(WHTM) – From 1763 to 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.
According to Eric Gladhill, a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors, “It was probably the most important survey of the colonial states, due to a land dispute between Lord Calvert and the descendants of William Penn.
The charters of the two colonies overlap and some four thousand square miles of territory are in dispute. It takes decades, and a few nasty exchanges of lead projectiles, before the two sides negotiate a line that Mason and Dixon will set in stone, literally.
As they push along the new line, they place a simple marker stone, with an “M” on one side and a “P” on the other, every mile. Every five miles they erect a more elaborate landmark called the Crown Stone, with the Seal of the Penn Family of Pennsylvania on one side and the Seal of the Calverts of Maryland on the other. Ultimately, they would place 133 stones.
Now a new effort is underway to document the markers. The project is coordinated by the Maryland Geological Survey. The ultimate goal is to get the markers on the National Register of Historic Places.
“They think it will help them get grants to maintain it,” Gladhill said.
There is already an abundant literature on markers, thanks to previous surveys. But to register with the National Register of Historic Places, people have to visit the stones, confirm and update the information, and take photos. With a limited budget, MGS called for volunteers to be the boots on the ground.
“They asked the Maryland Society of Surveyors, and they, in turn, asked the Pennsylvania Society of Land Surveyors, of which I am both organizations, so I got involved,” Greenhill said.
The investigation began in March 2020.
“And then of course the Covid Pandemic hit,” Gladhill said. “And things stopped pretty quickly.”
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They were hoping to complete things by August 2021. Now it will have to go in 2022, but it cannot be. too much far in 2022.
“The National Register of Historic Places requires that all data be collected over a two-year period,” Gladhill said. “The deadline would be March 2022, and I know there have been inquiries as to whether they would extend it due to the COVID pandemic, but I haven’t heard any response to that.”
Work has slowed down in recent months, but COVID is not the main cause. You’d think summer would be a great time to go out scorer hunting, but Gladhill says it isn’t. Undergrowth and overgrowth can get in the way.
“Bees and bears, snakes, etc. are a problem. (Gladhill has been stung by bees on several occasions.) “Also, the tree canopy makes it difficult to get a GPS signal, if you want to get accurate survey coordinates.”
Gladhill hopes that volunteering for the project will resume when the leaves fall.
Using GPS positioning technology, instead of lugging around the full and bulky kit of surveying equipment, most of the work can be done with a cell phone equipped with a surveying app. First, however, you need to get to the marker. Some are close to roads and easy to access, but often the stones are on private property, or in woods and nature, and require long hikes to reach them. The condition of the stones is very variable.
“In a lot of cases, they’re almost virgins,” Gladhill said. “In some cases they look very distinct, the engravings are clear, you can still see the float around the edges that the stonemasons did.”
Other stones are in terrible shape, and more often than not humans do the damage.
“Hit by plows, vandalized, broken for memorabilia, some places they were right on the way and people took machines and tried to break them,” Gladhill said. “Hunters use them for target training.”
The only thing the project needs to cross the finish line in March 2022 are volunteers. The good news is, you don’t have to be a surveyor to help.
Greenhill says, “Anyone who is interested and can manage an Esri program, Esri is a brand of GIS, or Geographic Information System, anyone who can use a smartphone and can navigate and find a stone is welcome to register and do some of that volunteer work. “
Gladhill says preserving the stones is important and not just because of history.
“Where the original sets of monuments prevail over everything else, regardless of what the measurements say, what the deed says, the placement of the original monument has been ruled by the courts to be the official limit.”
For more information on volunteering, click here.