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On July 29, 1669, Charles Calvert (1637-1715), son of the Proprietor of Maryland and the colony’s governor, turned over the reigns of power to his uncle, Chancellor Philip Calvert (1626-1682) and left with his two year old son for London. He took with him the details of the negotiations he had conducted with Edmund Scarburgh of Virginia that appeared to have settled the question of the location of Watkins Point on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. When he arrived, his father, Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, commissioned Gerard Soest to paint this portrait of him with his Grandson, also named Cecilius, holding a map of Maryland and pointing to Watkins Point.[ <sup>[1]</sup>]
On July 29, 1669, Charles Calvert (1637-1715), son of the Proprietor of Maryland and the colony’s governor, turned over the reigns of power to his uncle, Chancellor Philip Calvert (1626-1682) and left with his two year old son for London. He took with him the details of the negotiations he had conducted with Edmund Scarburgh of Virginia that appeared to have settled the question of the location of Watkins Point on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. When he arrived, his father, Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, commissioned Gerard Soest to paint this portrait of him with his Grandson, also named Cecilius, holding a map of Maryland and pointing to Watkins Point.[ <sup>[1]</sup>]


Latest revision as of 04:29, 29 January 2021

Defining Maryland's Borders

Where is Watkins Point?

(Draft for comment)

Fig. 1: Gerard Soest, Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore and his Grandson Cecil with a Slave attendant, 1669-1670, courtesy of the Maryland State Archives Commission on Artistic Property.

On July 29, 1669, Charles Calvert (1637-1715), son of the Proprietor of Maryland and the colony’s governor, turned over the reigns of power to his uncle, Chancellor Philip Calvert (1626-1682) and left with his two year old son for London. He took with him the details of the negotiations he had conducted with Edmund Scarburgh of Virginia that appeared to have settled the question of the location of Watkins Point on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. When he arrived, his father, Cecil Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, commissioned Gerard Soest to paint this portrait of him with his Grandson, also named Cecilius, holding a map of Maryland and pointing to Watkins Point.[1]

Fig 2: Detail from Gerard Soest painting, 1669/70.

It had been a long journey to reach that point. It began with a bright country boy from Yorkshire, George Calvert. George was born into a non-noble family of modest means in Yorkshire. He was exceptionally gifted, especially in languages, and his talents were brought to the attention of Sir Robert Cecil (1563?-1612), the first Earl of Salisbury.[2] Elizabethan England was a time of opportunity for individuals with administrative and language talents. England was emerging as a major presence in international trade. As Professor Lawrence Stone has pointed out, the prospects of trade and colonization offered opportunities for social and economic advancement that cut across class lines.[3]

George Calvert did well and rose rapidly in the ranks of administrators in the service of the crown. He succeeded his patron, Sir Robert Cecil, as Secretary of State, and went to great lengths to help the future King Charles pursue a marriage with a Spanish princess which proved to be George’s political downfall.[4] By then he was thinking seriously of retirement and had secured lands in Newfoundland which he called Avalon, where he intended to remove to found a colony that would be a haven for Roman Catholics. One winter there with approximately 100 colonists was enough. As he explained to King Charles in seeking another grant in a warmer climate:

“...For here, your Majesty may please to understand, that I have found by too dear bought experience, which other men for their private interests always concealed from me, that from the middest of October to the middest of May there is a sad face of winter upon all this land, both sea and land so frozen for the greatest part of the time as they are not penetrable, no plant or vegetable thing appearing out of the earth until it be about the beginning of May, nor fish in the sea, besides the air so intolerable cold as it is hardly to be endured.” [5]

His preferred choice was somewhere near Virginia. The King agreed and a process of choosing the right place ensued, beginning with a warrant for a grant that would have been South of Virginia in what is now North Carolina. That met with significant opposition and a new warrant was drawn, based upon the John Smith map of Virginia.

