- SPECIAL REPORTS
- THE MAGAZINE
Land surveyors, astronomers and history buffs from all across America, England and Australia will gather in Philadelphia this summer to mark the forgotten grave of early surveyor and astronomer Charles Mason. The event is part of “Surveyors Rendezvous 2013,” a large annual gathering hosted by the Surveyors Historical Society on Aug. 28-31.
Mason teamed with colleague Jeremiah Dixon in the 1760s to lay out the Mason-Dixon Line, a colonial boundary that settled long disputes between Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Decades later, after Pennsylvania outlawed slavery, their line became the quasi-legal division between slave states and free in pre-Civil War America.
On Aug. 31, in a ceremony open to the public, Charles Mason’s burial place will receive its first-ever grave marker – 226 years after his death – in the form of an authentic 1766 Mason-Dixon Stone, from the historic line the two Englishmen used.
Mason died in 1786 and was laid to rest at Christ Church Burial Ground, in the shadow of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. His friend Benjamin Franklin paid for the funeral, but Franklin didn’t include a tombstone.
Leading off the three-day symposium will be a pilgrimage to one of the most historic, but little-known, surveying sites in America – Mason and Dixon’s “Stargazer’s Stone.” This ancient field-stone monument, still standing in remote Chester County after 250 years, is where the pair determined latitude and longitude from the stars and began measuring due south with 66-foot Gunter’s Chains to establish today’s line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Recent resurveys, done using Mason and Dixon’s original field notes and journals, have revealed that the real ‘Stargazing Spot’ was hundreds of feet south of the historic stone. The actual position of Mason and Dixon’s 1764 astronomical observatory has been located, and Surveyors Rendezvous 2013 will mark its exact point with a colonial square-head iron spike and a new field-stone monument.
There will also be an unveiling of a historic marker at South Street, the southernmost edge of colonial Philadelphia. All are encouraged to participate in these historic dedications. Additional information, including Rendezvous 2013 registration details, will be available soon.
For more information about the Surveyors Historical Society, visit http://www.surveyorshistoricalsociety.com/.