Mason-Dixon Historical Park: a timeline
The 295-acre Mason-Dixon Historical Park sits
along the banks of scenic Dunkard Creek in West Virginia and
Pennsylvania. The park is the site of Mason-Dixon 250 in 2017, a
celebration to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the end of
the renowned Mason-Dixon Line survey. Come along for a
walk in the footsteps of history as we explore the past in the
-- Compiled by Betty L. Wiley from park records
October 1767: Charles Mason and
Jeremiah Dixon stopped their survey on this property because their
Native American guides refused to continue. Indian agent Johnson
had negotiated safe passage and it ended here. As their final
marker, Mason and Dixon erected a 5-foot post and heaped stones
around it nearly to the top.The the surveyors fell 21 miles, 761.9
feet short of their goal -- the present-day southwest corner of
1883: During a resurvey of the West Virginia and
Pennsylvania borders, a team lead by Cephas H. Sinclair placed a
stone marker in the precise spot that Mason and Dixon had erected
their final earth and stone monument. This stone remains
today atop Brown's Hill.
Oct. 15, 1968: Dr. Eldon P. Tucker, a retired Morgantown
physician, became interested in the history of the Mason-Dixon
Line. He talked with Dr. Hughlett Mason, who had transcribed the
original Journal of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. They
confirmed that the last marker placed by Mason and Dixon was on
Brown's Hill. Apparently local residents were not aware of
this. Dr. Tucker started working to get national landmark status
for Mason and Dixon's stopping point.
Jan. 6, 1969: Charles and Delores LaPoe, owners of
the 397-acre farm, sold their land to Consolidated Gas Corporation
(Hope Gas) to be developed as an industrial park. Hope Gas then
leased the LaPoes the house and property for 10 years, and they
could stay there until the industrial park would be developed.
Later, the lease was extended until March 1984.
The newly formed Monongalia County Development Authority was
promoting an industrial park on part of the property, the 130
acres south of Buckeye Road (where the LaPoe Village mobile home
park now exists.)
Efforts to attract industry failed because the property can only
be reached by crossing one of two bridges over Dunkard Creek, and
the bridges were old and not adequate for industrial use. One
company was prepared to move in and the state of West Virginia
promised to build a bridge, but never did. So that company went
Time passed, and in 1974, the poor condition of bridges also
resulted in local demonstrations by parents who protested their
children having to get off the school bus and walk across the
Also, there were protests against the development of industry on
the land south of Buckeye Road, where an AD 900 Monongahela
village Native American site is located.
Feb. 2, 1969: A feature story was published in the local
newspaper about Brown's Hill and the marker of the Mason-Dixon
Spring 1969: Dr. Eldon Tucker began arranging
meetings with the Monongalia Historical Society, Hope Gas, the
West Virginia University engineering school, and national, state,
and local politicians promoting the idea of having a public park
on the property around the Mason-Dixon marker, since the property
now was owned by Hope Gas and not a private family.
Dr. Tucker kept working on the park idea for the rest of his life,
through 1975. Response was favorable. The bicentennial year, 1976,
was approaching and there was legislation permitting every state
to establish a new park ]to commemorate the nation's 200th year.
The Mason-Dixon property was a perfect place to do this. Dr.
Tucker was also on the Monongalia County Bicentennial Committee
promoting a new park.
Hope Gas officials wrote favorable letters several times agreeing
to donate all or part of the land for a recreational/historical
park if and when plans were developed and money made available.
May 4, 1973: Dr. Edward S. Neumann, engineering professor
at West Virginia University, and his senior class presented an
88-page study of design recommendations for the park.
Dec. 18, 1973: The Monongalia County Bicentennial Committee
wrote to the state legislature about developing a historical and
recreational park for the historic Mason-Dixon Line. Highway
markers were installed and the site was listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. The letter said Hope Gas will donate
the property to a county, state, or federal agency.
