Heritage Center Receives Lifetime Collection of Survey Equipment

National Surveyors Week is March 15-21st. And to celebrate we are so pleased to have received a donation of survey equipment, some antique, given to the HPWHC by Gary Renner. The equipment is being placed on display in our Transportation Room and our Early Pioneers room, ready for our opening this April.

Surveyors have been around since Egyptian times in 3000 BC. Three of the four Americans on Mr Rushmore began their careers as surveyors; George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. In the settlement of the Black Hills surveyors were needed to find the most efficient routes for railroads and stagecoach trails. Surveyors laid out townsites such as Deadwood and Spearfish. They staked out mining claims and their expertise was vital in avoiding disputes.

This is an example of a bearing tree marker used to mark corners in a property. These are seen most commonly in forested areas like the Black Hills.

The Renner Collection at the High Plains features early survey equipment including a Gunter Surveyors/Engineers 12” link chain which was invented in 1650. You will also see an example of a bearing tree marker and USGS benchmarks.

Gary Renner, originally from Madison, SD, received a degree in Civil Engineering from SDSU in 1971.  He entered Army Basic Training, and joined SD National Guard.  He began work at FMG Engineering in 1972, obtained his engineering/land survey license in 1976 and started Renner and Sperlich Engineering in 1980.  He started Renner & Associates in 2003 and retired in 2011.  During his time at FMG Engineering he managed the survey department with five survey crews.  At Renner and Sperlich Engineering he worked as a land surveyor until 1990.  During his survey career he performed boundary surveys, topographic surveys, and extensive construction layout.  From 1990 until his retirement he designed numerous engineering projects in Rapid City and Spearfish.  He held the position of Keystone City Engineer for over 30 years and is very proud of providing surveying and engineering services to Crazy Horse mountain for more than 40 years.

Renner says he enjoyed his surveying career, beginning with a K&E transit, a 300 ft steel chain, a “dip needle” metal detector, a bow pen drafting set, a slide rule and a Leroy lettering set. He ended his career with theodolites, electronic measuring devices, electric metal detector, handheld calculator, a programed personal computer and computer aided drafting.

This is a vintage K&E transit used by surveyors.

During his career Renner staked out and filed new mining claims, and he retraced previously patented mining claims and original section line surveys from the late 1800’s. His modern-day surveys include numerous platted subdivisions and hundreds of private lot resurveys. Examples of these old and modern property corner survey monuments are included in the museum display.

“I am greatly honored to be able to donate this land survey display to the High Plains Western Heritage Center here in Spearfish,” Renner said.

He and his wife Janeen make their home in Spearfish.