Mason-Dixon Hike to Retrace Historic Survey

Washington PA Observer-Reporter
14 October 2015
By C.R. Nelson

CORE, W.Va. – With autumn in full blaze and temperatures just right for hiking, it’s a great time to “explore the line” at Mason-Dixon Historical Park near Core. W.Va.

It was 248 years ago this month when surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon stopped their survey on the banks of Dunkard Creek.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the annual Mason-Dixon Hike will have re-enactors telling the story of those times. Then, a hike will take place where, on Oct. 8, 1767, Mason noted in his journal:

“At 232 miles 43 chains crossed Dunchard’s Creek a second time. At 232 miles 74 chains crossed Ditto a third time. This day the Chief of the Indians which joined us on the 16th of July informed us that the above mentioned War Path was the extent of his commission from the Chiefs of the Six Nations that he should go with us …and that he would not proceed one step farther Westward.”

The survey was commissioned to settle land disputes between Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The surveyors and their hundred-some team of ax men accompanied by native guides were halted by the Catawba war path about three miles southwest of Mt. Morris, 21.9 miles short of their goal of marking the present-day southwest corner of Pennsylvania. It would be another 15 years before Andrew Ellicott, using astronomical calculations completed the line.

Pete Zapadka of Cheat Lake, W.Va., will lead the hike and offer insights into the astronomical observations that allowed these surveyors of the 18th century to draw the Mason-Dixon line through virgin forests and hilly terrain. At 10:45 a.m., Doug Wood of Nitro, W.Va., will set the historic stage as Cherokee leader Ostenaco and give participants a taste of what life was like in the area when Mason and Dixon visited. He, his wife, Dianne Anestis, and historical re-enactor Ed Robey of Morgantown, W.Va., are part of the History Alive! program of the West Virginia Humanities Council.

The hike along Dunkard Creek to the third and last crossing of the survey team covers easy terrain and is about 1 ½ miles.

Hikers up for a challenge can climb Browns Hill and visit the stone marker that sits where the survey team climbed the highest nearby hill and erected a temporary edifice of stones piled around a white oak post, with the letter W carved in it to mark direction.
Browns Hill offers a fine view of the park below and many stately trees along the trail have identifying markers, including the fiercely spiked honey locust.

For more information or directions, call 304-879-4101 or go to To learn more about the western end of the Mason-Dixon Line, visit