CHAPTER VII.

Typed by Susie Koehrsen.

MASON AND DIXON’S LINE

Mason and Dixon’s line was based upon an agreement entered into on the 4th of July, 1760, between Lord Baltimore, of the province of Maryland, and Thomas Richard Penn, of the province of Pennsylvania, and the three lower counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, on the Delaware, - on account of the very long litigations and the contests which had subsisted between these provinces form the year 1683. These parties mutually agreed, among other things, to appoint a sufficient number of discreet and proper persons, not more than seven on each side, to be their respective commissioners, with full power to the said seven persons or any three or more of them, for the actual running, marking and laying out of the said part of the circle (as mentioned in the charter of Charles II to William Penn), and the said before-mentioned lines. The commissioners were to fix upon their time of commencing said line not later than the following October, and proceed with all fairness, candor and dispatch; marking said line with stones and posts on both sides, and complete the same before the 25th of December, 1763, so that no disputes may hereafter arise concerning the same. James Hamilton (governor), Richard Peters, Rev. Dr. John Ewing, William Allen (chief justice), William Coleman, Thomas Willing and Benjamin Chew were appointed commissioner on the part of the Penns. Horatio Sharpe (governor), J. Ridout, John Leeds, John Barclay, George Stewart, Dan of St. Thomas Janiefer and J. Beale Boardley, on behalf of Lord Baltimore. The board of commissioners met at New Castle, in November, 1760, and each province selected its own surveyors. The Pennsylvania surveyors were John Lukens and Archibald McClain. Those of Maryland were John F.A. Priggs and Jonathan Hall. The commissioners and surveyors agreed that the peninsular lines from Henlopen to the Chesapeake, made under a decree of Lord Hardwicke in 1750, were correct, hence they fixed the court house at New Castle as the center of the circle, and the surveyors proceeded on this data to measure and mark the lines. James Veach, Esq., in his history of Mason and Dixon’s line, says: ”Three years were diligently devoted to finding the bearings of the western line of Delaware, so as to make it a tangent to the circle, at the end of a twelve-mile radius. The instruments and appliances employed seem to have been those commonly used by surveyors. The proprietors residing in or near London grew weary of this slow progress, which, perhaps, the set down to the incompetency of the artists. To this groundless suspicion we owe the supersedure and the introduction of the new Mason and Dixon, who have immortalized their memory in the name of the principal line which had yet to be run.” In August, 1763, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, of London, England, were selected by Lord Baltimore and the Penns to complete their lines, as per agreement made on the 4th of July, 1760, and says Mr. Veach, “With instruction and the most approved instruments, among them a four-foot zenith sector, they go to work at once, erect an observatory on Cedar Street, Philadelphia, to facilitate the ascertainment of its latitude, which building they used by January, 1764, and it has been pronounced the first building erected in America for astronomical observations. They then go to New Castle, adopt the radius as measured by their predecessors, and, after numerous tracings of the tangent line, adopt also this tangent point, from which they say they could not make the tangent line pass one inch to the eastward or westward. They therefore, cause that line and point to be marked, and adjourn to Philadelphia to find the southern limit of Cedar or South Street This they could make to be 39 degrees, 56 minutes, 29 seconds, while the latitude of the state has been marked as 39 degrees, 56 minutes, 29 seconds. They then proceed to extend that latitude sufficiently far to the west to be due north of the tangent point, thence they measure down south 15 miles to the latitude of the great due west line, and run its parallel for a short distance, then they go to the tangent point and run due north to that latitude, and at the point of intersection, in a deep ravine, near a spring, they cause to be planted the corner-stone at which begins the celebrated Mason and Dixon’s line.” The graphic description of Mr. Veach continues: “Having ascertained the latitude of this line to be 39 degrees, 43 minutes, 32 seconds (although more accurate observations make it 39 degrees, 43 minutes, 26.8 seconds, consequently it is a little over 19 miles south 40 degrees as now located) they, under instructions, run it parallel to the Susquehanna, 23 miles; and having