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Reports relative to the boundary line between Maryland and Virginia online

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JANUARY g, i860.






City of Washington, Dec. 21, 1859.

To the Honorable the Legislature of the State of Virginia :

The undersigned, commissioners upon the question of boundary
between the States of Maryland and Virginia, in virtue of the authority x?f
the Acts of Assembly under which they respectively hold their commis-
sions, beg leave respectfully to report :

That they met at Washington city on the 18th August, 1858, and made
the subjoined application (marked A) to the honorable Secretary of War,
for the services of an officer of the United States engineers to aid them in
the discharge of their duties.

That in accordance with this request, the honorable Secretary of War
kindly and promptly responded, by detailing Lieut. N. Michler, U. S. topo-
graphical engineers.

That the commissioners again met, by appointment, at New Creek, Va.,
and, with Lieut. Michler, proceeded thence to the locality of the Fairfax

The spot and stone were easily recognized and identified, Sept., 19th,
1858, by the commissioners and Lieut. Michler.

The following gentlemen did them the honor to accompany them, viz :
James R. Partridge, Esq., Secretary of State of Maryland, Hugh Lennox
Bond, Esq., of Baltimore, Philip Pendleton, Esq., of Alleghany county,
Maryland, and John Coneway, the guide.

This duty performed, the petitioners again met, September 30, when, in
company with Lieut. Michler, they proceeded to the eastern shore of Mary-
land and Virginia.

Whilst at Horn town, Va., the accompanying instructions (marked B and
C) for commencing the duties entrusted to him, were agreed upon and given
to Lieut. Michler.

The commissioners- met again at Baltimore, October 28th, and addressed
the additional instructions (marked D) to Lieut. Michler.

The accompanying report and maps of Lieut. Michler show the progress
of the work up to this date ; and we submit his estimates as the basis of ap-

propriations for the erection of permanent and prominent monuments to
mark such boundary lines as said States may concur 'in establishing.

The commissioners take this opportunity of acknowledging the zeal and
intelligence of Lieut. Michler, and of returning to him their thanks for the
able manner in which he has discharged his duties, and recommend a suita-
ble compensation be made for his services.

They are also under great obligations to the superintendent of the U. S.
coast survey, for much valuable information contained in a number of tra-
cings of manuscripts — maps of the topography in the vicinity of the eastern
shore boundary.

ANGUS w. McDonald,

Commissioner for Virginia.

Commissioner for Maryland,


Washington, Aug. 19th, 1858.

The undersigned, commissioners for the States of Virginia and Mary-
land, to retrace and mark the boundary lines between the two States, have
the honor to request, with the approbation of the Governors of their respect-
ive States, the assistance of the general Government, and that the colonel of
the corps of topographical engineers of the United States army be author-
ized by you to detail an officer of that corps, skilled in astronomy, and fur-
nished with the necessary instruments, to be placed in charge of the parties
to be employed upon the above duty.

It is our desire, should our request be granted, that the officer detailed
should not be a native or citizen of either of the two States we represent.

We desire to proceed with the execution of the work as early as prac-

We have the honor to be, sir,

Very respectfully,

Commr for Virginia.


Commr for Maryland.
Hon. John B. Floyd, Secretary of War.


Commission for Tracing the Boundary Lines between Maryland and Virginia.

HoBNTOWN, Accomac County, Va.

October 2, 1858.


The commissioners desire that you proceed at once to obtain, by ac-
tual survey, as accurately as possible, a plat of the old Scarborough line,
traced somewhere about the year 1668, from near the mouth of the Poco-
moke to the sounds near the sea ; and also a continuation of this line, west-
wardly along and near the north shore of Pocomoke bay, to Tangier sound.

It is supposed that there is still standing some old marks of the Scarbo-
rough line, but that nevertheless, where these marks do not exist, a close
approximation can be had from the limits of the lands of those persons
owning adjacent to it.