Fig. 3: John Smith, Virginia, 1612, 1819 edition, Library of Congress

The Virginians were most unhappy with this, the second attempt at a warrant, for a new grant as it included all of the Eastern Shore peninsula down to Cape Henry. They made it clear to the King and Council that there were already Virginia settlements there south of Watkins Point on Smith’s map.

Fig 4. Detail from Smith map of Virginia, 1612, 1819 edition, Library of Congress

While Captain John Smith does not mention Watkins Point in any of the narratives he wrote about his adventures, it is probable that he named the point on his map after James Watkins, who accompanied him on his mapping expedition to the Eastern Shore in the summer of 1608. There, for two days only, until their water supply was exhausted, they dug for gold on the banks of a river that Smith named Wighco (now Pocomoke), after the local inhabitants. The Eastern Shore proved disappointing. There was little fresh water, and even that was dismissed as “puddle’ a good Elizabethan word for foul and muddy pools of unpalatable liquid. Not finding gold and thirsty to the point of being willing to exchange two barricoes [small kegs] of gold for one of that puddle water of Wighcomoco, the expedition set sail up the Bay. Given their thirst and the speed with which they traveled to more pleasant places up the Bay, I suspect that when it came time to publish his map in 1612, Smith only had a vague memory of the region and drew the outline of a low marshy area that he passed on his way northward labeling it pretentiously Watkins Point.[6]

George Calvert did not live to see the granting of the charter to Maryland on June 20, 1632. It was left to his son Cecil to begin the colonization of the new province under the guidelines of a charter based upon the extensive powers that had been given the Bishop of Durham, but with a small catch that would prove to be the cause of a remarkable experiment in the evolution of Democracy. Maryland’s Charter was the first grant in the new world to explicitly provide for a general assembly of all freeholders (later changed to men of property).

Cecil Calvert published the text of the Charter in 1635 within a year of the arrival of the first colonists on the Ark and the Dove. In addition to the metes and bounds of the province, which included the whole of the Potomac River to the Virginia Shore, it was accompanied by a map that prominently displayed Watkins Point.

Know Ye therefore, that We, encouraging with our Royal Favour, the pious and noble purpose of the aforesaid Barons of Baltimore, of our special Grace, certain knowledge, and mere Motion, have Given, Granted and Confirmed, and by this our present Charter, for Us our Heirs, and Successors, do Give, Grant and Confirm, unto the aforesaid Caecilius, now Baron of Baltimore, his Heirs, and Assigns, all that Part of the Peninsula, or Chersonese, lying in the Parts of America, between the Ocean on the East and the Bay of Chesapeake on the West, divided from the Residue thereof by a Right Line drawn from the Promontory, or Head-Land, called Watkin's Point, situate upon the Bay aforesaid, near the river Wighco, on the West, unto the main Ocean on the East; and between that Boundary on the South, unto that Part of the Bay of Delaware on the North, which lieth under the Fortieth Degree of North Latitude from the Equinoctial, where New England is terminated; And all that Tract of Land within the Metes underwritten (that is to say) passing from the said Bay, called Delaware Bay, in a right Line, by the Degree aforesaid, unto the true meridian of the first Fountain of the River of Pattowmack, thence verging toward the South, unto the further Bank of the said River, and following the same on the West and South, unto a certain Place, called Cinquack, situate near the mouth of the said River, where it disembogues into the aforesaid Bay of Chesapeake, and thence by the shortest Line unto the aforesaid Promontory or Place, called Watkin's Point; so that the whole tract of land, divided by the Line aforesaid, between the main Ocean and Watkin's Point, unto the Promontory called Cape Charles, and every the Appendages thereof, may entirely remain excepted forever to Us, our Heirs and Successors.[7]

Fig. 5: Lord Baltimore’s Map, 1625, Maryland State Archives

But where on the ground was Watkin’s Point? Knowing where and how the boundary was run eastward to the sea would determine who paid taxes (quit rents) and received grants of land from Lord Baltimore above the line.

