In June of 1818, James Camak, an esteemed businessman and mathematics professor from the University of Georgia, was tasked with marking the Georgia-Tennessee border with James Gaines, who was also a mathematician.
Without any modern tools or the zenith sector he requested at his disposal, Camak was forced to rely on inaccurate astronomical tables and the stars. Without those tools, Camak marked the 35th parallel about one mile south of its actual location.
The measurements marked the corners of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. After completing the survey and observations, a stone was placed about one mile from the Tennessee River, marking what Camak assumed was the 35th parallel.
Some say the job was botched, but really the technology of the day played a huge role in the incorrect assessments. Camak was always skeptical of the charts and tables he used to conduct the survey. Around eight years later, he was tasked with surveying the boundaries of Alabama and Georgia. He discovered his original marker was farther south than the 35th parallel, and thus a new marker was placed farther north.
The new marker was dubbed the Camak Stone and was supposed to mark the corner boundaries of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. However, it was still placed in the wrong location, uphill from the true 35th parallel which lies in the middle of the river. Although both states’ constitutions recognize the 35th parallel as the official border, Tennessee has been accused of recognizing the Camak Stone as the official border, creating 68 miles of disputed territory each state feels belongs to them.
Over the years, several disputes have broken out among legislatures from Georgia and Tennessee over access to water in the Tennessee River. In 2007, the original stone marker was mysteriously stolen, it has since been replaced, however, it’s unclear what happened to the original marker .