From this report it will be seen that the survey of the boundary-line defined in
the treaty of 1818 has been completed, and connected (on the summit of the Rocky
Mountains) with the eastern terminus of the boundary-line from the Pacific Ocean
defined in the treaty of 1816. The whole boundary-line between the United States
and British Possessions has now been established, with the exception of the
boundary between British Columbia and Alaska.
The United States commission and the British commission are now engaged in
working out the results of their field operations for the purpose of preparing
the final joint maps necessary to a proper representation of the boundary-line
and the territories adjacent thereto.
Hon. Hamilton Fish,
Major Twining to Mr.
States Northern Boundary Commission,
Washington, D. C.
Sir: In answer to your request I respectfully
submit a brief statement of the work performed by the commission during the
During the summer of 1873 the boundary was surveyed and marked from the “Red
River of the North” west to longitude 106° 12ʹ. For a distance of ninety
miles the marks were of a temporary nature, and are to be replaced by
permanent monuments. This arrangement resulted from a difference of opinion
which existed at that time in regard to the true definition of the 49th
parallel of latitude.
During the winter of 1873–’74 the surveys east of the Red River were
completed to the Lake of the Woods, including the shore-line of that lake as
far east as the Rainy River.
During the present season the work has been executed in the same manner as
heretofore, under the agreement made last year between the chief astronomers
of the United States and British commissions. This agreement was to the
effect that the officers of the United States were to determine astronomical
stations at intervals of forty miles, and to survey a belt of territory five
miles wide south of the parallel; the English to determine a similar series
of astronomical stations, and to survey an equal belt of topography north of
The distance remaining to be surveyed during the present year was three
hundred and fifty-eight miles, from longitude 106° 12ʹ to longitude 114°
05ʹ. I organized the parties in St. Paul, Minn., on the 1st of June, and
proceeded, by way of the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Missouri River,
to Fort Buford. Thence, traveling by land, the advanced working-parties
reached the line, at the initial point of this year’s operations, on the 1st
The shortness of the season, and the immense distance to be traveled after
the work should be completed, required that it should be finished early in
September. With [Page XXVII] this object in
view, the working-parties were pushed to the utmost limit of their
endurance, and, by the 1st of September, the eight astronomical stations
assigned to the United States commission had been determined (by one party)
and the line had been connected with the last station of the northwestern
boundary, at the summit of the Rocky Mountains. Full details of the survey
have been given in the preliminary reports from this office. Without
recapitulation, I will only say that the results have been in every respect
The commission returned to Saint Paul by way of the Missouri River and the
Northern Pacific Railroad, making the distance from Fort Benton to Bismarck,
(1,200 miles,) in open boats, in eighteen days. The men were discharged on
the 5th of October.
Thus in four months this expedition accomplished a journey of thirty-seven
hundred miles, nine hundred of which was by land, and twelve hundred by
water in open boats, besides surveying and marking three hundred and
fifty-eight miles of the boundary-line.
The topographical parties have been continuously in the field, both winter
and summer, from the 1st of June, 1873, until the present time, with the
exception of two months in the spring of 1874. They have demonstrated by
experience that instrumental work can be done in that high latitude, even in
the most rigorous part of the winter, where the country is wooded. On the
open plains such exposure would be, beyond question, exceedingly
The limits of this report will allow only a very brief statement of the
general character of the country passed over.
That portion crossed by the part of the line surveyed during the present year
was found to be an open plain entirely destitute of timber, but easily
practicable for wagon-trains, except in the vicinity of Frenchman’s Creek
and the crossing of Milk River, where wide detours had to be made to avoid
the Bad Lands,
From longitude 106° to the crossing of Milk River the country cannot be
called attractive. The rain-fall is small, and water consequently scarce
during the summer months. The soil is alkaline, and produces mostly
sage-brush and cactus.
From the Sweet Grass Hills to the Rocky Mountains its character is entirely
changed. The rain-fall appears to be ample. The belt along the foot of the
mountains, in addition to scenery of rare beauty, presents to the eye of the
practical man the more solid advantage of an unsurpassed fertility.
Northwestern Montana is still the range of immense herds of buffaloes, whose
numbers, contrary to the commonly received opinion, are constantly
increasing. This region is the country of the Blackfoot and Piegan tribes of
Indians. It is also the debatable ground of the North Assiniboines, the Gros
Ventres of the Prairie, and the River Crows, while an occasional war-party
of Sioux may be found as far northwest as the Sweet Grass Hills. With the
exception of the Sioux, these tribes appear to be peaceably enough
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. J. TWINING,
Capt. Engineers, Chief
Archibald Campbell, Esq.,
Commissioner Northern Boundary.