As early as October 1656, Cecil Calvert, instructed his Maryland governor and Council

“that they take special care that no encroachments be made by any upon any part of his lordship’s said province; for the better prevention whereof, his lordship requires his said Lieutenant and Council to cause the bounds thereof to be kept in memory, and notoriously known, especially the bounds between Maryland and Virginia on that part of the country known there by the name of the Eastern Shore…..[8]

Lord Baltimore was eager to grant lands along that border, and when Virginia expelled the Quakers they were welcomed on and above the line. While a clear expression of the Calvert’s commitment to religious freedom, no one knew for sure where that line was, let along Watkins Point.[9]

In 1668, the year before Charles and his son Cecil left for England, matters came to a head following strong arm tactics exercised by Edmund Scarburgh against those settlers on the Eastern Shore who thought they were living in Maryland on land grants from Lord Baltimore. On June 25th 1668 Maryland and Virginia reached an agreement over the Eastern Shore border. It included a joint survey that was said to have begun on Watkins Point and included an actual line marked by notched trees from the Pocomoke River to the marshlands on the Atlantic Ocean side of the peninsula.

Articles of Agreement between Philip Calvert Esqr

Chancellor of Maryland deputed by the honble the

Governor of the said Province to treat and Conclude

upon the Bounds of the said Prov5 and Colo Edmund

Scarburgh his Majestys Surveyor General of Virginia

Authorised and Commanded to lay out the Bounds of



the honble Lieutenant

General of Maryland and Edmund Scarburgh his Majestys

Surveyor General of Virginia after a full and perfect view

taken of the point of Land made by the North side of Poco-

moke Bay and South side of Anemessexs Bay have and do

Conclude the same to be Watkins Point from which said Point

so Called we have run an East Line agreeable with the ex-

treamest part of the Westernmost Angle of the said Watkins

Point over Pocomoke River to the Land near Robert Holstons

and there have marked Certain Trees which are so Continued

by an East Line Running over Swansecute Creeke into the

Marsh of the Sea Side with apparent marks and Boundaries

which by our mutual Agreement according to the qualifications

aforesaid are to be Received as the Bounds of Virginia and

Maryland on the Eastern Shore of Chesopeak Bay in Con-

formation of which Concurrence have set to our hand and

Seals this 25th day of Iune 1668

Signed Philip Calvert [Seal]

Edmund Scarburgh [Seal][10]

Fig. 6: detail from Augustine Herrman’s map of Maryland, 1673

By 1673, the line hewn across the peninsula for approximately 13.5 miles, appeared prominently on Augustine Herrman’s map along with Watkins Point labeled in large type[11]

It seemed that the matter was finally settled. Everyone knew in 1668 where Watkins Point was meant to be and significant grants along the line cut through the trees were given out in accord with the agreement.

Within the time allotted by the agreement a grant of land to William Stevens in 1674 called “The Line Lot,” followed the divisional line from the edge of the Pocomoke River for a little over a half of a mile.[12] Another such Maryland grant of 2400 acres, with a border along the line for 2.1 miles was given to Captain Southey Littleton who lived in Virginia. It is not clear who actually named the property as the original warrant was issued to Thomas Walker, assigned from him to John Emmett and finally to Southey Littleton. Whoever did name it apparently considered himself something of a scholar calling his grant Pharsalia, an epic poem by the Roman poet Lucan about the evils of Civil War, which in the case of Maryland and Virginia was averted by the running of the agreed upon border.[13]

Today if you attempted to find the starting point of Pharsalia on Swansicutt Creek by googling it, you won’t find it. The name of the creek has been corrupted to Swan’s Gut (how and why is a mystery lost to time). In all the early references to the creek it is clearly named Swansicutt or Swanseecute creek.

