Surveyors to Fix Border between North and South Carolina

North and South Carolina, 1866.

With heavy mechanical instruments, surveyors laid out the border between North and South Carolina several hundred years ago. Vast sections of the border went through thick forests or open farm fields. Hence, at the time, it made sense to mark the border with notches in trees made with hatchets and the occasional rock pile. Since that time of course, those trees and even many of the rocks are no longer there.

Old surveyor's instrument, around the 1700s.Not knowing the exact location of the border wasn’t an issue for a long time; the area between the Carolinas was prodominantly rural. But now, with sharp increases in development, the states and property owners need to know; where exactly is the border?

Two surveyors had been tasked back in the 1990s with locating the border between the two states, according to a NY Times article. So far, they have mapped all but 40 miles of the 335 mile border. But they started to run into issues when they hit the town of Charlotte, which according to the surveyors was only a few houses, a courthouse, and a tavern at the time the border was initially layed surveyed.

Charlotte NC resized 600This creates large issues for some business and homeowners who, according to the newer boundary, are technically in one state instead of the other. Taxes on gas are much less in South Carolina, and so for a gas station being placed in North Carolina, it is detrimental to their business. Likewise, alcohol and fireworks are sold on Sundays in South Carolina, whereas they are not in North Carolina. These subtle differences in tax policy created niches for many businesses along the border

Now, former residents of South Carolina may find themselves paying the higher tax rate of North Carolina. As work continues to be done on the boundary, lawyers in the attorney general’s offices of the two states will work together to try and minimize the impact of such changes. Fortunately, there is talk of grandfathering in some of the particularly hard hit businesses and residents by these boundary changes.

Such boundary issues like this one are surprisingly common along the East Coast. Many a surveyor can tell stories about locating 100 year old fence wires still sticking out of the trees they were once attached to. When it was common to own so many acres of land for agricultural purposes, farmers knew the natural landmarks of their property lines or had an informal agreement between neighbors. However, such informalities disappear as land is continuously subdivided and urbanized.

In Connecticut, surveyors are often happy to see old stone walls bordering parcels of land, as they usually date back to the creation of the parcel’s deed and thus tend to accurately fit deed descriptions. And it is such walls and old fences that give us an appreciation for the surveyors of old, who did the best they could with the instruments and technology they had. It also makes us feel like archeologists sometimes, which with the amount of digging and searching for old monumentation, we may as well be!

Stone wall 20041106 resized 600