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BOUNDARY LINES OF THE STATES
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
"High-water mark is coordinate with the limit of the bed of the water; and that only is to be considered the bed which the water occupies sufficiently long and continuously to wrest it from vegetation and destroy its value for agricultural purposes" (Carpenter v. Board of Commrs. Hennepin County: 56 Minn. 513).
Farnham (Waters and water rights, v. 2, p. 1461), gives the following as to high-water mark:
"But the definition which best meets all requirements of the case and which has in fact been adopted by the weight of authority is that "high-water mark is the point below which the pressure and action of the water are so common and usual and so long continued in all ordinary years as to make upon the soil a character distinct from that of the banks with respect to vegetation as well as with respect to the soil itself.'" 3
If the mean high tides at the 5-foot elevation above low-water mark appear to be the most usual line reached under all ordinary circumstances when the river is undisturbed either by freshets, unusual winds, and high tides, or unaffected by droughts, which condition is usually evidenced by drifts and other deposits, and to which line the rise is most constant, the pressure and action of the water upon the soil making the line more definite than at any other point, then the 5-foot mean high-tide line established by the action of the water above mean low water is legally the high-water mark or high-tide line, and consequently the boundary line.
The District of Columbia was planned to be exactly 10 miles square, but it has been found that the northeast side measures 263.1 feet and the southeast side 70.5 feet more than 10 miles. The lines do not bear exactly 45° from the meridian, but the greatest variation is only 134 feet (Baker, 1894, p. 149–165). The entire boundary of the District of Columbia was surveyed in 1791 and was marked with sandstone mileposts in 1792. These posts, except those at the four corners, were numbered from 1 to 9, counting clockwise, for each of the four boundary lines (Shuster, 1909, v. 20, p. 356).
In 1915-1921 each of the original boundary stones was surrounded by an iron fence, erected by the District of Columbia and Virginia chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
By a bill approved March 3, 1903 (32 Stat. L. 961) funds were provided for additional marks on the District of Columbia-Maryland boundary line, to be placed at road crossings and at other prominent points. The work was completed the same year, but without the formal cooperation of any Maryland representative. The new marks are of cut granite, 6 inches square on top, and project 12 inches above ground.
The latitudes and longitudes of the north, east, and south cornerstones of the District of Columbia are as follows:
In a Supreme Court decision rendered November 7, 1921,' involving the question whether the boundary between the District of Columbia and Virginia runs from "headland to headland," as the Maryland-Virginia boundary does, or follows the meanderings of the river, the latter course was accepted. The court also decided that the United States is entitled to the possession of land in the District that has been reclaimed by filling in below low-water line on the Virginia side. Jurisdiction and sovereignty over the tract in dispute in this case, comprising an area of 46.57 acres adjoining Alexandria, were transferred to Virginia by United States act approved February 23, 1927 (44 Stat. L., pt. 2, p. 1176).
The District Court of Appeals, in a decision rendered November 6, 1922, recognized the claim that high-water mark on the south bank of the Potomac is the boundary between the District of Columbia and Virginia. This location of the boundary was reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court May 4, 1931 (283 U.S. 348).
The high-water line on the Virginia side of the Potomac was determined by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1947. Monuments were established by triangulation, and the mean high-water line was tied into these. The elevation of this line was 1.86 feet for stations 5 through 14. The boundary crosses the mouths of all tributaries affected by tides. From the intersection of the high-water line and and the centerline of Second Street in Alexandria, extended, the boundary follows the established pierhead line to the corner common to the District, Maryland, and Virginia (59 Stat 552).
These positions are on 1927 North American Datum.
The south corner stone at Jones Point, below Alexandria, which was the first one established, was set with appropriate ceremonies April 15, 1791.
By act of February 21, 1871 (16 Stat. L. 419), the entire area within the boundary of the District was made a distinct government with the title of the District of Columbia and constituted a "body corporate for municipal purposes." 5
The initial point of several of the original land grants upon which the city of Washington is founded was a mark on a large rock commonly called the "Key of all keys," which was then at the edge of the Potomac River. According to tradition, Braddock's army landed
3 The following cases are in harmony with the authorities quoted above: Howard v. Ingersoll, 13 Howard, 415
423; Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U.S. 12. • Marine Railway and Coal Co. v. United States of America: 257 U.S. 47.
