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For more than 100 years, a stone that marked the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland lay buried under a farmer's field in southern York County.

A couple of years ago, a group of preservationists uncovered the Crown stone, No. 40 to be exact, that was placed by English astronomer Charles Mason and surveyor Jeremiah Dixon.

The stone had been through a lot during its subterranean stay as the field was tilled and planted year after year since it was last seen around 1902. It now looks nothing more than a common rock, but it holds a history that goes back to before the foundation of the United States was laid.

On May 21, the preservationists, the Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership, will reveal a replica of what the crown stone looked like when it was installed by Mason and Dixon 250 years ago.

"It tells the real story of the line," said Todd Babcock, chairman of the preservation partnership.

Stones: Mason and Dixon were brought in to settle a land dispute between the Penn family, which owned the then-named Province of Pennsylvania and Delaware Colony, and the Calverts, who owned the Province of Maryland.

The pair set about surveying and marking the line between the provinces in 1763 using mainly the stars as a guide and Gunter chains to measure the distance from each of the stones, which were quarried in England.

"For the time, it was incredibly accurate," Babcock said.

Milestones, as its name implies, were laid every mile, and Crown stones, like the one recently uncovered near Stewartstown, every five miles. The milestones had a "P" for Pennsylvania carved on one side and the side facing Maryland had an "M" carved on that side. The more ornate Crown stones had the Penn family crest carved on the side facing Pennsylvania and the Calvert crest on the opposite side.

No. 40: Crown stone No. 40, which indicates it's 40 miles west of the northeast corner of Maryland, was previously uncovered during a 1902 survey by U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, but the then-landowner didn't want the stone reset.

A second original Crown stone that was unused by Mason and Dixon was placed near the intersection of Norrisville and Marsteller roads in Hopewell Township, but its top was knocked off in the 1950s. It is currently on display at the York County Heritage Trust, Babcock said.

Mason and Dixon are believed to have personally installed 132 stones, and between 115 and 120 are still in place, Babcock said.

"Most of the original stones are still in place," he said.

If you go

The Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership, along with York County and Maryland officials will unveil the replica of Crown stone No. 40.

When: 10 a.m.  Saturday, May 21
Where: Near the intersection of Norrisville and Marsteller roads along the Mason-Dixon Line in Hopewell Township.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.

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