Columns/Opinion, John Samsell

Why so close to the state line?

By John Samsell

We already know why a chunk of Maryland is stuck inside West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. It was obtained in a dispute that went on for two centuries, ending about 1910 with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that was accepted by Maryland.
Harpers Ferry is the low point in West Virginia, and that’s where the West Virginia-Maryland line started.
From there, it extended along the South Branch of the Potomac, on to the Fairfax Stone and then to the Pennsylvania line.
What about the West Virginia-Pennsylvania line? That goes way back to at least 1607, when Pennsylvania and Virginia clashed over trading territory. In a treaty in 1744, the Iroquois yielded to Virginia its land between the Allegheny Mountains and the Ohio River Valley.
Differences between the two colonies was evident in spite of the Pennsylvanians taking the lead. Land Virginia lost at first was regained. At the start of the French and Indian War, Pennsylvania’s governor claimed the disputed area, but its legislature, led by Benjamin Franklin, rejected it.
The war that followed left the land dispute idle for a time. Following Dunmore’s War, the Virginia-Pennsylvania boundary dispute rekindled. In 1779, they agreed to appoint commissioners. They agreed to extend the Mason-Dixon Line five degrees westward from the point Mason and Dixon had it. They also accepted the meridian created for the line.
The current line wasn’t accepted until 1784. Most of the settlers in southwestern Pennsylvania came from Virginia and kept their land titles, which explains how we in Morgantown are just seven miles from our Pennsylvania neighbors.
According to historical records, those in southwestern Pennsylvania may be West Virginians at heart.
After all, we have similar likes and dislikes. Many of those across the border work and shop in West Virginia, and we West Virginians do the some with only seven miles separating us.
Like it or not, we get Pennsylvania television channels on our cable system. Although we can’t vote there, we have to endure political pitches from the other side of the line. That’s why we had to watch ads for two primary elections, one on the second Tuesday in May and another on the third Tuesday in the same month.
The thing is, we have similar interests, such as pro teams, the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers. And we still hate Pitt, although we don’t play them as often as we once did. Yet we also dislike teams in Virginia and Maryland.
Thanks to that boundary dispute, we have interest in historical events and places on both sides of the state line. The university with students, faculty and staff are now as important to residents in this state and Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The WVU athletics and creative arts are all a part of this region. Some schools are so close to both states that we recognize their efforts to be good neighbors.
Again in history, Monongalia County was once “Mother Mon,” because it had a plethora of counties under its wing. Three of those counties were in Pennsylvania. Because of its geologic position, Morgantown almost wasn’t the county seat. Other towns were interested in another location for the courthouse because some citizens had to travel some distance through rough terrain to reach the courts.
This is before WVU was founded in 1867. The travel thing hasn’t lost all its punch. There are many in the distant reaches of Monongalia County’s western end who probably aren’t too fond of the courthouse location.
Some of that area is as close to Pennsylvania as we are.
End dispute!