April 29, 1974: A letter from Hope Gas discussed meetings
and plans for a Mason-Dixon Historical Park and the formation of a
nonprofit development company to which Hope Gas could give the
May 5, 1975: Mason-Dixon Park, Inc. (MDP), was chartered in
West Virginia as a nonprofit corporation. It acquired 501 (c)(3)
federal tax status in 1984. Dr. Tucker was elected as the first
president, Bertram Waychoff of Waynesburg as vice president, and
Mildred Clark of Morgantown as secretary-treasurer. Members were
volunteers from Monongalia County, W.Va., and Greene County, Pa.
The new nonprofit organization was ready to receive ownership of
the property from Hope Gas, and with ownership, the group would be
able to apply for government and private grants to fund
development. They were planning to obtain adjoining properties to
increase the size of the park, which would make it attractive to
become a national or state park.
Feb. 9, 1976: Before seeing his great idea become reality,
Dr. Eldon Tucker died at the age of 81.
June 24, 1976: Dr. Earl Core, the new president of the MDP,
wrote a letter to Hope Gas asking the company to deed
approximately 285 acres around the marker to Mason-Dixon Park,
Inc., thus following through on the previous commitment. MDP
officials wanted to go ahead and build shelters and trails, and
work to get contributions and grants, and to approach adjoining
land owners to get additional acreage.
March 18, 1977: Hope Gas deeded the entire property, 397
acres, to the Monongalia County Commission.
September 7, 1977: By this time, Monongalia and Greene
counties had agreed to work together to develop a two-state
park The Monongalia County Commission deeded the 135 acres in
Pennsylvania to the Greene County Board of Commissioners
(sometimes, the number of acres is not exactly the same as in
October 1978: The Greene County Commissioners donated
$5,000, the first money given for the park development.
April 29, 1979: The American Society of Civil Engineers
designated the Mason-Dixon Line as a National Historic Civil
Engineering Landmark and put a plaque in the West Virginia Welcome
Center along Interstate 79.
April 1, 1981: The MDP charter was amended adding
"Historical" to the name. Now, it was Mason-Dixon Historical
1982: Members of the Warrior Trail Association built an
Adirondack shelter just north of the marker on Brown's Hill,
the first structure that was constructed in the park. Because the
LaPoe family was still living in the park house and MDHP officials
did not want to annoy them, nothing much was being done at the
MDHP members were making presentations to any organization that
was interested. Blacksville Lions Club members Dr. Hugh Shafer and
engineer Charles Snider became active in working at the park, and
this inspired others.
April 4, 1982: A Morgantown developer optioned the
industrial park property and advertised for businesses
unsuccessfully. When asked, he said it was a bad location for
Earlier while attempting to establish the industrial par,
the Development Authority was offered a $500,000 federal grant to
build industrial park infrastructure. But when the granting agency
learned there had been an Indian village site on the property,
they demanded an archaeological survey be conducted at a cost of
$25,000. The Development Authority refused so the grant was lost.
At the time there was construction of a public water system for
the area, the Clay-Battelle Public Service District. As
construction approached the area of the proposed industrial park,
it was realized that the industrial park would need bigger pipes
for increased water supply and a fire hydrant. The Development
Authority scrambled to find funding for this. It finally asked the
county commissioners to award the property south of Buckeye Road
(appraised at $950,000) that could then use as collateral for a
$62,000 loan that would match $310,000 grant to pay for the
beefed-up water system. The county gave the property in 1979 with
the idea that if the industrial park did not succeed, the land
would return to county ownership.
But the Development Authority still did not get the loan, so the
county provided the $62,000, saying that the C-B PSD would have to
pay it back. The Development Authority kept the land (see
June 18, 1983: The first sign for Mason-Dixon Historical
Park was erected (at the lower entrance) following an annual board
meeting. The sign was made by high school students from
July 1983: Monongalia County appropriated $7,500 for park
development in the coming year. The park was authorized to
purchase materials and make improvements as needed. All labor was
provided by volunteers.
Consolidation Coal Co. built roadways into the park to plug
inactive oil and gas wells before longwall coal mining could
begin. The company gave the park $5,000 and made a donation for
the earth moving for a parking lot and culvert under the roadway.