6 See 174 U.S. 196-590 for land history of the area covered by the District of Columbia from the time of the King's grant to Lord Baltimore, June 20, 1632; includes reproductions of several old maps. This case gives many references to former decisions relating to riparian rights.
BOUNDARIES OF THE
at this place on its way to Fort Duquesne. This rock has been covered with dirt and the river bed filled in so that the concrete pier and tablet established in 1910 over the mark are now more than 1,000 feet from the river's edge. The new mark is in the Naval Hospital grounds about 300 feet west from the corner of Twentythird Street and Constitution Avenue, NW.
The zero milestone, from which public highways of the United States are supposed to radiate, authorized by joint resolution of Congress June 5, 1920 (41 Stat. L. 1062), and dedicated June 4, 1923, is a granite pier 24 by 24 inches in section, mounted on a concrete base and projecting 4 feet above ground, standing on the north edge of the Ellipse, 900 feet south of the White House, in lat 38°53'41.99'' N., long 77° 02'12.66'' W. The tablet in the base is 28.65 feet above mean sea level.
situate, lying, or being all along the Sea Coasts, between four and thirty degrees of Northerly Latitude from the Equinoctial Line and five and forty degrees of the same Latitude, and in the main Land between the same four and thirty and five and forty Degrees and the Islands thereunto adjacent, or within one hundred miles of the coast thereof.
In 1609 a new charter was granted, called the "second charter" of Virginia, which defines the boundaries in the following terms (see fig. 21) (Thorpe, 1909, v. 7, p. 3795):
situate, lying, being in that part of America, called Virginia, from the point of Land, called Cape or Point Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Northward, two hundred miles, and from the said point of ('ape Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Southward, two hundred Miles, and all that Space and Circuit of Land, lying from the Sea Coast of the Precinct aforesaid, up into the Land, throughout from Sea to Sea, West and Northwest; And also all the Islands lying within one hundred Miles along the Coast of both Seas of the Precinct aforesaid.
In 1611-12 the "third charter" of Virginia was granted, which was an enlargement of the second. It gave the following territory (Thorpe, 1909, v. 7, p. 3804):
all and singular those Islands whatsoever, situate and being in any Part of the Ocean Seas bordering upon the coast of our said first Colony in l'irginia, and being within three Hundred Leagues of any of the Parts heretofore granted to the said Treasurer and Company in our former Letters Patent as aforesaid, and being within or between the one-and-fortieth and thirtieth Degrees of Northerly Latitude.
BOUNDARY LINES OF THE STATES
The charter of 1609 gave Virginia a strip of land
93 bordering on the coast for 200 miles northward from Point Comfort and for the same distance southward and extending inland west and northwest to the South Sea." A point 200 miles due north of Point Comfort would fall in lat 39°54' N., or about 13 miles north of the present south boundary of Pennsylvania. An irregular line 200 miles long, measured along the coast from Virginia shores and strands, bordering on either of said rivers, and Point Comfort, would reach about as far north as the
all improvements, which have been or shall be made thereon. The
western and northern extent of Virginia shall, in all other respects, Pennsylvania boundary. A point 200 miles due south
stand as fixed by the charter of King James I, in the year one thousand from Point Comfort would fall in lat 34°06' N. The
six hundred and nine, and by the public treaty of peace between the territory included within these boundaries comprised, Courts of Britain and France in the year one thousand seven hundred wholly or in part, the present States of Pennsylvania, and sixty-three; unless by act of this Legislature one or more governNew Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, and
ments be established westwards of the Alleghany mountains. South Carolina and the vast region stretching west and In the meantime grants of territory had been made northwest to the Pacific Ocean.
within the present limits of Virginia and West Virginia, The area covered by the charter of 1611-12 included which caused great dissatisfaction to the people of the the Bermuda Islands.
