History of Land Surveying USA Group is a place to share Historical Articles, discussions, and trivia related to the history and development of land surveying in The United States
I have compiled a few interesting facts about Fences from my research library...I hope they will interest others as much as they interest me.
In New England, wire fences were not in use prior to the mid 1800's!! The first US Patent for a wire fence was US Patent 10211 granted to William H. Meriweather of New Braunfels, Texas. YES, Texas!!
When I searched through my library I found that both as late as the 1785 Massachusetts laws and the 1821 Maine laws regarding fences and fence viewers both describe fences hence: "Be it further enacted, That all fences of four feet high, and in good repair, consisting of rails, timber, boards or stone walls, and also brooks, rivers, ponds, creeks, ditches and hedges, or other matter of things equivalent thereto, in the judgement of the Fence Viewers, within whose jurisdiction the same shall lie. shall be accounted legal and sufficient fences;..."
Isn't that amazing...wire fences weren't being mentioned in the earliest of our states until the mid 1800's!
However, fences, as described, were being described in these same laws as partition fences..in other words, the partition or property line between neighbors. In New England, in rural areas generally built stone walls (fences) along these lines, and in cities they built board fences.
Another interesting little tidbit regarding fences is the old layout of roads "subject to gates and bars". There was a very practical reason for this road layout law. When laying out a road through a farmer's property, the town would build a gate at both the entrance and exit of the road on a property, and the travelling public would have the responsibility of opening AND CLOSING the gate after they had passed through. This would serve two very practical purposes: 1st) It would prevent the Farmers livestock from getting out, and 2) It would save the farmer from having to build stone walls along the road! Just think, if the farmer had a property that was 1000 feet square, and the road went square through his property, the law would save him from building 2000 feet of stone wall !!
It is interesting that today many states, especially in the West, still have Fence and Fence Viewer laws.
One of the most satisfying, though, to me as a land surveyor, is a fence viewer law recently rewritten in the Town of Colebrook, New Hampshire in which the lawmakers specifically stated that the fence viewer could not make any boundary line decision...boundary line location is for licensed land surveyors. HURRAY for Colebrook (I had an office there for 12 years).
David C. Garcelon