Pennsylvania-Ohio Boundary Retracement Survey

The border between Pennsylvania and Ohio is particularly important in the history of the Western Reserve as it was used as the base line, or foundation, of all the surveys of the Reserve, in 1796. This border, called the "Ellicott Line" after the original surveyor Andrew Ellicott, was originally surveyed and marked in 1786. From 1878-1882 the two states formed a boundary commission to jointly re-survey and add additional monuments, approximately one every mile over the 92-mile long line. Now, for the past several years, a joint team of volunteers from the professional surveyors' organizations in Ohio and Pennsylvania are re-tracing the 1880s survey, locating the original underground markers and restoring the surface reference monuments to their proper position along the boundary. In the process, some of the surviving Ellicott boundary markers have also been located.

Here are some photos I (Bill Barrow) took in 1994 when I joined a party of surveyors for an afternoon. I discovered that I am not, in fact, immune to poison ivy, but that's a story for another web page. (These captions have been edited to clarify some ambiguities in my original wording that led some professional concerns about what was being done.)


Finding the underground monument is the first step. A field traverse is performed to locate where to dig. The original state boundary markers are buried anywhere from 2 to 10 below ground. The reference monuments on the ground surface have tended to migrate from their original positions, having been damaged, or in some cases, destroyed or totally removed by vandals or construction.


Preparing to haul a reference monument 32 feet from a spot where the property owner had moved it, back to its original position over the underground marker. Since the reference monuments weigh around 500 pounds, this particular location involved fastening it by rope to a truck to help move it. Then the reference monument can be reburied in its original location.


Pulled up from the earth, this reference monument receives a little cleaning before being re-situated over the underground monument.


Not all reference monuments were as out-of-place as the one above. This reference monument was found leaning but still on top of the original underground marker. It was reset over the underground monument that was undisturbed. This monument marks the point 32 miles south of Lake Erie along the western border of Pennsylvania.


Using modern equipment, a volunteer surveyor prepares to survey from the restored reference monument. The "official" state boundary marker is actually buried below this reference stone.


The retracement survey continues, using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to accurately establish geodetic positions on each of the monuments along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. For further information, you can contact Dean Ringle at


Cleveland Cartography

Last updated June 21, 2003