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  • The boundary has always been calculated using metric measurements - even by the United States.
  • The length of the boundary is 5526 miles (8891 kilometres), of which 3145 miles (5061 kilometres) are along land, 2381 miles (3832 kilometres) are along water.
  • There are 8000 monuments and reference points along the border.
  • The boundary between the newly formed United States and British North America was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. From 1818 to 1925, the line was further established. By the 1870s, it became clear that the border needed some maintenance, not to mention some fine-tuning as to who owned what. A major resurveying of the boundary took place between 1908 and 1924.
  • In Quebec, the highlands of the Lake Megantic region were sought out as the determining point for the border. The watershed that flowed eventually to the St. Lawrence River was Canadian. The waters that eventually made their way into the Atlantic were American.
  • This part of the boundary between Quebec and Maine is considered the most rugged territory east of the Rockies. Boundary markings are placed within line of site of the next one. Because the Megantic highlands are so uneven, there are many boundary markers. Comprising only 3 percent of the total boundary, there are 3386 markers in this section - over 60 percent of the roughly 5600 markers on land.
  • Since 1983, the International Boundary Commission has made use of the Global Positioning System, the satellite network that allows inspectors to determine the exact position of monuments that have been geared up with receivers - down to a few millimetres.
  • Tidy Border
    Good Neighbors

    Grooming    ONE DAY IN CLASS, a teacher told Carl Gustafson's daughter that Canada and the United States were separated by an invisible boundary. Not so, said the girl. If that was the case, her father had been working for a fantasy the last 30 years.
        Gustafson, an old Beebe boy, is a senior field officer with the International Boundary Commission, a body created in 1925 by the two countries to maintain a clear 20-foot-wide strip through brush, trees, swamp, and farmland along the 5526-mile border. The commission also maintains boundary markers along Canada's waterways.
    To the story...

    The Watchers
        He didn't actually book anyone when I rode along with the Vermont State Border Patrol this past summer. Senior agent Marty Hewson explained that the day had been exceptionally slow. After giving me a tour of the state border patrol office, which is fully equipped with the latest in forensic equipment, Hewson launched into stories of the force's glorious escapades... To the story...

    The Customs Service
    old Customs    The earliest, and only, Customs House east of St. John's, Quebec, was established at Stanstead Plain in 1821, and was situated in the old brick building just north of the Maples Hotel on Stanstead's main street. There was very good reason for the establishment of a Customs House at Stanstead, for it was on the stage route from New England to Montreal, one of the busiest and most important points of entry on the U.S../Canadian border. To the story...


    For those who have lived here all their lives, it is easy to take the border for granted. But for outsiders, the boundary holds great fascination, especially in the Three Villages, where Canadian and American communities brush up against each other, sometimes even crossing over. Witness, for example, how many times the Haskell Free Library and Opera House has been photographed and featured over the years in everything from National Geographic to "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"

    Familiarity may not exactly breed contempt in the case of local attitudes but it does create a somewhat blasé attitude to our cross-border existence.

    Take, for instance, our old Customs houses. They have moved around over the years and some still exist. In Rock Island, the old Main Street Customs is now a restaurant, fairly well preserved and retaining the Customs name (Restaurant La Vielle Douane) but offering little to visitors to explain that this was once the first stop when entering Canada at Rock Island.

    At least the restaurant retained the name. Up in Stanstead Plain, the region's first Customs house, next to the erstwhile Maples Hotel, has been virtually forgotten by history. This impressive and unique brick structure, built in 1821, goes back nearly to the very founding of the town and marks the early years of these villages as a major crossing point of people and trade. Yet the building, now apartments, is in a sorry state for one that played such an integral part in the establishment of this community.

    The Town of Stanstead and the Historical Society set out a few years back to install historical markers for points through the Three Villages. The first Customs House, however, was neglected. Would not some recognition of the historical importance of this building encourage its preservation? Perhaps the town, society, and owner can seek out some funding to give the old Stanstead Plain Customs house a facelift it deserves.

    The town has already shown interest in preserving its history through these panels, not to mention the purchase of the old Rock Island post office, which also housed a Customs House at one point. (A panel there offers a brief comment on cross-border surveillance.) Why not take it one step further?

    Canada Customs is a fairly bland and bureaucratic machine. Asking to commemorate the border-crossing system is in a way like asking to celebrate taxes. But as former Journal editor and publisher Lloyd Bliss notes, the evolution of the Three Villages is linked with the evolution of trade and transportation. Without Customs, our town would not be what it is. We should preserve this history before it goes the way of the old train stations.

    Ross Murray


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    posted 10/27/99