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There have been numerous Boundary Commissions required to delineate and survey the boundaries of Delaware.
The Royal Grant from King Charles II to his brother, James, Duke of York, dated March 22, 1682, gave to the Duke of York the Town of New Castle and all the land within 12 miles as well as the territory south of the southern most boundary of the twelve-mile circle to the present Fenwick Island. With this document the twelve-mile circle at the north of Delaware came into being1.
In 1701 commissioners and surveyors were appointed from each of the two counties of Chester and New Castle. They had to survey and mark the twelve-mile circle under a warrant issued by William Penn in pursuance of the feoffment from the Duke of York.
In 1732 a Boundary Commission was formed and an agreement signed between William Penn and Lord Baltimore (the two proprietors) to end the boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland and to divide the territory between the Delaware Bay on the east and the Chesapeake Bay on the west of the Peninsula, thus separating Pennsylvania from Maryland.
By Chancellor’s Decree in 1750, Lord Hardwicke, the High Chancellor, approved the agreement which had been signed between the proprietors in 1732. The decision was made in favor of the Penn proprietors. Commissioners were appointed to lay out the East-West Boundary as laid forth in the 1732 agreement. In 1751 the surveyors marked the half-way point of the Transpeninsular Line with a stone called Middle Point which became Delaware’s southwest corner.
On November 16, 1760, the Board of Commissioners signed a final agreement into which Lord Frederick (successor of Lord Baltimore), the Maryland proprietor, and the Pennsylvania proprietors entered. It was an agreement on the basis of the articles already written up in 1732 and incorporated into the Chancellor’s Decree of 1750. This agreement established the major boundaries of Delaware as we know them today.
On December 6, 1763, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were sworn in by Commissioners to begin their survey work on the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundaries. Mason and Dixon surveyed the North-South line between Maryland and Pennsylvania (Delaware) from 1763 to 1767. This was to delineate the long disputed boundary between Calvert and Penn Lands. Maryland and Delaware presented the final report of this survey to the Commissioners from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
On November 9, 1768 a Final Report of boundaries between the provinces of Pennsylvania and Maryland was submitted to the commission. The boundary between Maryland and Delaware was marked and approved by commissioners on January 11, 1769.
In 17752 there was an agreement to ascertain and fix the divisional lines of the several counties within Delaware and to solve inconveniences that may have arisen by the establishment of the boundaries between Delaware and Maryland. The agreement was signed by the Governor of Pennsylvania and the General Assembly of the Three Lower Counties who also designated the boundaries of the present counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex. The lines between the colonies and counties would forever remain the boundaries. The lines had been run by Commissioners who marked out the lines with stones, pillars and other landmarks. These lines were described by the Commissioners in the return of their proceedings and in an exact map.
In 1849-1850 Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania joined in a survey, known as the Graham Resurvey to relocate the stone which marked the junction of the Mason and Dixon Line with the due North or meridian line. In course of time, this stone had disappeared. Due to an error of the commissioners a controversy arose over a small area of land known as “The Wedge”. This controversy between Delaware and Pennsylvania was not settled until 1921.
In 1869 there was great doubt and uncertainty about the true dividing line between the State of Delaware and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the eastern line of the State of Maryland and the circular line of the State of Delaware. The circular boundary line between the State of Delaware and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had never been surveyed and marked since the separation of the three counties. All knowledge of its location was based upon vague and conflicting traditions. The Governor was authorized to appoint two commissioners to cooperate with commissioners from Pennsylvania to settle, determine and locate the line between Delaware and Pennsylvania. The Commissioners were authorized to place and erect a stone or monument on the point where the southern line of Pennsylvania intersects the circular line of Delaware. The commissioners were given power to survey and determine the circular boundary line separating the two States. They had the power to fix suitable marks or monuments of stone or other material one quarter of a mile apart upon the circular boundary3.
