Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Arb Notes

<lass="page layoutArea column" title="Page 1">

The Mystery of the Marschner Map

The Carleton College Arboretum, located on the border of two distinct prairie and forest habitats, works to accomplish many conservation efforts, such as ecological restoration. However, how do we know what vegetation originally existed in the Arboretum prior to the beginning of its development in the early 1900s? While there is biological and geological evidence, a great deal of what we know about the land’s past comes from human documentation in the form of public land surveys.

The original land survey notes of Minnesota date from 1848 to 1907, and consistof survey reference points, plat drawings, and specific descriptions of the natural features and geography of about 3,800 of Minnesota’s townships. From 1929 to 1931, Francis J. Marschner took on the massive task of creating one of the most comprehensive and detailed maps on Minnesota vegetation by poring through the surveys and piecing them together. The map, titled The Original Vegetation of Minnesota, now serves as one of the most accurate and meticulous records of Minnesota’s vegetation prior to settlement. However, questions still exist about what inspired Marschner to make the map: nobody commissioned him to do it, and Marschner is thought to have never stepped a foot into Minnesota.

While Marschner has left little behind to indicate the process of constructing the Minnesota map, one record notes that he had to go through 200 volumes of field notes. In fact, the original version of the map disappeared between 1940 and 1950 (luckily a copy existed). Marschner, originally from Austria, was a USDA employee who specialized in land-use mapping. Colleagues of Marschner say he was unmatched in his dedication to cartographic work, and that he likely stumbled upon the notes at the Bureau of Land Management and decided to make the map simply because he could. Marschner continued working with the government after retirement until his death at the age of 83 in 1966. The Marschner map, despite its mysterious background, remains as an unparalleled resource to ecologists and the Arboretum.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *