The Mason-Dixon Line

        Because of disputed boundaries between English colonies in America, arising from conflicting statements in colonial charters issued by various kings of England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, English surveyors and astronomers were sent to North America to locate and establish legal boundaries.
        During the years 1763 through 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the boundaries of three colonies, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  The line of the latter two was surveyed westward 244 miles.  Opposition by Indian tribes delayed its completion until 1784.  The survey cost $75,000 and was paid by William Penn and Lord Baltimore.  An eight-foot wide vista was cut through the forests and small stone markers placed at each mile post, with larger stones markers bearing the coats of arms of Penn and Baltimore at five-mile intervals.  In ensuing years many markers fell or were appropriated by settlers.  In 1900 through 1902 the line was resurveyed and stabilized.
        Between the Revolution and the Civil War, the line acquired additional significance as the border between Northern states that had eliminated African slavery and Southern states that retained the institution.  In 1820 Missouri, west of the Mississippi River, was admitted as a slave state, with slavery prohibited in the remaining territory north of 36"30'.
        Immediately prior to the Civil War, Southern slaveholding states were called Dixie and although many reasons given for this name, one of the most popular is that it was derived from the word Dixon.  The term Mason-Dixon Line has continued in use in the twentieth century to distinguish between Northern and Southern states of the American Union. 
Source: Macmillan Information Now Encyclopedia "The Confederacy."

This Page last updated 02/16/02

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