Ursula Sadiq

"Hey, how did I get here?", asks the once and future geek. "Each step made sense along the way, didn't it?" Didn't it?

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I’m isolating. So I took myself for a long drive into the countryside. It wasn’t an aimless drive, I had a quest. I was looking for a Mason-Dixon stone. 

The western border of Delaware southern terminus is at the Transpeninsular line, at a point half way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, along a latitude line starting at Fenwick island. This was a mistake, it was supposed to start at Cape Henlopen, but in 1732 Lord Calvert submitted the wrong map to the presiding English court establishing the border. The erroneous map labeled Fenwick as Cape Henlopen, so the line started about 24 miles south of where it should have been. This had the effect of making William Penn’s Delaware bigger and Lord Calvert’s Maryland smaller by about 1000 square miles (which is like 40% of Delaware. Delaware is only about 2500 square miles in size today. )

Anyway, half way along this Transpeninsular latitude line is the midpoint, which I visited in a previous post.

Way up in northern Delaware, a 12 mile circle was drawn around the town of New Castle. The western border of Delaware goes from the Transpeninsular midpoint to a point tangent to the 12 mile circle. This Tangent Line does not go “true north” in longitude but slants ever so slightly westward to hit the tangent point. Once the border hits the 12 mile circle, it heads true north* to 39°43′20″ N, which is the latitude to the Maryland-Pennslyvania border. This is the Tri-State marker point, found in White clay creek park**.

Anyway, Mason & Dixon put markers down every mile along the Tangent Line, which every 5 miles dropping a more ornate Crownstone, carved with the crests of both Penn and Calvert. I decided to go look for one or two of these markers. 

So I drove out the Hickman Delaware, about 40 minutes from Dover. I had recently received a book called East of the Mason-Dixon Line by R. Nathan. The text is available online too, at https://archives.delaware.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/156/2018/08/East-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line_-A-History-of-the-Delaware-Boundaries-Roger-E.-Nathan.pdf

Page 95 talks about how to locate these two monuments, but vaguely - it doesn't give actual coordinates or directions. I have since found a much MUCH better source. It's called waymarking.com. Searching on MASDIX Tangent gets you all the markers and how to find them!! It's going to be a fun quest now!!!

Anywho, the Crownstone at mile marker 25

And the sad worn marker 26 one mile north in Hickman proper

Proverbs 22:28 : Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.

*actually, the border follows the 12 mile circle for just a wee bit more before turning north. This gives Delaware an extra 0.02 square miles. Apparently the 12 mile circle trumped the north line in the negotiations of border location.

** Today the MD-PA line goes straight to the arc, and the little wedge was given to Delaware. But that happened later, around 1920. I didn't draw that on my map sketch.

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In a lovely November weekend, I head out to my local winery. While buying a case, I notice there is a photo of a Mason-Dixson crownstone framed on the wall.

I get excited. “You have a Mason-Dixson stone! Can I see it?!!?”

Alas, I was informed, it’s on the owner’s property, and not available for public viewing. Except EXCEPT, occasionally when they do the behind the scenes vineyard tours. Which they aren’t doing now due to Covid, but expect to do so again. As one of the workers there carried my case out, he took me to the side and pointed out where the stone is - in the distance, behind the vines, under a tree. 

I am so going back for the Vineyard tour.

Mason and Dixon and crew placed "crownstones" every 5 miles, way back in 1763. Smaller stone markers were placed in the inbetween miles. The stones were quarried in England, and crown stones were engraved with the crests of the two great houses that commissioned the survey: House Penn and House Cavert. (Calvert was also Lord Baltimore, and the Maryland state flag has this same graphic on two quardrents of its flag)

Five miles north of the Harvest Ridge Winery is the town of Marydel, on the border of Maryland and Delaware. In an unassuming spot by the road is a little chain marked square, with a crownstone inside. My understanding is that this marker was removed and displayed in St. Louis in 1904, and later in Baltimore. It was returned to Marydel in 1954 and was reset in 1964. So it may be a few feet off the original spot. 