You will please, therefore, ascertain as you progress, and mark on your
plat, as nearly as you can, the names of the proprietors on each side of the
line, with the limits of their tracts adjoining it, noting the parts of the line
that are now acknowledged and adopted as such, and those parts that may
be still in doubt.

It is inferred, from documents in possession of the commissioners, that the
commission of 1668 did not mark the line west of the Pocomoke, and that,
in all probability, you will find no marks to guide you. You must therefore
be governed in the direction of your line westwardly from the Pocomoke to
Tangier sound, by the main or average direction of the whole line on the
east side of the river (the line dividing Worcester from Accomac). It is
equally desirable to note, along this portion of your work, the names of
the proprietors, and limits on said line of lands of each, with the location of all
dwellings and improvements adjacent, and also the limits of marsh and firm
ground, upon the southern side of your line especially.

As the preliminary step of the commissioners is merely to obtain the best
local information, you will, to avoid misapprehe^nsion on the part of thosp
interested, please explain to them the object of your survey.

The originals of your notes and plat you will for the present retain in
your possession, subject to the future orders of the commissioners, and trans-
mit to each of them a certified copy of the plat, with such explanation as
you deem essential.

To carry out these instructions, you will be allowed to employ one assist-
ant (a surveyor and draughtsman) at a compensation of four dollars per day


for the time lie may be employed, and such number of laborers as you may
deem necessary, having strict regard to economy in your expenditures.

You will please submit an estimate of what amount of funds you will re-
quire for the present.

"We are, sir, very respectfully,

A. w. McDonald,

Comr for Virginia.

Com' r for Maryland.
Lieut. N. Michler, U. S. Top. EngWs.

Commission for Tracing the Boundary Lines between Maryland and Virginia.

HoRNTOWN, Accomac County, Va.,

October 4th, 1858.

At the conclusion of the preliminary examination you are instructed
to make by our letter of October 2d, you will please proceed to the Fairfax
stone, at the head of the North Branch of the Potomac, as ascertained and
identified by us on the 19th September last, and prosecute, as far as the
season will permit, such astronomical observations as may be requisite to
determine the direction of a meridianal line from this point to the Pennsyl-
vania line.

As it is not probable that the whole of this line could be traced this fall,
you will for the present confine yourself to the astronomical part merely,
and to establishing as many distant points along the line as you may deem
essential, as checks to the surveys in tracing and marking the same.

For which purpose you are authorized to retain the services of your as-
sistant, at the same compensation, and to employ such laborers as you may

You will please, also, inform us of the probable amount of funds you may
require for this service.

We are, sir, very respectfully,

A. w. McDonald,

Comrnr for Virginia.

CommW for Maryland.
Lt. N. Michler, U. 8. Topo. EngWs.


Baltimoee, October 28tli, 1858.

In addition to the instructions contained in our joint letter of
October 2d, you will please extend your survey to tbat portion of islands in
Chesapeake bay, through which the Maryland and Virginia boundary is
supposed to pass, between Watkins' Point and Smith's Point, so as to give
the commissioners, as nearly as you can, the names of the landholders upon
each side, with the extent of the lands of each along the line.

And as it appears that the United States coast survey topography does
not at present include what is now called the mouth of the Potomac river,
you will also include that in your surveys.

By joining these detached surveys with the nearest coast survey trigno-
metrical point, we will be enabled, with the aid of that triangulation, to
locate them accurately upon a general map, if necessary.

ANGUS w. McDonald,

Coram r on the 'part of Va.


Commr'for Maryland.

Mr. Michler will please send each of us accurate copies of the above by

A. w. McDonald.

Lt. N. Michler,

TJ. /S. Topo. Engrs.


Maryland and Virginia Boundary Survey Oefice,

Washington, D. C, December 20, 1859.

Agreeably to orders from the War department, dated Adju-
tant General's Office, Washington, August 20th, 1858, I had the honor of
being assigned, in accordance with your request, to the special service of
assisting you in tracing and marking the boundary lines between your re-
spective States, Maryland and Virginia. Copies of said orders were en-
oloBed to each of you, by letters addressed you on the 27th of August, 1858.


