Posted on 15th August 2019The Mason-Dixon line was surveyed by the Quaker Jeremiah Dixon and his partner Charles Mason, with a marker every mile.
Surveying took place between 1763 – 1767 in order to resolve a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America.
Outdated maps meant fresh measurements were needed, but colonial surveyors had proved inaccurate. So the families hired Mason and Dixon, who were known in England as master surveyors and astronomers.
It would take the two men almost five years – lugging their equipment across hundreds of miles of wilderness – to complete the survey and cement their place in the timeline of the United States.
The Mason–Dixon line was marked by stones every mile and ‘crownstones’ every 5 miles (8.0 km), using stone shipped from England. The Maryland side says “(M)” and the Delaware and Pennsylvania sides say “(P)”.
Crownstones include the two coats of arms. Today, while a number of the original stones are missing or buried, many are still visible, resting on public land and protected by iron cages.
The Mason-Dixon Line was drawn in two parts. An 83-mile (133.5km) north-south divide between Maryland and Delaware and the more recognised 233-mile (375km) west to east divide between Pennsylvania and Maryland, stretching from just south of Philadelphia to what is now West Virginia.
Hailed as a groundbreaking technical achievement of the American Enlightenment, the line came to symbolise the border between the Civil War North and South, separating free Pennsylvania from slave-owning Maryland.
After his work in colonial America was completed Jeremiah Dixon returned to England and surveyed castles in Durham. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem and The Society chose to disown him.
An entry in the Quaker minute book of Raby in County Durham, dated October 1760, reads: “Jery Dixon, son of George and Mary Dixon of Cockfield, disowned for drinking to excess.”
Despite their groundbreaking achievement, both men ended up in unmarked graves thousands of miles apart and remain virtually unknown in their home country.