Great Land Surveying Stories: Solving the Mystery of the Mason-Dixon Line


For several years, the search was on to discover the exact location of the starting point of the Mason-Dixon Line, the original site of the Plumstead Huddle House. The house has since been non-existent for one reason or another and finally, after thorough investigation of maps and other artifacts, the starting point for the survey of the Mason-Dixon Line was discovered.


Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon used the Plumstead Huddle House as the southernmost point in Philadelphia when establishing the boundary for Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. Unfortunately, in all documents researched by surveyors, there was no mention of an actual address of the house. Rumors flew that the house once stood at Second and Market or at No. 30 South Street but investigations rejected those possibilities.

Surveyors, including students from Penn State-Abington joined forces to determine the exact location of the Plumstead Huddle House. They used the process of elimination method; sifting through various documents and disregarding unlikely possibilities. It was one key document that steered the team in the right direction – a fire insurance application. This document, discovered by a researcher in Philadelphia, provided the owner’s name which now gave them a timeframe, thus narrowing down the search.


The team discovered more records that allowed them to pinpoint the Plumstead Huddle House’s precise location, which stood in the middle of the current Interstate 95. The original house was demolished during the construction of the interstate and other renovations throughout the years, but without the help of surveyor knowledge, no one would have ever known.


According to Jim Shomper, a key element to unlocking this mystery, “It’s only the surveyor that can take the piece of paper, interpret it and put marks on the grounds so people can say this is where I live, this is what I own, this is where my mother was, this is where my father was born. It’s very important to do that. There’s no technology. GPS, yeah, if you have coordinates, but how do you get coordinates for a 200-year-old deed? You can’t invent them, you can’t just write them up; you’ve got to go out there. It’s a tangible thing, and people are comfortable with that.”


We couldn’t agree more.


(Source: Point of Beginning)