Mason-Dixon line drawn 245 years ago

On this day, 245 years ago, the famous Mason-Dixon Line was drawn. Two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed a land survey meant to end the border dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Mason Dixon Line crown stone

A “crownstone” boundary monument on the Mason-Dixon Line. These markers were originally placed at every 5th mile along the line, oriented with family coats of arms facing the state that they represented. The coat of arms of Maryland’s founding Calvert family is shown. On the other side are the arms of William Penn.(Wikipedia photo and detail)

Initially destined to settle a local dispute, the line grew into a more ominous demarcation between the pro-slavery and the ‘free’ states. The line follows the northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes and today separates four U.S. states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware.

Mason and Dixon marked every mile of the chart with stones shipped from England. Every five miles the line was marked with a ‘Crown-stone.’ It consisted of the two coats of arms belonging to the adjacent colonies. Many markers survived and they can still be admired.

A century after Mason and Dixon began their effort to map the boundary, the Civil War raged between North and South. Both sides tried to breach the line.

After the Union victory, the United States ratified the 14th Amendment, finally granting liberty and justice for all. Today the Mason- Dixon is a cultural line that is getting blurrier. And you need to go ever farther south to enjoy a traditional sweet tea or a true southern pit-cooked barbecue.

The stones of time didn’t weather so well in this National Geographic story from 2002. It’s a bit dated, but we’re talking about a historical line drawn 245 years ago… what’s a decade among friends so interested about history, that we’re willing to turn over other stones to discover the many truths to any story. Read the magazine’s account here.

And now, a musical line walked by Johnny Cash in the name of love.

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