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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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1763-64, with a zenith sector, to be 39°, 56',
29.1". The point, fifteen English statute
miles due south of that parallel, was^ com-
puted by them to be in latitude 39°, 43', 18".
This was computed by Col. Graham, in 1850,


from knowledge of the dimensions and figure
of the earth to be in latitude 39°, 43', 26.3".
From the northern extremity of the said due
north line, a line was to be run due west,
continuing upon a parallel of latitude until
the western limits of Maryland and Pennsyl-
vania should respectively be reached, which,
in the case of Pennsylvania, was defined to
be five degrees of longitude west of the river
Delaware. On the 24th of November, 1764,
the Commissioners agreed that the post set
up by Messrs. Mason and Dixon, and by
them marked west, shall be deemed and ac-
counted fifteen miles south of the parallel of
the most southern bounds of the city of
Philadelphia, and that Messrs. Mason and
Dixon shall be instructed immediately to pro-
ceed in running the west line directed by the
articles from the said post till it reaches the
river Susquehanna, where an observation
shall be made by them. And stones shall be
set up and marked with the arms of Lord
Baltimore on the one side and the arms of
the proprietors of Pennsylvania on the other,
as the articles require and direct. On the
17th of June, 1765, the surveyors produced
their minute books, and it appeared that they
had extended the west line to the west side
of the river Susquehanna. On the 18th of
June, 1765, the Commissioners gave Messrs.
Mason and Dixon instructions to proceed
with the running of the west line westward
of the Susquehanna as far as the provinces
of Maryland and Pennsylvania were settled
and inhabited.* The consent of the Indians
had to be obtained to the line being contin-
ued. On the 16th of June, 1767, Sir Will-
iam Johnson, his Majesty's agent for Indian
affairs, had obtained the consent of the In-
dians to the tracing of the west line to its
western extremity, that is to say, till it should
reach to a distance of five degrees of longi-
tude west from the river Delaware. On the
18th of June, 1767, the Commissioners, in
giving the surveyors instructions for contin-
uing the west line, cautioned them in regard
to a conciliatory and jsroper conduct toward
the Indians. On December 25, 1767, the
surveyors had extended the parallel of lati-
tude to the distance of 230 miles, 18 chains,
21 links from the beginning of said line,
and 244 miles, 38 chains, 36 links from the
river Delaware near to a path called the In-
dian war-path, on the borders of a stream
called Dunham's Creek, but that they were
prevented by the Indians deputed to attend
them by Sir William Johnson from continu-

; is a tradition that the surveyors had with them a
h, however, was tame, but excited much curiosity
inhabitants along the line.

ing the said line to the end of five degrees of
longitude (the western limits of the province
of Pennsylvania), which in the latitude of
the said line they found to be 267 miles. 58
chains, and 90 links — the said Indians alleg-
ing that they were instructed by their chiefs
in council, not to suffer the said line to be
run to the we.^tward of the said war-path.
Col. Graham notes that, from our better
knowledge of the dimensions and figure of
the earth, we should compute the five degrees
of longitude to be equal to 266.31 miles,
or 266 miles, 24 chains, and SO links. On
the 26th, the Commissioners approved the
conduct of he surveyors in desisting from
running the parallel upon the opposition
made by the Indians; and they agreed to
discharge Messrs. Mason and Dixon from
their service, they having finished the lines
they had been sent over by the proprietors to
run. The final report of the Commissioners
was made to the proprietaries of the two
provinces on the 9th of November, 1768, in
which, among other things, in reference to
the due east and west line fifteen miles due
sonth of Philadelphia, they reported that
they had extended the same 230 miles, 18
chains, and 21 links due west from the place
of beginning, and 244 miles, 38 chains, and
36 links due west from the river Delaware,
and should have continued the same to the
western bounds of the province of Pennsyl-
vania, but the Indians would not permit it
They marked, described, and perpetuated the
said west line, by setting up and erecting
therein posts of cut stone about four feet
long and ten or twelve inches square, at the
end of every mile, from the place of begin-
ning to the distance of 132 miles, near the
foot of a hill called and known by the name
of Sideling Hill, every five-mile stone having
on the side facing the north the arms of the
said Thomas Penn and Richard Penn graved
thereon, and on the side facing the south,
the arms of Frederick, Lord Baltimore,
graved thereon ; and the other intermediate
stones are graved with the letter P on the
north side and the letter Mon the south side.
These stones were prepared in England, and
sent over as the line progressed. Thirty-nine
of them were placed along the southern
boundary of York County, and are mostly
well preserved. They were of that species
of limestone known as oolite The country
to the westward of Sideling Hill being so
very mountainous as to render it in most
places extremely difScult and expensive, and
in some impracticable, to convey stones or
boundaries, they had marked and described
the line to the top of the Allegheny ridge,


