Walking With Mason and Dixon

Search for the Stones on Your Own

 

Mason
?Todd Babcock walks down on a hill with his tripod.

Credit: ?Cameron Davidson

Hoping to follow in Mason and Dixon's footsteps? Good hiking boots, detailed maps (visit the Maryland Geological Survey), and a willingness to get a little lost are a must. Some stones are on private property, and while many landowners are open to visitors snatching a quick peek, use your discretion.

A handful of stones, adjacent to roads, are easy to find. Just north of Hagerstown, Md., you'll find a milestone along Route 163 near the Hagerstown Airport (U.S.G.S. mile marker 107). A few stones are a quick walk from the road here, so keep your eyes open.

Farther west, Cumberland, Md., has no shortage of options. Take 220 North from town and then turn right on either Pine Ridge or Hazen Roads—both have stones in easy view (U.S.G.S numbers 164 and 165). To the northwest, Route 160 (Barrelville Rd.) crosses the line next to a milestone (U.S.G.S mile 174).

For a useful guide to pinpointing the location of stones, visit masondixon-line.com, a website maintained by a Mason-Dixon enthusiast named Robert Hutton, who has photos of almost every boundary stone with small U.S.G.S. maps alongside.

Aside from the boundary markers along the line, there are a host of other Mason and Dixon-related sites.

  • The two surveyors, after they set up camp at Harland House, headed south into present-day Delaware and established the Post Mark'd West—not a boundary stone, but a reference point they used to establish their position.
  • Then they headed west and started marking the line. Although their original post didn't survive, a monument to the marker now stands in Delaware's White Clay Creek State Park (425 Wedgewood Rd., Newark, Del.): http://www.destateparks.com/wccsp/. Park in the main lot and check out the trail map for directions.
  • No shortage of myths has sprung up around Mason and Dixon, including the story of a local surveyor who helped the two Englishmen with the survey and accidentally swallowed a chronometer. That surveyor is buried at the former London Tract Baptist Meeting House, built in 1729 and later converted into offices for White Clay Creek Preserve, a Pennsylvania park. Legend has it that if you put your head to the gravestone, you can still hear the chronometer ticking. Visit the meeting house at the corner of London Tract and Sharpless Roads in Landenberg, Penn., to find out for yourself (dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/whiteclaycreek.aspx).
  • Some original boundary stones that Mason and Dixon left behind when they reached Sideling Hill ended up at Four Locks along the C & O Canal (11042 Four Locks Rd., Clear Spring, Md.). Three stones were incorporated into the construction of the so-called Hassett House along the canal—two as thresholds along the ground floor, and one by the basement door sill. Come check them out. 

For more resources about the surveyors, visit the Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership at http://www.mdlpp.org/.

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.

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