shelving with artifacts in nabb center

Ballard Miles Surveys

A fourth generation of family surveyors and a retired civil engineer, William B. Miles, Jr., assisted the Nabb Research Center in identifying, repairing and filing these documents in 2006. They continue to be a valuable resource for surveyors, attorneys and historians.

The following is the index only to this collection. The actual survey files, housed with our archival collections, may be viewed onsite.

File numbers: 1 - 6, 8 -15, 24 - 27, 30, 31, and 34 contain the documents of surveys performed by Wm. F. W. Miles and Samuel F. Miles from the mid-1800s until about 1933. Each file contains all indices of the contents. Files D-1 through D-590 contain the documents of surveys performed by W. Ballard Miles from 1933 to about 1975. The index books were transcribed by Jane West. All of these files are listed in the following index.

Browse by file number:  Find materials by the survey number; e.g. D421.
Keyword search of name:  Find materials by the name of the landowner.
Search by land name:  Find materials by the name (sometimes location) of the land.


History of Collection

For the past twenty-five years, Salisbury University and the Nabb Research Center have been the custodians of survey documents prepared by three generations of the Miles family, namely William F.W.; Samuel F.; and W. Ballard Miles.  These documents consist mainly of plats and descriptions of parcels of land in Somerset County [Maryland], but also include many in Worcester and Wicomico Counties.

The time span covered by these surveys is roughly from the mid-eighteen hundreds to nineteen-seventy.  However, research notes in many of these files track earlier surveys back to before the Revolutionary War.

Many surveys over the time span referenced were never recorded in the appropriate court house.  This was because of negligence on the part of the land owner or because he did not want to pay the fee for recordation.  As a result, if the owner lost his own copy of the survey documents, the only remaining copy was in the surveyor's files.  Over the years, many surveyors and attorneys, finding nothing in county files to identify certain tracts of land, have resorted to using surveyors files. This practice continues to this day and Nabb Research Center staff have assisted in identifying appropriate documents.

An interesting aspect of surveying on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is that vast tracts of marshlands were never in private ownership, probably because they were worthless as farmlands.  When, for whatever reason, various individuals wanted to acquire such lands, the State of Maryland required that a survey be accomplished and a patent be issued to the new owner at practically no cost to him.  However, in the nineteen fifties and sixties when it was realized how important these lands were to the total environment, the state re-acquired many of them.  As an example, a large part of Maryland's Assateague Island, south of the Ocean City jetty, was platted into lots just before the state and federal governments stopped all private development of the island. 

A problem with surveying techniques in the past has been to permanently document on descriptions, plats and in the field, the actual outline of the tracts.  Compass bearings were often inaccurate and measurements (in chains or rods) were subject to ground conditions such as woods or marsh.  Blazed trees, rocks, and wooden stakes, most of which have long since disappeared, were described and shown in descriptions and plats as property corners.