verified the latitude there, they return to the tangent point, from which they run the north line to the 15 mile corner and that part of the circle which it cuts off to the West, and which by agreement was to go to New Castle county. This little bow or arc is about a mile and a half long and its middle width is 116 feet. From the upper end where the three states join, to the 15 mile point, where the great Mason and Dixon’s line begins, is a little over three and a half miles, and from the 15 mile corner due west to the circle is a little over three-quarters of a mile. This was the only part of the circle which Mason and Dixon run, Lord Baltimore having no concern in the residue; Penn, however, had it run and marked with ‘four good notches’ by Isaac Taylor and Thomas Pierson in 1700 and 1701. Where it cuts the circle is the corner of three dominions, an important point, and therefore they cause it to be well ascertained and well marked. This brings them to the end of 1764.” They resumed their labors in June, 1765. If to extend this parallel did not require so great skill as did the nice adjustments of the other lines and instructions, it summoned its performers to greater endurance. A tented army penetrates the forest, but their purposes are peaceful and they more merrily. Besides the surveyors and their assistants, there are chain-bearers, rodmen, axemen, commissioners, cooks and baggage carriers, with numerous servants and laborers. By the 27th of October they came to the north (Core or Kittatiny) mountain, 95 miles from the Susquahanna, and where the temporary line of the 1739 terminated. After taking Captain Shelby with them to its summit, to show them the course of the Potomac and point out the Alleghany Mountains, the surveyors returned to the settlements to pass the winter and to get their appointments renewed. Early in 1768 they are again at their posts, and by the 4th of June they are on the top of the Little Alleghany Mountain, the first west of Wilk Creek. They have now carried the line 160 miles from the beginning. The Indians, into whose ungranted territory they had deeply penetrated, grew restive and threatening. They forbid any further advance, and they had to be obeyed. The agents of the proprietors now find that there are other lords of the soil whose favor must be propitiated. The Six Indian Nations were the lords paramount of the territory yet to be traversed. To obtain their consent to the consummation of the line, the governors of Pennsylvania and Maryland, in the winter of 1766-67, at an expense of more than L500, procured, under the agency of Sir William Johnston, a convocation of the tribes of that powerful confederacy. The application was successful, and early in June, 1767, an escort of 14 warriors, with an interpreter and chief deputed by the Iroquois council, met the surveyors and their camp at the summit of the Great Alleghany to escort them down into the valley of the Ohio. Safety thus being secured, the extension of the line was pushed on vigorously in the summer of 1767. Soon the host of red and white men, led by the London surveyors, came to the western limit of Maryland, “the meridian of the first fountain of the Potomac,” and why they did not stop there is a mystery, for there their functions terminated. But they passed it by unheeded, because unknown, resolved to reach the utmost limit of Penn’s five degrees of longitude from the Delaware, for so were they instructed. By the 24th they came to the crossing of Braddock’s road. The escort now became restless. The Mohawk chief and his nephew leave. The Shawnees and Delawares, tenants of the hunting grounds, grow terrific. On the 27th of September, when camped on the Monongahela River, 233 miles from the Delaware River, 26 of the laborers deserted and but 15 axemen were left. Being so near the goal, the surveyors ( for none of the commissioners were with them) evinced their courage by coolly sending back to Fort Cumberland for aid, and in the meantime they pushed on. At length they came to where the line crosses the Warrior branch of the old Catawba warpath, at the second crossing of the Dunkard Creek, a little west of Mount Morris, Greene county, and there the Indian escort say to them that “they were instructed by their chiefs in council not to let the line be run westward of that path.” Their commands were peremptory, and then for 15 years Mason and Dixon’s line is stayed. Mason and Dixon, with their pack-horse train and attendants, returned to the East without molestation, and reported to the commissioners, who approved their conduct, and on the 27th of December, 1767, granted to them an honorable discharge and agreed to pay them an additional price for a map or plan of their work.


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