On this Day in History: Eight-year-long Cresap’s War between Maryland and Pennsylvania ends

On this Day in History
On May 25, 1738, the Conojocular War, also known as Cresap’s War, between Maryland and Pennsylvania, ended. The conflict began eight years earlier, in 1730, due to boundary disputes and eventually escalated into military involvement by 1736 and 1737.

Early settlers faced challenges traveling westward due to the wide and rocky Susquehanna River. To aid their safe crossing, entrepreneurs established ferry operations. One of the notable ferry operators was Thomas Cresap, a rugged frontiersman from Maryland. In 1730, Cresap established the “Blew Rock” (now Blue Rock) ferry operation at his “Pleasant Garden” plantation, half a mile south of the current location of Blue Rock. Unfortunately, his activities during this time contributed to a bitter border dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania, which sometimes turned violent.

The dispute had originated decades earlier from somewhat confusing proprietary grants by King Charles I to Lord Baltimore (Maryland) and King Charles II William Penn (Pennsylvania).

Pennsylvania’s Charter (1681) specified that the colony was bounded “on the South by a Circle drawne at twelve miles [19 km] distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then by a streight Line Westward….” Later surveys established that the town of New Castle lay a full 25 miles south of the fortieth parallel.

Maryland insisted that the boundary be drawn at the fortieth parallel specified in the Charter. At the same time, Pennsylvania proposed that it be drawn by an elaborate method that purported to compensate for the geographic misunderstanding on which the Charter had been based. This proposal placed the boundary near 39 36′, creating a 28-mile strip of disputed territory.

Because the fortieth parallel lay north of Philadelphia, Maryland pressed its claim in the sparsely inhabited lands west of the Susquehanna River.

After fifty years of failing to resolve the matter, Cresap was hired by Maryland officials to defend Lord Baltimore’s claim of land. For nearly eight years, Cresap and his followers clashed with area residents and local law enforcement officials. His enemies nicknamed him the “Maryland Monster.”

The armed phase of the conflict ended in May 1738 with the intervention of King George II, who compelled the negotiation of a cease-fire and established the border fifteen miles south of Philadelphia. The line, however, was not officially defined until British astronomer Charles Mason and surveyor Jeremiah Dixon completed surveying the now famous Mason–Dixon line in 1767.

William Penn Coat of Arms visible from the Pennsylvania side.

Story Highlight
The most interesting quote attributed to Thomas Cresap came as he was being carried into Philadelphia in chains. He purportedly said, …” This Philadelphia is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland.”

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Side Quest: Briar Patch hunt for Lancaster County’s only Mason-Dixon Line Crownstone

Lancaster County has five Mason-Dixon line markers along her southern border. One is located inside Lancaster Conservancy’s Rock Springs Nature Preserve. I attempted to find it once before but was defeated by an incredibly dense briar patch. Last weekend I tried again, wearing thicker pants and leather work gloves. Not only did I find it, but the marker proved to be an elusive “crownstone.”

While there is a stone marker every mile, larger crownstones are found every fifth mile. These prominent boundary monuments included two coats of arms. On the Pennsylvania side is William Penn’s coat of arms, while the opposite shows the coat of arms of Maryland’s founding Calvert family. Click the link to learn where the marker is located and see a high-resolution LiDAR scan of the monument.

Susquehanna River Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts about Lancaster County’s greatest body of water: the Susquehanna River. Number 1: The Susquehanna is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States. The river begins life as an unassuming 50-foot-wide creek at Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, New York. It eventually empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland, having swelled in spots to wider than a mile. The river and its hundreds of tributaries drain 27,510 square miles, and at the end of this 444-mile journey, it pumps 18 million gallons of water into Chesapeake per minute. Click the link to read all six!

Union forces burn Wrightsville Bridge to prevent invasion of Lancaster County

From an authentic Civil War wood engraving. Original sketch by Albert Berghaus.

On June 28, 1863, Union forces burned the Wrightsville Bridge to stop the advancing Confederate Army. This action saved Lancaster County and set the stage for the three-day Battle of Gettysburg that would soon begin on July 1. Click the link to read more.


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