The boundary line between Delaware and Pennsylvania had become uncertain due to destruction, removal, or mutilation of the monuments erected upon this line. In 1889 three commissioners were appointed and authorized to cooperate with commissioners from Pennsylvania to examine, survey and re-establish the boundary line between Delaware and Pennsylvania. The commissioners had to mark the boundary line by the erection of enduring monuments and make a detailed report in duplicate of their operations. The report together with the field notes of surveys, descriptions of monuments, maps and other items had to be signed in duplicate by each of the commissioners and by the civil engineers4.
In 1909 an act5 stated that the Governor of Delaware was authorized and requested to communicate with the Governor of Maryland about the replacing and resetting of the stones marking the boundary line between Delaware and Maryland. If necessary the Governor was authorized to take steps to replace or remove the boundary stones.
In 1921 an act6 provided for the acceptance, approval and confirmation of the report of the Commission that was appointed in pursuance of the Act of the General Assembly of the State of Delaware, approved the twenty-fifth day of April, 1889. This act authorized the commission to examinate, survey and re-establish the circle of New Castle, as the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Delaware.
In 1927 commissioners7 were appointed and constituted to cooperate with commissioners of New Jersey for the purpose of forming an agreement between the States of Delaware and New Jersey. They had to look to the final adjustment of all controversies relating to the boundary line between the two states and to their respective rights in the Delaware River and Bay.
In 1929 a resolution8 authorized the Attorney General to take such action as is necessary to protect the rights of the State of Delaware in the disputed area of the Delaware River and Bay. Due to death of members on the Commissions and other numerous reasons, no satisfactory results had been obtained during the past two years.
In 1951 an act9 stated that monuments marking the common boundaries between the State of Delaware and any neighboring state are the joint property of the State of Delaware and the neighboring states. The State Archivist and Chief Engineer of the State Highway Department had the authorization to examine at least every 5 years the monuments marking the boundaries of this State. They also cooperated with state officials of any neighboring state in case any of the monuments marking the boundary were lost, moved or defaced. They replaced, restored or repaired the monuments and the common boundary line. Further they had authorization to make joint agreements and to enter into joint contracts with appropriate officials or agencies of any neighboring state and with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey or any similar neutral party or agency to resurvey, remark or otherwise delineate more thoroughly any part of any common state boundary. They also had the authorization to enter upon any property to examine any boundary monument. But they had no authorization to do this in the growing season which might damage crops.
In 1971 an act10 instructed the Director of the Division of Archives and Cultural Affairs to publish a description of the boundaries of Delaware in a small pamphlet. In that year the responsibility for the state’s boundaries was transferred from the Director of Operations of the Highway Department to the Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in conjunction with the Director of the Division of Archives and Cultural Affairs11. If a question arose as to the common boundary between the State and any neighboring state, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs plus a three member commission to be appointed by the Governor are empowered to negotiate and settle boundary disputes with neighboring states. A copy of the Commission’s report will be forwarded to the Office of the Governor and to the office of the Legislative Council, whereupon the new delineation of the boundaries will be inserted in the Delaware Code12.
On January 7, 1972, the Delaware Boundary State Commission had its first organizational meeting. Governor Russell W. Peterson appointed Robert Jordan, John A. Munroe, and Fletcher E. Campbell to the Delaware State Boundary Commission. In the following years the DSBC had meetings on boundary extensions, made agreements on procedures for marking and preserving boundary monuments, made agreements of resurveys of boundaries, made an acceptance on an offshore boundary proposal and lateral seaward boundary, made an acceptance to share Coastal Energy Impact Program (CEIP) funds with New Jersey, recognized and formalized boundary stones, and signed agreements accepting true locations of boundaries1.
1 Boundary Commission Files, chronological list, RG 1705
2 1 Del. Laws Ch. 229
3 13 Del. Laws Ch. 382
4 18 Del. Laws Ch. 448
5 25 Del. Laws Ch. 1
6 32 Del. Laws Ch. 4
7 35 Del. Laws Ch. 243
8 36 Del. Laws Ch. 277
9 48 Del. Laws Ch. 256
10 58 Del. Laws Ch. 86
11 58 Del. Laws Ch. 102
12 58 Del. Laws Ch. 622