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By: Chas Langelan. It's hard to believe that Surveyors Historical Society's fun little 'Rendezvous' has now been an annual 'event' for 16-years. Inspired by rugged frontier mountain-men of the 1800s, who came down from the Rockies every spring to trade furs for supplies --- at great gatherings in the river valleys called 'Rendezvous' --- today SHS does the same. Since '97, surveyors from all across America have 'rendezvoused' yearly --- at Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Washington State, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee and Iowa. These gatherings have been enjoyable and intellectually stimulating --- showing that you don't really know a profession until you learn its history. Future Rendezvous are now in the works for the Gulf Coast at Mobile, Puget Sound, Lexington & Concord in Massachusetts --- and believe it or not . . . possibly even Greenwich, England!
Over the years, each Rendezvous has strengthened Surveyors Historical Society, transforming it into the active, dedicated group of kindred individuals it is today. Without the annual Rendezvous, SHS membership would consist of receiving a few interesting publications every year, but little else. If you have not been attending the Surveyors Rendezvous, we urge you to give it a try. It's become the best national surveyors' event of the entire calendar year.
And no time would be better than the very next Rendezvous, at Historic Philadelphia in 2013. Wait 'til you hear what's taking shape for next summer . . .
We'll gather at the ancient area of Philadelphia, right on the Delaware River where William Penn first landed from England in 1682. Within easy walking distance are Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, Benjamin Franklin's first Post Office (still in operation,) his print shop, Betsy Ross' home and flag, South Street where Mason & Dixon began their great survey, Admiral Dewey's 1898 flagship Olympia from the Battle of Manila Bay, plus countless museums, displays and fascinating historic attractions of all types.
Surveyors Rendezvous 2013 will be held in and around Old Philadelphia, on the three days just before Labor Day --- August 29, 30 and 31, 2013.
On Thursday August 29, 2013, we'll travel 31-miles West from Philadelphia, to the remote Pennsylvania countryside --- where stands one of the Holy Grails of American land surveying --- the Stargazer's Stone. This is the historic stone monument, still preserved after 250-years, where Mason & Dixon determined latitude and longitude from the stars, and thence began chaining Due South, to establish their famed Line between Maryland and Pennsylvania . . .
Or so it was always thought --- for two-and-a-half centuries --- until Todd Babcock of SHS set up modern surveying equipment on Stargazer's Stone and re-traced Mason & Dixon's exact original work, carefully following their 1764 journal and field notes.
What Todd discovered is that Mason & Dixon's actual 'Stargazing Point,' meaning the position of their long-ago astronomical observatory and the real place from which all their measurements began, is actually some distance away, near Harlan House where the pair stayed that winter. (Harlan House also still stands at this site, a colonial private residence from 1724, beautifully preserved and still lived-in.)
We've determined the exact spot where Mason & Dixon's astronomical observation station once stood. It falls hundreds of feet south of Stargazer's Stone, ever so slightly into the edge of an asphalt roadway today. What everyone has always called 'Stargazer's Stone' is in actuality Mason & Dixon's True-North backsight point.
We'll mark their precise real spot with a colonial square-head iron spike in the pavement. Nearby, in the yard of Harlan House, we'll set a field-stone marker and plaque, explaining the correct site of Mason & Dixon's 1764 observatory.
Thus, at Rendezvous 2013, we're going to mark the REAL "Stargazer's Stone" --- the point Mason & Dixon actually occupied --- from whence their Line truly began.
Now . . . that would be the highlight, the climax of almost any other Rendezvous --- but we're just getting started. This is only the first day.
On Friday August 30, 2013 (as now planned) we'll participate in the dedication of a Historic Marker and 'Wayside' at South Street, Philadelphia, near the spot deemed in 1760 to be the "Southernmost Point of Philadelphia." This was one of only three legal 'bounds' given to Mason & Dixon in England, from which they were expected to somehow accurately position their new border. South Street's Historic Marker dedication is being organized by a local Philadelphia historical group, with SHS acting in support. Details about this day might change.
But then, on Saturday August 31, 2013 we'll find ourselves, of all places, in an old graveyard . . .
Charles Mason, of Mason & Dixon's Line, is buried at historic Philadelphia, in Christ Church Burial Ground, literally within the shadow of Independence Hall. During his years on the colonial boundary survey, Mason fell in love with America --- and long decades later sailed back from England, with his wife and seven of his ten children, wishing to live out his days and be buried here, as an American, when he died. His old friend Benjamin Franklin paid for his funeral.
But Franklin was too 'thrifty' to pay for a tombstone, with the result that today Charles Mason's grave is unmarked. (In fact, the cemetery admits they know only the general vicinity, not the exact location, of his burial spot.)
Well . . . we happen to have a Mason-Dixon Stone, an authentic 1766, quarried-in-England, carved Milestone that once stood upon the Mason-Dixon Line, and was set by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon themselves.
On Saturday August 31, 2013, in a ceremony we hope will garner not just national, but international publicity for our profession, we, the surveyors of America and Great Britain will mark the forgotten grave of astronomer-surveyor Charles Mason . . . not with an ordinary tombstone, but with an authentic 250-year old Mason-Dixon Stone from the famous Line he himself surveyed.
Because Benjamin Franklin is also buried nearby in the same cemetery, visitors come through by scores of thousands each year. Our stone will be placed on the main central walking path of the burial ground, in the area where Mason's grave is believed to lie. Along with it will be a bronze plaque explaining who Charles Mason was, and what he accomplished in his remarkable life.
We surveyors of today owe it to our profession to teach the world about brilliant achievements of those who pioneered. This is an opportunity for that. It's why Surveyors Historical Society was founded. To each generation is given a duty --- that we improve upon deeds and discoveries of mankind . . . then pass our knowledge to those who follow.
Therefore we ask the support of everyone --- young and old, SHS member or non-member, surveyors, non-surveyors from every walk of life. This great gathering next summer, in the valley of the River Delaware, is important --- not just for our storied profession. On the 250th Anniversary of Mason & Dixon's majestic survey, we'll be adding a little new knowledge, carved in stone, to the history of America. So please mark our dates --- August 29-31, 2013 --- and come join us, at Historic Philadelphia, for Surveyors Rendezvous 2013.
Godspeed and all best regards,
Your Most Faithful and Devoted Servants:
Jim Shomper, Todd Babcock and Chas Langelan (SHS Rendezvous 2013 organizing team)