The Republic of Indian Stream: The Forgotten Country Between the U.S. and Canada

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Borders can get messier than you might expect—especially back in the days before GPS.

The 1783 Treaty of Paris, which settled hostilities between the brand-new United States and Great Britain, left the U.S.-Canada boundary line a little open to interpretation, at least in a certain corner of what is now New Hampshire. The treaty said the border would follow the "northwesternmost head of the Connecticut River," but there were several tributaries that potentially qualified for the description. The U.S. and Britain disagreed about which body of water counted, and as a result, a 280-square-mile patch of land between two tributaries was subject to taxation by both countries. The residents of the area eventually got fed up with paying double duty, and in 1832 they declared independence as the Republic of Indian Stream.

Although their initiative was only recognized by the United States and not Britain, they still managed to raise a militia, draft a constitution, elect their own government, and print their own stamps. But the country only lasted a few years, before a variety of international incidents led to its demise. Today, the area is known as Pittsburg, New Hampshire. For the full story, check out Half as Interesting's video below.

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The U.S.-Canada Border Runs Directly Through This Library

Though the Haskell Free Library and Opera House might not be as well known as the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty, it's undoubtedly one of America's most unique tourist attractions. Completed in 1904, the building is stationed directly between Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont, with the official U.S.-Canada borderline running right across the library's floor.

Martha Stewart Haskell and her son, Colonel Horace Stewart Haskell, both Canadians, built the building as a tribute to Mrs. Haskell’s late husband, Carlos. The family hoped that citizens from both countries would use it as a “center for learning and cultural enrichment,” according to the official Haskell Free Library website.

The Haskell is divided between the two countries. While the library’s official entrance is on the U.S. side of the building, most of the books are on the Canadian side. The opera house is similarly split, with most of its seats in the U.S. and its stage in Canada. As Atlas Obscura reported, it is often said that the Haskell is the only library in the U.S. with no books, and the only opera house in the country with no stage.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Andrew Mayer speaks to Nancy Rumery as he stands on the Canadian side of a line on the floor of the Haskell Free Library and Opera House that marks the border between the U.S. March 22, 2006 in Derby Line, Vermon
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Passports and other forms of identification aren’t required to cross from country to country in the library, though the Haskell’s website notes that the border inside the "building is real and it is enforced.” Visitors are expected to return to their side of the border after a visit; if they don’t, they risk possible detention and fines.

Even beyond the building's unique position, library director Nancy Rumery told CTV News that Haskell staffers—Canadian and American alike—consider the institution to be like any other library in the world.

"We're just trying to be the best library we can, and our community is made up of people from two different countries," she said. "We don't think of it in that big symbolic way that I think a lot of people do. These are all our neighbors and we do our very best to help them on their life-long learning journey."

This article originally ran in 2016.

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