Mason and Dixon

D. Ezra Johnson ezra_50 at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 00:59:47 UTC 1999

The only line surveyed by Mason and Dixon was the east-west line that forms
the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland. It is not for the sake of
convenience that dictionaries define it so.

My source for this is a detailed (and complicated) chapter in "The Romance
of the Boundaries" by John T. Faris (1926).

Delaware was granted to William Penn in 1682, and not as part of the
Pennsylvania charter of the previous year. Faris writes, "...while after
1693 Delaware had a separate legislature, and, after 1710, its own
legislative council, the Governor of Pennsylvania continued to be the chief
executive of Delaware, until 1776."

This close relationship meant that the boundary between Delaware and
Pennsylvania was not disputed. On the other hand, Maryland did dispute its
own boundary with both Pennsylvania and Delaware. By 1709, Maryland had
given up its claim in the Delaware direction, leaving the
Maryland/Pennsylvania boundary as the line of contention. A decree of 1750
fixed the boundaries of all three future states where they are today. The
only (semi)circular state boundary in the U.S. was then laid out (centered
on New Castle with a radius of 12 miles), dividing Pennsylvania from

Again, Faris: "The slowness of local surveyors [in marking the PA/MD line]
led to the importation from London of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who,
between 1763 and 1768, ran the line which has since been known by their
names, to a point 244 miles westward from the northeast corner of Maryland.
Their work was so well done that when, in the years 1901 to 1903, a
commision authorized by the legislatures of Pennsylvania and Maryland
relocated the line, they had every reason to commend the surveyors who
labored more than a century before them. Their chief work was the relocation
of monuments which had disappeared, that the line might be plain in all its


"Somewhere below that Dixon line..." -- Jimmie Rodgers

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