While since 2005 Google has revolutionized our ability to locate place and to find our way without the need of a paper map, the names of places are not always correct and finding our way to where we think we want to go does not always get us there.[14]

Take for example take Watkins Point. If you were to ask Siri “Where is Watkins Point?” the answer would be simple enough and look like this:

Fig. 7: images of Siri inquiry re: Watkins Point

Apart from the fact that Google cannot give directions on how to get there even by walking, Google does reflect the current thinking about the location of Watkins Point.

But is what Google and now Microsoft display as Watkins Point, the Watkins Point of Maryland’s Charter, the point that Charles Calvert and Edmund Scarburgh said they located in 1668 and which young Cecil proudly points to in his portrait with his grandfather?

Fig. 8: Way, Andrew John Henry (Maryland, 1826-1888); oil on canvas; signed lower left and dated 1871; un-lined canvas on original stretchers; stenciled on reverse: “Kellinger & CO. ARTIST Materials &c 63 Lexington St. BALTIMORE”; in original frame; a loan label affixed to the back of the stretchers reads: “Owner, Albert Weil; Artist, A. J. H. Way; Title, Oysters and Ale; insur….75–i“


Who could have known in 1668 that the value of Watkins Point lay hidden in the water around it? Who would have guessed that Victorian America would develop such a passion for oysters? Between 1840 and 1850 the oyster harvest in Maryland nearly doubled from 710,000 to 1.4 million bushels. By 1884 the harvest reached an all time peak of 15 million bushels, and "drudges," tongers, and oyster police from Virginia and Maryland engaged in a conflict referred to as the “Oyster Wars” that at times involved the firing of live ammunition.

Fig. 9: Dredging from Popular Science Monthly Volume 6

Fig. 10: Tonging,from an Exhibit at the Mitchell House, Chesapeake Maritime Museum, photo by H. Robins Hollyday, courtesy of Historical Society of Talbot County

As early as 1820 Maryland tried to prevent overharvesting of the beds by passing legislation curtailing dredging and favoring more labor-intensive, less efficient "tonging." There is considerable question about how effectively the law was enforced, but until at least 1851 there are cases of dredgers being hauled before a justice of the peace in Somerset County, being fined and even losing their boats as the law stipulated. By that time, however, the demand for oysters was too great for even token enforcement of measures against "over harvesting," and unlimited commercial exportation triumphed over prudent management of natural resources.

Fig; 11: Depiction of the Oyster Wars in Harper’s Weekly. The Oyster War in Chesapeake Bay: The Pirates Attacking the Police Schooner “Julia Hamilton,” “I demand the surrender of Sylvester Cannon,” Pirates Dredging at Night, The Maryland Police Steamers chasing the Pirate Fleet, 1880, Medium Print Collection, MdHS. Source:

On 13 March, 1851, the schooner Fashion was taken in Tangier Sound, by Captain John Cullen, and condemned as a dredger by a Smith Island justice of the peace. On appeal however, the County Court reversed the decision of the justice of the peace, and Captain Cullen, a justice of the peace himself, was forced to pay almost $500 in damages and court costs to the Fashion's owner. Ironically, the appeal, while effectively inhibiting further proceedings against dredgers in the area and leading to less stringent dredging laws, was granted not on the issue of Captain Cullen's duty to enforce the law but on where the Maryland-Virginia border lay. According to a jury of his peers and the testimony of his neighbors, Captain Cullen had taken the Fashion in Virginia waters, not in Maryland waters, even though he was well above what Augustine Herrman and all subsequent map makers had labeled Watkins Point. Obviously, who had the right to fish and police the waters of Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Bay had become an issue that neither Maryland nor Virginia authorities could ignore.

In 1852, the year after the Fashion was determined to have been taken in Virginia waters (the charge of dredging was never denied), the Maryland General Assembly decided to approach Virginia and settle their southeastern boundary problems once and for all. It was not the first time the Maryland legislature considered the matter and it was not to be the last, but as a direct result of the 1852 legislation, a careful survey of the area in dispute was undertaken by Lt. N. Michler in 1858.

