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In 1668 commissioners were appointed by Maryland and Virginia to fix the boundary across the peninsula. Their report, dated June 25, 1668,29 is as follows:

After a full and perfect view taken of the point of land made by the north side of Pocomoke Bay and south side of Annamessexs Bay have and do conclude the same to be Watkins Point, from which said point so called, we have run an east line, agreeable with the extreamest part of the westermost angle of the said Watkins Point, over Pocomoke River to the land near Robert Holston's, and there have marked certain trees which are so continued by an east line running over Swansecutes Creeke into the marsh of the seaside with apparent marks and boundaries.

Virginia, by the adoption of her constitution of 1776, relinquished all claim to territory covered by the charter of Maryland, thereby fixing Maryland's western boundary as follows:

Commencing on a true meridian of the first fountain of the river Pattawmack, thence verging towards the south unto the further bank of the said river and following the same on the west and south unto a certain place called Cinquack, situate near the mouth of said river where it disembogues into the said aforesaid bay of Chesapeake, and thence by the shortest line unto the aforesaid promontory or place called Watkins Point; thence a right line to the main ocean on the east.

The boundaries thus described are substantially the present boundaries, but for many years after they were adopted they remained a matter of controversy.

In the constitution of 1776 Virginia “ reserved the property of the Virginia shores or strands [of Potomac and Pocomoke rivers]

and all improvements which have or will be made thereon.” Maryland, in 1785, assented to this and declared 30-that the citizens of each State

shall have full property on the shores of the Potomac

with all emoluments and advantages thereunto belonging, and with the privilege of making and carrying out wharves and other improvements.

In 1785 a compact 31 was entered into between the States of Maryland and Virginia, but as this referred more particularly to the navigation and exercise of jurisdiction of the waters of Chesapeake Bay and Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers, it is not given here.

From 1821 to 1858 legislation was frequently enacted in regard to the Virginia boundary.32 In 1858 commissioners were appointed by Maryland and Virginia, respectively, who, with the assistance of Lieut. N. Michler, United States Engineers, undertook the survey of the lines.



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29 Maryland Hist. Soc. Coll. State Papers, vol. 4 LCB, pp. 63–64.
30 217 U. S. 579–580 ; Thorpe, F. N., op. cit., vol. 7, p. 3818.
31 Hening, W. W., op. cit., vol. 13, p. 50.

32 See report of C. J. Faulkner (commissioner for Virginia), relative to the boundary lines between Virginia and Maryland, published in Doc. 1, House of Delegates of Va., p. 73, 1832,

In 1860 the Governor of Virginia, under a resolution of the legislature, appointed an agent and sent him to England to collect records and documentary evidence bearing on this question, but owing to the Civil War nothing further was done until 1867, when legislation again commenced.

The question of this boundary was referred to arbitrators by an agreement made in 1874, in which each State bound itself to accept their award as final and conclusive. In 1877 the arbitrators made the following award : 88

Beginning at the point on the Potomac River where the line between Virginia and West Virginia strikes the said river at low-water mark, and thence following the meanderings of said river, by the low-water mark to Smith's Point, at or near the mouth of the Potomac, in the latitude 37° 53' 8", and longitude 76° 13' 46''; thence crossing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, by a line running north 65° 30' east, about nine and a half nautical miles, to a point on the western shore of Smith's Island at the north end of Sassafras Hammock, in latitude 37° 57' 13'', longitude 76° 2' 52''; thence across Smith's Island south 88° 30' east five thousand six hundred and twenty yards to the center of Horse Hammock, on the eastern shore of Smith's Island, in latitude 37° 57' 8'', longitude 75° 59' 20''; thence south 79° 30' east four thousand eight hundred and eighty yards to a point marked A on the accompanying map, in the middle of Tangier Sound, in latitude 37° 56' 42'', longitude 75° 56' 23'', said point bearing from Janes Island light south 54° west, and distant from that light three thousand five hundred and sixty yards; thence south 10° 30' west four thousand seven hundred and forty yards by a line dividing the waters of Tangier Sound, to a point where it intersects the straight line from Smith's Point to Watkins Point, said point of intersection being in latitude 37° 54' 21", longitude 75° 56' 55", bearing from Janes Island light south 29° west and from Horse Hammock south 34° 30' east; this point of intersection is marked B on the accompanying map. Thence north 85° 15' east six thousand seven hundred and twenty yards along the line above mentioned, which runs from Smith's Point to Watkins Point until it reaches the latter spot, namely, Watkins Point, which is in latitude 37° 54' 38", longitude 75° 52' 44''; from Watkins Point the boundary line runs due east seven thousand eight hundred and eighty yards, to a point where it meets a line running through the middle of Pocomoke Sound, which is marked on the accompanying map, and is in latitude 37° 54' 38'', longitude 75° 47' 50"; thence by a line dividing the waters of Pocomoke Sound north 47° 30' east five thousand two hundred and twenty yards, to a point in said sound marked D on the accompanying map, in latitude 37° 56' 25', longitude 75° 45' 26''; thence following the middle of the Pocomoke River by a line of irregular curves, as laid down on the accompanying map, until it intersects the westward protraction of the boundary line marked by Scarborough and Calvert, May 28th, 1668, at a point in the middle of the Pocomoke River, and in the latitude 37° 59' 37'', longitude 75° 37' 4"'; thence by the Scarborough and Calvert line, which runs 5° 15' north of east, to the Atlantic Ocean: the latitudes, longitudes, courses, and distances here given have

