Mr. Campbell to Mr. Fish.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for the information of the Department, a preliminary report and sketch from Major W. J. Twining, [Page XXVI] United States Engineers, chief astronomer of the commission, showing the progress of the survey of the boundary during the past season.

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.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Commissioner Northern Boundary Survey.

Hon. Hamilton Fish,
Secretary of State.

Major Twining to Mr. Campbell.

Sir: In answer to your request I respectfully submit a brief statement of the work performed by the commission during the past summer.

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 line.

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 of July.

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 satisfactory.

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 dangerous.

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 disposed.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Capt. Engineers, Chief Astronomer.

Archibald Campbell, Esq.,
Commissioner Northern Boundary.