Virginia Colony and which ultimately had an important In 1625 the colony was changed to a royal province,
bearing in setting the divisional line between Marythe three charters having been canceled by judgment land and Virignia. of the Court of Kings Bench in the preceding year In the twenty-first year of Charles II (1670) a grant (Donaldson, 1884, p. 33), but Virginia still claimed the was made to Lord Hopton and others of what is still boundaries fixed by the charters.
called "the northern neck of Virginia," which was sold The description "west and northwest" left the north- by the other patentees to Lord Culpepper and confirmed ern boundary of the colony poorly defined, but it was to him by letters patent in the fourth year of James II more definitely fixed when reductions in area were (1689). This grant carried with it nothing but the right made by the charters to Maryland in 1632 and to Penn- of soil and incidents of ownership, it being expressly sylvania in 1681. The Connecticut charter of 1662 prac- subjected to the jurisdiction of the Government of Virtically made the parallel of 41° the northern boundary. ginia. The tract of land thereby granted was "bounded (See p. 72.) The charters of Carolina in 1663 and 1665 by and within the heads of the rivers Tappahannock, changed the southern boundary to its present statute alias Rappahannock, and Quiriough, alias Potowposition.
mack." On the death of Lord Culpeper this proprietary The area of Virginia was still further reduced by the tract descended to Lord Fairfax, who had married Lord French treaty of 1763, which made the Mississippi River Culpepper's only daughter. the west boundary, by the cession to the United States As early as 1729 difficulties arose from conflicting of the territory northwest of the Ohio River in 1784, by grants made by Lord Fairfax and the Crown. In 1730 the admission of Kentucky as an independent State Virginia petitioned the King, reciting that the head in 1792, by the division in 1863 when the new State of springs of Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers were West Virginia was created and admitted to the Union, not known and praying that such measures might be and finally by the transfer of two counties to West taken that they might be ascertained to the satisfaction Virginia in 1866. (See fig. 21.)
of all parties. In 1733 Lord Fairfax made a similar By the constitution of 1776 Virginia formally gave petition, asking that a commission might be appointed up all claim to the territory now appertaining to the to ascertain, survey, and mark the true boundaries of neighboring States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, North his grant. An order was accordingly issued, and in Carolina, and South Carolina, as is seen by the follow- 1736 three commissioners were appointed on the part ing extract:
of the Crown and three on the part of Lord Fairfax.
These commissioners were to ascertain by actual exThe territories contained within the Charters erecting the Colonies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina are hereby
amination and survey the respective fountains of ceded, released, and forever confirmed, to the people of these Colonies, Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. This survey was respectively, with all the rights of property, jurisdiction, and govern- made in 1736. The report of the commissioners was ment, and all the rights whatsoever, which might at any time hereto
referred to the council for plantation affairs in 1738, who fore, have been claimed by Virginia, except the free navigation and use of the rivers Patomaque and Pokomoke, with the property of the
reported their decision as follows:
The said boundary ought to begin at the first spri of the 7 Mar del Sur (South Sea) was the name given to the Pacific Ocean by Balboa in 1513, when he first saw it at a place where the shoreline
south branch of the river Rappahannock, and that the said boundary runs nearly east and west.
be from thence drawn in a straight line northwest to the place in the
BOUNDARIES OF THE
A line beginning on the Ohio, at the mouth of Great Sandy Creek, and running up the same and the main or northeasterly branch thereof to the Great Laurel Ridge or Cumberland Mountains; thence southwesterly along the said mountain to the line of North Carolina.
Kentucky having been admitted into the Union June 1, 1792, commissioners were appointed in 1798 by Vir
ginia and Kentucky to fix the boundary. In 1799–1800 Alleghany Mountains where that part of the Potomac River, which is
the commissioners' report was made and ratified by now called Cohongoroota, first rises.
