West Virginia-Maryland Boundary Dispute

Charleston Gazette
June 4, 1910

State's Victory Complete In Boundary Dispute

Interesting Points Were Raised In West Virginia-Maryland Litigation.

A Washington dispatch to the Baltimore Sun gives the following version of the W. Va.-Maryland boundary dispute and the suit and resultant decision:

The United States Supreme Court through an opinion handed down in the Maryland-West Virginia boundary case, sustains the contention of Attorney-General Conley and George E. Price, assistant counsel, of West Virginia, that the "low water" mark on the south bank of the Potomac river shall serve as a boundary between the two commonwealths and thereby overrules the contention of Attorney- General Strauss, on behalf of Maryland, that the "high-water" mark on the south bank shall constitute the boundary.

As the boundary between Maryland and Virginia is the "low water" mark on the Virginia shore, the decision handed down by the court today, as pointed by Justice Day in the opinion "gives to Maryland a uniform southern boundary along Virginia and West Virginia at low-water mark on the south banks of the Potomac to the intersection of the north and south line between Maryland and West Virginia, established by the decree in the case.

"This conclusion," Justice Day continues, "is also consistent with the previous exercise of political jurisdiction by the states."

"Water Mark" the Question.

Whether the low or high water mark should constitute the southern boundary between Maryland and West Virginia is one of the point upon which the attorneys in their recent conferences could not agree, when they attempted to draw up a decree carrying out the instruction given by the Supreme Court in its decision in the boundary case on February 21 last. Another point upon which they failed to agree was the division of the costs of the survey to be made under the directions of the court for the purpose of relocating the old Deakin's line as the western boundary between the two states, and the division of the other costs. West Virginia contended that each state should be liable for her own costs and expenses already incurred or expended, and that there should be no recovery of costs or any part of them by either state against the other.

Attorney-General Strauss contended that all the costs in the case and the proceedings in it should be taxed by the clerk of the Supreme Court, and including also the costs of the surveys made by the two states under the orders of the Court and that these costs should be divided "equally" between the two states. The decision handed down today bears out this portion of this contention of Maryland. Separate decrees were drawn up by the respective Attorney Generals for approval by the Court, which today combined them into the decree which was finally handed down today.

Making Up Decree.

When they came to prepare the decree, the two Attorney-Generals were able to agree upon the commissioners to replace the old Deakins' line. In making up its decree the court followed the text of the decree drawn by Mr. Price, attorney for West Virginia, wherever his draft differed from that of Mr. Strauss, except as to the paragraph relative to the equal division of costs, and in this instance the fifth section of the Strauss draft was adopted.

The Supreme Court agrees with the decision of the arbitrators of 1877 by declaring that the privileges reserved to both states in the compact of 1785 "are inconsistent with the claim that Maryland boundary on the south side of the Potomac shall extend to the high water mark."

"There is no evidence," says the court's opinion, "that Maryland has claimed any right to make grants on that side of the river, and the privileges reserved to the citizens of the respective states in the compact of 1785 and its subsequent ratification indicate the intention of each state to maintain the riparian rights and privileges to its citizens on their own side of the river."

The decree signed by the court today declares that the true boundary lines between Maryland and West Virginia is ascertained and established as follows: Beginning at a common corner of the states of Maryland and Virginia on the southern bank of the Potomac river at low water mark at or near the mouth of the Shenandoah river near Harpers Ferry, and running thence with the southern bank of the Potomac river at low water mark at or near the mouth of the Shenandoah river near Harpers Ferry, and running thence with the southern bank of the northern branch of the Potomac river at low water mark, to the point where the north and south line from the Fairfax Stone cross the said north branch of the Potomac, and thence running northerly, as near as may be with the said Deakins or Old State Line to the line of the State of Pennsylvania.'

To Mark the Line.

The Decree appoints Julius K. Moore, William McCuloch Brown and Samuel S. Ganett as commissioners to locate, establish and permanently mark with monuments "the said Deakins or old State Line" as the boundary line between Maryland and West Virginia, "the said line to be run and located as far as practicable as it has been generally recognized and adopted by the people residing about or near the same as the boundary between the said states and not as conforming, except to a limited extent, to the western boundary of the Maryland military lots as said lots are now located and held." The decree directs the commissioners to mark this line with stone monuments at reasonable intervals.

The Clerk of the Supreme Court will at once forward copies of its decree to Governor Crothers and the Governor of West Virginia. The commissioners will seek the co-operation of the state authorities. They are instructed to make their final report and present a complete bill of costs before January 1, 1911. While actually engaged in making the survey the commissioners will each receive $15, to be paid jointly by the two states. West Virginia has thus far appropriated $8,835.13 toward paying the costs of the boundary dispute. Maryland has appropriated $28,500. Under today's ruling the costs will be borne equally by the states.

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