Georgia is the southernmost state of the original 13 colonies that formed the United States. Named after King George II of Great Britain, the state of Georgia is located in the Southeastern US. It was the fourth state to join the Union, having gained admission in January 1788. However, it declared secession from the Union in January 1861 and became part of the Confederate States and was restored back to the Union in July 1870. Georgia is the 24th most extensive state in the US, covering an area of approximately 59,425 square miles. Georgia has well-defined boundary lines that are significant for a number of reasons including the ownership of the physical territory, the state law jurisdiction, and the rights of the state within the federal state. The determination of Georgia boundary lines has been surrounded by controversies, conflicts, and uncertainties. It shares its territories with five other states namely Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Alabama
The State of Georgia as Defined in the Charter
In 1732, James Oglethorpe and the Trustees were granted charters by King George II to establish the colony of Georgia. According to the charger, the colony consisted of all the land between headwaters of Savannah and Altamaha Rivers, including the eastern boundary formed by the Atlantic Ocean and the western boundary on the Pacific Ocean. The original boundary remained intact until 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War. The southern boundary of Georgia was then extended down to the northern boundary of East Florida. After the Revolutionary War in 1783, the boundaries of Georgia underwent major changes to what they are today.
The Border with Tennessee and North Carolina (Northern Boundary)
Tennessee and Georgia and North Carolina and Georgia are separated by the boundary located on the northern section of Georgia. Of all the Georgia boundary lines, the northern boundary between Georgia and Tennessee has been the most controversial. When Tennessee became a state, its southern border line was 35th latitude north. In 1817, the legislators from Georgia and Tennessee passed a motion to mark a common boundary. The defining of the boundary between the two states followed a separation of Alabama Territory from the Mississippi Territory. A surveying team from both states converged at Nickajack to try and locate the 35th latitude and mark it. James Camak, a Georgian mathematician and a member of the surveying team used his knowledge to where the line was. In 1818, he determined that the boundary line was not at Nickajack nor Tennessee River’s west bank but about one mile to the south of Nickajack. However, as of the modern measurement, the boundary line should be a mile to the north of Nickajack and at the center of the Tennessee River. This mistake still haunts Georgia to-date.
Challenges to Georgia’s Northern Boundary
Georgia lawmakers have voted to correct the northern boundary with North Carolina and Tennessee several times over the past 200 years but have failed to receive any response from the two states. Although the confusion over property lines along Georgia’s northern boundary has led to several lawsuits between property owners, there has never been any lawsuit between Tennessee and Georgia or Georgia and North Carolina. The 2008 drought in Georgia re-ignited further push to have the boundary line pushed to the right place since it would have given the residents of Georgia more access to the waters of the Tennessee River. In 2013, Georgia lawmakers passed another resolution to initiate a suit against Tennessee at the Supreme Court.
The Border with South Carolina (Northeast Border)
South Carolina is located in the southeastern region of the US and borders Georgia in the northeast across the Savannah River. The two states defined the boundary line between them in 1787 at the Beaufort Convention. The boundary line was defined as the most northern branch of the River Savannah from the mouth to the confluence of Keowee and Tugaloo Rivers. A reliable survey was conducted 25 years later that placed the northern branch of Tugaloo. However, the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina still remained poorly defined. The boundary line has been modified several times over the years because of the alteration along the Savannah River such as changes in the river course, erosion, and flooding. The most recent lawsuit between Georgia and South Caroline concerning the ownership of certain islands on the river was heard in 1990 by the Supreme Court.
The Border with Florida (Southern Boundary)
The state of Georgia shares its southern boundary with the state of Florida, a state in the US located in the extreme south of the contiguous states. Although Georgia has changed its boundaries several times since the founding of the colony in 1732, about 70 years passed before any of the lines were actually surveyed. Following the signing of the Pinckney Treaty in 1795, the US and Spain agreed on their borders. The southern boundary was surveyed by Andrew Ellicott who established that the line extended from the Mississippi River towards the east to the Chattahoochee River from where it runs down the river to its confluence with the Flint River. The survey of the next 155 miles was interrupted by the Seminole Native Americans who did not approve of the marking of the boundary. The unsurveyed Georgia-Florida boundary became a subject of numerous lawsuits for the next 60 years. Part of the area in dispute was marked by a mound of dirt referred to as Ellicott’s Mound. The dispute was finally settled in 1872 by the Congress and there has been no dispute since.
The Border with Alabama (Western Boundary)
Georgia and Alabama are separated by a boundary line located to the west of Georgia and the East of Alabama. In 1826, seven years after the admission of Alabama to the Union, the governors of the two states agreed to survey the western boundary which connects Nickajack and West Point. Alabama only sent commissioners to supervise the work, believing that it was the responsibility of Georgia to mark the line. Camak was again called to help in the survey. The western boundary starts from the confluence of the of Chattahoochee River and Flint River and runs north to the West Point from where it stretches for about 160 miles to Nickajack and continue to the 35th latitude north.