A Useful Explanation of Delaware’s Boundary Monuments

February 18th, 2010 by mike.mahaffie
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Photo of a Delaware boundary monumentThe News Journal newspaper featured a “Did You Know” infographic on the Mason-Dixon Line (PDF) yesterday. The “Did You Know” series is not usually posted on the News Journal web site; they are designed for print and don’t translate well to HTML. (There is also a brief version, with just the text and a few pictures, up in HTML)

The News Journal was kind enough to provide us with a PDF image because of our interest in the Delaware boundary monuments.

After all, as I delight in reminding my GIS coordination colleagues from other states, Delaware is the First State and the boundary monuments are part of our very accurate state boundary data set. It can be argued, therefore, that every other state boundary in the continental United States is dependent on and derived from the Delaware boundary, and its monuments. They probably aren’t, but it’s fun to argue the point.

The fine, two-page spread by News Journal graphic designer Dan Garrow includes information on the history of the portion of our state boundary that was surveyed, and monumented, by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon starting in 1763. There is also a photo of the DGDC’s own boundary expert, Sandy Schenck of the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS), posed with a crownstone from the boundary.

Sandy’s presentation on the history of Delaware’s boundaries has long been a favorite of members of the Delaware GIS community. We have an informal tradition of requiring him to give that presentation at meetings or conferences every several years.

The News Journal piece includes an explanation, by freelance writer Kathy Canavan, of the history behind the boundary — a land dispute between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland that left the three counties that became Delaware briefly a part of Pennsylvania before they became a seperate colony.

Mason and Dixon surveyed part of a complex system of connected lines that make up Delaware’s boundary. A full accounting of the lines — including the Transpeninsular, Tangent, Arc, and North lines and the 12-mile Circle — is found in the Delaware’s State Boundaries monograph (Information Series #6) by the DGS.

Most of Delaware’s boundary lines are monumented, many by stones which have become historical sites in their own right. The News Journal infographic notes the historic interest of these boundary stones and explains how many can be visited by interested history buffs.

I have to admit that I am one of those who enjoys visiting the boundary monuments. As a history fan, an amateur photographer, and a geospatial data geek, I have been involved for several years in a low key, on-again/off-again expedition to those stones that can be visited without having to trespass on private property. I’m tracking my progress on Google Maps and on the photo-sharing site flickr. The image above is from my collection and was taken last June during a visit to Boundary Monument #37, which is along Spectrum Farms Road (Road 110) south of Sandtown in Kent County.

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2 Responses to “A Useful Explanation of Delaware’s Boundary Monuments”

  1. Thanks for getting the pdf version- it’s a great online resource that a lot of library users will be interested in.

  2. Hip Hop says:

    You should also submit them to Wikimapia, then they’ll show up in Google Earth.