which divides the waters running into the
rivers Potomac and Ohio; they raised and
erected thereon, on the tops and ridges of
mountains, heaps or piles of stones or earth
from about three and a half to four yards in
diameter at bottom, and from six to seven
feet in height ; and that from the top of the
said Allegheny ridge, westward, as far as
they continued the line, they set up posts at
the end of every mile, and raised around each i
post heaps or piles of stones or earth.

During the administration of William F.
Johnston, Commissioners were appointed by
the Governors of the States of Pennsylvania,
Delaware and Maryland, to ascertain and
relix the boundaries where those States join
each other. Joshua P. Eyre, Esq., was ap-
pointed on the part of Pennsylvania ; George
Read Riddle, Esq., on the part of Delaware;
Henry G. S. Key, Esq., on the part of
Maryland, and Lieut. -Col. James D. Gra-
ham, of the United States Topographical
Engineers, was detailed by the War Depart
ment at the request of those States for that
particular service. In their report they say
that they saw that much science and many
intricate mathematical problems were in-
volved, that not only required the talents of
men as Commissioners distinguished in the
annals of our country, and su.rveyors to carry
out the agreement of the proprietary govern-
ments of 1760, but finally enlisted the ser-
vices of those distinguished mathematicians,
Messrs. Mason and Dixon. The report of
Col. Graham, from which the preceding
account is gathered, presented a general
view of the scientific operations of Messrs.
Mason and Dixon, and of their predecessors,
in tracing the various lines which constitute
important portions of the boundaries of the
States. He investigated the notes of Mason
and Dixon, which were in the archives of the
State of Maryland. The following informa-
tion, taken from his report, is interesting to
us as Pennsylvauians. The Boundary Com-
missioners and Col. Graham, proceeded to
the northeast corner of Maryland, or point of
intersection of the due north line with the
parallel of latitude fifteen miles south of the
parallel of the most southern limit of Phila-
delphia. This point is in a deep ravine, on
the margin of a small brook and near its
source. The stone monument, with the arms
of Lord Baltimore and Thomas and Richard
Penn graven thereon, which had been placed
by Commissioner Ewing, by order of the
Board of Commissioners in 1768 to designate
this point, was missing. From the tradition
of the neighborhood, it appeared, that some
years ago after it had fallen nearly prostrate

! from its place, owing to the encroachment of
the stream, upon whose margin it stood, some
individual had taken it away for a chimney
piece. A stake was found firmly planted in
the ground, which they were informed by the

I neighbors near by, occupied its place. In
examining the taagent and curve the report
says : "With a radius of twelve miles,
such a curve is so flat that it is difficult iu

< walking over ground intersected with forest
timber, fences and other obstructions, to dis-
tinguish without the aid of instruments the
deflections of the lines connecting monuments
on its circumference nearly a third of a mile
apart." An impression prevailed in the neigh-
borhood, that the stone originally planted at
the point of intersection of the due north line
with the arc of the circle of twelve miles
radius, corresponding with the true point of
junctioQ of the three States of Pennsylvania,
Maryland, and Delaware, was also missing.
The true position of the lost monument was
found, and they maried and perpetuated it
by planting a new monument. In making
the excavation at the depth of about three feet
below the surface a cut stone unmarked, was
found, of precisely the same form, dimen-
sions and quality as the unmarked stones on
the arc of the circle, and at the intersection
of the circle with the due north line. Iu
turning to the proceedings of the Commis-
sioners under the dates of the 17th and 18th
of June, 1765, it was found that such a stone
was placed by them to 'mark that point. It
was not until the year, -1768, that a second
stone, marked with the arms of the proprie-
taries, was also placed at that point. It was
within the memory of the neighboring inhab-
itants that the stone which stood at this
point in a tottering posture, to within a few
years of 1849, bore the arms, so often de-
scribed, upon it. The unmarked stone of
1765 had, says the report, probably been
buried at the base of the one bearing the
arms, when the latter was placed attlie same
point by Commissioner Ewing in 1768. The
evidence afforded by the disinterment of the
old stone showed that the point fixed upon
was the northeast corner of Maryland, cor-
responding with that originally ostiiblished by
Mason and Dixon. The new stone re-mark-
ing this important point was planted with its
base resting on each, about Hve feet below
the surface of the ground, and its top rising
about two feet above the ground. It is of
cut granite and of the following dimensions,
viz: "about seven feet long, andsquares'sixteen
by eighteen inches. It is marked with the
letter M on the south and west sides, and the
letter P on the north and east sides. Under


