NHSLA 1984 Annual Business Meeting

In 1984, then-Gov. John H. Sununu was the featured speaker at the NHLSA Annual Business Meeting conference. At the conference, he was made an honorary member of NHLSA. A topic of discussion that evening was proposed legislation impacting the surveying profession.

Legislation affecting land surveying, along with opinion and input by the New Hampshire Land Surveyors Association (NHLSA) was not a new event in 1984, even though it was the first time the Association was addressed by a sitting Governor. NHLSA was founded in 1969 and coincided with Legislation passed into law that same year requiring the registration of NH land surveyors.

The NHLSA and the registration legislation followed two different paths that sometimes paralleled each other and sometimes came together as they did in 1969. The surveyor registration law that passed in 1969 was not the first attempt at regulating the surveying profession. Historical documents tell us that there were at least two unsuccessful earlier attempts to enact laws that would require the registration or licensing of surveyors.

In 1951 State Representative John B. Evans of North Stratford NH, representing the Lancaster district, sponsored HB 226, “an act to regulate the practice of land surveying.” His motives are unknown and the exact language of his proposed bill is also lost to time. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee who after holding a public hearing, voted to report the bill as Inexpedient to Legislate (ITL) effectively killing it.

While many of the details of this failed legislation are unknown or lost to history, what is preserved in the record are the recorded aye/nay votes of the committee members, and the minutes of the public hearing testifying both for and against the bill.

While the votes are recorded, the reasons and logic aren’t, but perhaps knowing the biographies of the participants gives us some clue to their thought process. Keep in mind that in 1951 few professions required licensing, so you could identify yourself in almost any profession you chose to.

The sponsor of the bill, Representative John Evans, listed his occupation as a “forester”, and also introduced another piece of legislation in that same 1951 session that would “establish true meridian base lines”. Since Evans sponsored this bill it is a safe assumption that he supported requiring the registration of practicing land surveyors.

Testifying in favor of the bill (in support of regulating surveyors) was Henry Newell, a Civil Engineer and the Secretary of the NH Society of Engineers. Henry Newell, was later the first recipient of the NH Society of Engineers, “Engineer of the Year” award in 1965. Russell Skelton, an engineering professor at UNH also gave testimony in favor of the bill, Russell Skelton, was awarded the “Engineer of the Year” award in 1967. Charles Campbell a Civil Engineer from Litchfield, listed himself as a Land Surveyor in the Society of Engineers roster and also supported the proposed legislation.

Testifying against the proposed bill was Alfred Osborne of Weare who gave his occupation as “surveyor”. Alfred Osborne was born in 1874 and worked for George P. Hadley a Civil Engineer in Goffstown. About 1900 Hadley retired from surveying and Osborne took over the practice. Alfred was also a Notary Public and prepared many deeds in the Warner area.

Legend has it that Alfred Osborne really disliked lawyers, and while testifying in court on one occasion regarding a large tract of land, the lawyer cross examining him asked if the “more or less” area could be a quarter of an acre? Osborne replied that if it was, it was a quarter of an acre too much. Alfred’s son, Winslow Hoag Osborne, became a lawyer, and served in the legislature in 1949.

Samuel G. Hall, a forester, was opposed to the bill. He was born in 1917 and attended Brown University and Yale School of Forestry. He was a forester for the Draper Corporation in Plymouth, and would become LLS #222 years later when licensure was mandated. Samuel G. Hall’s mark on witness trees was an “S” (for Sam) struck on top of an “H” (for Hall) creating the dollar symbol, “$” with two vertical lines as in the two vertical lines of an H.

William Falconer, an engineer, was also opposed to the bill. He was born in 1890 in Mason and would become LLS #23. John Preston (LLS #199) knew Bill Falconer and according to John, when the New Hampshire RLS registration law went into effect, practicing land surveyors were given a specific time period wherein they needed to register in order to continue surveying (grandfathering provision). The registration process included the requirement of having three other practitioners vouch that the applicant had actually been surveying. Preston had two signatures and needed a third. He considered asking Bill Falconer, but was a little intimidated by Falconer’s gruff reputation. Preston finally worked up the courage to visit Falconer. After a short conversation, Falconer brought up the topic of the registration form, and told Preston that he needed a third signature on his application. Would Preston sign for him? Preston signed Falconer’s form, and Falconer reciprocated. On another occasion, Falconer was complaining to Preston about the work of a surveyor from the Temple area. Falconer asked Preston what he would do if he ran a compass line down through the woods, and ended up about six feet away from an obvious and large stone bound. Preston said that he’d probably sit down and figure out some offsets to adjust his compass line. Falconer replied that that was what he would do too, but the Temple surveyor dug up the bound and moved it over six feet.

Heman Chase was also opposed to the bill. Heman’s training was as a Civil Engineer, but he did land surveying and would become LLS #24. Heman felt that the only “real” certification a surveyor needed was a good reputation established by the good will of his clients. Heman reasoned that the public knew far better than the State government if you were a good surveyor or not. Viewing these brief bios, you might surmise that the engineering profession supported the registration of surveyors, but foresters and practicing surveyors had doubts or concerns.

In 1965 there was a second unsuccessful attempt to regulate the practice of land surveying. This attempt to pass a surveyor’s registration law was initiated in February of 1965 by a group of engineers in the NH Society of Practicing Engineers led by John “Jack” Durgin (future LLS #1). Senator Hunter (District 23 Exeter/Kingston) sponsored SB 104 entitled: “An Act to Regulate the Practice of Land Surveying.”

This Bill would have required that engineers and surveyors be licensed by the same Board. The Board would be comprised of five engineers. Many NH foresters were concerned that such an arrangement would injuriously affect their ability to perform low-order “woodland” surveys used in conjunction with their forestry management practices, since no foresters would serve on the proposed Board of Registration overseeing the newly regulated surveyors.

The Association of NH Consulting Foresters, at their meeting in early 1965 arranged a committee to become acquainted with this new “registration bill” and keep the other Association members updated on its provisions and progress. The three foresters appointed to serve on the watch committee were Gerald R. Hyde (future LLS #5) of Bedford, J. Wilcox Brown of Concord, and Allan W. Plumb (future LLS #12) of Marlow. Though neither the Association of NH Consulting Foresters, nor the NH Chapter of the Society of American Foresters took an official stance on the proposed law, it was recognized that foresters in general opposed the legislation. By May, this informal committee had grown to incorporate other foresters including William Lane (future LLS #197) of Rochester and William P. House (future LLS #53) of Marlborough.

This enlarged committee began meeting with representatives of the Engineers Society to discuss possible amendments to the proposed legislation. However, when the two groups failed to reach any agreement, the bill was killed for being inexpedient to legislate. In spite of the failure of the 1965 bill, the issue of registration of surveyors did not die. Four years later, the 1969 proposal passed into law.