I now have tte pleasure, in pursuance of the several instructions since
received from you, and in compliance with your wishes, as expressed in the
different conferences held upon the subject, of submitting to you a report of
the progress made of the survey under my charge, comprising the labor on
the ground, and the subsequent mapping of certain portions of the field
notes ; and also to call your attention to such matters as remain to be at-
tended to in order to render the work complete.

In the accompanying Appendix will be found copies of each and all the
several official communications which have passed between us, including both
instructions, reports and estimates ; also a copy of the original grant made
to the baron of Baltimore, defining the confines of the lands constituting the
old colony of Maryland ; the agreement of the commissioners of 1668 ; and
also a copy of an extract from the records of the Virginia Land office, de-
fining the position of the locality designated Smith's Point, at the mouth of
the Potomac river — all arranged in the order of their respective dates.

On the 19th of September, 1858, by invitation of the commissioners, I
visited, in company with several other gentlemen, the head springs of the
north branch of the Potomac, to ascertain the position of, and identify
" Fairfax stone," planted near said springs by the commissioners appointed
to fix the limits of the immense tract granted Lord Fairfax, between the
Rappahannock and the Potomac. Upon finding it, I was directed to assume
it as the initial point of the western meridianal line, which subsequently the
commissioners requested me to trace.

Again, during the latter part of the same month, and the first days of
October, I accompanied the commissioners to the Eastern shore of Maryland
and Virginia, to ascertain the existence and nature of any marks along the
boundary line between Smith's Point, at the mouth of the Potomac and the
Atlantic ocean, stretching across the Chesapeake bay and the peninsula of
the Eastern shore.

The result of these examinations was the reception of the joint instruc-
tions of the commissioners, dated severally on the 2nd, 4th and 28th of Oc-
tober, 1858, and which I successively proceeded to comply with at such pe-
riods of time as circumstances would permit.

My attention was first drawn to that section of the boundary line between
the States, referred to in the charter from the English crown to Cacilius,
baron of Baltimore, of which the following is an extract :

"All that part of the peninsula, or chersonese, lying in the parts of Ame-
rica, between the ocean on the east, and the bay of Chesapeake on the west,
divided from the residue thereof by a right line, drawn from the promontory)
or head land, called Watkins' Point, situate upon the bay aforesaid, near the
river of Wighco on the west, unto the main ocean on the east."

The Watkins' Point here referred to was designated by the commissioners,
Philip Calvert, chancellor of the colony of Maryland, and Edmund Scar-
borough, surveyor general of the colony of Virginia, in certain articles of

agreement, drawn up and signed by them, June 25th, 1668, after discharging
their duties, as " the point of land made by the north side of Pocomoke bay
and the south side of Annamessex bay." At the same time the divisional
line between the two colonies was described to be, an east line ran with the
" extremest part of the westernmost angle of said Watkins' Point over Poco-
moke river, and thence over Swansecute's creek, unto the marsh of the sea-
side, with apparent marks and boundaries."

Your instructions of the 2d of October, 1858, desired me to proceed at
once to obtain, by actual survey, as accurately as possible, a plot of the old
Scarborough line, traced somewhere about the year 1668, from near the
mouth of the Pocomoke to the sounds near the sea, and also a continuation
of this line westwardly along and near the north shore of Pokomoke bay to
Tangier sound."

