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Past and present Spencer County residents have heard the name Curtis Ochs for a long time. The current Curtis has served off and on as county land surveyor for years. His father, also Curtis Ochs, held the same position.
The current elected land surveyor is Garland Armstrong, with whom this scribbler graduated from Taylorsville High School in 1958. I would imagine that Curtis was chosen as the speaker for the last meeting of the county Historical and Genealogical Society because he’s a little older than Garland.
It would be interesting to hear their stories in a joint appearance before a local audience sometime, but this article is about what Curtis had to say to the historical society. He talked about the complications faced by surveyors when they try to get back to the spot where they started.
“You always have to come back to where you started,” Curtis said.
He learned about the math part of surveying at the University of Kentucky and other aspects by following his father around.
Curtis said trying to track the sources of titles was and still is a chore. He said you have to research every deed written on a piece of land and compare the information to the deed with which you have to work “..to see if they halfway match and most of the time they don’t.”
He noted that sometimes absentee owners lose some property when fences are installed or corner stones are moved.
The research part of surveying is the “stickiest,” Curtis said, because you’re trying to find the intent of the original survey.
When different surveyors have exercised their expertise on the same piece of property over many years, the stickiness becomes apparent.
Curtis said sometimes mistakes are carried over for a hundred years.
He said one of the more interesting deeds came from Boston in Nelson County during the 1700s.
“It described the boundary of property that one person conveyed to another. It said the beginning point was where Squire whoever stood at 4 p.m. on Dec. 16, 1798. Everybody who knew about the establishment of the deed and point knew exactly what he was talking about, but what happens 20 or 30 years down the road when they are all dead?”
Curtis said some deeds are equally bewildering. “I’ve run into deeds that say (for instance) ‘Beginning at an iron pipe among others.’ That is really definitive.”
He said a Hardin County deed was entertaining, but not very informative.
“It said ‘Beginning at a set stone by a spring in the hollow next to the dug road. Then, in a northerly direction to the top of the ridge, 17 and a half plow lines to where my cow died.’”