Elements of a Field Book

From the 1870s to the early 1900s, early surveyors recorded their findings and measurements in Field Books. They are a vital written part of Saskatchewan’s history because they contain:
  • Intricate drawings and descriptions of land boundaries and features.
  • Important historic information related to the orderly subdivision and development of land in Saskatchewan.
  • Descriptions of trails, soil types, water quality, vegetation and Indian Reserve boundaries,
  • Information about the location of lakes, rivers and streams, as well as the surveyors’ reports on the suitability of land.
  • Insightful excerpts written by the surveyors themselves. In their notes are some of the unique Canadian “voices” that can be heard at the time of European settlement.

Field Book Land Descriptions

Surveyors went to great lengths to draw and describe the land that settlers would receive. Pictured below are two pages from an actual Field Book.

Click for larger imageOn these pages the surveyor noted many features of the land – open prairie, a wheat field, loam, a sand bar, heavily wooded areas, types of trees, a lake, and the topography of the land. Notice that the surveyor used triangulation to calculate the distance around a sand bar and how the surveyor added details about human inhabitancy (like a picnic ground, a trail, and the Silver Grove Post Office). The column in the middle of the page represents a road and the numbers written in the column indicate the surveyor's chain measurements.

Click for larger imageOn these pages the surveyor went into great detail about the trees and shrubs. He named the type of trees – spruce, willow, birch, alder, aspen, black poplar, poplar. He also noted the height of the trees and their age. Since he was documenting a wooded area, his descriptions of the trees would greatly aid the settlers who were looking for that piece of land.