- Athens Banner, 21 Oct 1915, p. 5
County Line Dispute Between Gwinnett and Barrow is Warm
Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 20. – The county line dispute between Gwinnett and Barrow, over which a contest is to be heard by Secretary of State Phil Cook Friday, may eventually go into the courts, and likely will have to go back to the legislature to be straightened out by amendment. Under the law there is no appeal from the finding of the secretary of state, when he fixes a disputed county line, but this one appears to be rather complicated by the act defining the line of the new county of Barrow. Under the strict construction of the wording of the act creating the new county, the line defined in the act, and it is highly confusing in its wording, is a considerable distance east of the point where the people of the new county have sought to locate it. The Gwinnett county people hold that the act did not intend for the line to be run as far over into their territory as is claimed by the new county, and in that contention there is a territory of 6,030 acres involved.
When the argument first came up, a petition was presented to Governor Slaton to have an engineer run the line, under the act, and C. M. Strahan, engineer, of the University of Georgia, was assigned to that work. He has made a map and a report, in which he shows his own doubt of just what the act really means, by establishing two lines, one an arbitrary line under a construction which he puts on the constitutional amendment, and another which would be the line under a strict construction of the amendment as it is confusingly worded. His arbitrary line gives Barrow the large slice of disputed territory. In his report on the contention, Mr. Strahan says: “Recognizing the possibility of two interpretations of the constitutional amendment creating Barrow county, and being required by law to report a definite line, I have surveyed and marked line No. 1 (which is his arbitrary line) shown hereon as in my judgment the dividing line called for by the said constitutional amendment, between the counties of Gwinnett and Barrow.”
This line the Barrow county contingent is declaring should be the established line, but on the same map Mr. Strahan makes another report in which he says: “This line would be the line between Gwinnett and Barrow counties if it be held that the first clause of the description in the constitutional amendment is so seriously in conflict with existing facts as to have no meaning whatever, and that it is incompetent to give the words a meaning in the light of other official records and other relevant testimony as to intent.”
This is the line Gwinnett county contends is the proper one, and they hold that the surveying engineer has no right to attempt to construe the meaning of the act or intent of the legislation but it is merely his duty to have a run a line strictly under the description of the act.
In the hearing to be held Friday it will devolve upon the secretary of state to say what the wording of the act of the legislature means as it was passed, and on that basis to define the course of the dividing line. Once that decision is rendered the only change will be by legislative amendment to the act, though the case could be gotten into the courts by some property owner refusing to pay taxes in one county or the other and action be brought to force payment contrary to his position, in which case the court would have then to pass on the county line as defined in the act.