Maryland and Pennsylvania residents, officials, celebrate Mason-Dixon Line crown stone in Harford

A key piece of local history sits in a farm field on the Md.-Pa. border

Harford County resident Jim Poole has spent more than 20 years studying and photographing stone markers along the Mason-Dixon Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Four years ago, he was convinced that the remains of the 40th mile marker, called Crown Stone 40, were buried in a farm field that straddles the state line between northern Harford County and southern York County, Pa.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, and Poole was in a shallow enclosure off Route 23 in Norrisville, helping to unveil parts of the original Crown Stone 40 installed 250 years ago, and a limestone marker made to be a replica of the original.

"It's very rewarding," Poole said of Saturday's unveiling, which an estimated 100 people from both states attended.

Spectators, including local Boy Scouts, surveyors from Maryland and Pennsylvania, and elected officials representing Harford and York counties, gathered under several tents covering the marker and some of the surrounding field.

Eagle Scout Tristan Eberle, of Bel Air, also helped unveil the stones. The 17-year-old led volunteers in building the stone enclosure that surrounds the replica and the original stones for his Eagle Scout service project.

"Harford County shares a great history, as we share much of our border with the state of Pennsylvania and it's certainly an honor for us as we remember our history here today," Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said.

Susan Byrnes, president of the York County Commissioners, called Saturday "a historic and a happy day for both Maryland and Pennsylvania."

"Thank you to each and every one of you that have spent so much time and effort to make this day happen," Byrnes said.

Richard Ortt Jr., director of the Maryland Geological Survey, read a proclamation from Gov. Larry Hogan. Gale Blackmer, director of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey, read a proclamation from Gov. Tom Wolf.

Blackmer noted Wolf is a resident of York County.

The Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership, a group of surveyors from both states who work to preserve the markers installed along the border, hosted the ceremony.

The organization's chairman, Pennsylvania surveyor Todd Babcock, and member Pat Simon, a Maryland surveyor who lives in Bel Air North, gave a detailed history of the Mason-Dixon Line and Crown Stone 40.

Crown Stone 40 was installed in 1766 as British surveyors Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason and their crew made their way west from mile zero at the northeast corner of Maryland.

Mason and Dixon had been hired by the respective founding families of the Maryland and Pennsylvania colonies, the Calverts and the Penns, to conduct a survey to establish a firm border between the two after 80 years of legal, and in some cases, violent, disputes over the exact location.

They set markers made from limestone quarried in Portland, England. Every fifth marker bore the Penn family crest and the Calvert family crest on the north and south sides.

The Calvert crest resembles a crown, and so every fifth marker was a "crown stone."

"I enjoyed learning about Mason and Dixon," Poole said. "I really grew to respect all the work they did."

Mason and Dixon's crew installed 133 markers from the northeast corner of Maryland to Sideling Hill in Western Maryland. The mountainous terrain prevented them from transporting the rest of the heavy markers, so the stones were left behind and the remainder of the border was marked with earth and stone cairns.

Poole, who lives in the Graceton community near Whiteford, worked from 1995 to 2005 to take pictures of all known original markers as a hobby.

"Since then, I've been filling in the blanks and finding them in barns, houses, sidewalks, graveyards," he said of markers considered lost to history.

He was studying the location of Crown Stone 40 in 2012, and he was convinced part of the original marker was buried at the edge of farmer Barry Shenk's field – the location was cataloged during a re-survey of the Mason-Dixon Line markers in the early 1900s, but the landowner at the time did not want a new marker, so a replacement was installed about 150 feet to the west.

Crown Stone 40 is the only place on the line where the original stones have been found, undisturbed, in their original location.

Poole, who had prior contacts with the Preservation Partnership, wrote to Babcock seeking assistance, and he talked with Shenk. Barry Shenk, 76, has lived on the Pennsylvania side of the line for 35 years. His 55-year-old son, Todd, lives on the opposite side of Route 23 in Maryland.

"It's cool, yeah, it's history," Barry Shenk said of having a 250-year-old piece of history on his property.

Simon oversaw the search for the buried stones, which were found in April of 2014.

Poole and Shenk were there when workers found a worn-down piece of the limestone marker and support stones used to hold it up.

"I've seen so many of them and dug so many of them up, I knew exactly what it was when I found it," Poole said.

Tristan, the Eagle Scout, and his volunteers built the enclosure during the late summer and early fall of 2015. The Partnership provided the replica.

Tristan raised $800 from family, friends and a fundraiser at Texas Roadhouse in Fallston to cover construction costs.

Tristan is a member of Troop 564, of Bel Air, and he attends Patterson Mill High School. He is also a part-time student at Harford Community College.

"It was just really interesting to me," Tristan said of why he took on the project. "The last original crown stone marker on the entire Mason-Dixon Line."

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