Handly's Lessee v. Anthony - 18 U.S. 374 (1820)
U.S. Supreme Court
Handly's Lessee v. Anthony, 18 U.S. 5 Wheat. 374 374 (1820)
Handly's Lessee v. Anthony
18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 374
The boundary of the State of Kentucky extends only to low water mark on the western or northwestern side of the River Ohio, and does not include a peninsula or island on the western or northwestern bank, separated from the main land by a channel or bayou, which is filled with water only when the river rises above its banks, and is at other times dry.
When a river is the boundary between two nations or states, if the original property is in neither and there be no convention respecting it, each holds to the middle of the stream. But when, as in this case, one state (Virginia) is the original proprietor, and grants the territory on one side only, it retains the river within its own domain, and the newly erected state extends to the river only, and the low water mark is its boundary.
If a river, subject to tides, constituted the boundary of a state, and at flood the waters of the river flowed through a narrow channel round an extensive body of land, but receded from that channel at ebb, so as to leave the land it surrounded at high water, connected with the main body of the country; this portion of territory would scarcely be considered as belonging to the state on the opposite side of the river, although that state should have the property of the river.
In great questions which concern the boundaries of states where great natural boundaries are established in general terms, with a view to public convenience and the avoidance of controversy, we think the great object where it can be distinctly perceived, ought not to be defeated by those technical perplexities which may sometimes influence contracts between individuals.