GETTYSBURG >> The South Mountain region of Pennsylvania is an area rich in history, most known for its bloody, three-day Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The Civil War wasn't the first to impact the area, however.

Years prior, the French and Indian War touched the lives of both colonists and Native Americans whose land was taken by French and British emigrants. From 1756-1763, this "Seven Years War" sowed seeds of unrest and fanned the flames of desire to break free from Britain.

During this tenuous time, the Penn family of Pennsylvania and the Calvert family of Maryland became embroiled in a dispute over land grants bestowed upon them by the British crown, under two different kings. The decades-long issue was settled by the team of Charles Mason, surveyor and mathematician and Jeremiah Dixon, astronomer, who worked in the area 250 years ago this month. The two often faced danger as tensions continued between colonists and Indians during their survey.

To honor their valor, the public is invited to attend "Mason and Dixon Day" Aug. 29 at the Mary Penn Bed and Breakfast — a house "divided" at 716 Mason Dixon Road, to learn more about the creation of the now-famous boundary line and the trials faced by those who lived in the Gettysburg region during that era.

History comes alive

Kathy Reid, president and founder of the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail, said that member Bea Waybright, owner of the Mary Penn, came forward with the idea and plans were soon afoot.

"The famous surveying team visited the B&B 250 years ago and that's how the house was divided into two, with part of the structure in Pennsylvania and part in Maryland," explained Reid.

During the event, the public will have the opportunity to view Native American, French milice (militia) and British encampments.

Between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Robert Angle and Wayne Twigg, portraying the Mason-Dixon team, will meet under the old maple tree on the Maryland side of the Mason-Dixon Line to answer questions on how the team worked together to create the line.

"We'll be dressed in period gear and guests will have the opportunity to view old surveying instruments. Our goal is to educate the public on what a tremendous accomplishment this was. It was almost like an expedition, as they cut through the woods and used the stars," said Angle, on the team's effort to accomplish their mission.

Angle, who will play the part of Mason, was a surveyor by profession and during his career was tasked with locating several of the original mile markers brought in from England. The mile markers weighed several hundred pounds each and are known as "crown stones."

Tour the Mary Penn B&B

Owner Waybright will be on site to give tours and answer questions about the historical structure. "It was built as a one-story stone house with a thatched roof completed in 1743 by John McKinley, who sold it in 1783 to William Stewart. Stewart added and completed the second story in 1793. The public will see his initials and the year it was completed marked beneath the eaves," said Waybright, who added that the 900-acre farm stayed in the same family for 197 years and that her family are the third owners. She will also show visitors her impressive collection of arrowheads discovered on the property.

Plenty to do and see

During the event, guests can view colonial blacksmithing demonstrations, visit a period wig maker, watch wool spinning and learn about rifle building, distilling and woodworking, to name a few.

Re-enactments will include the Mary Jemisen raid and capture, at 11 a.m. Guests will learn about Jemisen, who was abducted from her home along Marsh Creek by six Shawnee Indians and four Frenchmen. The American frontierswoman later assimilated into the Indian culture.

A second re-enactment at 2 p.m. will demonstrate the perils Mason and Dixon faced when confronted by an Indian raid on the survey party.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., children can enjoy learning and playing colonial games and families can climb aboard a hayride each hour until 4 p.m. to visit Mile Marker Nos. 76 and 77.

Vendors will be on site throughout the day, selling hard cider, wine, beer, food and colonial-era items.

Activities will end temporarily at 4 p.m. in preparation for the evening's free musical entertainment. The Irish band "Down by the Glenside" will restart the fun at 6 p.m., when drinks and food will again be available for purchase.

Reid said the goal of this first historical event hosted by the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail is "to share a piece of the Gettysburg area French and Indian War and colonial American history. In doing so, we hope to ignite in the public a desire to learn about, protect and experience the colonial treasures and the French and Indian War sites that are spread across the South Mountain region. Our re-enactors and re-enactments will touch on all aspects of the realities of life during that time."

If you go

WHAT: Days of Mason-Dixon survey

WHEN: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Aug. 29

WHERE: Mary Penn Bed and Breakfast, 716 Mason Dixon Road, Gettysburg

COST: Free, with a $5 donation for each car for parking


Read or Share this story: