What Happened to the NC-SC Boundary?

You would not think that a boundary between two states could get lost, but that is what happened to the line separating North and South Carolina. When residents, tax collectors, and others wanted to know the precise location of the boundary, no one had an answer. According to “New SC-NC Border Will Affect Some Residents” in The State,

South Carolina and North Carolina have been working quietly since 1994 on resurveying their border. To avoid having to get congressional approval of the border, which would cost more, the states had to retrace their original boundary from the 1700s.

Researchers searched for clues in state archives and country courthouses. In some border areas, stone monuments—many of which have been rediscovered—marked the boundary. In other stretches, the 18th-century surveyors marked the boundary on trees that were cut down or died long ago. Eighteen years and $980,000 later, the survey process is nearing completion, according to The State article. A few border residents may find themselves in a new state, which would bring new addresses, phone numbers, driver’s licenses, tax rates, and even utility companies.

National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday had a little fun by pointing out a culinary dilemma for Carolinians who find themselves on the wrong side of the border.

For residents and state officials, that’s meant headaches like who pays which state’s taxes, and which children go to which school districts and what kind of sauce will be on my barbecue? North Carolinians are known to turn up their noses at a plate of South Carolina’s mustard-based barbecue. And South Carolinians are equally disdainful of the vinegar sauce touted by their northern neighbors.

International boundaries, especially when they are disputed, receive a lot of attention in political geography. This story demonstrates that even state and local boundaries bring about important cultural, political, and economic implications.

—Tim Hill