Ohio History Journal

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Jared Mansfield: United

States Surveyor General


Jared Mansfield (1759-1830), one of the first men of science in the

republic's formative years, made a significant contribution to post-

Revolutionary Ohio. Appointed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803

to replace General Rufus Putnam as Surveyor General, Mansfield re-

mained in the post for nine years, resigning in 1812 when fresh Indian

uprisings made further surveys impractical and dangerous. During his

term of office Mansfield with his wife and family lived successively at

Marietta (1803-1805), at Ludlow Station east of Cincinnati (1805-1809),

and at Bates' Place, also near Cincinnati (1809-1812). From these loca-

tions as headquarters, he ran several of the meridian and base lines on

which surveys of the public lands throughout the Northwest Territory

were based. His unique contribution to the surveys in this early period

was his ability to determine meridian and base lines accurately by

astronomical observations: in effect, he adapted principles of celestial

navigation to the determination of longitude and latitude on land. His

familiarity with navigation was due to his being the son of a sea captain,

Stephen Mansfield, and to his mathematical and scientific studies at

Yale College.l

The essential links between the American Revolution and Mansfield's

work in Ohio were both ideological and practical. He shared Jefferson's

political philosophy and undoubtedly believed in the President's vision

of a democratic society.2 If it may be said that Jefferson was one of the

chief "architects" of a new nation based in part upon freedom for

ordinary men to own and improve land, then Jared Mansfield may be





1. Biographical details on Jared Mansfield may be found in the following sources:

George Cullum, "Jared Mansfield," Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates

of the United States Military Academy (New York, 1868), I, 77; Alois F. Kovarik, "Jared

Mansfield," Dictionary of American Biography (New York, 1928-1937), XII, 256-57;

Edward D. Mansfield, Personal Memories, Social, Political and Literary, with Sketches

of Many Noted People, 1803-1843 (Cincinnati, 1879), 1-47 (hereafter cited as E. Mansfield,

Personal Memories); Horace Mansfield, Descendants of Richard and Gillian Mansfield

Who Settled in New Haven, 1639 (New Haven, 1885), 43-45 (hereafter cited as H.

Mansfield, Mansfield Genealogy); and Roswell Park, History of West Point (Philadelphia,

1840), 54-55, 59, 68.

2. E. Mansfield, Personal Memories, 5-6.