In accordance with these instructions, I proceeded to Horntown, Accomac
county, Virginia, south of and within a few miles of the line now recognized
as the boundary by those residing along and near it, and on the 29th of No-
vember commenced the duties assigned me. My party consisted of one as-
sistant surveyor, Mr. John de la Camp, and five men, employed as chain-
men, rodmen and instrument bearers. At first considerable delay was ex-
perienced in consequence of the frequent rains, which prevented the party
from taking the field, but subsequently the weather proved very favorable
and propitious for the survey. The instruments used during the execution
of this portion of the work, comprised a very excellent Brunner theodolite
for obtaining all horizontal angles, and a steel chain of fifty feet in length
for measuring distances. To test the accuracy of these measurements, angles
were frequently taken from the several successive stations to some one promi-
nent object, visible from each; or, where this could not be done, the same
common points would be connected by different surveys along the several
roads between them, each being a verification of the other. It was impossi-
ble to triangulate across the peninsula, owing to the extremely level nature
of the country, and being heavily timbered with pine ; the expense of cut-
ting the numerous lines of sight and of building stands for the instruments,
to say nothing of the great loss of time, was not warranted by the nature of
the work. It is well known to the honorable commissioner from Maryland,
that on a previous examination made by himself, when on duty connected
with the United States coast survey, that a not very favorable report
was made by him as to the practicability of connecting the triangulations
on the Atlantic coast with that down the Chesapeake bay, across or in the
neighborhood of this very belt of country. The survey was also checked by
connecting it both on the Atlantic coast, and on the shores of Pocomoke bay,
Tangier sound and Chesapeake bay, with many stations of the United States
coast survey triangulation. This connection is particularly advantageous in
enabling the results of the recent survey to be laid down accurately upon
any general maps of the two States, should it be desirable to do eo at any


future time. With a small Schmaloalder compass, numerous reconnoisances
of roads and lanes and trails were made adjacent to the main work. For
the sake of general information, these are laid down in connection with the
more accurate survey along the line. In order to unite the present line with
some permanent, fixed place, as a point of reference, the survey was com-
menced in the principal street of the town of Horntown. It is also con-
nected with other well known localities — as New Church, Wagram, Pitt's
wharf and Shelltown. An accurate plot of Horntown, as it appeared on
the 29th of November, 1858, is one of the results of our labors. From this
initial point the line of survey was carried along the State road leading to
Snowhill, as far as its intersection with what the citizens of the two States,
residing in the neighborhood, now recognize as the boundary line ; thence it
continued towards the east, along or near this line, to the shore line of the
marsh near Chincoteague bay. Afterwards it was resumed at the point of
intersection with the State road, and a line run westwardly and continu-
ously along and near the designated boundary to the Pocomoke river.
Having ascertained from these surveys the general direction of the marked
line between Chincoteague bay and the Pocomoke river, this course was pre-
served in the survey made beyond this last river, as far as the shore line of
Jane's island, bordering on Tangier sound, only deviating from it when com-
pelled by the nature of the country.

In explanation of the manner in which the work was executed, I must
say that no one direction or course was assumed and run, but that the sur-
vey was made along the roads and lanes most convenient to and on either
side of the reputed boundary, and at no great distance from it. Sometimes,
however, when necessary and expedient, it ran across fields or through
woods. This was done to expedite matters as much as possible, as it fre-
quently did away with the necessity, and the consequent labor and loss of
time, of cutting long lines of sights through pine woods, when existing roads
not only wind round or through them, but necessarily lead near the more
settled portions of the country. From the main line ofisets were made to
or, as more frequently happened, the survey passed immediately by such
points of local interest as were acknowledged by parties in both States as
old boundary marks. Some of these marks consisted of old blazed trees —
such as oak, hickory, gum, cherry, persimmon, mulberry and sycamore.
Near every point of intersection of the boundary line with the roads leading
from Virginia into Maryland, the neighbors point out some immense oak,
with its huge, wide-spread branches, venerable with age, which has become
celebrated the country round, as " the marriage tree." Under the shade of
these trees, the most noted of all the boundary marks, and just across the
line, youthful couples go to be united in holy wedlock — fleeing from the
wrath of parents, or from the stringency of the marital laws, or perhaps for
the mere pleasure and excitement, ihey run away from home to commit an
act, of which many live to repent when too late.


Other marks of the line are to be found in either country roads or lanes,
or in divisional fences between the neighboring farms, or in gates, or some-
times in houses, known and admitted to be such by all persons, irrespective
of state — the localities being handed down from one generation to another,
and their history being recorded in the memories of the oldest inhabitants.

