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Smoky Mountains. It is strange that the Revised Statutes should contain such a statement of the boundary lines when it is thoroughly well known that it is incorrect, especially as regards the southern boundary. In the case of the northern boundary the intention has been from the earliest colonial times down to the present to establish a line upon the parallel of 36° 30'. This is found to be the wording of every legislative act relating to it, and the errors of this boundary are due simply to errors in surveying and location. The following brief and comprehensive sketch of the north and south boundary lines of this State, and of the various attempts made to locate them, is taken from Professor Kerr's "Geology of North Carolina," Vol. I, page 2:
"The first and only serious attempt to ascertain the northern boundary was that made in 1728, by Col. Wm. Byrd, and others, commissioners on the part of the two colonies, acting under royal authority. From the account given by Byrd of this undertaking, it appears that they started from a point on the coast whose position they determined by observation to be in 36° 31', north latitude, and ran due west (correcting for the variation of the compass), to Nottoway River, where they made an offset of a half mile to the mouth of that stream, again running west. The line was run and marked 242 miles from the coast, to a point in Stokes County, on the upper waters of the Dan River (on Peter's Creek) the North Carolina commissioners accompanying the party only about two-thirds of the distance. Beyond this point, the line was carried some 90 miles by another joint commission of the two colonies in 1749; this survey, terminating at Steep Rock Creek, on the east of Stone Mountain, and near the present northwest corner of the State, was estimated to be 329 miles from the coast. In 1779 the line was taken up again at a point on Steep Rock Creek, determined by observation to be on the parallel of 36° 30′ (the marks of the previous survey having disappeared entirely), and carried west to and beyond Bristol, TenThis last is known as the Walker line, from one of the commissioners of
These lines were run and the latitude observations taken with very imperfect instruments, and the variation of the compass was little understood, so that it was not possible to trace a parallel of latitude. The line, besides, was only marked on the trees and soon disappeared, and as the settlements were very scattered the location soon became a matter of vague tradition and presently of contention and litigation, so that in 1858, at the instance of Virginia, commissioners were appointed to relocate the line from the end of the Byrd survey westward, but for some reason they did not act. In 1870 commissioners were again appointed by Virginia and similar action asked on the part of this State; and the proposition was renewed in 1871, but ineffectually, as before. In all these numerous attempts to establish the line of division between the two colonies and States, the intention and the specific instructions have been to ascertain and mark, as the boundary of the two States, the parallel of 36° 30'. The maps published towards the end of last century by Jefferson and others give that parallel as the line, and the bill of rights of North Carolina claims that "all the territory lying between the line above described (the line between North and South Carolina) and the southern line of the State of Virginia, which begins on the seashore in 36° 30′ north latitude, and from thence runs west, agreeably to the charter of King Charles, are the right and property of this State." But it appears from the operations of the United States Coast Survey at both ends of the line that the point of beginning on Currituck Inlet, instead of being, as so constantly assumed, in latitude 36° 30′, or as determined by the surveyors in 1728, 36° 31' is 36° 33′ 15′′, and the western end (of "the Walker line," of 1779, at Bristol, Tenn.) 36° 34' 25.5". It is stated in Byrd's Journal that the variation of the com
pass was ascertained to be a little less than 3° W. [The magnetic chart of the United States Coast Survey would make it 3° E.] And no account is given of any subsequent correction, and if none was made at the end of the line surveyed by him the course would have been in error by nearly 3°, as the amount of variation in this State changes a little more than 1° for every 100 miles of easting or westing. So that the northern boundary of the State as run is not only not the parallel of 36° 30′ but is far from coincident with any parallel of latitude, and must be a succession of curves, with their concavities northward and connected at their ends by north and south offsets.
The southern boundary between this State and South Carolina and Georgia was first established by a joint colonial commission in 1735 to 1746. The commissioners run a line from Goat Island on the coast (in latitude 33° 56′ as supposed) NW. to the parallel of 35°, according to their observations, and then due west to within a few miles of the Catawba River, and here, at the old Salisbury and Charleston road, turned north along that road to the southeast corner of the Catawba Indian lands. This line, resurveyed in 1764, was afterwards (in 1772) continued along the eastern and northern boundaries of the Catawba lands to the point where the latter intersects the Catawba River; thence along and up that river to the mouth of the South Fork of the Catawba, and thence due west, as supposed, to a point near the Blue Ridge. This part of the line was resurveyed and confirmed by commissioners under acts of assembly of 1803, 1804, 1806, 1813, 1814, and 1815, and continued west to and along the Saluda Mountains and the Blue Ridge to the intersection of the "Cherokee boundary" of 1797, and thence in a direct line to the Chatooga River at its intersection with the parallel of 35°. From this point the line was run west to the Tennessee line, between this State and Georgia, in 1807, and confirmed and established by act of 1819.
The boundary between this State and Tennessee was run, according to the course designated in the act of 1789, entitled “ An act for the purpose of ceding to the United States certain western lands therein described” (the State of Tennessee); that is, along the crest of the Smoky Mountains, from the Virginia line to the Cataluche River (in Haywood County), in 1799, under act of 1796. It was continued from this point to the Georgia line in 1821. The commissioners who completed this line, at the date lastmentioned, instead of following their instructions, diverged from the crest of the Smoky (Unaka) Mountains at the intersection of the Hiwassee turnpike, and run due south to the Georgia line, thereby losing for the State the valuable mining region since known as Ducktown.
And as to the southern boundary, the point of beginning on Goat Island is in latitude 33° 51′ 37′′, as shown by the coast survey, and instead of running from Goat Island northwest to latitude of 35° and thence along that parallel, it appears, from the South Carolina geographical State survey of 1821-25, that the course from the starting point is N. 47° 30′ W., and instead of pursuing the parallel of 35° it turns west about 10 miles south of that line, and then on approaching the Catawba River, turns northward pursuing a zigzag line to the forks of the Catawba River, which is about 12 miles north of that parallel; and from this point to the mountains the boundary line (of 1772) runs, not west, but N. 88° W., bringing its western end about 17 miles too far north, and reaching the (supposed) parallel of 35° at a distance of about 130 miles east of the Catawba River. The loss of territory resulting from these singular deviations is probably between 500 and 1,000 square miles.
The following extract from the constitution of 1796, of Tennessee, defines the eastern boundary of that State, which is the western boundary of North Carolina, as it was intended to be run and marked:
Beginning on the extreme height of the Stone Mountain at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it in latitude thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north;