New Exhibit at State Museum Features a Historic
Surveyor’s Compass
Family of Bob Myers Shares the Artifact
by Donald Martin and Matt Thomas

The Missouri State Museum in the State Capitol has opened a new exhibit which features a surveying connection to our state’s history. Part of the museum’s commemoration of the Missouri Bicentennial, the exhibit Missouri Trailblazers includes the surveyor’s compass used by Joseph C. Brown in the establishment of Missouri’s early borders. The museum touts the exhibit as “exploring ways the state’s people and institutions have impacted our culture through major events, leadership, innovation and more.”While playing a part in honoring Missouri’s 200th birthday, Missouri Trailblazers seeks to encompass more than traditional histories which have focused on the great, grand and heroic. This exhibit specifically features people and events which, although less known, are by no means less significant. Referring to the exhibit’s subjects as “… those commonly overlooked, forgotten or unknown to our Missouri story,” the exhibit showcases among its collection the compass of Joseph C. Brown. Brown’s notable contributions to Missouri and American history includes surveys of the Fifth Principal Meridian, the Osage Treaty line and the Santa Fe Trail.

The compass on display is unique for its place in Missouri history. Most interesting is the ownership genealogy of the compass. Upon Brown’s death in 1849, the compass passed through the sale of the ol’ surveyor’s estate and may have gone through a second estate sale as well. It was then acquired by Fredrick Hyatt. Hyatt was an associate of Brown’s and it is believed he and Brown worked together on surveys in Florissant, Missouri circa 1839. From a long lineage of surveyors, Hyatt would go on to serve as a legislator in both the Missouri House and Senate. He would also go on to be the forbearer of his own multi-generation progeny of surveyors. This included Claude Hyatt Myers, commissioned as the Surveyor of the City of St. Louis on 1919 and founder of the firm Myers, Keller & Byers. The compass had passed from Fredrick Hyatt to Claude.

In 1946 Claude’s grandson had just entered high school and was suited to serve as a part-time rodman for the firm. That youth’s name was Robert (Bob) E. Myers, Jr. Inheriting the family’s surveying tradition, he went on to one day own Myers, Keller & Byers. He also inherited Joseph C. Brown’s compass. In 1971, Bob Myers became the first State Land Surveyor of Missouri. Bob Myers passed away in February of 2019 leaving one of the finest legacies of any surveyor. He also left this historically significant artifact – the Surveyor’s Compass. After the passing of Bob Myers, events lined up like cross-hairs on Polaris and serendipity set in to guide the fortunes of the old compass. A protégé of Bob’s in matters of surveying history, Stan Emerick had obtained some thorough research on the Surveyor’s Compass while putting things together for the MSPS effort to memorialize Brown. Stan shared what he learned with Joe Clayton as they worked together researching the Osage Treaty Line. Joe in turn passed information on to members of the MSPS History Committee which he chaired. A member of that committee, Matt Thomas then connected the lore of the compass with the work of Missouri’s State Museum. As a part-time guide for the museum’s exhibits in the state Capitol, Matt was closely familiar with plans for marking our state’s bicentennial and worked with the museum’s Assistant Director, Jaime Henry. In the mean time (whew!) current State Land Surveyor Ronnie Heimbaugh respectfully handled contact with the Myers family. They then worked directly with the museum’s curators to include the Surveyor’s Compass in the Missouri Trailblazers exhibit.
Thus, when the exhibit opened on November 20th, an enclosed glass case* became home to the Surveyor’s Compass. Upon the case, a placard reads (See image).

Matt Thomas reports the last line, “On loan…” is what is called a courtesy line. And where the courtesy line refers to “… friends of…” it was the intention of the Myers family that the word “friends” meant our active team from the History Committee, the good people of the State Land Survey Program, and the members of the Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors. The Surveyor’s Compass now rests in honored display as a treasure of Missouri history. And the names of two master surveyors are joined on the presentation of that treasure. And a generous acknowledgment shared by a wonderful family enriches the hearts of this state’s surveying community. *Currently displayed in a glass case, plans are for the compass to be appropriately perched atop a tripod soon. The tripod will be “on loan” from MSPS’s Matt Thomas, who inherited it from his late father, Spencer Thomas, RLS.

Excerpts and images are from the December 2020 issue of Missouri Surveyor: New Exhibit at State Museum Features a Historic Surveyor’s Compass Family of
Bob Myers Shares the Artifact. Pages 2, 30 & 31.