A archaeological study was conducted in areas where earthmoving
was done, and along roads, well sites, parking lot, and the ball
Summer 1983: Buckeye Community volunteers, headed by Connie
Ammons and Charlene Forquer, held the first Dunkard Valley
Frontier Festival in the low area occupied by Mason (now Dunkard)
Pavilion, out of sight of the LaPoe home. The festival has
been held every year, but in 2001 when Monongalia County displaced
the MDHP Inc., the board moved to Connie and Bob Ammons' property
in Pennsylvania, about 2 miles north of the park, and the festival
continues there as the Mason-Dixon Frontier Festival.
March 1984: In their regular monthly meeting
(attended by Betty Wiley and Connie Ammons), the Monongalia County
Development Authority accepted an offer from the LaPoe family for
$50,000 for the 130 acres south of Buckeye Road (which had been
appraised for $950,000). When notified later that night,
County Commissioners immediately protested because they wanted the
land back, but a delay in sending a letter to the Development
Authority resulted in the sale being finalized. The Development
Authority gave the Commission the $50,000. The sale stood.
The sale was illegal, as corroborated by a lawyer who reviewed the
files, but a lack of political will on the part of county
commissioners resulted in loss of valuable land to the citizens of
Monongalia County. They were simply afraid it would be too
unpopular to "go after" a private citizen to regain the property.
June 1984: Volunteers built Mason (now Dunkard) pavilion
near Dunkard Creek. They used materials purchased by the County
Connie Ammons volunteered to take care of scheduling pavilion
usage. Later, she also took care of ball field usage. A small fee
was charged but youth groups used all facilities free of cost.
July 1984: The Monongalia County Commission earmarked
$7,500 for the park, the first of many annual grants to be used by
MDHP volunteers in developing the park (all the funding provided
by the Monongalia County Commission is not necessarily listed in
this history). Progress included construction of the ball field,
drainage, picnic tables using plastic frames and lumber. All work
was done by volunteers.
The MDHP established a tradition of monthly work-days, one
Saturday a month. Lunch was provided by the ladies, as the
men did the work of building, digging, running equipment, etc.
Nov. 5, 1985: The county commission leased to the MDHP part
of the park property 14.69 acres (800 feet x 800 feet) that
included the house. The lease was for $1 per year and was supposed
to be renewed every year (it was NOT renewed every year and was
generally forgotten for years). The MDHP volunteers worked on the
entire park, including the Pennsylvania part, although Greene
County's part was managed by its parks department.
The lease allegedly was for liability purposes, as the county
insurance did not cover volunteers. In addition, it was to give
the volunteers a sense of security, that at last something was in
writing saying they had a piece of the action.
The pavilion and ball field were built outside the leased area.
The MDHP Inc. had its own insurance on-again off-again due to
confusion about whether it was needed.
It was an extremely poorly constructed lease that ended up being
detrimental to the taxpayers of Monongalia County. Among other
things, it said that if and when the MDHP Inc. would leave the
property, the board could take its improvements with them. It is
fairly clear that nobody read the lease before signing it, because
volunteers desiring to develop the park would not want to remove
what they had built; and surely the County Commission would not
want that to happen either. Yet both signed it.
(Jumping ahead, Connie Ammons with the MDHP Inc. board later sued
the Monongalia County Commission, wanting either to "remove their
improvements" (pavilions, etc.) or be compensated by money.
The lawsuit was frivolous to one who was familiar with the
facts. But the county ended up paying several thousand
dollars to settle the suit.)
At the time of leasing, the Commission budgeted an $8,500
stipend and made an additional $25,000 available. The
commissioners at the time were very positive about park
development and the value of work done by volunteers.
Spring 1986: Barn renovation and new roof on barn
cost $14,500. Five pieces of playground equipment were
purchased and installed at a cost of $6,760.10.
During the winter and spring, a heavy-duty picnic table, one
chemical toilet (portajohn), and 10 bench-tables were stolen.
Summer and fall, 1986: An oil derrick was erected on the
hill where the cabins now stand. The intention was to demonstrate
the pumping process. But the derrick was not anchored well enough
and a freakish winds toppled it. So the wreckage had to be removed
and the project was terminated.
