Harford History

Border Disputes

November 25, 2007

In the fall of 1736, on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, there occurred a series of incidents often referred to as Cresap's War.

The charters of Maryland and Pennsylvania, granted 50 years apart, had failed to precisely define their border between the colonies. This led to periods of conflict between the neighbors for much of the 1700s.

On Nov. 24, 1736, Sheriff Samuel Smith of Lancaster, Pa., and a party of 24 men arrested Thomas Cresap and imprisoned him in Philadelphia.

Cresap - a Marylander who settled in Wrightsville, Pa., asserting that the Maryland border ran just north of Philadelphia - caused local unrest, once instigating an incursion of Maryland militia to evict German settlers from around York. When Lancaster County settlers challenged them, the militia withdrew. Both sides were unhappy with Cresap's inflammatory behavior, which he continued until his arrest.

Eventually, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were commissioned to survey the border and settle the dispute. Working between 1763 and 1767 they laid out their famous line, placing their 29th milestone on what is now the border between Delta, Pa., and Cardiff in Harford County.

[Sources: Harford Historical Bulletin, No. 104, Fall 2006; research by Harford County Public Library]

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