The Willamette Stone

The Willamette Stone

These little metal markers are dotted all over the United States. They’re embedded in side walks and in the middle of streets. Usually they have a cross on them that points out the four cardinal directions.

Willamette Stone

This one is essentially the “middle” of all the markers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of California and Nevada. This allowed early surveys to accurately mark out donation land claims for the early settlers. Those same borders are still used every day. Every piece of property, house, shopping mall, road, etc, depends on the accuracy of those original surveys.

Willamette Stone Marker

“This short trail leads to the Willamette Stone, the surveyor’s monument that is the point of origin for all public land surveys in Oregon and Washington. The landmark was established on June 4, 1951 by John B. Preston, Oregon’s first Surveyor General.

With increasing settlement and passage of the Donation Land Claim Act, the Oregon Territory desperately needed to extend the Public Land Survey System of 1785 that divided public lands into square miles parcels of 640 acres. Preston, appointed by President Millard Fillmore, arrived in Oregon in April, 1851. After exploring the area, Preston selected this site so the primary north-south survey line (Willamette Meridian) would pass west of Vancouver Lake and the primary east-west survey line (Base Line) would not cross the Columbia River. Preston’s original marker-a wood stake-was replaced in 1885 by a stone monument which became known as the Willamette Stone.”

At the top of the 1/8 mile trail is this historical marker sign, telling the significance of this place a bit of the history, and it also talks about the vandalism to the previous marker.

Getting here is easy, head west on Burnside from downtown Portland. At the top of the hill by the Mt. Calvary Cemetery, take the a right at the Y (turns into Skyline.) Almost immediately on the left is a car pull out. This history marker is at the top of the trail to actual Willamette Stone marker.

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