The Uintah Valley Indian Reservation was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, giving the natives of the area two million acres of a remote valley in northeastern Utah described by Brigham Young as “one vast contiguity of waste.” The initial survey started in 1875, and further subdivided the 640-acre square mile sections into 40-acre allotments. The General Allotment Act of 1887 gave Indians, on and off the reser-vation, an opportunity to claim a 20-160 acre allotment on a reservation. It was known that this opportunity would end at some point in the future. At the Uinitah Reservation that point came in 1905, when, by federal decree from President Theodore Roosevelt, all unclaimed land was opened to settlement by non-Indians for $1.25 per acre. The reservation was immediately pockmarked with private claims, and Indian lands were reduced from an original 2,080,000 acres to 1,076,000 acres.
Monuments marking the Initial Point for the survey, at the eastern end of the reservation, were gone by the 1980s, and a road was paved over the location, atop the east-west baseline. In 2009, the Ute Tribal Council, local counties, the Utah Council of Land Surveyors, and the BLM collaborated in reestablishing the initial point, under a steel cover under the road, and constructing a commemorative historical monument, 55 feet from the point, at a turn-out next to the road.
In 2009, a three foot deep hole was dug in the asphalt to uncover the remaining Initial Point marker, a brass survey disc from 1953.
The disc was left where it was, and a second one was installed above it on a new layer of concrete, which has been left accessible, a few inches below a manhole-like access cover.
The Initial Point historical marker made in 2009 is evocative of the 1875 marker, which was a more rustic six-foot tall pile of stones with a 10 inch marking stone protruding from its top. The new monument, besides being better constructed, has informative plaques about the history of the reservation.
The Uinitah Special Meridian, as it is officially called, is the only meridian designated as “special,” for reasons unknown.