this letter, on the north side, the date 1849
is engi-aved in deep cut figures.

There were striking discrepancies between
some of the measured distances in 1849, and
those of Mason and Dixon. In regard to
Delaware, an impression prevailed among
her citizens that a considerable portion of
her territory had been abstracted by the cur-
tailment of her rightful radius of twelve
miles around Newcastle. It was determined
that the actual length of the radius or dis-
tance from the spire of the court house at
Newcastle (the center of the town), to the
same point on the curve as marked by the old
monuments, should be accurately ascertained
by triangulation. The records of the U. S.
Coast SLirvey office aiforded distances, and
the accuracy of the Mason and Dixon survey
was closely tested. The radius of twelve
miles had' been determined by the simple
method of measuring over the surface of the
ground with a siurveyor's chain, for which
purpose a vista was opened through the for-
est as the work progressed.* It was a surprise
that the length of the radius should have
been so correctly obtained by such a method.
The report says: "There must have been, by
mere chance, a compensation of the errors in-
cident to such a measurement over so great a
distance." For it appears that the angle
formed by the north line and the radius from
Newcastle was so near a right angle, that
the mark or post was declared the true tan-
gent point, but the angle was never actually
measured. The report further says : ' ' The
tangent stone stands on low ground, very
near the margin of a morass, known by the
name of Cat Swamp. Looking from thence
to the east, the ground is pretty Hat for half
a mile, and then it rises by a rapid ascent to
the ridge running northward from the sum-
mit of Chestnut Hill, distant one mile. This
ridge entirely shuts out ^he view of the whole
country to the east of it from the tangent stone
and must, at least, have limited the view of
the radius when the angles it formed with
the tangent and north lines were measured
by Messrs. Mason and Dixon. These angles
were then probably affected by whatever er-
rors in direction may have arisen in running
eleven miles from Newcastle." It was then
ascertained that the tangent line did not form
a right angle with the radius of twelve miles
drawn from the spire of Newcastle Court
House to the point occupied by the tangent
stone. The angle, at the tangent stone formed

*The line is stated to have been measured horizontally— the
hills and mountains with a sixteen and a half-foot level ; and
the vista cut through the forest, eight yards wide, was '* seen
about two miles, beautifully terminating to the eye in a point."

