The find will help with county road records

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

For a number of years, employees at the Harney County Courthouse had come across references to a “plat book” when dealing with county road legal issues.

Trouble was, none of the employees, or even former employees, had ever seen this supposed plat book.

Then, this spring, County Clerk Dag Robinson was organizing boxes in the vault, or storage area, when he spotted something behind a rack of shelves. He slid the remaining boxes off the shelves, and there, leaning up against the wall, was what looked like an over-sized, unmarked book.

The shelves were slid out as far as they would go in the crowded space, and Robinson wiggled the book out into the open. The edge of the book that had been resting on the ground was somewhat disfigured by moisture and the weight of all the years, and the pages a bit tattered, but otherwise, the book was in pretty good shape.

One look inside, and Robinson realized he had just found the plat book that had been missing for years.

How did the book get there? The best guess is that back in 1959, the courthouse was condemned, and all legal documents were moved over to the former Lincoln Junior High, so work could be done on the courthouse.

Two years later, after renovations, everything was moved back into the courthouse, and it’s speculated that the plat book was placed against a wall for what was expected to be just a “short while.” As more boxes were moved back into the courthouse, the shelves were filled, covering up the book, and the book was soon forgotten.

Further research revealed that former Harney County Surveyor C. E. Beery had been commissioned to complete the plat book in 1915, and was allowed the sum of $200 upon completion of the work.

Robinson said the discovery of the plat book is important because it shows where the county roads are supposed to be.

The county had been using the road record book in the plat book’s absence, but the accuracy of the road record book was somewhat skewed.

Howard Palmer and former county judge Dale White have been working for some time on getting an accurate account of county roads, but Palmer said there is a large margin for error in the road record book. He noted that at the time the records were recorded, the surveyors were using a compass and chains. If the compass was off just a few degrees, the road would end up in a different spot than what the legal record showed.

Robinson said the plat book will help verify the actual intent of the road, no matter where the actual road is now.

“The county has an obligation to know what the county road system includes legally,” Robinson said.

Now that the plat book has been discovered, plans are to have the pages scanned and then tie the images in to the county’s Geographic Information System (GIS) to produce an accurate account of the county road system.

If anyone is interested in preserving Harney County history and learning GIS technology, contact Bryce Mertz at 541-573-8195.

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