Information about the Mason Dixon Line

It occurred to me that before I started this writing bit that it might be a good idea to find out the exact definition of line. As a consequence I consulted our small 3” thick dictionary and came away much discouraged because it had 33 different versions listed. I believe that the most commonly thought of Mason-Dixon Line is the east- west border of northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. The first line that these two relatively young men were directed to survey was the north-south line between Maryland and the present state of Delaware, which at the time constituted the three lower counties of Pennsylvania.

This all started over three hundred years ago when Lord Calvert of Nottingham was notified that King Charles the Second had granted William Penn of Hardwicke lands in America bordering his own grant in the year 1681.  Lord Calvert was to get together with William Penn and decide on mutually satisfactory landmarks defining the borders, both the east-west one and the north-south one. A twelve mile arc was specified to be centered on New Castle in Penn’s charter and, when surveyed, the spire of the Court House in New Castle was used as the center of the arc. In spite of King Charles' specificity, this arc never intersected the fortieth parallel of latitude as it was supposed to, and it was the root of the trouble on defining the line.

The eastern border of Maryland was a north-south line beginning on the south end at the mid-point of the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay at the Latitude of Fenwick Island.

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This page was last updated on 18 May, 2004