York Town Square

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Mason-Dixon markers generate interest

This Mason-Dixon Line marker notes the Pennsylvania/Maryland Line but also is near the York/Adams border. Also of interest: Photographer tramps to far reaches of York County.

A reader pointed out an intriguing Web sitedetailing extensive research on extant Mason-Dixon Line markers.
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon undertook their famous survey between 1763-1767. They worked on the section near Delta, in southeast York County, in 1765. They laid their line setting York County’s southern boundary after that.
They put down their markers this way: Their imported stone markers were placed every mile with “M” for Maryland chiseled on one side and “P” for Pennsylvania chiseled on the other. Larger five-mile markers bear the arms of the families of Lord Baltimore and the Penns.
About 40 stones still stand in York County today… .

The e-mailer particularly pointed out marker No. 59. To make the Web site work, type in 59 in the search area. No. 59 is in Lineboro, MD and at the end of PA 516 in Codorus Township.
So, these markers represent another unsung, little-known landmark in York County.
A story from the York Weekly Record from 1996 provides some more information:
Todd Babcock brings a little of a preacher’s passion with him when he talks about the Mason-Dixon Line. Babcock is a professional land surveyor from Fleetwood, Berks County.
He’s part of a group whose mission is to preserve the stone markers that dot the famous border between Maryland and Pennsylvania and the lesser known section between Maryland and Delaware. Dressed in a bluish-gray pinstripe suit and speaking earnestly, Babcock’s pulpit Wednesday night was at a meeting of the Stewartstown Historical Society.
Babcock sermonized for just over an hour Wednesday, covering much of the line’s history. About 25 people listened, many of them converts. “My father was very concerned about these stones and the history,” said Ann Zimmerman Wenrich, a former Delta resident who came from her home in Reading to attend the meeting. “When I was a little girl, we used to go out and walk and take pictures. A lot of people today take it for granted.”
The original need for a boundary arose out of a dispute between the Penns of Pennsylvania and present-day Delaware and the Calverts of Maryland. Both had deeds that showed their land extended to the 40th parallel, but neither family could agree on the exact location of that line of latitude. So, in 1763, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were hired to establish a compromise border.
They marked their path and the line they were creating with stone slabs 1 foot square by 3-5 feet high and weighing 500-700 pounds. They placed them at every mile along line. At every fifth mile, they placed special crown stones, each having the coat of arms for the Penn and Calvert families chiseled into them. Out of a total of 230 stones, 40 can be found in York County: from No. 24, which rests on a bluff along the Susquehanna River, to No. 64, which is just east of the Adams County border.
One was knocked over this winter by a snowplow, but Babcock had more than a casual interest in one that’s not on the line anymore.
No. 40, originally placed just south of Wiley’s Station in Hopewell Township, was brought to the Historical Society of York County in 1958 and has been displayed there almost continuously ever since, said Janet Deranian, curator of collections at the historical society.
“I’m sure the folks in York are taking care of it,” Babcock said. “But I’d like to see as many of the original stones on the line as possible.” Deranian said that wasn’t likely. “Our concern is for the long-term condition of the stone,” she said. “It’s completely accessible to people here. It’s not in danger of being knocked over by a snowplow or hit by a car. At this time, we feel the answer is no.” Maryland and Pennsylvania are co-owners of the stones, but Maryland is the one charged with caring for them.
Kenneth Schwarz of the Maryland Geological Survey said his office is supposed to monitor the stones every 10 years, a process that includes an assessment of damage and wear. Babcock’s group and a group of higher-level Boy Scouts have helped with that in the last five years, Schwarz said. In the early 1900s, the entire line underwent a major replacement and restoration project. Schwarz admitted the stones are wearing, but doubted another major project would happen soon.
“Certainly, we’re interested in that,” Schwarz said. “But you have to ask how best to do it and how to get the funds.” So Babcock continues on, leaving no stone unturned and hoping for the best. “It’s a part of the history of the area,” he said. “And once they’re lost, they’re possibly gone forever.”