the States. It was as follows (Shephard, v. 2, p. 234): This report was confirmed by the King, and other To begin at the point where the Carolina, now Tennessee, line commissioners were appointed to survey and mark crosses the top of the Cumberland mountains, near Cumberland Gap. the dividing line. The line was run in 1746. On October
thence northeastwardly along the top or highest part of the said
Cumberland mountain, keeping between the headwaters of Cumber17, 1746, the commissioners planted the Fairfax Stone
land and Kentucky rivers, the west side thereof, and the head. at the spot which had been described and marked by
waters of Powell's and Guest's rivers, and the Pound fork of Sandy, the preceding commissioners as the true headspring on the east side thereof, continuing along the said top, or highest of the Potomac and which, notwithstanding much con- part of said mountain, crossing the road leading over the same at the troversy, has continued to be so regarded from that
Little Paint Gap, where by some it is called the Hollow mountain and
where it terminates at the West Fork of Sandy, commonly called period to the present time. Besides limiting the Fair
Russell's fork, thence with a line to be run north 45° east till it fax tract, this location was of greater importance as
intersects the other great principal branch of Sandy, commonly called marking the southern point of the western boundary the northeastwardly branch, thence down the said northeastwardly of Maryland.
branch to its junction with the main west branch and down Main A description of the original Fairfax Stone, as it
Sandy to its confluence with the Ohio. appeared in 1859, was given in a report by Lieutenant It will be seen that the northern part of this line is Michler, as follows:
the present line between West Virginia and Kentucky. It consists of a rough piece of sandstone, indifferent and friable,
The exact location of the boundary along "Great planted to the depth of a few feet in the ground and rising a foot or
Sandy Creek" and its "northeasterly branch" (now more above the surface; shapeless in form, it would scarce attract called the Big Sandy River and the Tug Fork) is somethe attention of the passer by. The finding of it was without difficulty. what in doubt. The best evidence as to its proper posiand its recognition and identification by the inscription now almost
tion thus far found is that indicated on Bishop James obliterated by the corroding action of water and air.
Madison's map of Virginia, dated 1807, where it is When the commissioners for the Maryland-West
shown as being on the west bank of both streams. This Virginia boundary visited this locality in 1910, no trace
evidence is in a measure confirmed by a clause in the of the original mark was found, although the mark set
West Virginia State constitution of 1872, which is as by Lieutenant Michler was readily identified. A large
follows: concrete monument was then built at this point. As
The State of West Virginia includes the bed, bank and shores of stated on page 88, these commissioners placed the
the Ohio river, and so much of the Big Sandy river as was formerly monument marking the southwest corner of Maryland
included in the commonwealth of Virginia. on the south bank of the North Branch of the Potomac,
Virginia at one time owned the entire area of Kennearly 4,000 feet north of the Fairfax Stone.
tucky and claimed territory north of the Ohio. Many This tract of land was held by Lord Fairfax and his
court decisions have fixed the low-water line on the descendants for many years, but subsequent to the
north bank of the Ohio as the boundary resulting from Revolution the quitrents and similar charges were
this claim. It therefore seems reasonable to assume abolished, and it became in all respects subject to the
that the Kentucky boundary should be so placed as to jurisdiction of Virginia.
exclude the bed and shores to low-water mark on the For the history and description of the boundary line
west side of the two streams. between Virginia and Maryland see pages 86–88;
For the history of the settlement of the boundary beand for the line between Virginia and West Virginia,
tween Virginia and North Carolina, see North Carolina, see page 95. Kentucky formed originally a part of the county of
In 1779 Virginia and North Carolina appointed comFincastle, Va. In 1776 this county was divided into
missioners to run the boundary line between the two three counties, the westernmost of which was called
States west of the Allegheny Mountains, on the parallel Kentucky County, and its eastern boundary was de
of 36°30'. The commissioners were unable to agree on clared to be as follows (Hening, 1821, v. 9, p. 257):
the location of the parallel; they therefore ran two 8 For report of the commissioners, including description and position of parallel lines 2 miles apart, the northern known as each of the 34 monuments, see 225 U.S. 2–30. For references concerning Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia boundaries, see 217 U.S. 1-47.
Henderson's line and claimed by North Carolina, the
BOUNDARY LINES OF THE STATES
southern known as Walker's line and claimed by
95 Virginia. In the year 1789 North Carolina ceded to the United States all territory west of her present bound
WEST VIRGINIA aries, and as Tennessee was formed from the ceded territory, this question became one between Virginia and Tennessee.