The next day, we traveled south to the south western most point of Delaware. I planned the route to take us across on the Woodland Ferry. (Google maps doesn't realize this ferry is an option, so you have to convince it.) Apparently this ferry has been running since 1743ish, by the Cannon family, who were eventually granted “exclusive ferrying rights”. The Cannons ran the ferry for 100 years, among other business ventures. The Deldot brochure on the ferry mentions a jilted groom, strongarm foreclosures, slaving, and honey disputes that end in death. Apparently the Cannons were assholes, and their demise was not mourned. The county and eventually the state took over the ferry, which is free to use today. It’s about a 2 minutes crossing and can fit 4-6 vehicles at a time. (And from my home in Dover to the southwest corner of Delaware, only a 5 minute detour from google’s “fastest route”.)

Anyhow, at the south western most point of Delaware there is - you guessed it - and monument placed by Mason & Dixon. It is another crownstone, called the Transpeninsular Midpoint Marker and it is much better protected than the Marydel one. Also in the protective cage are 2 smaller survey stones done by other surveyors before Mason & Dixon came around. Mason & Dixon verified the earlier survey work. There is ALSO a third smaller stone, which apparently is just there because when they were building the cage, a local had it, thought it looked similar and belonged with the others, so put it with them. Another point for my Delaware is Awesome tally.

People throw change into the cage. Dunno why. We left our 2cents and moseyed on.

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11/9 '20 3 Comments
Out of 24 county equivalents in Maryland, exactly half are named for people directly related to the Calvert family.
Brian Rapp 11/9 '20
Cool! History is cool.
I am trying to engage my kid on seeing the connections. Astronomy! Surveys! Taxes! The crests! The Flag!
Ferrys before Bridges! ... mostly she just roles her eyes at me. But I'm hoping some of it sinks in.

She did seem to perk up when I said that Jeremiah Dixon was a miscreant that got disowned from the (Quaker) church. But I'm hoping she remembers the other stuff too
Ursula Sadiq 11/9 '20
Some of it will sink in. Says the guy whose father dragged him to every civil war and American revolution battlefield in driving distance.
Thomas Boutell 11/10 '20
 

I take myself out and about to expand my horizons on a fairly regular basis. I'm retired, and mom only 50% of the time. Meaning even after house keeping, I have a lot of free time. In this year of not-leaving-the-country, and not willing to risk getting on a domesticc flight, I've been learning about things to do within driving distance.

I've been thinking of my trips as Quests or Missions. These are the ones I'm currently working on:

1. Delaware State Park Passport Quest. One goes to each of 19 state parks, take a self at a designated location in each park, and submit the photos to the park system via an online form. I think you get a free pass for next year if you complete it. I've been to 13, 6 to go!  https://destateparks.com/Passport

2. Delaware Tourism has 5 "Trails" you can complete.

  • Delware on Tap, (I'd be 11/34th done if I'd know about this earlier)
  • Delaware Discoveries (3/9th done!),
  • Delaware History,
  • Delaware Outdoor, and
  • Delaware Culinary trail.

Frankly, I just learned that there were 5 of them. Like, today. I've been working on the Delaware Discoveries one, but now I think I'll work on all of them. At once! Yeah! https://www.visitdelaware.com/things-to-do/trails/

3. The Mason-Dixon markers: Ok, I made this one up. But there is the Tri-State Marker in White Clay Creek park (been there! twice!), a Mason-dixon crownstone marker across from a gas station in MaryDel, and a Middle Point Marker on Delaware's southern border near Delmar.  There may be another crownstone 10 miles north of the Marydel stone. It's a bit of a scavenger hunt. There is a site that documents all of the PA-MD stones, but not the Delaware ones.

4. For beyond Delaware: I found out last month that the National Park system has a Passport book. Like a real booklet that is setup for you to collect stamps. I have 4 stamps already! https://americasnationalparks.org/passport-to-your-national-parks/

Are there more quests? I'm sure there are. But theses are the ones I'm keen on just now. 

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10/24 '20 2 Comments
I've been wanting to make a project of getting to the 4 extreme points of the continental US for a while. I've only been to the northwesternmost point (cape flattery in WA) so far, but key west seems nice. and I'll be going to Maine with Ellynne pretty regularly for years to come, so I'm sure we can collect Grand Isle pretty easily. so then there's just Lompoc CA to work out.
CM Adams 10/25 '20
That sounds like an awesome quest.
Ursula Sadiq 10/26 '20