Boundary Commission Survey

According to the terms of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the Commissioners of the Boundary Survey were to be appointed within one year from the signing of the treaty. Mexico appointed General Pedro Garcia Conde, and President Polk, early in 1849, appointed John B. Weller, who had served in Congress from Ohio, and afterwards in the United States Senate from California, and also as Governor of the last mentioned State.

In February, 1850, after establishing the initial point for the survey, the Commission adjourned. Soon thereafter Weller was superseded by John C. Fremont who, having been elected Senator from California, during that year resigned from the position of Commissioner, and John Russell Bartlett of Massachusetts, in June, 1850, was appointed in his place. Bartlett organized his force and a military escort was provided by the Government for the Commission. There was a large corps of engineers, surveyors and assistants over whom Lieut. A. W. Whipple, of the Topographical Engineers, was placed. Lieut. Whipple also performed the astronomical duties, while John Bull was the principal surveyor in charge of this department of the work. They selected their assistants and entered upon the performance of their duties on the 3d of September, 1850.

Part of the duty of this Boundary Survey Commission was to make notes of the northern part of Chihuahua and Sonora and the adaptability of that country to a railroad route.

At San Antonio, an advance party was sent ahead with a view to reaching El Paso on the first Monday of November, the 4th day of the month, the clay fixed upon for the meeting of the joint Commission. Commissioner Bartlett was in charge of this party and selected to accompany him:

Thomas H. Webb, Secretary of the Commission,
Robert C. Murphy, Asst. Secretary and Clerk,
George Thurber, Botanist and Commissary,
Theodore F. Moss, Geologist,
John C. Cremony, Interpreter,
Edward C. Clark, Quartermaster,
Robert E. Matthews, John B. Stewart, Thomas Thompson, S. P. Sandford, J. Thomas McDuffle, Thomas Dunn, George C. Garner, J. E. Weems, Jr., Clement Young, C. Neville Sims, George S. Pierce and A. P. Wilbur, assistants in the engineering and surveying corps, with a mason, blacksmith, a harness maker, a carpenter, a tailor, and cooks, hunter and teamsters, making altogether a party of thirty persons.

This party reached El Paso November 13th, a distance from San Antonio to that place of six hundred and thirty-five miles. It was found impracticable to conduct the survey to the east on account of the expense and difficulty in obtaining supplies, and, therefore, the start was made from the eastern border. Commissioner Bartlett issued the following:

“General Order for the government of the Advance Party of the U. S. Mexican Boundary Commission, on its march from San Antonio to El Paso del Norte.

“As this portion of the Commission is entering a country inhabited by warlike tribes of Indians, where no resources can be had beyond what the prairies supply, it is absolutely necessary that a rigid observance be kept of the following order:

”The same organization of the cavalry company formed at Indianola, will be continued to El Paso.

“Mr. Geo. S. Pierce, commanding the cavalry, will act as master of the camp, detailing for the guard whatever force may be deemed necessary for the safety of the train.

“Every member of the Commission, the teamsters and cooks excepted, is expected to do guard duty.

“The train and escort will keep as close together as possible; and after leaving Fredericksburg, no one will be permitted to leave the train beyond a short limit.

“Mr. Cremony will take charge of the ammunition, inspect the arms, and report in what manner every man is armed. Economy must be used in the ammunition, as the quantity in the train is limited.

“As there is one Jornada of seventy miles without water, and we may suffer inconvenience elsewhere, every man who has not already provided himself with a canteen or gourd, will do so before leaving Fredericksburg.

”In case of any difficulty or accident to the wagons, it is expected that everyone will lend all the aid in his power to remove it, and hasten the movement of the train.

”Mr. E. C. Clark, the acting quartermaster, will arrange the encampment, and direct the distribution of the forage. It is absolutely necessary that there should be an equal distribution of corn, and no one will be permitted to take more than is assigned or delivered to him. On this depends the safety of our animals, and consequently our own. A limited quantity of corn can only be taken, and great economy must be used in its distribution.

“On coming into camp, holes must be dug for the fires, which must, when the ground permits, be placed in hollows, or beneath a hill, in order to conceal the encampment as much as possible.

John R. Bartlett,

This survey of the boundary line under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, was not permanently established, because in 1853, under the Gadsden purchase, Mexico ceded to the United States a strip of land south of the river Gila, from the Rio Grande on the east to a point twenty miles below the mouth of the Gila on the west, on the Colorado, estimated to contain 45,535 square miles, or 29,142,400 acres, 14,000 square miles of which are now contained in the State of New Mexico, and 31,53i5 square miles in the State of Arizona, for the sum of ten millions of dollars. The boundary line under the Gadsden treaty was established in 1855-56.

These surveys, as we have seen, began in 1849, and continued, with many interruptions, until 1856. During the establishment of the boundary line agreed upon by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, four different commissioners were appointed, four of astronomer, and two of surveyor. These changes, and the want of means to properly carry on the work, with differences of opinion as to the proper initial point on the Rio Grande, caused much delay.
Major W. H. Emory, in 1856, succeeded Bartlett as Commissioner, and completed the survey under the terms of the Gadsden purchase, fixing the boundaries as established at present.