Fig. 12: 1860 summary map of the Michler and de la Camp survey of the Maryland Virginia Boundary, Maryland State Archives

Assigned to Maryland from the U.S. topographical engineers, Lieutenant Michler had no difficulty finding the 1668 line east of the Pocomoke River. It was well marked. Unfortunately for Maryland, however, the boundary had not been run according to a true east line, but rather according to what was indicated as east on the compass in 1668. Because a compass points to magnetic north and magnetic north in 1668 was to the west of true north, the Calvert/Scarburgh line slanted to the north instead of being a true "right," or east, line. Maryland lost ground to Virginia without knowing it. If Calvert and Scarburgh had taken the latitude at the end of their line as they did at the beginning, they would have found it to be over a mile above the thirty-eighth degree north latitude.

Fig. 13: Detail from the published version of John de la Camp’s drawings of the boundary

between Maryland and Virginia showing “Swansecute” Creek

Lt. Michler and his aide John de la Camp made detailed maps of their route showing the terrain and property owners near the survey line. Unfortunately the originals have disappeared, although some were reduced and printed to accompany the narrative of their survey from the Pocomoke River to the marshes on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore.

Fig. 14: detail from 1860 printing of Michler and de la Camp Survey.

More controversial than where the actual Calvert/Scarburgh line lay on the ground, however, was Lieutenant Michler's definition of Watkins Point. Lieutenant Michler argued that the commissioners in 1668 had chosen a point, not on Cedar Straits but four miles to the north, as the "Western Most Angle" of Watkins Point from which they began their line. To Lieutenant Michler, the point chosen in 1668 fell approximately at thirty-seven degrees, fifty-five minutes, north latitude, and if extended west to Smith Island, divided the island between Virginia and Maryland.

Subsequent evidence produced in 1877 and supplemented by research at the Maryland State Archives strongly suggests that in the late seventeenth century both Marylanders and Virginians accepted the "Western Most Angle" of Watkins Point to be where Lieutenant Michler said it was, that is, on land that by Michler's time had been eroded and was underwater at about the Jane's Island Light Ship.

Fig. 15: Detail from Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, A new Draft of Loyall Accomack and all the Easterne Shore of Virginia, 1693, Virginia Historical Society, MSA SC 1213-1-495

In 1693 what Michler identified as the Western Most Angle and location of Watkins point was still above water. Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, a Virginian, drew it as a thin neck of land at the mouth of the little Annemessex River, and a 1672 deed specifically calls that spit of land with its orchard and duck pond "Watkins Point." The same deed and other records indicate that the land had undergone several changes in name and configuration. In Captain Smith's day it may have been what his crew called Ployer Point (not even labeled on Smith's map), where they found "a great Pond of fresh water, but so exceedingly hot, wee supposed it some bath." In 1666 it was an island variously named Yorkshire and Smith's. By 1672 the action of the Bay had transformed the island into a peninsula, which a 1672 deed christened, perhaps intentionally, "Too late to Repent."

Perhaps it was "too late to repent" where the commissioners in 1668 had meant Watkins Point to be, but not until Lieutenant Michler meticulously surveyed and hypothetically extended the 1668 line in 1858 was there any real cause for concern. If Lieutenant Michler was correct, about 23 square miles containing 5,000 acres of firm land and 15,000 acres of marsh belonged in Virginia. Even more ominous, Maryland would be excluded from any jurisdiction over oyster beds in Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. In 1860, Maryland published the results of Lieutenant Michler's survey in the summary map by John de la Camp. Unlike Lieutenant Michler's original survey, this map asserted Maryland's contention that the boundary line from Smith's Point in Virginia across the Bay missed Smith Island completely, and ignored a considerable body of local evidence to the contrary.

