While surveying in the field, you never know who you might meet. When we worked in a residential neighborhood, there are always some property owners who come out of their houses to ask about the project. On one such occasion around 1989, a gentleman came over to the instrument and started to ask what we were doing. As I explained it, he nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s kinda like when I worked on the underground pentagon.” He went on to say that the surveyors were laying out the caverns inside of Raven Rock Mountain to build Site R, or as we called it when I was growing up: “The Tunnel,” and they just barely missed meeting the holes being drilled from each side of the mountain.
I told him that I grew up on the south gate entrance to that government installation. He then asked my name and showed some great interest in that, as he nodded and spoke slowly and deliberately, “You’re a Gladhill from Harbaugh Valley.” I confirmed that fact and he told me that I should talk to his son-in-law, who had bought a Sharps rifle at an auction which had a piece of paper under the butt plate. Written on the paper was a note from James O. Gladhill, telling how he carried the rifle in the “War of the Rebellion” at Sharpsburg and Gettysburg. It also explained that the gun was owned by Andrew Tressler of Harbaugh Valley.
I knew some Tresslers that lived just up the road from my home, so this was interesting news to me. I absolutely wanted to meet this man who owned the rifle. He had written an article in a magazine for collectors of Civil War memorabilia, and he wanted to make the connection to some living Gladhills.
This got my wife interested in our genealogy. She traced back some of the family tree from interviews with my parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Through her interviews and other research, she determined that James O. Gladhill was the brother of my great-great-grandfather. With the information that my wife gathered, and with the help of my parents, we organized a Gladhill reunion. It was very popular and some of the distant branches of the family from Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland came and made the connections between our family and theirs. My wife, Trudy, would exchange her research with them and we all gained knowledge about the families. All of this was made possible by a chance encounter with a property owner while I was surveying.
One of the most interesting people that I worked with was a guy named Craig. He had a degree in psychology and had been a professional photographer. When he worked on the survey crew with me, he was writing a book about a historical event that occurred during the Civil War. He used his time when work was cancelled due to rain to do his research and writing.
His most outstanding oddity was his way of learning to do a task. I’ve found that most people learn by “hands-on” training, but not Craig. When I tried to show him how to set up a tripod with a prism mounted to the tribrach, he couldn’t comprehend the method, then he asked if there was a manual for how to do it. I replied that there was, but it was very boring and just gave the same information that I had given him, but without the demonstration aspect. He, nevertheless, wanted to study this guide.
He took the manual home with him and the next day he had the tripod level and over the point in less than two minutes. I’ve never met anyone else who learned how to do something better by reading than by demonstration.
It has been said that variety is the spice of life and I think that’s what makes surveying such a great profession. We not only get to work in many varied locations and environs, but we also get to meet and interact with many types of people; in many cases, under stressful situations. Sometimes it’s a construction foreman who desperately needs some stakeout; other times it’s a property owner who is worried about the location of their valuable real estate, or perhaps they need a subdivision to be able to convey a lot to a son or daughter.
What we do is valuable and interesting, but the people and activities that we get to experience are far more valuable and interesting.