Boundary at Steele Creek Dates from 1763
(June 30, 2002)
The southern boundary of Mecklenburg County's
Steele Creek Community follows the North Carolina-South Carolina
state line, which dates back to 1763 when the original Catawba
Reserve was created and surveyed. How this Indian boundary became
the state line is part of a long, complicated story.
to see a larger map of the boundary.)
boundary between the two states resulted from four major disputes
and six surveys over a period of almost a hundred years. The boundary
expanded step by step from the Atlantic Ocean into the Appalachian
mountains roughly following the spread of population inland. It
was based on an agreement made in 1735 that would have placed most
of the boundary following the 35th parallel of latitude, but
instead the line zigzags back and forth. Errors and delays induced
disputes and uncertainty along the boundary until it finally reached
35º at the western terminus of the boundary at the Chatooga River.
Although a single
Colony of Carolina was established in 1663 when King Charles of
England issued the colony's charter to eight proprietors, North Carolina and
South Carolina were soon functioning separately. By 1665 the
Governor of Virginia had established a government north of Albemarle
Sound in the new Carolina Colony. Settlement began at Charles Town
in 1670 where a separate government was established. The two
colonies formally were separated in 1729 when the king purchased the
colony from the proprietors.
between the two colonies was generally understood to be at Cape
Fear, although North Carolina was granting land west of the river.
In 1730 newly appointed royal governors agreed on a boundary that would
begin a point 30 miles west of the mouth of the
Cape Fear River and continue inland parallel to the river. Under
certain conditions, the boundary would follow the Waccamaw River.
Once the governors
got to the New World they discovered that the boundary decision was
too ambiguous and difficult to implement. Each colony appointed commissioners who
met in April 1735 and agreed to a new boundary definition. The
boundary was to begin 30 miles west of the Cape Fear River as agreed
previously, but it was to run to the northwest until it reached 35º
latitude and then continue west to the South Seas. The agreement
also called for adjustment if necessary to include lands of the
Cherokee and Catawba Indians in South Carolina.
created in 1732 from that part of South Carolina west of the
Savannah River. This boundary eventually followed the Chatooga
River, a northern tributary of the Savannah River.
The 1735 boundary agreement effectively cut South
Carolina off from western territory to North Carolina's benefit.
Once all boundaries of the two states were finally set in the
Carolina wound up with approximately 60 percent more land area than South
A survey was
begin soon after the 1735 agreement and completed in 1737 when
surveyors stopped at what they believed to be 35º latitude.
(Line 1 on map.)
Settlement soon outran
the boundary, resulting in overlapping land grants and confusion. In
1763 the Board of Trade in London instructed the two colonies to
extend the 1735-1737 line to 35º if it had not been done so
and then due west to the lands of the Catawba Indians.
commissioners from both states continued the boundary westward from
the terminus of the 1737 survey to a point on the Salisbury Road, a
few miles from the Catawba Reserve, which had been established a few
months earlier. (Line 2 on map.)
commissioners didn't realize was that they actually were 13 miles
south of the 35th parallel, resulting in a loss for South Carolina
of about 800 square miles.
realized the error a few years later and proposed a western boundary
that would compensate that colony for the loss. They proposed a boundary that began at the end of the 1764
survey and followed the Salisbury Road north to the boundary of the
Catawba Reserve. it would then follow the boundary around the north
side of the
Catawba Reserve to the Catawba River and then follow the Catawba River
to its source.
wanted the line surveyed in 1764 to be continued due west.
In 1771 the Board
of Trade in London ordered a compromise. The boundary would follow the South
Carolina proposal to the Catawba River. It would go up the river to
the confluence of the north branch (currently the Catawba River)
and south branch (currently South Fork) and then due west to the
Cherokee Boundary of 1767. This boundary was run in 1772. (Lines 3,
4, 5, and 6 on map.)
Thus the portion
of the state line established in 1772 set the southern boundary of
Mecklenburg County's Steele Creek community along the Catawba
Reserve boundary, which was established in 1763.
Reserve was 15 miles square, or about 225 square miles. (Some
descriptions state that it was 15 square miles rather than 15 miles
square, a gross understatement of the reserve's size.) South Carolina granted the land to
the Catawbas in a 1760 treaty. A boundary survey was begun in 1762 and the
reserve was formally approved at the Southern Indian Congress in
Augusta, Georgia in 1763.
Carolina granted land for the reserve to the Catawba Indians, North
Carolina also had been granting land in the area within and west of
the Catawba Reserve since before 1772. Portions of this area east of
the Catawba River were administered as part of Mecklenburg County
and those west of the Catawba River were administered as part of
Tryon County. South Carolina referred to the area gained in the 1772
survey as the New Acquisition until it established counties in 1785.
The current southern boundary of York County, South Carolina is a
western continuation of the 1764 line.
Although the 1735
agreement called for the boundary to follow the 35th parallel, the
Board of Trade chose not to change the boundary surveyed in 1764 and
to place the boundary to the west where it would compensate South
Carolina for their loss caused by previous errors.
The portion of the
1772 boundary surveyed west from the Catawba River ran slightly
north of due west and is another example of the errors made along
the boundary. It ended at the Cherokee boundary that North Carolina
had surveyed in 1767 (line 7 on the map) and was the western limit
of European settlement at the time.
refused to accept the 1772 survey and insisted on a resurvey along
the 35th parallel. It continued to protest until 1808 when a review
of the original 1735 agreement revealed that South Carolina could
legally claim all Cherokee lands, which covered significant areas in
the west, including most of the future state of Tennessee.
commissioners from the two states accepted previously established
boundaries except one and came to agreement on the final section of
They agreed that
the portion of the boundary following the Salisbury Road should be
resurveyed as a straight line between the end of the 1764 survey and
the western corner of the Catawba Reserve. This survey was completed
in 1813 and forms a portion of the current boundary between Union
County, North Carolina and Lancaster Country, South Carolina. (Line
3 on map.) (Andrew Jackson was born near this section of the
boundary in 1767, although disagreement exists concerning the side
of the line where his birth occurred. But that is another story.)
also agreed to a continuation of the boundary to the west following
a straight line from the end of the 1772 survey to a point where the
35th parallel crossed the Appalachian Divide. After taking a closer
look at the geography of the area, commissioners decided to place
much of the boundary along a mountain ridge and end it at a point on
the Chatooga River where they had determined that it crossed the
35th parallel. This line was surveyed in 1815, finally reaching the
parallel in the original 1735 agreement. (Line 8 on the map.)
includes approximately 1300 square miles of territory north of the
The 1735 agreement
eventually became the basis for the boundary between North Carolina
and Georgia as well as the boundaries between Tennessee and the
states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
between North Carolina and South Carolina is taken for granted
today, but if decisions concerning the boundary had been different
or if surveyors had not made the errors they did, the boundary could
have looked quite different.