May 25, 1738: Ending of the Conojocular War

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Boundary disputes were quite common between the colonies, but few got as violent as the boundary line war between Pennsylvania and Maryland from 1730-1738.  Pennsylvania’s charter (1681) provided for its southern boundary as follows:  “on the South by a Circle drawne at twelve miles’ distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then by a streight Line Westward”.  Subsequent surveys established that Dover was a full twenty-five miles south of the 40th Parallel.  Maryland insisted on the 40th Parallel which would have made Philadelphia a Maryland town.  Pennsylvania pushed for a boundary at 39 degrees, 36 minutes which would have taken a strip out of what is northern Maryland.  The dispute simmered for decades breaking out into open conflict in the 1730s with the settlement of the Conejohela Valley west of the  Susquehanna River.  Maryland and Pennsylvania settlers in the disputed territory quickly came into conflict with raids and counter raids by the militias of the two colonies.  The leader of the Maryland settlers was Thomas Cresap, a tough and fearless man as the French would later have reason to attest during the French and Indian War.  Cresap was captured by the Pennsylvanians.  Upon being paraded through the streets of Philadelphia prior to being imprisoned, Cresap remarked:   “Damn it, this is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!”.

Only the personal intervention of King George II stopped the fighting with a treaty between the two colonies being signed in London on May 25, 1738, providing for an exchange of prisoners and a provisional boundary between the colonies being  drawn 15 miles south of Philadelphia.  The permanent boundary would not be established until the drawing of the Mason-Dixon line by surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.

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  1. If only they’d been able to draw the map along 39′ 36″ with Maryland also getting Philadelphia. Pennsylvania would have won completely.

  2. This was something I did not know about my home Commonwealth.

    Another struggle took place between Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Connecticut claimed land south of New York, stretching across the continent. Connecticut residents settled around Wilkes Barre and made their demands. The Yankee-Pennonite Wars ensued, and Connecticut was forced to surrender her claims to what is now the northern half of Pennsylvania. Connecticut did not surrender her claim west of Pennsylvania until Ohio became a state. The northeastern corridor of Ohio was once known as the Western Reserve. The rest of Ohio was claimed by Virginia. This name carries over in Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Western Reserve Academy in Hudson.

    Pennsylvania received a bit of New York so as to have access to Lake Erie.

    The most well known squabble was between Virginia and Pennsylvania over The Forks. George Washington and Edward Braddock failed in their missions from Virginia to get France to surrender Fort Duquesne. Colonel Henry Bouquet led an expedition from Fort Bedford, carving out the Forbes Road, and the French fled before his arrival.

    Virginia and Pennsylvania both wanted the Forks. George Washington owned land in my township, South Fayette. In the end, Pennsylvania won out…..and, thus, Pittsburgh became a city of Pennsylvania, not an outpost of Williamsburg.

  3. My favorite part of all of this is The Wedge, an area in between Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware that was not in any of the three colonies. Giving land to multiple colonies, that is just good politics. Giving land to none, that is just a waste.

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