Lieutenant Michler's precision proved a stumbling block to negotiation. So controversial were some of his findings that it took another twenty years and a panel of three nationally known arbitrators to resolve the matter. By 1877, when the award of the arbitrators was announced, both sides had examined the historical record in depth. They consulted every printed map they could find in Europe and America, back to Captain John Smith's, that located Watkins Point. They recorded oral testimony on the whereabouts of the boundary that today is as valuable for the local lore it contains as it was for resolving the substantive issues before the arbitrators.

Fig. 16: Lake, Griffen, and Stevenson Atlas, Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester, 1877, plate featuring Smith Island.

One of the major questions before the commissioners was whether or not Virginia could legitimately claim any or all of Smith Island. The Smith Islanders first appeared reluctant to say much about the boundary, but as the hearing dragged on they rose to the occasion.[15] Severn Bradshaw, was first examined on May 29, 1872, the second day of testimony.

I am in my 63rd year. I reside on Smith's Island at the thoroughfare called Mister's Thoroughfare, and state that I heard my father, Jacob Bradshaw who was in his 63rd year when he died, say that he had always heard that when the old line between Virginia and Maryland was run, persons who run it shaped their course across the Chesapeake Bay for a gum tree, which was standing then about 125 yards south of my house. . . .

On the fourth day he asked to be re-examined "in order to state matters which he forgot and omitted to state in his first examination."

There were two large gum trees, and the only two large gum trees on the island, one stood on the Orchard Hummock where I live, as described by me the other day, the other on Sassafrass Hummock where Tubman Evans lived. Tommy Tyler said that Butler had told him that at one time the line run through his yard at Black Walnut Point, and at another time it ran a little below Drum Point on Tyler's Creek, making a difference between the two lines of about three hundred yards.

My father always paid taxes in Somerset County, Maryland, and so have I—that is north of where Butler Tyler used to live all of two miles. Thirty or forty years ago there was scarcely any talk about the line of the two States on this Island. The taxes were small, and the oysters in the bay were not counted of great value, and we oystered in the creeks, but since dredging commenced, about 20 or 25 years ago, oysters have become valuable, and people began to look more closely after the line of the two States. I, among others, have looked more closely to where the line was. I used to think but very little about the lines of the States; my business was to get oysters where I could, in Virginia or Maryland, and I was not interrupted. Since that time I cannot do so. A man can't tell nowadays, on this Island, whether he is in one State or the other.

Bradshaw was followed by Johnson Evans whose house, and Bradshaw's you can see on this 1877 map of the island:

I am 58 years of age. I have lived off and on, at Horse Hummock, about six years. I was born on this (Smith's) Island, and have been living thereon ever since. I bought this place, called Horse Hummock, from John Marsh; he bought it of his father-in-law, Peter Evans; Peter Evans bought it at auction at a sale under a mortgage deed from John Tyler to Peter Evans, about 27 years ago. Since I bought it I paid taxes in Maryland, and my son John, who was joint owner with me of the place, paid his taxes in Virginia. I have heard that about 45 years ago taxes on the place were paid in Virginia. I have heard that John Tyler, when he owned it, paid taxes in Virginia, but for the sake of being magistrate in Maryland paid his taxes in Maryland.

Evans was followed by John Tyler who strengthened his story of the line running through his property with a tale of runaway marriages.

I am 43 years of age. I live in Hog Neck, at the place old Mr. John Parks lived, which is north of a west line from this place. I have always thought since I have lived there that I lived in Virginia.

I paid taxes in both States, because I am called on to pay taxes in both, because the line, as I have always heard, runs through my yard. I have heard that from my earliest childhood. I have heard that, in old times, that was the place where runaway marriages were celebrated; the ones from Maryland married in the kitchen, which was in Virginia, (it is gone now) and the ones from Virginia were married in the great house, that being in Maryland. I know but little about the line. I have voted here, on this island, for candidates for office in Maryland. I went to the polls last fall and voted for Mr. Commissioner Waters for Clerk of the Circuit Court for Somerset County, Maryland. I voted in 1855 for Mr. Flournory against Mr. Commissioner Wise for Governor of Virginia. I was a Know-Nothing then, I now take out my oyster license in Virginia.

