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Ellicott, Andrew

Born: 1754 AD
Died: 1820 AD
Nationality: N/A
Categories: Surveyor

1754 – Born in Buckingham, Bucks County Pennsylvania on the 24th of January, 1754.

         – Ellicott was educated at the local Quaker school. He was talented in mathematics as well as in mechanics.

1770 – His father and his uncles purchased a land on the Patapsco River and set up a new milling business there. His father founded Ellicott’s Mills in 1772.

1775 – Ellicott married Sarah Brown of Newtown, Pennsylvania, with whom he would have ten children, on of which died as a child.

         – When the Revolutionary War broke out, he enlisted as a commissioned officer in the Elk Ridge Battalion of the Maryland militia. During the war, he rose to the rank of major. He returned home to Ellicott’s Mills after the war.

1784 – He was appointed a member of the survey group tasked with extending the survey of the Mason-Dixon line that had been abandoned in 1767 and been stalled during the war. He worked alongside David Rittenhouse and James Madison, making his first connections with the scientific society of Philadelphia.

         – His second son died.

1785 – The Ellicotts moved to Baltimore where Andrew taught mathematics at the Academy of Baltimore.

1786 – In this year, he was elected to the legislature of Baltimore. In the same year, he was called upon for a survey to define the western border of Pennsylvania. The "Ellicott Line" later became the base line for the surveys of the Northwest Territory.

1789 – He was appointed to lead other surveys in Pennsylvania and his family moved again to Philadelphia this year.

         – Ellicott got a position with the newly established government and was tasked by George Washington to survey the lands between Lake Erie and Pennsylvania to determine the border between Western New York and U.s. territory. This survey during which he also made the first topographical study of the Niagara River including the Niagara Falls, gained Ellicott a reputation for accuracy in surveys.

1791-1792 – Ellicott worked under the direction of three commissioners that President George Washington had appointed, surveying the boundaries of the future District of Columbia, assisted first by free African-American astronomer Benjamin Banneker and then by Ellicott’s brother, Joseph Ellicott.

1792 – Ellicott surveyed the city of Washington, working with Peter (Pierre) Charles L’Enfant. L’Enfant was dismissed by George Washington and Ellicott was placed in charge of the planning and surveying of the capital city’s streets.

1796 – George Washington commissioned Ellicott as the U.S. representative on the commission for the survey of the border between the Spanish territories in Florida and the United States. Ellicott traveled with a military escort via the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and worked together with Spanish commissioners.

1798 – He complained to the government about four American generals receiving pensions from Spain, including General James Wilkinson.

1800 – Ellicot presented his final report on the project with maps as visual aids to the government. The Adams administration refused to pay him for his work. They also refused him to have access to the maps he submitted with the report. He then sold some of his possessions, including books in his library to be able to support his family.

1803 – In this year, the maps were released. Ellicott published the Journal of Andrew Ellicott that details with Florida survey including the maps. Thomas Jefferson offered him a post of Surveyor General, but it seems that his previous experiences with the administration made him refuse the offer. He accepted an offer by Pennsylvania governor, Thomas McKean, and took a position as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Land Office. The family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Jefferson made Ellicott a mentor and teacher to Meriwether Lewis, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. From April to May 1803, Lewis stayed at Ellicott’s home and studied survey techniques, and Ellicott made many recommendations on the expedition’s equipment and survey procedures that were later followed.

1809 – Simon Snyder was elected governnor of Pennsylvania and he fired Ellicott due to political differences. He returned to private practice.

1811 – On February of this year, he was hired by David B. Mitchell, governor of Georgia, to re-survey the border between Georgia and North Carolina to settle the states’ border dispute. He started in July and worked until winter. Ellicott confirmed the earlier findings that the border, which was supposed to follow 35°N, was several miles further south than the Georgians claimed. His report was not accepted by the Georgian administration and they refused to pay his fees.

1812 – He returned to Pennsylvania on July this year.

1813 – Accepted a position as a professor for mathematics at the military academy at West Point. The family left Lancaster and moved to West Point, New York.

1817 – He was called upon to participate as astronomer in a field survey to establish the western border between Canada and the United States, which had been defined after the War of 1812 in the Treaty of Ghent to run along 45°N. It was the last big survey that he performed.

1820 – He dies of a stroke in his home at West Point.



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