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Dr. William Wroten

Delmarva Heritage Series

* Mason And Dixon Make Survey in Boundary Row

Salisbury Times - December 23, 1959

The Middle Point (2)

Although, as pointed out in a previous article concerning the Maryland and Pennsylvania-Delaware boundary controversies, the Penns and the Baltimores had been arguing boundaries and claims for many years, it was not until  

1750-1751 that the actual survey of the southern boundary of Delaware was first run.

This survey, which is known as the Transpeninsular Line, called for the surveyors to mark each mile with a post and to set stone markers every five miles for the first 25 miles of the line. It seemed safe to mark permanently the first 25 miles as they were sure the Middle Point would be at least that far from the Atlantic. The first such stone was set near a mulberry tree which was 139 perches due west of the ocean.

The markers, cut from native stone, were rectangular prisms 41/2 inches by 8 inches in cross-section and with a rounded top. The coat of arms of Lord Baltimore was on one side and that of the Penns on the other. It should be mentioned that the coats of arms used then were somewhat different from those used later by Mason and Dixon. Only five stone markers were planted. Although they had planned to use six - one near the ocean and one every five miles - the Pocomoke and swamps at the 15 mile point prohibited the placing of a stone marker.

AFTER A FEW more disputes between the Penns and the Baltimores a Commission of 1760 accepted the line which had been run in 1751 and marked the Middle Point with a white oak post. After becoming satisfied that their observations were correct the commissioners planted a stone monument two feet and eight inches to the north of the post marking the Middle Point. A similar stone was set at the 30 mile point on the Transpeninsula Line, which had not been marked in the 1751 survey. Both of the 1760 stones were similar to the five placed in 1751.

Soon thereafter the work was begun on the line to run northward until it touched the radius of the circle 12 miles from New Castle. By October, 1761 the survey party bad traveled 80 miles north of the Middle Point. And, it so happened that they found the 12 mile radius line intersected this north-south line at a point 79 miles and 52 chains from the Middle Point:

In 1763 two mathematicians-Surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, were employed by the Baltimores and Penns "to mark, run out, settle; fix and determine all such parts of the circle marks, lines and boundaries as are mentioned in the several Articles of Agreement Or Commissions and are not yet completed." Their first task upon arriving Philadelphia on Nov. 15, 1763 was to discover and mark the most southern part of Philadelphia, since the northern boundary. Of Maryland was to be the parallel of latitude 15 miles south of that point. After working on this problem and others, such as the circle and tangent point, the Mason-Dixon party in June of 1764 went to the Middle Point betwteen the Atlantic and the Chesapeake, which had already been established and which today: marks the southwest corner of the State of Delaware.

THE SUMMER and fall of 1764 were spent in running the 82-mile line north (and slightly west) of the Middle Point to establish the tangent point of the circle. It should be mentioned that the work of the earlier surveyors, Watson and Parsons for Penn and Emory and Jones for Lord Baltimore, (17504751) was of much benefit to Mason and Dixon.

In September they worked their way back to the Middle Point making marks at each five mile point, On Sept. 25th they noted in their journal that they once again had reached the Middle Point only to find that they were two feet and two inches to the west of it. But they came to the conclusion that the loss of time and expense to the proprietors would not warrant a correction thereof.

In the spring of 1765 Mason and Dixon started their westward line - which they called the "West Line" but became more famous later as the Mason-Dixon Line. The northern boundary of Maryland or the Mason-Dixon Line has a famous and interesting history but this article is concerned primarily with the eastern boundary and the trans. peninsular line.

At the end of November, 1765, Mason and Dixon started back to the Middle Point to set 50 stones along the tangent line. The entry of the journal for Dec. 7, 1765 states: "Twenty Stones arrived at Wm. Twiford's on the River Nanticoke; and about the same time 30 were landed near the bridge on the River Choptank."

By 1766 these 50 stones were planted, and before the year was out 31 additional stones were set up along the tangent line to re place the wooden posts. Every five miles the stone markers had the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore or the west side and those of the Penns on the east side. .The milstone markers between were marked with the letter "P" on the ease and the letter "M" on the west.

ACCORDING TO the leading authorities, among them Dr. A. L. Trussell, Gwynn Reel, Leon de Valinger Jr., State Archivist of Delaware; and Mr an dMrs. William H Bayliff, the stone markers were made of oolithic limestone and shipped here from England as needed. These square posts were three and a half to five feet high, 12 inches to the side and a pyramid-like top. The stones placed at the tangent point and on part of the circle were of a different, and less durable material with rounded top to indicate the circular line. Later these were to be replaced with better material but except for the tangent stone this was not done.

In 1768 Mason and Dixon completed their work and on Jan. 11, 1769 the King in Council ratified the line as the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania-Delaware. The survey had cost the proprietors at least $75,000 by today's rate of exchange.

There have been other surveys since, the Grahamn Re-Survey of 1849-1850, the Sinclair Re-Survey of 1885, the Re-Survey of 1900-1903. And also should be mentioned the 1950 Boundary Inspections.

According to the Report of 1950 there has been no attempt to maintain or restore the Transpeninsular Line, and the markers on this oldest of Maryland boundaries has suffered from over 200 years of neglect. The Board of Natural Resources Bulletin 4, "The Maryland - Pennsylvania and the Maryland-Delaware Boundaries," (from which most of the material in these two articles came), reports the stone at the initial point situated on Federal property near; the Fenwick's Island Light, has been protected against vandalism and to some extent against the weather. "Number 5 was in an isolated area where it was protected by trees and was the best preserved of all the markers on this line. The Mason and Dixon marker the Middle Point had been broken off at the ground level and later repaired with an iron band. In other respects the two stones at the Middle Point were in fair condition except for weathering. The remaining stones on this boundary were in poor condition from excessive weathering, breakage or both. Numbers 23 and 30 were situated along a highway, were insecure in the earth and were so badly broken as to be barely recognizable as boundary markers. Moreover, the interval between markers seemed too long to delineate adequately this boundary."

ALSO OF INTEREST to the people of the Delmarva Peninsula was the further study in 1950 of the north-south boundary, which is divided into three, parts: (1) the Tangent Line beginning at the Middle Point and ending where it touches the New Castle Circle; (2) the Arc Of the Circle lying west of a line drawn due north from the Tangent Point; and (3) the North Line from the point where it emerges from the circle to the northwest corner of Maryland. Dr. Trussell found, photographed, and catalogued 88 of the 94 monuments which were to mark 92 points on the north-south line between Maryland and Delaware. One of the six not found was Milestone 7, which should be marking a point in a swampy region near the Nanticoke River.

Dr. Trussell found that some of these monuments were badly eroded at the base because of the swamp water, others were insecure, still others badly weathered, and many chipped or broken from "gunfire or other mechanical shock."

Most of these markers were erected when Delaware was s considered part of Pennsylvania, thus the markings on the Delaware side bear the Penn coat of arms or the letter "P". On one marker someone tried to correct the "mistake" by attempting to convert the "P" to a "D".

Mainly as a result of the 1950 inspections there has been much talk and the passing of resolutions recommending the restoration of this famous and important boundary line. Individuals and groups such as the various county and state historical societies, and legislative bodies of Maryland, Delaware, and the Federal Government have considered some steps of positive action. At last report everything is still in the "considering stage."

To quote from a State of Maryland publication of July, 1959: "As matters now stand the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey awaits an appropriation which will enable it to resurvey the north-south line between Maryland and Delaware. When this line is re-established the two states are ready to repair and restore the boundary markers which were erected by Mason and Dixon and which have been almost completely neglected for two centuries."

Part I


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