Maps fascinate Dale Loberger. As a kid he mapped his neighborhood to record bike routes that minimized hill climbing.
As an adult, Loberger uses old maps, other historical references and modern tools to plot the trading and migration routes that have long been obscured by asphalt.
Loberger explained to a roomful of history and mapping buffs at the Joel Lane Museum House on Sunday how he used GIS software and digitized maps to predict the routes of old trails.
Loberger, dressed in 1820s garb, brought an 1815 surveyor’s compass and other antique measuring devices to display at the restored 1769 home on Sunday. But the star of his lecture was a PowerPoint presentation that helped demonstrate how he predicts the locations of old roads using computer models and digitized information about soil.
He wanted to know, “Where were the roads? Can I walk down the same path?”
As he sought to answer those questions, Loberger became a surveyor to understand how early maps were drawn. He collected historic documents and digital maps.
Like many in the Triangle, Loberger combines new and old modes. He’s deep into GIS and history. He works for a software company that uses computer models to predict where future 911 calls will come from. And he’s a Revolutionary War re-enactor.
Maps could go astray
Educated men were expected to be cartographers, Loberger said. But it was easy for errors to seep into their work, especially when they mapped the mountains.
Maps were far from precise in those days. Roads had different names based on their direction. The Great Wagon Road, which ran from Philadelphia to Georgia and brought settlers to North Carolina, wasn’t one route but several.
Loberger said his prediction model can be used to find the location of any significant road. A few years ago he found an ancient mile-marker on a road near the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.
The Lane Museum House was a fitting setting for a lecture on colonial roads. Joel Lane was a representative in Colonial Assembly in New Bern and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution.
The mission of the Joel Lane house centers on the history of 18th century North Carolina, said Belle Long, curator.
The house sits blocks away from downtown Raleigh, but the area was rural when the house was built, at a time when Wake didn’t exist as a county.
A common question from museum visitors is, “How did people get here?” Long said.
Loberger’s presentation packed the small Lane house, bringing out people such as amateur cartographer Betty Batchelor from Wilson County. She is using deeds in her research of her family history and “plotting where people actually lived.”
Deeds reference cart paths and old roads that have long disappeared from modern maps. Batchelor, former president of the Edgecombe County Genealogical Society, has drawn her own maps using information from deeds.
“Maps are wonderful things,” she said.