Another project was the pouring of concrete for the basketball
court, which could be used for square dances, winter ice skating
and other activities. The cost was $5,551.87, paid by the county
commission. Many other projects were completed, including the
running of electric power to the pavilion.
1987 A basic amphitheater (uncovered stage) was constructed
quickly because it was needed for participation in Morgantown
Riverfront Park's Mason-Dixon Festival in October. The road along
the creek was cleared and ready to be used during that new
festival for horse and wagon trips across the Mason-Dixon Line.
The fifth annual Frontier Festival was held Aug 29. It was
becoming very popular and people came from far and wide. Free
admission and low-cost food sold by the park (soup beans and
cornbread for $1) made it possible for many families to attend,
even those who were out of work. Park volunteers wanted to make
the public welcome and for nobody to be excluded because of lack
of money. Even with free admission and cheap food, the park made a
profit because volunteers donated most of the food that was sold.
The ball field and pavilion were in nearly constant use.The
pavilion was reserved 54 times, the ball field reserved 34 times.
And $749.50 was collected in user fees for park upkeep.
Oct. 11, 1987: The first annual three-park Mason-Dixon
Festival was held at Morgantown's Riverfront Park and included
this park and a Point Marion, Pa., park. Attendees could cross the
Mason-Dixon Line on a riverboat or by horse and wagon along
Dunkard Creek back to the South Bottom, and received a certificate
saying they had crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. The food that was
sold included buckwheat cakes and whole hog fresh sausage. The
festival was a great success. The new amphitheater was used for
performances.This festival, like the Frontier Festival, was free.
1988: The old iron bridge at the east side of the park was
replaced by a temporary Acrow bridge (for 25 years). Many
projects were accomplished this year.
Jerry and Sandra Keller and their three daughters were caretakers
who lived in the park house. They paid $150 per month to rent the
house and it was paid by their labor at $8 per hour and their
investment in materials. Jerry Keller was a game
warden. The oldest daughter was paid for mowing. The
County Commission gave them a 5-year lease. The Kellers proposed
the idea of having a Ramp Feast, which became a very popular
1989: At the Red Barn, restrooms, a dining room and a
kitchen were constructed. Kitchen equipment was purchased at a
surplus sale.The house received insulation and new windows. Picnic
tables were built and trails were cleared.
1990: Contractors gave proposals for completion of the
amphitheater. County commissioners from Greene and Monongalia met
and inspected the amphitheater and were interested in seeing it
completed. But the year passed and no funding was promised for the
The ball field was reserved 121 times. The house got new roofing.
Many other projects were completed by volunteers and regular
monthly work-days continued.
In late fall, 14 students and instructors from the West Virginia
College Student Chapter of the Association of Land Surveyors from
Glenville State College put in a hard day of work. Hugh M. Shaffer
opened up and restored the original 24-foot swath, 150 feet on
each side of the Brown's Hill near the Mason-Dixon marker along
the original Mason-Dixon Line. They planned to add interpretive
signs (but did not).
April 20, 1991: The first ramp feast cleared $356.35 for
the park (after paying $96.35 for supplies). Soup beans,
cornbread, ham and ramps were popular. It is believed to be
the first ramp dinner to be held in the area. The Kellers were
familiar with the Ripley, W.Va., ramp feast and came up with the
Also in 1991: The ball field was reserved 95 times by 10
teams. Connie Ammons collected $1,382.50 in park user fees. The
buckwheat dinner cleared $569.
The ninth annual Dunkard Valley Frontier Festival was held Aug.
24, and a square dance held the night before on the basketball
court was well attended.
The 911 Tactical Air Group, a reserve military group, constructed
a maintenance road to the marker and signed a memorandum of
understanding for continued cooperation in conducting meaningful
training projects in the park (not sure what projects).
