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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Richard Henderson, John Williams, and William Bailey Smith to Richard Caswell
Henderson, Richard, 1735-1785; Williams, John, 1731-1799; Smith, William Bailey
November 17, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 353-355

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]

Cumberland Gap, 17th November, 1779.


The great expense in preparations for Extending the boundary line between this State and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the trouble we have been obliged to give your Excellency on that occasion, might have induced a reasonable hope that the business by this time was nearly compleated. It would afford us great pleasure if that was the case. So far has our attempt failed of success that we are doubtful very little, if any, benefit will be derived to our State from the attempt of the Commissioners to perform the duty enjoined by the General Assembly. We met the Gentn. appointed from Virginia and began the extension to the Westward on the Seventh of September, and after many inevitable delays for various reasons, we, on the first of November, had carried it on Sixty-seven miles and some Chains, by the unanimous consent of the Commissioners, which brought us to the foot of Powel's Mountain, when the Gentlemen from Virginia alleged that the line was, by their observation, too far North; that the Error was from the beginning, and that they would not agree to report it as a boundary. On our part we could not agree to an alteration to the South, when by repeated tryal we were fully persuaded the line was right, excepting a few seconds to the North. Under these circumstances their proposal of moving two Miles and ten seconds to the south was inadmissible.

With this state of the case, Your Excellency would naturally suppose all proceedings would stop till the difference in opinion

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could, by some means, be reconciled. The Gentlemen on the other side observed a different line of conduct, without an offer of that kind. They informed us that they cou'd not agree to report the line as it stood, and wou'd make an offset of the distance Mentioned, and Mark a line at that distance from the one Extended, as well back as forward, and leave the matter to be decided thereafter by artists from both States. Remonstrances against such a proceeding were ineffectual; they immediately proceeded, and went on with their line to the East and West at the same time by different Surveyors. As the Land Office for each State was open as far as Cumberland Mountain, we ventured to extend the line due West from the End of that run by unanimous consent to this place, as it was not far and could be done without much Accumulation of Expence, and not without some hope of reconciling the difference of opinion. With respect to an accommodation we were greatly deceived; the Commissioners were Resolved to go on without regard to our opinion or protest against the measure, and we hope to be excused by the General Assembly for continuing the Guard, &c., a few days in extending the line to the top of this Mountain, making in the whole a line of One Hundred Miles in length, Sixty-seven of which was, as before observed, done by the entire consent and approbation of Doctor Thomas Walker & Major Daniel Smith, the Virginia Commissioners.

When all hopes of agreeing as to the true latitude were lost, and the partial line run by those Gentlemen carried on, with an express declaration of persisting in the measure, we thought ourselves bound to dismiss the Escort, stop our proceeding and report the case to the General Assembly. We wish to add, on this subject, that we have the utmost confidence that the line run by us is as nearly in the Latitude of Thirty-six Degrees and Twenty minutes North as 'tis possible to place it with the Instruments in our possession, and that we have procured the best in our power; we have also at times had access to the Quadrant made use of by the Virginians, by which, as well as ours, we are confirmed in the opinion. The difference of Two Minutes and Ten seconds of Latitude in making observations with the same Instruments cannot be accounted for; but the fact is so, and we have only to lament being concerned in this business. We accept this without ∗ ∗

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∗ ∗ the service expected. The very great expence of this effort would have made us yield to anything but a surrender of our integrity, to have established a boundary, and of course prevented the necessity of sending others to perform what we have failed to do. As we are about to separate, perhaps not to meet again till next spring or summer, thought it advisable to join in a report to your Excellency of this abortive undertaking. We shall, at all times, separately or together, be willing and ready to give any further or other information, as to the particulars of our transactions, and furnish a Draught of our Line.

We, Sir, are, with great respect,
Your Excellency's most Obdt. and very Hbl. Servts,
His Excellency Richard Caswell, Esqr., &c.

P. S. Herewith you'll receive sundry Copies of Letters, a letter from the Virginia Commissioners, as also their requisition for fifty men, all which your Excellency will please lay before the Gen. Assembly.