New York State Engineer and Surveyor

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The New York State Engineer and Surveyor was a state cabinet officer in the State of New York between 1848 and 1926. During the re-organization of the state government under Governor Al Smith, the office was abolished and its responsibilities transferred to the New York State Department of Public Works, which in turn was absorbed by the New York State Department of Transportation in 1967.[1]


The office was established as Surveyor General in 1781.[2]

Until 1822, the Surveyor General was appointed by the Council of Appointment for an indefinite term. The second holder of the office, Simeon De Witt, was considered the most qualified person for the office, and was re-appointed without regard to party politics. Even the Bucktails did not oust him when they were struggling with his first cousin DeWitt Clinton. The office was at first mostly occupied with surveying the uncharted area of the State and issuing official maps. In 1817, the Surveyor General became a member of the Erie Canal Commission.

From 1823 to 1845, the Surveyor General was elected by joint ballot of the New York State Legislature for a term of three years. Simeon De Witt was re-elected in 1823, 1826, 1829 and 1832, and died in office in 1834.

The Constitution of 1846 renamed the office as State Engineer and Surveyor, and the office's major concern was to be the supervision of the maintenance and enlargement of the Canal network. The candidates were required to be practical engineers.

From 1847 on, the State Engineer and the other state cabinet officers were elected by the voters at the state elections in November in odd years to a two-year term, so that, until 1877, they served in the second half of the term of the governor in office and the first half of the term of the succeeding governor, since the governors at the time were elected to a two-year term in even years. From 1877 on, the Governor served a three-year term, while the State Engineer continued to be elected for two years. The State Engineer elected in 1895 received an additional year and served a three-year term, and from 1898 on, the State Engineer and other state officers were elected in even years to a two-year term at the same time as the Governor, and they served concurrently.

Surveyors General[edit]

Name Took office Left office Party Notes
Philip Schuyler March 30, 1781 May 13, 1784
Simeon De Witt May 13, 1784 December 3, 1834 Democratic-Republican/Clintonian died in office after 50 years of service, re-appointed and re-elected several times
William Campbell January 20, 1835 February 5, 1838 Democratic
Orville L. Holley February 5, 1838 February 7, 1842 Whig re-elected to a second term in 1841, but in 1842 all state officers were removed by Dem. legislature
Nathaniel Jones February 7, 1842 February 3, 1845 Democratic
Hugh Halsey February 3, 1845 December 31, 1847 Democratic office abolished by Constitution of 1846, and replaced with State Engineer and Surveyor

Engineers and Surveyors[edit]

Name Took office Left office Party Notes
Charles B. Stuart January 1, 1848 December 31, 1849 Whig
Hezekiah C. Seymour January 1, 1850 December 31, 1851 Whig
William J. McAlpine January 1, 1852 August 1, 1853 Democratic resigned
Wheeler H. Bristol September 21, 1853 1853 Democratic appointed to fill unexpired term, ran for the office at the State election in November, was defeated, and resigned
Henry Ramsay December 10, 1853 December 31, 1853 appointed to fill unexpired term
John T. Clark January 1, 1854 December 31, 1855 Whig
Silas Seymour January 1, 1856 December 31, 1857 American
Van Rensselaer Richmond January 1, 1858 December 31, 1861 Democratic two terms
William B. Taylor January 1, 1862 December 31, 1865 Union two terms
J. Platt Goodsell January 1, 1866 December 31, 1867 Republican
Van Rensselaer Richmond January 1, 1868 December 31, 1871 Democratic two terms
William B. Taylor January 1, 1872 December 31, 1873 Republican
Sylvanus H. Sweet January 1, 1874 December 31, 1875 Democratic
John D. Van Buren, Jr. January 1, 1876 December 31, 1877 Democratic
Horatio Seymour, Jr. January 1, 1878 December 31, 1881 Democratic two terms
Silas Seymour January 1, 1882 December 31, 1883 Republican
Elnathan Sweet January 1, 1884 December 31, 1887 Democratic two terms
John Bogart January 1, 1888 December 31, 1891 Democratic two terms
Martin Schenck January 1, 1892 December 31, 1893 Democratic
Campbell W. Adams January 1, 1894 December 31, 1898 Republican two terms (1894-95, 1896-98)
Edward A. Bond January 1, 1899 May 1, 1904 Republican resigned during his third term
Henry A. Van Alstyne May 10, 1904 December 31, 1906 Republican appointed to fill unexpired term, then re-elected
Frederick Skene January 1, 1907 December 31, 1908 Dem./Ind. League
Frank M. Williams January 1, 1909 December 31, 1910 Republican
John A. Bensel January 1, 1911 December 31, 1914 Democratic two terms
Frank M. Williams January 1, 1915 December 31, 1922 Republican four terms
Dwight B. LaDu January 1, 1923 December 31, 1924 Democratic
Roy G. Finch January 1, 1925 December 31, 1926 Republican last State Engineer and Surveyor, office merged into Department of Public Works


  1. ^ History of the office, at NY State Archives
  2. ^ Google Book The New York Civil List compiled by Franklin Benjamin Hough (page 37; Weed, Parsons and Co., 1858)