by these two lines, differs 8' 32.9" from a
right angle. It was found by computation
that the small deviation of 46*" in direction,
or thirteen feet, one and one-half inch from a
straight line at the end of eleven miles in
running this radius from Newcastle Court
house, would be sufficient to produce the dif-
ference in the measurement of the angle at
the tangent post, supposing the view to the
east to have been limited to the distance of
one mile, as it evidently must have been from
the nature of the ground. "Even this is in-
dicative of a very small error in direction in
tracing this radius, when we reflect that it
was prolonged through the forest by ranging
staves or poles in line one beyond another,
as the surveyors advanced with their work ;
a method, so inaccurate for tracing a straight
line that we are surprised it should have been
resorted to in so important an undertaking.
This was not, however, the work of Messrs.
Mason and Dixon, but of their precedessors,
who were less versed in science and in the
use of the higher order of geodetic instru-
ments than were Messrs. Mason and Dixon.
The arc of the circle west of the due north
line and the radius terminating in the tan-
gent stone, were traced and determined cor-
respondent with one and the same center, by
the surveyors under the agreement of 1760
and those of 1849, that is to say, the spire
of "the court house at New Castle. The de-
cree of Lord Hardwicke of 1750, toilches
these two points, and the position of Cape
Henlopen. The discrepancies in regard to
the arc of the circle west of the due north
line and the angle formed between the radius
and the peninsular or tangent line, at the
tangent stone, cannot be attributed to any
difference respecting the center of the circle.
The radius run out by the surveyors, in 1761.
indicated by a line drawn from the spire of
the court house in New Castle, to the posi-
tion of the tangent stone, should be revolved
about the center of its circle (the spire afore-
said), through an arc of 8' and 34" and
one-tenth of a second to the south, and then
produced two feet four inches westward, and
the line called the tangent line, should be
revolved westward about its southern ex-
tremity, at the "Middle Point" of the
Cape of Henlopen line through the inappre-
ciable angle of 1.2", and then these two lines
would meet at right angles, at the distance
of 157.6 feet southward from the present
position of the tangent stone. The slight
variation thus required in the azimuth of the
tangent line, proves the surprising accuracy
of its direction as determined by Messrs.
Mason and Dixon, and how truly it divided


the provinces, in accordance with the articles
of the ancient agreement, as far as it ex-
tended, which is given by Mason and Dixon
in their notes of survey to be 81 miles, 78
chains and 31 links, or 17.2 yards less than
82 miles. The chord of the arc of the
circle west of the north line should have
begun at a point 157.6 feet southward of the
present position of the tangent stone, and
have ended at a point 14:3.7 feet north of the
present position of the stone set by Mason
and Dixon, and the Commissioners of their
day. to mark its termination, and constituting
now the point of junction of the three States.
The report says : " It is our opinion that the
stones on the arc, west of the north line,
stand as originally placed." The tangent
stone could never have been moved from its
original position, and that stone and the in-
tersection stone remain in the positions given
to them by the surveyors in 1765 . They both
stand upon their proper lines of direction,
which would have been scarcely preserved had
they been moved by mischievous interference.
The tangent stone stands precisely upon the
same right line, with the three monuments to
the southward of it on the tangent line, aiid
the intersection stone stands as truly on the
north line. Those who believed that the
tangent stone had been disturbed in its posi-
tion because of the fragments of stone of a
similar character which for some time la}-
strewed at its base, were not carried so far
back by tradition as the period when this
point was marked by two similar stones, en-
graved alike by the arms of the proprieta-
ries, and placed side by side, '" the better to
distinguish and ascertain the tangent point."
'• The fragments, which we were told of while
engaged in the reconnoisance, were the re-
mains, no doubt, of the missing companion
of the one we found a little inclined in pos-
ture, but firmly planted in the ground, it
was, when taken up, unbroken and perfect
in form." In 1764-65, from the tangent point,
Mason and Dixon ran a meridian line north-
ward until it intersected the said parallel of
latitude at the distance of five miles, 1 chain
and 50 links, thus and there determi*uing and
fixing the northeast corner of Maryland.

In 1765 Mason and Dixon described such
portion of the semicircle around Newcastle,
as fell westward of the said meridian or due
north line from the tangent point. "'This
I'lttle bow or arc " reaching into Maryland,
'lis about a mile and a half long, and its
middle width about one hundred and sixteen
feet ; from its upper end, where the three
States join, to the fifteen mile point, where
the great Mason and Dixon's Line begins, is j