Nor was there any trouble in ascertaining their position. Either interest
as to the correctness of the line, or curiosity to examine the instruments, or
to see what was being done ; or, as frequently happened, the mere want of
something else to do, or sometimes promptings of mere kindliness of heart,
disposed many persons to offer every assistance in their power, and induced
them to accompany the party for miles on their way, to impart such infor-
mation as was desirable, and the obtainance of which might otherwise have
occupied a great deal of time not easily spared. Along the whole length of
the line between Chincoteague bay and the Pocomoke river, a distance of
between eighteen and nineteen miles, there were existing of such marks, at
the time of the survey, thirty trees ; one gate ; the site of the ruins of an
old house, standing at the time the Scarborough line was run ; two State
roads, located on the line, measuring nearly 10,800 feet — making, in all, an
average of one mark for every half mile. At the end of each day, a rough
field plot was made of the work done, and on reaching the Pocomoke these
marks, when laid down on the map, were found to be nearly on the same
straight line. The general direction of this furnished the course, as has been
previously stated, of the survey west of that river.

The instrumental stations of the boundary survey, near the Atlantic ter-
minus, were connected with one of the secondary trigonometrical points of
the United States coast survey at Snead's house, and also with several minor
localities, such as signals, houses, barns, fences, roads and shore lines, as laid
down by their plane table parties, thus making a great many points in com-
mon between the two works. In the prolongation of the li>e westwardly
along and near the north shore of Pocomoke bay to Tangier sound, several
of the coast survey signals, those of the secondary triangulation connected
with the primary one on the Chesapeake bay, came successively in range of
our instruments at different points. They are called Marumsco, Watkins'
Point, Jane's Island and Horse Hammock, on Smith's islands. As on the
Atlantic coast, a great many other points were made common to both

Along the line of the'entire survey, as desired in your instructions, "the
names of the proprietors" "on each side of the line" were accurately ascer-
tained, "with the limits of their tracts adjoining it." At the same time,
" the parts of the line that are now acknowledged and adopted as such, and
those parts that may be still in doubt," were noted. In addition to the
above, the locations of all dwellings and improvements adjacent, together
with their exact horizontal dimensions and relative positions, are established;
and alec the limits of marsh and firm ground, including the character of the


latter, whether cultivated or wooded. A survey of the Pocomoke river, from
the point where the line touches it down to its mouth, was also made. Your
additional instructions of October 28th, 1858, called upon me to extend my
survey " to that portion of islands in Chesapeake bay through which the Mary-
land and Virginia boundary is supposed to pass, between Watkins' Point and
Smith's Point, at the mouth of the Potomac." Although two different ef-
forts to reach Smith's islands proved unsuccessful, in consequence of the
high winds on the Chesapeake, and the extreme cold weather at the time^
greatly interfering with all field work ; stiir, from the few angles taken on
Jane's island to different points on the former, with the assistance of the
coast survey sheets, and such information as was gained from the neighbor-
ing inhabitants, I am able to furnish the information desired by you in your

The field work of the Eastern Shore section of the survey having been
completed, my party returned to Washington on the 1st of December, 1858.
The ofl5ce duties, in connection with the mapping of the field notes, com-
menced at once, and were continued, without interruption, until the first of
the following June, 1859. Preparations were then made to take the field
again, in order to trace and mark the western meridian line through Fairfax
stone. During this term of office work, seventeen sheets of maps were con-
structed. Fifteen of these, on a scale of 1-5000, represent topographical
features of the country surveyed, drawn in very minute detail — setting forth
all the facts and information gained during the field operations, as explained
in the previous pages of this report; The figures in red ink denote the
numbers of the stations occupied by the instrument in the survey. They
are useful in exhibiting the relative position of the present line to the dif-
ferent landed estates along it, showing also their limits, their character, and
the names of the proprietors. They will also serve as guides in the retracing
and remarking of the line, should it be deemed advisable to do it, and now
stand as lasting monuments to the exact locality of the line, as it is now
known. Two of these drawings, on a smaller scale of 1-32000, are general

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