Mason And Dixon’s Line

In coming over by railroad from the Chesapeake to the Delaware, the train, after crossing the broad Susquehanna and the head of Elk, and rounding in Maryland the Northeast Arm of Chesapeake Bay, soon enters the State of Delaware near the northeastern corner of the former State. This corner is at the termination of the crescent-shaped northern boundary of Delaware. The northern boundary of Maryland here beginning and laid down due west, to separate it from Pennsylvania, is the famous ” Mason and Dixon’s Line,” surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two noted English mathematicians and astronomers in the eighteenth century. This boundary gained great notoriety because it so long marked the northern limit of slavery in the United States. For almost a century there were conflicts about their respective limits between the rival proprietaries of the two States, producing sometimes riot and bloodshed, until, in 1763, these men were brought over from England, and in December began laying out the line on the parallel of latitude 39° 43′ 26.3′ North. They were at the work several years, surveying the line two hundred and forty-four miles west from the Delaware River, and within thirty-six miles of the entire distance to be run, when the French and Indian troubles began, and they were attacked and driven off, returning to Philadelphia in December, 1767. At the end of every fifth mile a stone was planted, graven with the arms of the Penn family on one side and of Lord Baltimore on the other. The intermediate miles were marked by smaller stones, having a P on one side and an M on the other, all the stones thus used for monuments being sent out from England. After the Revolution, in 1782, the remainder of the line was laid down, and in 1849 the original surveys were revised and found substantially correct.

When the little colony of Swedes and Finns under Peter Minuet came into Christiana Creek in April, 1638, and established their fort, they began the first permanent settlement in the valley of the Delaware. It was built upon a small rocky promontory, and they named it Christina, in honor of the daughter of Gustavus Adolphus. The Dutch afterwards captured it and called it Fort Altena ; but the town retained part of the original name in Christinaham, and the creek also retained the name, the English taking possession in 1664. The Swedes, however, regardless of the flag that might wave over them, still remained; and their old stone church, built in 1698, still stands, down near the promontory by the waterside, in a yard filled with time-worn gravestones. This old Swedes’ Church of the Holy Trinity, the oldest now on the Delaware, was dedicated on Trinity Sunday, 1699, and Rev. Ericus Tobias Biorck came out from Sweden to take charge as rector. It was sixty by thirty feet and twenty feet high, and a little bell tower was afterwards added. The ancient church was recently thoroughly restored to its original condition, with brick floor, oaken benches, and stout rafters supporting the roof. This interesting church building is in a factory district which is now part of Wilmington, the chief city of Delaware, a busy manufacturing community of sixty-five thousand people, built on the Christiana and Brandywine Creeks, which unite about a mile from the Delaware. This active city was laid out above the old settlement, in 1731, by William Shipley, who came from Leicestershire, England. Ships, railway cars and gunpowder are the chief manufactures of Wilmington. The Brandy-wine Creek, in a distance of four miles, terminating in the city, falls one hundred and twenty feet, providing a great water power. Up this stream are the extensive Dupont powder-mills, among the largest in the world, founded by the French statesman and economist, Pierre Samuel Du Pont De Nemours, who, after the vicissitudes of the French Revolution, migrated with his family to the United States in 1799, and was received with distinguished consideration. He afterwards was instrumental in securing the treaty of 1803 by which France ceded Louisiana, and was in the service of Napoleon, but finally returned to America, where his sons were conducting the powder-works, and he died near Wilmington in 1817. Admiral Samuel Francis Dupont, of the American Navy, was his grandson. Farther up the Brandywine Creek, at Chadd’s Ford and vicinity, was fought, in September, 1777, the battle of the Brandywine, where the English victory enabled them to subsequently take possession of Philadelphia.