Not to be outdone, Henry Dies tried to make the story respectable.

I have heard in times past, from the old people on Smith's Island, that when the people on that island desired to be married from the State of Maryland, that the Rev. Joshua Thomas, who was in those days a Methodist local preacher on that island, would meet them at that place and marry the couples of Maryland in the dwelling house of my uncle, John Parks, and when any couples from Virginia desired to be married, he would meet them at the same place and marry them in the kitchen, that being considered in Virginia. I do not mean the runaway couples, but those who were regularly married according to the laws of their respective States. I don't recollect of ever hearing of any gum, or other tree, at that place, marked or recognized at a State line.

Perhaps the most intriguing testimony came from James T. Evans:

I am 50 years old. I was well acquainted with old Tommy, called "King" Nelson, and, with old Job Parks, called Jobey. They were two of the oldest men I remember of ever knowing. I think they said Tommy Nelson was 105 years old and Jobey Parks was a little older. They told me they helped to run this line between Maryland and Virginia, and carried the chain. They said they went to Ragged Point, on the Potomac River, and run a southeast course five miles below Point Lookout, down the Potomac, until they go north of Smith's Point, from that five mile point they struck an east course across the bay (the Chesapeake) to Smith's Island, at Mister's Thoroughfare to a gum tree, and from the gum tree to Beaver Hummock, and put a stone on the Hummock at that point, and from the Beaver Hummock between two cedars.

Jobey Parks told me his age, and he said that he was over a hundred years old, and he was some older than Tommy Nelson. They told me they helped run the line between Maryland and Virginia, and it was soon after the Revolutionary War. Jobey Parks said he was pressed by the British, and kept by them until the year 1780. and it being very cold, they went out to get wood and he escaped and came to Deal's Island, and walked across Manokin Sound to Flat Cape Shore. He then travelled down to Cedar Straits, and then started to walk across the Tangier Sound on the ice to go to Tangier. He came to an air-hole or streak in the ice; he jumped and slided across and got to Tangier. In the spring he went and joined the American troops and served there till peace; and he and Tommy Nelson were in the same brigade, and they helped in this survey before they were discharged from the American troops or service in the army.

Unfortunately even his neighbors could not bring themselves to believe Jim Evans. Hance Lawson was called to the stand.

I was 47 years of age the 31st day of last October. I know James T. Evans, an old man who stutters, on Smith's Island. I think that he once lived on old Jane's Island some 12 or 15 years ago. I know his general reputation on Smith's Island, and elsewhere in this neighborhood, for truth and veracity, ... I don't think he stands very high for truth and veracity—he don't at all events with me, and not generally. His reputation on Smith's Island, where he lives, is bad. ... I don't know that I ever heard any one say that he ever told a malicious or mischievous lie—but, by yarns, I mean that I have heard he would tell untruths.

I have never heard any tradition of any line having been run, by any surveyor, across the lower part of Somerset County, between Tangier Sound and the right bank of Pocomoke River, before that run by Lieutenant Michler a few years ago.

A Mr. William Nelson was next called to the stand:

I was 64 years old the 23rd day of last February. I never heard of any line being run from Tangier Sound across Somerset County and Pocomoke River, by any one, surveyor or not, until Michler's survey. I was with him two days, from here to Jane's Island.

Fig. 17: Details from the Official boundary map of the line

between Maryland and Virginia, 1877, Maryland State Archives.

Despite all the proceedings and argument, no one was able to dispute effectively what Lieutenant Michler found in 1858 when he surveyed the line that had been established by Calvert and Scarburgh nearly two hundred years earlier. In the end, the Arbitration of 1877 decided on a broken line that gave some of Smith Island to Virginia, all of the land and marsh north of Cedar Straits and west of the Pocomoke to Maryland, and shared Tangier Sound below James Island and Pocomoke Bay between them.

