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Northern Boundary of Georgia--Again
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4/5/2019 at 3:20:58 PM GMT
Posts: 29
Northern Boundary of Georgia--Again


         You all may have heard there is another ridiculous effort underway by Georgia legislators to move the northern boundary of Georgia northward to the 35th parallel as defined in the Georgia code and other legislation. Put “georgia tennessee border” in Google. Reportedly this is just a threat to use as a bargaining chip for the state to tap into the Tennessee River and divert some of that river’s water to Georgia.  Either the legislators are very ignorant about the fact that that boundary cannot be moved, or there is some political motive behind it, as there was for the go-round in 2008.  Notice the resolution passed almost unanimously.

          When the previous “attempt” was made in 2008, Georgia was undergoing a severe drought.  The reporting about the boundary is a good example of how the news media works.  None of the reporters who reported on the matter had any real understanding of the issue and they made little attempt to gain any understanding.  As a result, all the reporting was severely flawed.  More significantly, the reporters were out to create a sensational story rather than report the facts.  Reporters contacted several eminent authorities about the matter and were told there was nothing to it and that the intent of the legislative resolution would fail.  This was hardly carried in the news at all.  Others told the same reporters what the reporters wanted to hear--that it was a serious matter, that there would be a knock-down, drag-out fight, and that the ultimate resolution might go either way.  These other “authorities” were repeatedly quoted and cited at length in news media.  It was all the result of the media wanting to produce a sensational story rather than a factual and useful one.

          During the extensive publicity generated in 2008, someone stole the Camak Stone, which had been set by the state boundary commissioners in 1818 to mark the northwest corner of Georgia and the northeast corner of Alabama.  The stone has not been found.  In 2011, in a well-publicized event, a new state boundary monument was set by Alabama in the same place as the old one. It is significant that Georgia made no issue of the location, showing that all the ruckus that was raised in 2008 about moving Georgia's north boundary to the 35th parallel was pointless.  See

          Below is a letter to the editor of The American Surveyor that I sent and was published in the magazine in 2008.


Dear Mr. Cheves [editor of The American Surveyor],

          I was born in Georgia, have lived in Georgia most of my life, and am a Georgia registered land surveyor.  C. Bart Crattie reported in two articles in previous issues of The American Surveyor about attempts by certain Georgia legislators to move the northern boundary of the state northward to the “correct” location as defined by statutes and treaty.  Such action must end in futility.  All of the surveyed boundaries of Georgia are incorrectly located, as most surveyed boundaries of most of the states are.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that if a boundary between two states has been run out, located, and marked on the ground and is afterwards recognized and acquiesced in by the states for many years, that boundary becomes conclusive even if it is later found to be erroneously located.  It does not matter that there has never been any official legislative act recognizing the boundary.

          Actions held to constitute recognition and acquiescence in a boundary so that it becomes binding include surveying the state’s public domain up to the erroneously-marked boundary, assessing privately-owned lands up to the erroneously-marked boundary for taxes, publishing official maps recognizing the erroneously-marked boundary, and recognizing the erroneously-marked boundary for delineating police jurisdiction, judicial jurisdiction, voting districts, school districts, legislative districts, and county boundaries.

          Some of the more prominent cases that make the ruling are: Georgia v. South Carolina, 497 U.S. 376, 111 L.Ed.2d 309, 110 S.Ct. 2903 (1990); State of Arkansas v. State of Tennessee, 310 U.S. 563, 84 L.Ed. 1362, 60 S.Ct. 1026 (1940); Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. State of New York, 271 U.S. 65, 70 L.Ed. 838, 46 S.Ct. 357 (1926); and State of Michigan v. State of Wisconsin, 270 U.S. 295, 70 L.Ed. 595, 46 S.Ct. 290 (1926).  Discussions and citations to additional rulings on the matter can be found in American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, volume 72 "States, Territories and Dependencies" section 29 at pages 423-24; and Corpus Juris Secundum, volume 81A "States," section 10 at page 286.  The principle that a line acquiesced in by adjoining states becomes binding as to the boundary between those two states was extensively discussed by a Georgia attorney with reference to the northern boundary of Georgia more than a century ago.  See Charleton E. Battle, “The Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Dispute,” in Report of the Nineteenth Annual Session of the Georgia Bar Association, Atlanta, 1902, pages 87, 88–89, 111–17. [Online at].

          Every few years a resolution is passed by the Georgia legislature to create a commission to “correct” one or more of the boundaries of the state.  Once the commission begins work it finds the court rulings described above.  The commission then dissolves and that is the end of the matter until the memory of the findings lapse and a new boundary commission is created, only to make the same findings.  The result is wasted taxpayers’ money.

          Georgia has undergone tremendous population growth in recent years.  This has strained its resources, especially its water resources.  The state is currently undergoing a severe drought.  The stated purpose for moving Georgia’s boundary northward is so the state can gain access to the Tennessee River and thereby tap that as a water source.  I have talked with some of the legislators who supported the resolution.  It is clear they understand the effort will come to nothing.  Their intention is to make it appear to the voters that they are trying to do something to alleviate the water situation.  Once the resolution was introduced, any legislator who voted against it would have been perceived by most voters, who don't understand the issue, as being insensitive.  Thus, most of the members of the legislature felt obliged to support it. 

          Besides the wasted money, the other material effect is to arouse the hostility of Tennesseans and North Carolinians toward us.  This may stymie gaining their cooperation in implementing truly worthwhile alternatives.  One already sees this anger on the part of Tennesseans and North Carolinians in their press and on the internet. 

          Since 1861 the Georgia Code has defined the northern boundary of the state as the 35th parallel.  The line that had been actually surveyed and demarcated on the ground several decades earlier, and that has been acquiesced in by our state and Tennessee and North Carolina since the early 1800s, is, for most of the length, about half a mile to a mile south of the 35th parallel.  The Georgia legislature could do us a greater favor by amending the code to confirm the surveyed line, as well as to correct certain other errors in the code definition of the boundaries of the state.  Future legislatures would then be put on notice not to dabble in the matter again.

          On page 65 of the Spring 2008 American Surveyor Crattie states that the issue is putting the spotlight on our profession, and “A land surveyor’s words are being heard in a positive way … The ‘expert’ is the surveyor, not the lawyer or politician.”  A lawyer will have the final say-so in this matter if the legislators are willing to listen; and, if not, it will be a judge who has the final say-so.

Farris Cadle

Farris Cadle

Last edited Thursday, April 25, 2019
4/17/2019 at 11:48:06 PM GMT
Posts: 29

In the post above, I cite Charleton E. Battle, “The Georgia-Tennessee Boundary Dispute,” in Report of the Nineteenth Annual Session of the Georgia Bar Association, Atlanta, 1902.  It has been brought to my attention that the page numbers listed in my post do not match the page numbers in the HathiTrust Digital Library,  version that is cited there.  Battle’s presentation is an address he gave at the nineteenth annual session of the Georgia Bar Association.  It, along with other addresses and matter given at that same meeting were published together as the proceedings of the meeting.  The page numbers given in the above post are for that version.  In addition, Battle’s address was published shortly afterward in pamphlet form as an item to itself, with the pages renumbered.  This is what is reproduced in the HathiTrust Digital Library.  The relevant pages in that version are 1, 2-3, 24-30.  My oversight.

Farris Cadle

7/15/2019 at 4:02:23 PM GMT
Posts: 4
I would think that moving the State line to the 35th Parallel after 200 years would not be possible. But I have been wrong before, However, your research and articles have been very interesting, and I have visited the site twice since the articles were published. I understand that there is also a discrepancy in the Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina corner, and the Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina corner.
Not to be forgotten the Georgia , Florida line. Mostly, political issues, but interesting for Surveyors to read about ; and for me; to visit!

7/16/2019 at 1:28:34 AM GMT
Posts: 23
Lets not forget about the on going issue regarding the county line dispute between Monroe County and Bibb County.................

Daniel L Collins, RLS

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