Commissioners appointed by Virginia and Tennessee to establish the boundary adopted a compromise line. lines, descriptions of which are given in the Virginia Their report was made in 1803 and was as follows statutes. (See West Virginia, p. 96.) (Haywood, 1823, p. 9; 1891, p. 487-497):
References to the statutes by which the counties of A due west line equally distant from both Walker's and Hender
Virginia and West Virginia were created can be found son's, beginning on the summit of the mountain generally known as in an article by Morgan P. Robinson (1916). Most of White Top mountain, where the northeast corner of Tennessee termi.
the counties were created prior to 1800, and the refnates, to the top of the Cumberland Mountain, where the south
erences are to Hening's Statutes at Large of Virginia, western corner of Virginia terminates.
but there have been many changes since that year. This line, which is about a mile north of the Walker
The Grand Assembly of Virginia, in 1660, enacted line, was marked on trees by five notches arranged in
that (Hening, 1821, v. 2, p. 18) the form of a diamond and is often called the "diamond line." It was adopted by the legislatures of both States
For the prevention of frequent suits and differences
be limited within certaine naturall in 1803.
bounds and where naturall bounds are wanting to supply that In 1871 Virginia passed an act for appointing com
defect by marked trees, which are to be viewed and renewed every missioners to readjust this line. Tennessee the following
three years by the neerest bordering inhabitants of each county and year passed an emphatic resolution refusing to reopen parrish in Easter week. the question regarding a boundary which she considered "fixed and established beyond dispute for
WEST VIRGINIA ever" (Tennessee H. Jour. for Mar. 23, 1872, p. 71). In 1889 Virginia took the matter to the Supreme
The separation of West Virginia from Virginia was Court of the United States, which in 1893 decreed that
approved by act of Congress of December 31, 1862 (12 the line as surveyed and marked in 1803 is the true
Stat. L. 633), and the new State was admitted to the boundary.
Union by presidential proclamation dated April 20, 1863, Until 1784 Virginia exercised jurisdiction over a
effective June 19, 1863 (13 Stat. L. 731). It is of historical large tract of country northwest of the Ohio River, but
interest that the name proposed for this State by the by a deed executed March 1, 1784, she ceded to the
convention of 1861 was Kanawha. United States all that territory, thus making the north
It originally contained the following counties: Barern part of her western boundary the north and north
bour, Boone, Braxton, Brooke, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, west bank of the Ohio.
Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, On December 31, 1862, the State of Virginia was
Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, divided, and 48 counties, composing the western part
Logan, McDowell, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Mercer, of the State, were made the new State of West Vir- Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Nicholas, Ohio, Pendleginia. By an act of Congress in 1866, consent was given
ton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, to the transfer of two additional counties from Virginia Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upto West Virginia.
shur, Wayne, Webster, Wetzel, Wirt, Wood, and The Legislatures of Virginia in 1873 and West Vir
Wyoming. In 1866, with the consent of Congress, 10 ginia in 1877 authorized the appointment of commis
West Virginia was enlarged by the two counties of sions for "ascertaining and locating" the boundary be
Berkeley and Jefferson, transferred from Virginia. tween the two States wherever it was in dispute. Com
The boundary between West Virginia and Virginia missions were appointed, and an officer from the U.S.
is made up of the boundary lines of the counties above Army Corps of Engineers was detailed to aid in the
enumerated that border on Virginia and can be dework. So far as can be learned, the survey and mark
fined only by reference to the laws by which these ing of this boundary were never undertaken, and its
counties were created (Hening, 1821, v. 2, location can be found only by following the old county
The two States entered into a compact to define their
common boundary separating Monroe County, West See 148 U.S. 528. For historical description and plat of the line, consult records of the court for the October term, 1891; for geographic posi
Virginia, and Allegheny County, Virginia. There had tions on the line, see p. lll. For report of commissioners who surveyed been uncertainty concerning this line for many years. the line in 1901--2, see 190 U.S. 64. For original maps of this survey, see register 2634 of the archives of the Supreme Court. For reference to the 10 14 Stat. L. 350. See 11 Wallace 39 for a historical sketch of this adBristol cession, see p. 110.
dition and court decisions relating thereto.