EL DORADO SPRINGS, MISSOURI
by Dennis D. Bland
The Bureau of Land Management's Cadastral Survey Organization, over the past 90 years, has had nearly 200 employees from one small town in western Missouri. Incredibly, this number of men and women comes from tiny El Dorado Springs, which currently boasts a population of 3800. It appears to have started with a family named Bandy, and a local grocery store owner named Ed Wilson.
Roy Bandy, who grew up on a Vernon County farm in the late 1800s and early 1900s, longed to go "West" because of correspondence received from his older brother, Elmer, then living in Colorado. However, the passing of his father required him to stay at the family farm delaying his adventure to the West until 1905. After planting the spring crops and leaving the farm to younger brothers, he secured employment on a GLO surveying crew in Wyoming. Except for the period of 1907-10, Roy spent his entire career as a surveyor with the GLO and later as Regional Cadastral Engineer with BLM. In the latter capacity, he was responsible for the public land survey program in ten western states until his retirement in 1954. Roy married Inez Estes, a Missouri farm girl, in 1911. Inez was faithful as a helpmate to Roy, serving as camp cook on remote surveying jobs to be near her husband.
In 1931, Roy was assigned to survey the revised east and north boundaries of the Yellowstone National Park, a project which would take three summers to complete. The survey would cross some of the most difficult terrain in the Rocky Mountain Range. A young ambitious man from El Dorado Springs, Eddie Wilson, worked on this survey for a period of time. Later, Eddie returned to El Dorado where he purchased a grocery store business. He married the former Ruby Gayle Estes, a niece of Mrs. Bandy, so he and Roy maintained contact with each other. Once, when Roy needed some new recruits for his survey crew, he made the need known to Eddie. Roy had repeatedly indicated that bright, hardworking farm lads sometimes made the best surveyors. Eddie knew the qualities desired in a person to start a surveying career and was acquainted with many of the lads in the area. As the years went by, Eddie was instrumental in recommending several applicants for employment with the Cadastral Survey. Eddie was serious in this recruitment effort, and in later years commented that he interviewed each candidate and recommended only those he thought was capable of being a desirable employee. As the rank of El Doradoans grew in the Cadastral Survey offices, many more applied directly to each office. Occasionally, a surveyor would depart to the field for a season of surveying with an entire crew of four to six employees, all from El Dorado Springs, Missouri.
Over the decades, several people stayed with the BLM Cadastral Survey and made a career in the surveying profession or are striving toward that goal. Some deciding factors in this choice of career were: outdoor and scenic environments, the different challenges each survey presented, a strong belief in the benefits derived from accurate surveys, and a love for the historical aspects of the original surveys.
Professional surveyors are also history buffs. There is nothing quite like the thrill of searching for and finding an undisturbed original cornerstone, almost covered by silt, with distinct chisel marks and wondering if you are the first person to see it since its placement 100 plus years ago. Many of the early surveys were well executed considering the elements of weather, isolation, mode of travel, inaccuracy of instruments, and yes, sometimes hostility of Indians endured by the surveyors in those bygone days.
Much has changed since Roy Bandy went to Wyoming in 1905. He joined a contract survey crew where the surveyor was paid for miles completed. In 1910, the contract system was abolished and surveys were performed under the "direct system" with GLO employed surveyors. Horses were replaced by trucks as the mode of transportation, and many years later, helicopters were introduced to access the rugged back country. Instrumentation evolved from transit and chain, through advanced technology, to electronic distance measuring devices and theodolites with electronic readouts, and even GPS.
The migration of young people to employment with cadastral survey crews over the past decades is bound to have had beneficial effects on the hometown. It may not be fair to say that surveyors put El Dorado Springs on the map, but more proper to infer that surveyors enhanced the location.
The El Dorado Springs BLM alumni have formed an organization with three goals: to place a granite memorial in the El Dorado Springs City Park, to donate survey memorabilia to the El Dorado Springs museum, and to stay in touch with each other through annual gatherings.
The granite memorial is 14 feet long, six feet high, and twelve inches thick, and has each of the 190 (plus) names inscribed on it. It will be dedicated July 19, 1996 in a ceremony coinciding with the City's Historical Annual July Picnic Days of Celebration. Among the luminaries in attendance will be author/historian C. Albert White, State Land Surveyor Bob Myers, Bob Stollard of the Colorado Society, Area 6 Director Lawrence A. Boyer, and retired Chief of Surveys Bernard Hostrop. In addition, commemorative paperweights made by Berntsen International will be awarded to the alumni. Best of all, people from all over the country will travel home to see each other, share tales and anecdotes of life in the field, and remember a citizenry that is indeed unique.