a little over three and a half miles ; and from
the fifteen mile corner due east to the circle
is a little over three-quarters of a mile —
room enough for three or four good farms."*
This was the only part of the circle Mason
and Dixon ran". The report of Col. Gra-
ham says the error in the curve of Mason
and Dixon is not one of moment as regards
extent of territory, as it abstracts from Del-
aware and gives to Maryland only about 18.78
of an acre. Their long west line or paral-
lel of latitude we have had no occasion to
test, except for a short distance, but the great
care with which their astronomical observa-
tions, contained in the old manuscript at
Annapolis, were made, leaves no doubt of
the accuracy of that part of their work.
" The want of a proper demarcation of the
boundaries between States is always a source
of great inconvenience and often of trouble
to the border inhabitants ; and it is worthy
of remark, that as our survey progressed and
while making the necessary offsets to houses
on the east of the north line, we discovered
that there was an impression among many,
that the boundary of Delaware extended up
to the north line, from the junction to the
northeast corner of Maryland. Mr. W. Smith,
a gentlemen who has once served as a mem-
ber of the Legislature of Delaware, resides
a full half mile within the State of Penn-
sylvania, measured in the shortest direction
from his dwelling-house to the circular
boundary. We find also, by careful measure-
ment, that Christiana- Church is in Penn
sylvania, full one hundred yards west of the
circular, boundary. The dwelling-houses of
Messrs. J. -Jones, Thomas Gibson. Thomas
Steel and J. McCowan, are all within the
boitnds af Pennsylvania, according to our
trace of the circle from computed elements."
Under the auspices of the Royal Societj' of
London, in the year 1768, the length of a
degree of .latitude was determined by the
measurements of Mason and Dixon, and
astromomical observations made by them.
The degree measured 363,763 feet — about
68.9 miles. The difference of latitude of
the stone planted in the forks of Brandywine
and the middle post in the west peninsular
line, or the amplitude of the celestial arch
answering to that distance, baa been found
to be 1°. 28'. 45". "f Messrs. Mason and
Dixon were allowed 21 shillings each per
day for one month, from June 21, of the last
year, and the residue of the time. 10 shillings
and 6 pence each per day. for the expenses,
etc., and no more until they embarked

*Kgle's History of Pennsylvania, 128.
fEgle's History of Penniylvania, 129.


for England, and then the allowance of
10 shillings and 6 pence sterling per day
was again to take place, and continue until
their arrival in England. The amount paid
by the Penns under these proceedings, from
1760 to 1768 was £34.200, Pennsylvania cur-
rency.* The compass used by these distin-
guished surveyors is in the land office at

The proceedings had for fixing the bound-
ary line were approved and ratified by the
King, by his order in Council on the 11th
day of January, 1769. A proclamation to
quiet the settlers on the part of Pennsylvania,
bears date the loth day September, 1774.")"
The Provincial Council had for some time
represented to the Governor the absolute
necessity of establishing by an ex parte proc-
lamation, the lines of jurisdiction between
the province of Maryland, and the province
of Pennsj'lvania, according to the lines and
boundaries agreed upon, run and marked by
the Commissioners. But this proclamation
was met with opposition, on the ground of
the minority of the then Lord Baltimore, and
by order of the King the proclamation
was withdrawn. Gov. Penn represented
in a letter to the British Secretary of State,
that the people living between the ancient
temporary line of jurisdiction, and that
lately settled and marked by the Commis-
sioners were in a lawless State, and that
his partial extension of jurisdiction had
quieted disturbances and given satisfaction to
the people.

On the 7th of January, 1775, a letter was
received from the Earl of Dartmouth, Secre-
tary of State, which says that "the letter of
Gov. Penn stated the case respecting the
boundary line between Pennsylvania and
Maryland, in a very different light from that ,
in which it was represented to me and the
King; confiding in your assertion, that the ex-
tension of the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania
up to line settled and marked by the Com-
missioners, had been so far from having the
effect to disturb the peace of his subjects and
occasioning violence and bloodshed, that it
had quite a contrary tendency, and given
universal satisfaction, is graciously pleased
to approve the arrangement made by your
proclamation of the 1 5th of September, and I
to permit you to recall that issued on the 2d of
November.;}; Proclamation was accordingly
issued on the 8th of April, 1775, extending
jurisdiction to these boundaries. In 1781,
Commissioners and surveyors were appointed

*Egle's History of Pennsylvania, 129.
+X Col.Ecc, 208.
tX Col. Rec, 240.

to run the boundary line between this State
and Virginia. They were directed to con-
tinue the line from the extremity of Masou
and Dixon's line twenty-three miles west,
that is due west five degrees of longtitude
from the Delaware Kiver, and then run a
meridian line till it strikes the Ohio. This
line was extended in 1782. Thomas Jefferson
was then Govenor of Virginia, and James
Madison was one of the Commissioners.
David Eittenhouse was a Commissioner on
the part of Pennsylvania. Ai-chibald Mc-
Clean, of York County, was a surveyor in
these proceedings. Very careful astronomi-

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 18 of 218)