It was a reasonable decision rendered by a majority of the arbitrators, but it left future generations of scholars to ponder where Captain John Smith had meant "Watkins Point" to be.

Fig. 18 Soest, Cecil Calvert, 1669/1670

Cecil Calvert thought he knew 386 years ago when he agreed to Virginia's demands that he accept Watkins Point as a southern boundary marker. So confident was he that he had his portrait painted with a map of Maryland in his hand and his grandson proudly pointing to, where else but, "Watkins Point."

Where indeed was Captain John Smith's Watkins Point? It probably never existed as a point, but was and still is a low marshy place that Smith vaguely remembered passing following a fruitless search for gold on the banks of a river he called Wighco but is known today as Pocomoke.

When Captain Smith prepared his map for the printers some four years after his exploration of the Bay, he labeled a low lying marshy area Watkins Point, after one of his party. Little did he know what havoc he would cause. Maryland and Virginia would spend two hundred and fifty years and a small fortune in taxpayer dollars trying to define its location. Perhaps it was worth it. None of us can say with certainty that we know where Watkins Point is, if it ever was, but, if nothing else, I hope you can leave this afternoon confident you have heard one lecture in which the main point was not lost ... or was it?

Edward C. Papenfuse,

Maryland State Archivist, retired

[1] Young Cecilius Calvert would return to Maryland in 1670 with his father. After the death of his father, Charles returned to London with young Cecil who would die at the age of 14 and be buried at St. Giles in the Fields cemetery where his grandfather was also buried. I am indebted to Henry Miller for confirming this information and for sharing with me an image of the burial register entry for young Cecil.

[2] Wikipedia:Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, KG, PC (1 June 1563? – 24 May 1612) was an English statesman noted for his skillful direction of the government during the Union of the Crowns, as Tudor England gave way to Stuart rule (1603). Salisbury served as the Secretary of State of England (1596–1612) and Lord High Treasurer (1608–1612), succeeding his father as Queen Elizabeth I's Lord Privy Seal and remaining in power during the first nine years of King James I's reign.

[3] For an analysis of Professor Stone’s work see: E. Ladewig Petersen (1968) The Elizabethan aristocracy anatomized, atomized and re-assessed, Scandinavian Economic History Review, 16:2, 176-194, DOI:

10.1080/03585522.1968.10411500 To link to this article:

[4] See: John D, Krugler, 2004. English and Catholic: the Lords Baltimore in seventeenth-century England & America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

[5] Great Britain, PRO, Colonial Office, CO 1/5 (27), 75. See Baltimore, George Calvert, Francis Cottington Cottington, and Lawrence C. Wroth. Tobacco or Codfish, Lord Baltimore Makes His Choice. New York: New York Public Library, 1954.

[6] Note that a straight line can be drawn from the end of what Smith shows as Watkins point to the banks of the Wighco (now Pocomoke) river, which is what the Charter of Maryland claims as the border between Maryland and Virginia on the Eastern Shore.

[7] Text taken from, corrected as to the naming of the Wighco river.

[8] Scharf, vol 1: 260; [cite original source]

[9]Ibid. citing 1660 act of Virginia Assembly expelling the Quakers.

[10] and

[11] See:

[12] See: Patent Record 19, pp. 314 and 393. [need correct cite]

[13] See: and Palaepharsalus, Pharsalus, Pharsalia, by Richard Treat Bruère, Classical Philology Vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 1951), pp. 111-115 (5 pages) Published by The University of Chicago Press.

[14] Google Maps first appeared in 2005 and controversy has surrounded Google assertion of place names. See: “As Google Maps renames Neighborhoods, Residents Fume by Jack Nicas, August 2, 2018, New York Times.

[15] What follows are excerpts from the Report and Journal of Proceedings of the Joint Commissioners to Adjust the Boundary Line of the States of Maryland and Virginia. Annapolis: S. S. Mills & L. F. Colton, Printers to the House of Delegates, 1874, ff.