Men making sense of the wilderness

One of the most fascinating aspects of the creation of our jigsaw puzzle map has been learning about how early surveying work was done.  We live in a GPS world now, but in the 1700’s, surveyors were astronomers and they depended on star charts and telescopes to define the borders of our states.  Two of the earliest surveyors were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon who marked out the famous Mason Dixon line.

The project took them four years, from 1763-1767.  In addition to the two astronomers, the team consisted of about two dozen assistants, a team of packhorses to carry all of the equipment, and about 100 ax men to physically carve the border through the forests.  Mason and Dixon positioned themselves on high points along the way and spent many evenings observing the positions of the stars in the sky.  They consulted their charts and used their knowledge of the heavens to determine exactly where they were with regard to the lines of longitude.   When it was decided that they were in the correct place, the ax men followed behind and literally chopped down trees to carve a line of demarcation.  After months of exhausting labor, the group could look behind them and see with satisfaction a straight line carved out of the wilderness to mark the border.

And they were remarkably accurate.  What may be surprising to many is that the Mason Dixon line was NOT a line that separated north from south in the Civil War as it is often characterized.  That four years of fighting the grueling wilderness was merely the southern border of the state of Pennsylvania.

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2 Responses to Men making sense of the wilderness

  1. Kelsey says:

    Sounds tedious!! I can’t even imagine what that would be like! Definitely something I didn’t know.

  2. Imagine four straight years of roasted hedgehog for dinner. Life was definitely more challenging back then.

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