88 20 Stat. L. 481-482. In the original report the degrees of latitude and longitude are given in words; they are here put in figures for convenient reference.


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been measured upon the Coast Chart No. 33 of the United States Coast Survey (sheet No. 3, Chesapeake Bay).'

The middle thread of the Pocomoke River is equidistant as nearly as may be between the two shores without considering arms, inlets, creeks, or affluents as parts of the river, but measuring the shore from headland to headland.

The low water mark on the Potomac to which Virginia has a right in the soil, is to be measured by the same rule.

The original charter to Lord Baltimore embraced the Potomac River to high-water mark on the south or Virginia shore,86 but the arbitrators of 1877 changed the boundary to the low-water line, giving as their reason for doing so the long occupation by Virginia of the land above that line; they declared that “the length of time that raises a right of prescription in private parties likewise raises such a presumption in favor of States as well as private parties,” 88 and that “ Virginia, from the earliest period of her history, used the south bank of the Potomac as if the soil to low-water mark had been her own.” 87 The award of the arbitrators was accepted by the legislatures of the two States and was approved by act of Congress March 3, 1879.88

In 1879 and 1880 acts were passed by the Legislatures of Maryland and Virginia to appoint commissioners and to request the General Government to designate one or more officers of the Engineer Corps to survey and mark this line and erect monuments thereon, but little of permanent value seems to have been accomplished. 89

In 1927 the Governors of Maryland and Virginia directed the State geologists to examine the west shore of the Potomac and to recommend points (headlands) between which straight lines should be drawn for the boundary. Their report,40 submitted December 21, 1927, contains six maps on which are indicated by red lines the position recommended. The location of the boundary line as thus indicated was accepted by Virginia act approved March 26, 1928 (ch. 477) and by Maryland act of March 8, 1929 (ch. 50), and appropriations were made by each State for the surveying and marking of the line.

* Three copies of this chart were prepared, one for each of the two States and one for the files of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which show by red lines the boundary eastward from Smiths Point and the line up the Potomac for 18 miles. See Coast and Geodetic Survey Rept. for 1890, pp. 621-623.

* 174 U. S. 225.

80 Title to United States or State land can not be acquired by adverse possession, even though long continued. The statute of limitations does not hold against the United States or a State where possession of land is concerned. 39 Fed. 654 ; 95 P. 278.

87 217 U. S. 580.

88 20 Stat. L. 481. The opinions and award of the arbitrators, together with a history of the grants and of the attempts previously made to settle the boundary disputes are given in a book of 97 pages, without date, printed in Washington. There is a copy of this book in the Geological Survey's library.

29 See a brief report on the boundary between Maryland and Virginia in U. 8. Coast and Geodetic Survey Rept. for 1890, pp. 621-623.

40 Mathews, E. B., and Nelson, W. A., Report on the location of the boundary line along the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland in accordance with the award of 1877, Baltimore, 1928. This report contains historical references to the boundary disputes between 1668 and 1889, acts of Virginia and of Maryland relating to boundaries, etc.

