The Ultimate Retracement

June 30, 2015

The Ultimate Retracement

By Zachary Mellott

Last spring, AMT was tasked to complete a boundary survey in Brandywine, Maryland on the county line between Charles and Prince George’s counties. The survey consisted of retracing about 100 acres of land that is being donated to The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. This land is located within half a mile of the old road that John Wilkes Booth used during his escape after shooting President Lincoln, and the house that belonged to Dr. Samuel Mudd who was accused of conspiring in the assassination.

This particular parcel had not been surveyed in many years and in doing research we came across some old and unique deed descriptions which made things a more challenging and interesting. For example:

”Beginning at a bunch of White Oaks on the corner of L. E. Watson’s land and Westerly with said Watson’s land and running in a straight line which touches a point fifty feet North of what is known as the Upper Barn and continuing West with said Watson’s land to Boykin E. Watson’s land then down a branch to the County Branch, then down County Branch to the public Road, thence up said Road to a gully, then up said gully to a Sycamore tree, a boundary land of Roy Young, thence Easterly in a straight line to a Walnut tree, the North with the stream to the beginning, containing by estimation about Fifty acres, more or less.”

As we continued to do research and piece together our property and the surrounding properties, we came across one common mark that was called out as a landmark stone and which we later deciphered as one of the original corners of the 301-acre tract called “WOODBOROUGH” that was staked before the Revolution. The stone itself is located on land that was known as “Watson’s Forest.” The “Woodborough Boundary Stone,” as it’s known, also contains an inscription as called out in a deed description as “A.D. 1759 P.W.” The “P.W.” part of the inscription has been interpreted as B.W. for Benjamin Watson who was a landowner in the area at that time. It has also been suggested that it could mark line P of Woodborough in reference to a survey. The significance of the date is still unknown. Doing a quick search will bring you to a link on the M-NCPPC website where you can find out more about the history of the stone, the area, and its significance as a boundary marker.

After reading about the stone, it became known in the office as the “Holy Grail” of surveying marks and the search was on. It didn’t take long as we had an idea of where the stone would be and within a day of being on site we were able to track it down. As you can see in the photo it is a relatively large stone and was pretty easy to spot. The part of the parcel that contained the stone however was not needed in the initial boundary survey so it did not need to be located at that time. It wasn’t until last week that we had to do some additional work that required locating the “Holy Grail.” It may sound corny but as a surveyor who enjoys the history of things, it was a surreal feeling locating a stone that had been set long before my time. A boundary survey is often called a retracement survey and in college they teach you how important it is to retrace the steps of the surveyor before you. To be able to locate a stone that was set before the founding of our country, is to me the ultimate retracement survey.


3 responses to “The Ultimate Retracement”

  1. Dan Schriever says:

    What a great find !!

  2. Emanuel says:

    Cool Post!

  3. Leah Wright says:

    Great article. We do love our surveying history.

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