp.

Book 11. Book No. 21, 1872. Meteorological Records.
Party No. Reconnaisance [sic] Nevada and Arizona.
Camp at San Francisco, April 22, 1871, to Camp at Silver Canon, Nev. July 11, 1872.
Lt. Wheeler & Lockwood in charge of party.
7 5/8" x 9". Cover + 64 pp.

Book 12. Book No. 22, 187_
Meteorological Records "Reconnaisance [sic] through Nevada + Arizona 7, Commenced, April 27, 1872" Lt. Wheeler, in charge of party.
7 5/8" x 9 1/16". Cover + 39 pp.

Book 13. Observations for Time
"Marryatt" "Pioche" "21" "1872" No. 21, [Sept. 21, 1872 - Oct. 2, 1872]
5 1/16" x 7 5/8". Cover + 64 pp.

Book 14. Observations for Latitude (9)
No. 7 "Pioche" "Marryatt" "Pioche 1872" [Oct. 4, 1872 - Oct. 11, 1872]
5 1/16" x 7 5/8". Cover + 60 pp.

Book 15. Latitude by Polaris
No. 8 Aug. 5 to Nov. 26 '72. 1872
6 3/8" x 7 3/4". Cover + 95 pp.

Book 16. Meteorological
Book No. 35, 1873 "Comparisons of Instruments at Washington D.C. May 1873"
6 7/16" x 9 5/8". Cover + 36 pp.

Book 17. Observations for Time
"39" No. 39 "Winnemucca, Nevada 1873. W.W. Marryatt"
5 1/16" x 7 5/8". Cover + 66 pp.

Book 18. Observations for Time
"40" No. 40 "Virginia City, Nevada 1873 W.W. Marryatt"
5" x 7 5/8". Cover + 79 pp.

Box 2

Book 19. Computations of Latitudes and Departures of Topographical Meanders
"Thompson J. Carpenter No. 151 Oct. 7,-13 Santa Fe Base Las Vegas" "1874"
5 1/16" x 7 3/4". 2 covers + 110 pp.

Book 20. Triangulation
"Thompson. No. 16, July 26 to Oct. 29, 1874" 5 1/2" x 7 3/4". Cover + 117 pp.

Book 21. Computations Topographical Meanders and Data "Sowrney (?) & Maxson. Topographers
Lieut. S.E. Blunt. Ex Off. No. 142
Party No. 2, Cal. Section from Camp No. 2 St. Charles Ck., Cal. to Camp 44 at Fort Union, July 28 to Oct. 16, 1874. 1874"
5 1/16" x 7 11/16". Cover + 121 pp.

Book 22. Observations for Latitudes "72" (1874)
5 7/16" x 7 11/16". Cover + 89 pp.

Book 23. Field Journal
Book No. 177, 1875. "Lt. W.L. Marshall
5 5/16" x 7 7/8". 58 pp.

Book 24. Field Journal
Book No. 203, 1875 TOPOGRAPHICAL RECORDS "Aqua Fria,
Hill Canon. Anton Karl, Topogr"
5 5/16" x 7 13/16". Cover + 125 pp.

Book 25. Book No. 225, 1875 TOPOGRAPHICAL RECORDS, Party "3.
Cal. Stone's Ferry, Camp Mohave. 66a Time Record
Ori[ginal] current Obs'n book Lt. Bergland" _________ in charge of party.
4 1/2" x 7 3/8". Cover + 61 pp.

Book 26. Triangulation
TOPOGRAPHICAL RECORDS. "34" July 19, 1875 at Niblack's Peak, Oct. 20, 1875 at Sandia. F.A. Clark, observer.
4 7/8" x 7 11/16". Cover + 73 pp.

Book 27. Meteorological
Book 84, 1876. METEOROLOGICAL RECORDS
Party No. 3. California section from camp at Sutro, Nev. Sept. 3, 1876 to camp at Carson City, Nev. Nov. 23, 1876. Lieut. T.W. Symons in charge of party.
4 1/16" x 6 3/16". Cover and back + 91 pp.

Book 28. Meteorological
Book No. 86, 1876 METEOROLOGICAL RECORDS.
Party No. 4, California Section from Topog. Sta. 15, Nov. 18, 1876 to camp at Carson City, Nev. Nov. 27, 1876. Lieut. R. Birnie in charge of party.
4 1/16" x 6 3/16". Cover and back + 13 pp.

Book 29. Astronomical Department Sextant
Astronomical Observations Book No. 29, 1876
Astronomical Records Stations: "Party no. 2 - Cal: Carson City Aug. 25th to Oct. 9th Lt: Macomb - "
6 3/8" x 7 11/16". Cover + 33 pp.

Book 30. Astronomical Department Sextant Astronomical Observations
Book No. 30, 1876. Astronomical Records Stations: "Party No. 5 - Cala: Carson City to Clerer's Ranch. Aug. 25 to Nov. 22nd Lt. Birnie.
6 3/8" x 7 11/16". Cover + 52 pp.

Book 31 Triangulation
(label torn) 1876 1 Cal Records Dr. Kampf.
4 13/16" x 7 11/16". Cover + 86 pp.

Book 32. Computations of Latitudes & Departures of Topographical Meanders.
(inside page) Party No. 4 California Section from Carson City to Leis Mill. Date: Nov. 26th 1876 William A. Cowles. J. Calvert - Spiller- Topographical Assistants.
5 1/8" x 7 5/8". Cover + 152 pp.

Box 3

Book 33. "22.5 Adjustments Sutro Base Triangn. 1876.
7 11/16" x 9 15/16". Cover + 64 pp

Book 34. Geodetic Co-Ordinates "14 Sutro Base 1876"
7 15/16" x 10 1/2". Cover + 52 pp.

Book 35. Transcripts from Field Meteorological Record
Book No. 45, 1877 METEOROLOGICAL RECORDS Party No. 2 California Section from camp at Carson, Nev., May 29, 1877 to camp at Carson, Nev. Nov. 28th, 1877 "Comparison of Barometers at Carson from May 29 to June 7." Lieut. M.M. Macomb in charge of party.
10 1/4" x 11 1/16". Cover + 93 pp.

Book 36. Transcripts from Field Meteorological Record
Book No. 46. 1877. METEROLOGICAL RECORDS. Party No. Virginia Special Section from camp at American Flat. June 18, 1877 to camp at American Flat, Nev. Oct. 3, 1877. Anton Karl in charge of party.
10 1/4" x 11 1/16". Cover + 32 pp.

Book 37. Transcripts from Field Meteorological Record
Book No. 47, 1877 METEOROLOGICAL RECORDS party no. Virginia Special section. American June 8th, 1877
Flat. Nev. Sept. 28th 1877. "Comparison of Bars. (barometers) in Carson, Nov. 30th 1877" Anton Karl in charge of party
10 1/4" x 11 1/16". Cover + 72 pp.

Book 38. Book no. 318, 1877
TOPOGRAPHICAL RECORDS From camp no. 35, at Uncompahgre Nev. to camp no. 39, at north Winemucca [sic] Cr. Lt. E. Bergland in charge of party.
5 5/16" x 8 1/15". cover + 70 pp.

Book 39. Triangulation
TOPOGRAPHICAL RECORDS Party no. 1 Utah section from camp no. Soda Springs to camp no. End of season.
Gilbert Thompson Topogr.
4 3/4" x 7 11/16". Cover + 129 pp.

Book 40. U.S. Geographical Surveys. West of 100th Meridian. Triangulation Observations, Wheeler
11485" - [1878]
4 3/16" x 7 11/16". Cover + 83 pp.

Book 41. Astronomical Department Sextant Astronomical Observations
187 - [1878]
6 3/8" x 7 11/16". Cover + 28 pp.

Book 42. Computations of Distances
"1878" Three-Point Stations. Lt. Tillman - G. Thompson, Cola. [Colorado]. Lt. Symons - Kahler, Nev. and Oregon
7 15/16" x 10 1/2". Cover + 31 pp.

Book 43. Catalog of the Mean Declinations of 981 Stars.... For January 1, 1875.
Washington: Gov't Printing Office. 1873.
9 1/16" x 11 1/2". 52 pp.

[i] United States. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian. Report upon United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, in charge of First Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler ... Under the Direction of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army. 1875-1889. Vol. 1, pg. 137.

[ii] United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Preliminary Report Concerning Explorations and Surveys Principally in Nevada and Arizona ... Conducted under the Immediate Direction of 1st Lieut. George M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers. 1871. pp. 12-14; and "The Wheeler Survey in Nevada," Harper's New Monthly Magazine. June, 1877, p. 67.