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Travel back in time 250 years with Mason-Dixon Line marker in northern Harford

A small, yet vital piece of local history sits in northern Harford County at the edge of a farm field that straddles the Mason-Dixon Line that divides Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Two stones can be found on the Maryland side just a short walk north of a produce stand off Route 23 in Norrisville, where the road takes a sharp bend to the left. A Royal Farms convenience store is across Draco Road, which branches off the curve and heads north into Pennsylvania.

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Those stones, according to Maryland surveyor Pat Simon, who lives in Harford County, and Pennsylvania surveyor Todd Babcock, are the remains of a stone marker and its base created 250 years ago as one of 133 such markers set as British surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon and their crew conducted a nearly five-year survey to establish a border between the Maryland and Pennsylvania colonies.

The stone, which was installed in 1766, marks mile 40 of the Mason-Dixon Line. The remains of the support stone and a piece of the crown stone are still in the ground, the only place along the border where parts of an original stone can be seen.

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"This is the only place on the Maryland-Pennsylvania line that still has the [support] stones," Simon said as he guided an Aegis reporter and photographer around the site, which also includes a piece of a replacement crown stone installed across the road in 1902.

The marker was called Crown Stone 40, as every fifth marker had a "crown stone" with the Calvert family crest on the Maryland side and the Penn family crest on the Pennsylvania side, after the founding families of the respective colonies, Simon said.

A replica marker, made from Indiana limestone, was installed a few feet away from the original marker's location in 2015, along with a stone enclosure around the new marker and the remains of the previous markers.

Tristan Eberle, a member of Boy Scout Troop 564 in Bel Air, oversaw construction of the enclosure and the installation of the replica for his Eagle Scout service project last year.

The replica and the remains will be dedicated Saturday, May 21, during a ceremony that starts at 10 a.m. at the site. The dedication will be hosted by the Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership – visit http://www.mdlpp.org for more information on the ceremony.

Babcock, who lives in northern Pennsylvania, is the chairman of the Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership, a group of surveyors from both states formed in 1991.

"We've been working since that time to locate the stones that set the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland," Babcock said.

Simon is a member of the Preservation Partnership. He lives in Bel Air North, and he is the chief of surveys for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works.

Most markers lost to history

The dispute over the line between Maryland and Pennsylvania dated to the founding to the two colonies. The English King James I granted the land that would become Maryland to Sir George Calvert, the First Lord of Baltimore, in 1632. Nearly 50 years later, in 1681, then-King Charles II granted to William Penn II the land that would become the Pennsylvania colony.

For the next two weeks, visitors can see the surveying tool Mason and Dixon used, newly discovered and fully refurbished, at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore.

The 40th degree of latitude, which is north of present-day Philadelphia, was set as the northern boundary of Maryland when that land was granted, but it was also set as the southern boundary of Pennsylvania 50 years later when the Penn land grant was made, Simon explained. Almost 80 years of legal, and sometimes violent, border disputes followed.

"You had multiple generations of Calverts and Penns fighting over this," Simon said.

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A brief skirmish, known as Cresap's War, broke out in 1736 when a group of Pennsylvanians surrounded the home of Thomas Cresap near Wrightsville, Pa., on the west bank of the Susquehanna River. Cresap, who had been accused of murder, was arrested and taken to Philadelphia, and his house was burned.

Cresap considered himself a Marylander, and he had worked as a land agent for the Calvert family, according to a National Park Service Archaeology Program web page on the skirmish.

The disputes were not settled until 1750, when the English Lord Hardwicke mediated an agreement between the colonies in the Court of Chancery. Both sides agreed the boundary would be 15 miles south of Philadelphia.

Mason and Dixon were later hired by the Penn and Calvert families after a series of surveys were conducted to establish temporary borders.

They started their survey in 1763 by measuring a point 15 miles south of Kennett Square, Pa., which is west of Philadelphia, but the location meant the surveyors would not have to cross the Delaware River when heading south from Philadelphia, according to Simon.

They moved west, setting stones each mile until they reached the Susquehanna River. They then moved to the southwest corner of what would become Delaware – the three Delaware counties were part of Pennsylvania at the time – and they headed north to establish the modern-day boundary between the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.

