The Meigs Line


As I mentioned to you last week, I received an interesting comment about our bushwhacking adventure off the Bent Arm from Dan Welch.  Subsequent correspondence revealed the following information and I appreciate Dan sharing this with the Highlander crew.  We made this trip in February, 2008 when we hooked up with the Muir Faction at Miry Ridge.  A random photograph prompted the discussion and I have included Dan's comments on the matter below.  It is an interesting read.  It began with this comment from Dan.  "Do you realize that the quartz rock at the base of the tree in your Bent Arm hike photograph is a boundary marker on the Hawkins line placed by Cherokee members of the RJ Meigs survey party in 1802? This photograph is a great prize"

First correspondence:

The identity of this Cherokee Boundary marker is reveiled in a very recent (2009) book by Dwight McCarter and Joe Kelly titled "Meigs Line."  Although the survey crew with RJ Meigs is believed to have placed the quartz marker in 1802 the acutal line under survey is still known as the "Hawkins Line."  As the book reports for a very short time the "Hawkins Line" was the southern most legal settlement boundary of the southwest United States.
The location of the "Hawkins Line" as well as other surveys inside the boundaries of the present GSM National Park have long been lost - some reports of lost predate the Civil War.  The "Hawkins Line" had a major impact upon settlement in early Blount County - let alone Cades Cove.  Although small pieces of the "Hawkins Line" had been discovered over the years, not until the new "Meigs Line" book has it been shown that a vast array of 200 year old original survey marks inside and outside the Park can still be discovered on the ground - many in very out of the way locations.
The "Meigs Line" book describes the quartz marker on the old Bent Arm trail but does not provide a photograph.  But the book does discuss the significance of using quartz.  Many other Cherokee marker techniques are discussed in the book as well - some of these marker techniques were used in other locations.  Overall the "Meigs Line" book should be of high facination to your hiking friends as it descibes many unique locations that can be found inside the Park backed with historical details.  If I understand your hiking friends well - most will not be able to put "Meigs Line" down until totally read and it will be likely they carry the book as well as its fresh knowledge into the field.  I'm certain there is still much yet to learn about the Smokies and very few that will protect its treasures.

Second correspondence below:

I can speculate that the quartz rock is in a beech.  If so, it is a rather large beech tree considering the elevation and its location very near the Bent Arm Ridge.  I can easily imagine such a tree being 200 years old.  However, I would believe it tiny in 1800.  So there is some mystery.  This mystery merits expert attention.  This is no ordinary discovery - it should be of interest to scholars.

There is a little bit to be discovered on the internet about the location of "Meigs Line" and the master survey marker called Meigs Post on Mount Collins.  Apparently there was court battle between lumber companies in the 1890s (before the formation of the Little River Lumber Company) involving the location of the "Hawkins Line" and thus Meigs Post.  It was during this court contest that Wilson Falls was named for a surveyor hired to help resolve the controversy.  Maybe the quartz rock was reset at that time.  Information is so slim it is difficult to learn if any other features on the upper reaches of Little River are named after surveyors.
By the way.  Meigs Post is the master survey marker for not only "Hawkins Line" but also "Pickens Line,"  "Butlers Line," and "Meigs Line."  There are dozens of these ancient survey marks to be discovered inside the Park on the North Carolina side as well - some in very rough terrain well removed from any trails.  Meigs Post is atop Mount Collins very near the junction of the Appalachain Trail and the Sugarloaf Trail.  According to the book it is easiest to discover the ancient marker trees that surround the now tiny Meigs Post first.  One can start at Meigs Post and simply follow a compass. 


Many thanks to Dan for sharing his historical knowledge.  Many of us appreciate the education and intend to scout the notion further.