The campaign continued to complete the amphitheater, which had a
$1million price tag. The Monongalia County Commission set aside
$15,000 in the 1991-92 budget and Greene County received a promise
of $2,500 from Pennsylvania. Volunteers constructed benches at the
amphitheater using split oak logs, with capacity for hundreds of
The benches deteriorated quickly and didn't last long. The
amphitheater stage had been covered with a big tarp and was not
safe to walk on as it was rotting. About 1997, Monongalia
County Commissioner Betty Wiley asked the head of county
maintenance, Bobby Doyle, if his guys could construct an
amphitheater building on the foundation, which consisted of pylons
made of treated electric poles. So they built the amphitheater
that exists today, and it was used by various musical performers
for several years. Pigeons moved in and it became unusable. About
2015-16, the county refurbished the structure to repel pigeons and
in 2017 further improvements were made under a new superintendent.
1994: The Kellers moved out of the park house. Bob and
Connie Ammons moved in. They leased it from the county commission
rent-free in return for providing park management. They paid their
own utilities. Their personal phone landline served as the park
phone line and they continued to pay the bill, which in those
years required long-distance fees and was usually high (there were
no cell phones). When nobody was readily available to mow
the grass, Connie Ammons took the contract and was paid for that
2000: At the suggestion of the county commissioners, who
were impressed by Connie Ammons's work in promoting and managing
the park, the MDHP board of directors started paying Connie
$15,000 per year as a contractor from funds appropriated by the
commission in the regular annual budget request from the MDHP
(this was a year-to-year item that might not always be available,
depending on the county's budget).
2001: Asel Kennedy, who replaced Betty Wiley as
county commissioner, introduced the subject of the expired lease
between the commission and the MDHP, and the same badly
constructed lease was renewed. It apparently was not evaluated and
was very detrimental to the county and the park. It remained
necessary to renew the lease every year. Although it only covered
14.69 acres of the park, the MDHP Inc. actually managed the entire
August 2002: The Monongalia County Commission decided that
it would not renew the MDHP lease, but would instead appoint its
own board to run Mason-Dixon Historical Park, in the same way that
it appoints boards to run the other two county parks, Camp Muffly
and Chestnut Ridge.
This action was seen by the MDHP Inc., after 27 years of
dedication to development and management of the park, as a hostile
takeover. Some volunteers accepted the change; some former
volunteers who had left the park came back. Most of the MDHP Inc.
board members joined with Connie Ammons to leave Mason-Dixon
Historical Park, where they had worked for years, to start a new
Mason-Dixon Historical Park on her 30-acre property nearby in
Pennsylvania. As a corporation, that groups owns the name.
The MDHP Inc. was created to develop the property where Mason and
Dixon stopped their survey. Since that group decided to abandon
the original project, it may not be legal for that group to keep
the name, but the West Virginia Secretary of State was not
interested in pursuing the issue.
Nov. 5, 2002: Connie and Bob Ammons were required to vacate
the house but negotiated an extension of a few weeks. It was a
time of turmoil and the MDHP Inc. sued the county, claiming
ownership of their "improvements" which, under the poorly
constructed lease, they could take with them if they left the
park. The very concept was inappropriate, but the end result was
that the county paid several thousand dollars to settle the
Frontier Festival participants (vendors, demonstrators, Civil War
reenactors, Native Americans), and volunteers sympathetic to
former caretaker Ammons and chagrined at being displaced, continue
the festival at the Ammons property. Even after more than a
decade, people are confused about the existence of two Mason-Dixon
The irony is that the park is really just two pieces of property
in two states. It is not officially protected or designated
as an actual park. There is a need for a small interpretive
history museum about the Mason-Dixon Line and that period of time.
No museum should be located upstairs in the Red Barn. Many people
cannot go up the stairs. An elevator has been discussed but is not
practical. There is not room on the stairs for a chair lift.
Since 2001, caretakers have been Joe Ritter, Anita
Channing, and Bill Wilson. Then the job title changed, and
superintendents have been Holly Glisan, Justine McCoy (briefly),
Jessica Smith, Rachel Mitchell, and J.R. Petsko (current as of
Several years ago, the park received permission to sell reprints
of Mason and Dixon's Journal. It costs $26.50 (that includes 6%
2013: Monongalia County Commission changed boards at
its three parks to the status of "advisory" boards, and appointed
a five-member board to Mason-Dixon Historical Park.
NOTE: This is a brief but hopefully
complete summary and open to fact-finding but not to
opinion. Everybody has their own twist to the story.
Only documented facts are included here.