Commissioners were appointed by the States of Maryland and Virginia in 1916 to mark and maintain with buoys placed at intervals of not more than one mile apart the line between the waters of the State of Maryland and the waters of the State of Virginia, from Cedar Straights in Pocomoke Sound to Williams Point in Pocomoke River.

Their report, with descriptions of marks established and some historical matter, was published in Baltimore in 1917.

The line across Chesapeake Bay from Smiths Island to Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds by way of Watkins Point was marked by buoys anchored to 1,000-pound masses of concrete.

Commissioners appointed in 1859 by Virginia and Maryland surveyed a line for the western boundary of Maryland from the “Fairfax Stone” (see p. 141), at the “first fountain ” of the Potomac, north to the Pennsylvania line. This survey was accepted by Maryland but not by Virginia, nor was it accepted by West Virginia when made a State. An area of about 40 square miles remained in dispute until 1910, when commissioners appointed by the United States Supreme Court and acting under its direction resurveyed the line and placed the initial point, which thereby became the southwest corner of Maryland, on the south bank of une North Branch of Potomac River, 3,989 feet from the Fairfax Stone on a line N. 0° 56' E. from it. From that point (monument No. 1) the line crosses the said North Branch of the Potomac, and thence running northerly, as near as may be, with the Deakins or old State line to the line of the State of Pennsylvania. The "Deakins line” followed the boundaries of old land grants

“ made by Maryland and Virgina and, as reestablished in 1910 by the commissioners, is a broken line with a general bearing a little east of north. There are five offsets in the line, which run nearly

. east and west and range in length from 54 to 971 feet. A large concrete monument was erected at each angle and many at intermediate points, 60 in all, on the line, which is nearly 36 miles long.

The following quotation from the report, dated October 31, 1911, of the commissioners to the Supreme Court of the United States, which was confirmed by the court May 27, 1912,41 shows how boundary lines are often determined 42 (see pl. 10, A): a large anciently marked white oak tree.

This tree was cut and blocks were taken out by your commissioners which showed surveyors' axe


41 225 U. S. 31.

43 225 U. S. 3. The National Geographic Magazine for December, 1929, describes in considerable detail the method for determining dates from the count of the annual growth of tree rings.

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marks in the wood; one 130 years old, one 117 years, and the last 78 years, thus indisputably establishing this course as following the oldest marked line extant.

The computed position of the Fairfax Stone is latitude 39° 11' 41.92", longitude 77° 29' 15.50". Monument No. 1 is in latitude 39° 12' 21.34", longitude 79° 29' 14.67", and the monument on the Mason and Dixon line is in latitude 39° 43' 15.88'', longitude 79° 28' 37.72". These positions are referred to the North American datum.

From monument No. 1 the boundary between Maryland and West Virginia runs along the south bank of the North Branch of the Potomac till it strikes the line between Virginia and West Virginia.


On September 5, 1774, the Continental Congress met at Philadelphia. Two years later it adjourned to Baltimore. During the Revolution and subsequent to the treaty of peace it met in various places. (See p. 246.) After the end of the war there was much debate in regard to the location of a permanent seat of the Government of the United States. Several States made propositions to Congress, offering to cede certain lands for the purpose, but no determination of the location was made by Congress until 1790.43

On December 23, 1788, the State of Maryland passed the following act:

Be it enacted by the general assembly of Maryland, That the representatives of this State in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the United States, appointed to assemble at New York on the first Wednesday of March next, be, and they are hereby, authorized and required on the behalf of this State to cede to the Congress of the United States any district in this State, not exceeding ten miles square, which the Congress may fix upon and accept for the seat of government of the United States.

In the following year (December 3, 1789) the State of Virginia passed a similar act, from which the following is an extract:

Be it therefore enacted by the general assembly, That a tract of country not exceeding ten miles square or any lesser quantity, to be located within the limits of the State and in any part thereof as Congress may by law direct, shall be, and the same is hereby, forever ceded and relinquished to the Congress and Government of the United States, in full and absolute right and exclusive jurisdiction, as well of said soil as of persons residing or to reside thereon, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the eighth section of the 1st article of the Constitution of the Government of the United States.

13 For reference to the discussions which resulted in selecting the site on the Potomac see Bryan, W. B., A history of the National Capital, vol. 1, ch. 1, New York, 1914. For a historical sketch of the area now included in the District of Columbia see 56th Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 552, 1901.

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