John Dennis

Dr. John Dennis, assistant professor in the School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, will discuss notes and field plats from an 1815 survey of what would become the state of Arkansas during a joint meeting of the Tunican Chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society and the Drew County Historical Society.

The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will be held September 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Chamberlin Forest Resources Complex, the first in a series of joint meetings between the two groups scheduled for the fall semester.

Dennis, who teaches surveying and spatial information systems, and fellow faculty member Tom Jacobs, recently completed a project to pull together information from different locations to create a clearinghouse for surveyors to provide easy access to data that used to be scattered among courthouses all over the state. The first phase was to geo-reference the original plats from the General Land Office (GLO), attaching latitude and longitude information to each plat. In total, 1,716 plats were geo-referenced to the township and range corners for Arkansas provided to the Arkansas Geographic Information Systems Office. The second phase involved linking the transcribed field notes to each plat.

Beginning in 1815, surveyors contracted by the GLO began the tedious process of surveying the lands of Arkansas. They reordered their work along with descriptions of the lands in books, which were commonly referred to as field notes. The majority of these surveys were completed by the mid-1850’s and it was in the 1930’s that the field notes were transcribed as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. “While these surveys still continue today, having access to the invaluable resources in one location and geographically linked to their respective location is unprecedented,” said Dennis. “It is these field notes that are an indispensable record for the land surveyor as well as anyone else who is interested in the history of Arkansas and the United States.”

Dennis holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State as well as a master’s in anthropology and Ph.D. in environmental dynamics from UA-Fayetteville.

The Tunican Chapter of the Arkansas Archeological Society is a group of people interested in the archeology and history of Arkansas. Members work with the UAM Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey to document and preserve Arkansas’s cultural heritage and to foster and encourage interest in the preservation of sites and artifacts. The Drew County Historical Society is interested in preserving the heritage of Drew County. Together the two organizations will hold a monthly speaker series on the first Tuesday of each month through the Fall 2016 semester. These events are also sponsored by UAM’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the UAM Research Station of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.