The line finally established under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, extended up the Rio Grande from its mouth to latitude 31° 54′ 40” north; thence west along that parallel to the meridian of 109° 37′ west; thence due south to the Rio San Domingo; thence down that stream to the Gila; thence down the Gila to its mouth; thence in a straight line to the point on the Pacific, in latitude 32° 32′ north.

Many reconnaissance’s were made by different parties in going to and from various points on the line, and the Rio Grande was surveyed up as far as the parallel of 32° 22′ north, and a portion of that parallel was run by Lieutenant Whipple, as directed by Mr. Bartlett, commissioner at that time.

The treaty of 1853, by which the tract of territory known as the Gadsden purchase was acquired from Mexico, changed the boundary line so as to make it commence on the Rio Grande at latitude 31° 47 north; thence due west 100 miles; thence south to latitude 31° 30′ north; thence due west to the one hundred and eleventh meridian; thence in a straight line to a point on the Colorado twenty miles below its junction with the Gila; thence up the Colorado to the former line.

To establish this boundary, Major Emory, then Brevet Major Corps Topographical Engineers, was appointed Commissioner and astronomer on the part of the United States, and Jose Salazar Ilarregui, was appointed commissioner on the part of the republic of Mexico, and the work was accomplished during the years 1855-56.

Major Emory was assisted in this work by Lieutenant N. Michler, Topographical Engineers, and others. Captain G. Thom, Topographical Engineers, had charge of the office in computing the work and projecting the maps of both boundary surveys.

What is known as the Gadsden Purchase, mention of which has been made, was acquired by the United States under a treaty made by the United States with the Republic of Mexico, which, together with an explanatory note, I give in full:

“Under the administration of President Pierce, December 30, 1853, a treaty was entered into by James Gadsden, United States minister to Mexico, and Don Manuel Diez de Bonilla, Secretary of State, Jose Salazar Ylarregui, and J. Mariano Monterde, as scientific commissioners on behalf of the Republic of Mexico, for the purchase of the tract of land now lying in the southern part of the territories of New Mexico and Arizona, then in the Republic of Mexico and adjoining the United States, south of the river Gila, and from the Rio Grande on the east to a point twenty miles below the mouth of the Gila on the west, on the Colorado River. The Gila River and branches from this point eastward was the boundary fixed by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in 1848. This purchase was for the purpose of more correctly defining and making a more regular line and certain boundary between the United States and Mexico.

Treaty with Mexico

Mr. Gadsden returned from Mexico with the drafts of three treaties, either of which, if accepted by the United States, to cause the others to be of no effect.

These treaties were numbered according to the quantity of territory and amounts mentioned in them.

First: Starting from a point in the center of the Rio Grande, thence west on the parallel of latitude 30° north to the Gulf of California, thence to take in the whole of Lower California, for which the United States were to pay the sum of $25,000,000.

Second: Starting, as now, from the center of the Rio Grande some eight miles above El Paso, north latitude 31° 37′; thence west one hundred miles; thence south to north latitude 31°; thence west to the Gulf of California, for which the United States were to pay Mexico the sum of $15,000,000.

Third: This was the ”Skeleton Treaty,” finally agreed to, which embraced all the country ceded by Mexico to the United States under what is generally known as the “Gadsden Purchase” for which the United States were to, and did, pay the sum of $10,000,000.

The argument advanced for the adoption of the treaty which gave us the land embraced in the Gadsden Purchase, was that the United States would have a port on the Colorado River, At that time the Gila River was also supposed to be navigable, and the land embraced within the purchase, according to the surveys which had been previously made, and the expedition of Capt. P. St. George Cooke, with his wagon train, proved it to be easily adapted for a railroad. The whole country was thought to be barren; great statesmen of that day declared that Arizona was almost exclusively a desert, and so also was New Mexico; that neither of these great States could ever support any large population. This, however, was the argument advanced by those who were opposed to the extension of slavery and regarded all territory that might be acquired by the United States, south of the 33rd parallel, as future slave territory. Could they have realized that in the short period of twelve years thereafter slavery would have been abolished in the Southern States, there is little doubt but that the first treaty submitted by Gadsden would have been adopted. This would have given to us the port of Guaymas on the Gulf of California, and the major portion of what is now Sonora and Chihuahua, and all of Lower California.

The war with Mexico, conceding that it was one of conquest, changed the map of the American continent very much in favor of the United States. There is no doubt that had not President Polk acted with promptness in the outset of his administration toward the settlement of the disputes between the United States and England, the colonization of Oregon and the annexation of Texas and the vast territory ceded by Mexico to the United States as a war indemnity, that England would have acquired a permanent holding in California, and, possibly all the Western States adjacent thereto. In her magnanimity, she may have left Arizona and New Mexico to the Republic of Mexico. The United States would have acquired a much larger slice of what is now Mexican territory, and a harbor upon the Gulf of California, and all of Lower California, had it not been for the slavery question, which obtruded itself at that time into all legislation by Congress.

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 1, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

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