Kentucky – Tennessee Line

Our goal is to provide the information gathered by the surveyors working to retrace the Kentucky/Tennessee state line.  Please check back often as this is an on-going project.  If you would like to help retrace monuments, please contact Mike Ladnier.


Historical monument found under lake


In 1971 a book titled Four Steps West was written by author James W.
Sames III, documenting creation of the boundary line between Virginia
and North Carolina, and Kentucky and Tennessee, compiling most of his
findings from the state archives from each state.

In 1990, the Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors and the
Kentucky Association of Professional Surveyors formed a committee of
28 land surveyors from both states called the “Joint State Line
Committee,” with surveyors involved being volunteers. Their task was
to relocate as many of the remaining stone monuments as set by the
final complete survey of the TN/KY line as surveyed in 1859. Before
this time, the line had only been witnessed by hacked trees, which
were harvested as the wilderness was settled. The final survey, known
as the Cox and Peeples survey of 1859, was task to monument the
entire dividing line between TN/KY with large engraved stones every
five miles. The task took 43 men, just over 12 months, at a total
cost of $47,987.07. Mr. S.W. Stanley of Warren Co., KY was contracted
to prepare and place each stone at a cost of $20 each.

The report to the Governor of KY stated that 63 original large stones
were set along the TN/KY state line at 5-mile intervals along with 10
smaller supplement stones. Forty-five of the original 73 were
recovered between 1990 – 1992 by the committee and a data sheet for
each stone found was compiled and added to a reprint of the book Four
Steps West in 1992. Six stones lie in what is now Pickett County and
only five were recovered by the committee.

In 2005, members of the same committee volunteered yet again to
reorganize and retrace the remaining monuments, yet this time to
establish GPS coordinates on each one along with two reference
monuments so they could be reestablished if they were ever destroyed.
The technology of GPS at a survey grade was not easily accessible in
the early 90’s. I was contacted by the committee in 2009, because I
was a resident of Pickett County and a member of the Tennessee
Association of Professional Surveyors, to volunteer and was assigned
the five monuments in Pickett County that remained. In 2012 the
committee met to summarize our findings, at this time I was appointed
five more monuments which were not reestablished to the west of
Pickett County.

My parents, Hurlen and Rae Ann Whittenburg, were my survey crew for
this project since it was being done voluntarily and on the weekends
in the dead of winter. The committee never set a deadline for
finalizing the work due to the fact it was voluntary; therefore we
typically do one or two each year. This year we did the first one to
the west of Pickett County and in doing so I made a discovery. The
original committee may have looked in the wrong location (east of
Sulphur Creek on Dale Hollow Lake) for the missing monument. Now that
I had a monument to the east and west of the missing monument I
thought I would try to recreate its position based on the distance
from each stone I had found and mapped. The two stones I had located
were actually 13 miles apart, which left 3 miles of search area. I
decided to calculate five miles west of Stone #47, to begin my
search, surprisingly it put me on the boundary line between Pickett
Co. and Clay Co. which is east of Boys Island on Dale Hollow Lake. So
then I considered maybe the original U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
maps for the land acquisition of Dale Hollow Lake in 1942 could
possibly have a location on what is known as Stone #46, which at that
time would have been in place for 84 years. To my surprise it was
labeled as clear as day.

Utilizing my survey software I digitized the Corps map and orientated
it to the stones I had found to try and fine tune its location. Once
I did I was certain it was underwater at what is known as the Cook
Pass east of Boys Island. I concluded that what is known as Cook Pass
is most likely Coop Pass because the landowner at that location was
Pauline Coop. I wasn’t ready to give up just because it was
underwater, approximately +/- 30 feet by my calculations, so I
discussed the entire project and my current findings with local
business owner and fisherman Mitch Robertson who volunteered to scan
for the stone if I would furnish him the GPS location I had calculated.

We decided that when the water level dropped from summer pool and the
temperature was still comfortable, it would be the best time to
attempt a scan. Mitch found an object on his fish finder that was
within 20 feet of our calculated location, so we decided a diver
would be the best way to verify his finding. Tony Waters of Putnam
Co. Rescue Squad Dive Team came highly recommended and through a
mutual friend were acquainted. He vacations on Dale Hollow Lake and
said he had always wanted to find some part of history that no one
had found diving before.

Nov. 5th at approximately 12:30 Tony finally got his part of history,
as did myself and Mitch. Using a waterproof camcorder, Tony confirmed
in less than five minutes of diving what Mitch had found and I had
calculated. The stone was in 27 feet of water and had not been seen
since 1943. For the past 160 years it has held its position, and for
the past 75 years it had not been seen by anyone.

In my career as a surveyor over the past 18 years, I have yet to find
a monument that old. It was believed to be lost forever, yet
recovered by a surveyor, a fisherman, and a scuba diver. It is a
story we will tell for years to come, and most likely, our story,
will be our only reward for our treasure. In my opinion, those
stories are worth the effort. They keep us looking for that next
journey, and inspire younger generations to follow in our footsteps.

Just image what Cox & Peeples would say if you told them that stone
would one day be under 30 feet of water created by a dam that creates
electricity for thousands of people, “What the heck is electricity?”
most likely.