That line allowed Mason and Dixon to set the northeast corner of Maryland, where Cecil County meets Delaware and Pennsylvania. They placed their first official stone there and made their way west.

Each stone marker was made from limestone quarried in Portland, England, according to Simon.

The surveyors, and their crew, could only install 133 of the limestone markers, as the mountainous terrain of Western Maryland made it too difficult to transport the remaining stones. The last marker was installed near Sideling Hill in Washington County.

The historic Jerusalem Mill Village in Kingsville is now home to a new tribute to all those who served in the armed forces: a Blue Star memorial marker.

Motorists can drive past Sideling Hill today via I-68. The remaining limestone markers were left behind, and Mason and Dixon and company continued west. They used local dirt and stone to create "cairns" to mark the remainder of the border.

Mason and Dixon's survey ended in 1768.

The markers have suffered weathering and damage by people or vehicles over the centuries; they have fallen over as the ground shifted or been buried as the surrounding land was developed.

Pieces of at least two markers have been found in their original locations, though, including Crown Stone 40 in between Harford County and York County, Pa., and Mile Stone 67.

Mile Stone 67 is buried under Mathias Road, according to Simon. Mathias Road follows part of the Mason-Dixon Line between Carroll County and Adams County, Pa.

"That's the last stone left on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border that is the way it is," Simon said of the Harford County stone.

The base of Crown Stone 40, set in 1766, was made from an unknown form of local rock, according to Simon. It, along with a piece of the original crown stone, was discovered in April 2014 as workers with the partnership were probing the ground.

"Locals may have known that the base was there, but there was no stone there," Babcock said. "It was farmed right over."

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The base and the piece of crown stone are both in the enclosure that surrounds the replica stone.

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"[Mason and Dixon] had their hands on this," Simon said, indicating the remains.

The other part found is a piece of one of the original limestone markers left behind in Washington County and installed in 1902 as part of a replacement marker. The replacement was installed about 150 feet west of the original marker's location. That spot today is at the northwest corner of the intersection of Draco Road and Route 23.

A second survey

Since the original crown stone was buried, a replacement marker for Crown Stone 40 was set during a re-survey of the Mason-Dixon Line conducted by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey agency between 1900 and 1903.

The re-survey was funded by Maryland and Pennsylvania to establish the line, as the stones set during the original survey had been lost, or they were sinking in the earth or leaning over as the ground shifted, according to Babcock and Simon.

"A lot of the stones had been damaged," Babcock said. "Some of them were tipping over."

The early 20th-century surveyors found and reset 125 of the 133 markers set by Mason and Dixon's workers.

They could not find five of the stones, and the first stone at the northeast corner of Maryland had been reset in 1849, according to Simon.

The locations of the two remaining stones, Mile Stone 67 and Crown Stone 40, were found during the re-survey, but they were not disturbed.

"Only the base of this old 'crown stone' remains in the ground, the upper portion of the monument having been broken off and moved," the 20th-century surveyors noted at the time, according to a document provided by Simon.

They did not place a new monument in the original location because, "owing the adverse attitude of the owner of the ground, it was not thought expedient to replace the monument in the same position," according to the document.

That led to the placement of the new marker, with an original stone, 150 feet away at the intersection.

Tuesday is the 150th anniversary of an event that many Harford County residents over the years would like to forget happened: the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., on the night of April 14, 1865.

Members of the Preservation Partnership have used Mason and Dixon's original notes, plus records from the re-survey, and GPS technology to find the markers along the border.

Mile Stone 67 was found in the middle of the road in Carroll County, but it had been "worn down until there was little left of it," Simon quoted from the 1900s surveyors in an article he wrote for the Maryland Society of Surveyors.

That road, which today is Mathias Road, "has since been repaved with the status of the stone unknown," Simon wrote.

That leaves Norrisville as the one known location on the Mason-Dixon Line where the original pieces remain. Mason and Dixon set markers for miles 25 through 41 along the Harford County portion of the border, according to Simon.

"I get goose bumps because these are the support stones that held it up straight," Simon said of Crown Stone 40.

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