On July 1, 1676, William Penn, Gawen Lawrie (who served from 1683 to 1686 as Deputy to Governor Robert Barclay), Nicholas Lucas, and Edward Byllynge executed a deed with Sir George Carteret known as the Quintipartite Deed, in which the territory was divided into two parts, East Jersey being taken by Carteret and West Jersey by Byllynge and his trustees. The Deed divided New Jersey by a straight line from "the Northernmost Branch of said Bay or River of De la Ware which is in forty-one Degrees and forty minutes of latitude…unto the most southwardly poynt of the East syde of Little Egge Harbour."
Almost as soon as the Deed was signed, disputes arose over the exact dividing point of the two provinces. The first attempt at resolving the issue, the Keith line, was created by Surveyor-General George Keith in 1686, and runs North-Northwest from the southern part of Little Egg Harbor, passing just north of Tuckerton, and reaching upward to a point on the Delaware River which is just north of the Delaware Water Gap.
More accurate surveys and maps were made to further resolve property disputes. This resulted in the Thornton line, drawn around 1696, and the Lawrence line, drawn around 1743, which was adopted as the final line for legal purposes.
The Keith line was created by Surveyor General George Keith in 1686, when he ran the first survey to mark out the border between West Jersey and East Jersey. The Keith line was intended to clarify disputes resulting from the 1676 Quintipartite Deed, which created the two territories.
The Keith Line runs north-northwest from the southern part of Little Egg Harbor Township, passing just north of Tuckerton. The line was to continue upward to a point on the Delaware River which is just north of the Delaware Water Gap, but Keith was stopped in his survey by Governor of West Jersey Daniel Coxe, when Keith had reached the South Branch of the Raritan River in what is now Three Bridges in Readington Township.
Today the Keith Line is still visible and can be seen via a map of New Jersey's municipalities. Remnants of the most operative line Keith Line can still be seen in the county boundaries between Burlington and Ocean and between Hunterdon and Somerset, as well as in a number of municipal boundaries within Mercer and Ocean counties, and the alignment of Province Line Road in Mercer County.
In contemporary culture, the Keith Line has been cited as marking the approximate boundary between spheres of influence for New York City sports teams and Philadelphia sports teams; especially in the rivalry between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Coxe stopped Keith, claiming that his line veered too far to the west. To finish the border, Governor Coxe, and his East Jersey counterpart, Governor Robert Barclay met in London to set a compromise boundary following the South and North Branches of the Raritan River, the Lamington (or Black) River, a straight line to the head of the Passaic River, along the Pompton and Pequannock Rivers, and then a straight line northeast to New Jersey–New York border. The East Jersey proprietors disowned this line in 1695 and it was formally rescinded by the colonial legislature in 1718.
The Thornton Line was surveyed in 1696 in an attempt to replace the errors of the Keith line (1686) and its amendment the Coxe–Barclay Line (1688) which was disowned by the East Jersey proprietors in 1695. While it appears on Worlidge's map of the two Jersey colonies, it was never formally adopted.
The Lawrence Line was created by surveyor John Lawrence in 1743 and sought to offer final resolution to the division between the two proprietary colonies. Although West Jersey was merged back with East Jersey in 1702, the previous surveys were still disputed as drawn too far west. Lawrence was commissioned in 1743 to resolve the long-standing disputes.
Over a century later, in 1855, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted the Lawrence Line as the final arbiter in all property settlements in Cornelius and Empson v. Giberson, 25 N.J.L 1 (Sup. Ct. 1855).
Today, the legacy of the Lawrence line is extant in the boundaries of several New Jersey municipalities, including Walpack Township, Sandyston Township, Stillwater Township, Hampton Township, and Green Township in Sussex County in the northwestern region of the state. In 1995, a group of surveyors attempted to plot the true coordinates of the line using GPS.
- Snyder, John Parr, The mapping of New Jersey; the men and their art, Rutgers University, (Rahway, NJ 1973).
- Leaming, Aaron and Spicer, Jacob. The Grants, Concessions and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey. (Philadelphia: W. Bradford, 1758), 10.
- Snyder, John Parr. The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries: 1606–1968. (Trenton, New Jersey: Bureau of Geology and Topography, 1969).
- "Straddling the Jerseys on Province Line Road".
- "7,000-population town epicenter of Giants-Eagles rivalry". New York Daily News. January 10, 2009. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
- Worlidge, John. A New Mapp of East and West New Jersey being an exact survey Taken by Mr John Worlidge. (London, c. 1696).
- Pomfret, John E. The Province of East New Jersey, 1609–1702. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962), 277, 297–298. Whitehead, William. Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New Jersey. Volume 2. (Newark, NJ: Daily Journal Establishment, 1880), 135–136.
- Aun, Fred. "A Fine Old Line Across New Jersey" in Coordinate (Journal of the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors) Spring 1993, Volume 15, No. 1. Retrieved 3 May 2013.