George Washington Cowles.

Landmarks of Wayne County, New York online

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Livingston to aid him in negotiating with the Six Nations for the release
of their lands. This resulted in a council held on Buffalo Creek in July,
1788, which was the most memorable of all the later large gatherings
of the Indians. All of the famous chiefs of the Six Nations were
present in at least a semblance of their past glory ; but with all their
native sagacity, they were no match for the shrewd Yankees — the
unscrupulous Butler, the thrifty Oliver Phelps, the greedy Livingston,
and the rest. Rev. Samuel Kirkland, the noble old man, was also
present as an agent for Massachusetts. The council was generally
harmonious. The Indians were then ready to sell and not particular
about the price; this was a strong influence for harmony. But they
insisted that the west line of the territory to be sold should be along
the Genesee Ri,ver, while Phelps desired that it should run several
miles farther to the West. After days of discussion the Yankees out-
witted the Indians by a request from Phelps that the Indians should
let him have enough land west of the river for a mill-seat, or mill yard,
so that he might build a mill at the falls (now Rochester) which would
benefit the Indians and white men alike. It was a happy thought and
silenced the opposition by the natives. They would let him have his mill
yard ; and in response to an inquiry as to how much land would be
required for the purpose, Phelps replied that he thought a strip twelve
miles wide and extending from the site of Avon to the mouth of the
river would be about right. The Indians finally consented to this, and
thus disposed of about 200,000 acres — probably the largest mill-yard
the world has ever known ! The west bounds of the Phelps and Gorham
purchase have been thus described :

Beginning in the northern line of Pennsylvania, due south of the corner or point
of land made by the confluence of the Genesee River and the Canaseraga Creek ;
thence north on said meridian line to the corner or point aforesaid ; thence north-
wardly along the waters of the Genesee River to a point two miles north of
Canawagus village; thence running due west twelve miles ; thence running north-
wardly so as to be twelve miles distant from the western bounds of said river, to the
shore of Lake Ontario.

The reader will note the westward deviation in the line to include
the "mill-yard." The eastern line of the purchase has been described
and the accompanying map shows the whole purchase, with a black
line cutting out the northeast corner that ultimately went into the
formation of Wayne County. The names of many the purchasers of
lots shown on this map are of considetable interest in this connection.
The whole tract was surveyed into seven ranges, the lines running


north and south, and these into lots, as indicated on the map. When
Mr. Phelps reached home after the purchase was effected he reported
to his associates: "You may rely upon it that it is a good country; I
have purchased all that the Indians will sell at present; and, perhaps,
as much as it would be profitable for us to buy at this time."

The Phelps and Gorham purchase embraced, as estimated, about
2,600,000 acres; and the complaisant Indians left the fixing of the price
to be paid them to Butler, Brant, and Elisha Lee, Mr. Kirkland's
assistant. It was settled at $5,000 in hand and $500 annually forever.
This was equal to about half a cent an acre! "The reader need hardly
be told that the poor Indians never realized the sum promised by the
lessees, except in the form of bribes to some of their chiefs; and in
that form but a small portion of it. And yet the lessees, in one form
or another, realized a large amount for their illegal 'long lease.'" 1

The great sale to Phelps and Gorham had the effect of advancing the
market price of the "consolidated securities" to such a figure that the
association was unable to buy them to carry out their contract with the
State. As a consequence about two-thirds of the original purchase
was abandoned by Phelps and Gorham and reverted to the State of
Massachusetts. It was resold by that State in 1701 to Robert Morris,
for thirty thousand pounds New York currency, and a large part of the
tract on its western side was subsequently sold to a company of Dutch
and became the well known Holland Land Purchase. The remainder
constituted the "Morris Reserve. " The east line of the Morris purchase
commenced on the Pennsylvania line, forty-four and seventy-eight-
hundredths miles west of the pre-emption line and ran due north to an
elm tree at the forks of the Genesee River and Canaseraga Creek;
thence northerly along the Genesee River to a point two miles north
of Cannawagus village; thence due west twelve miles, and thence
north twenty-four degrees east to Lake Ontario. The line forming the
boundary between the Morris Reserve and the tract sold to the Holland
Land Company began on the Pennsylvania line twelve miles west of
the west line of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, and thence ran due
north to near the center of Stafford, Genesee County ; thence due west
2.07875 miles, and thence due north to Lake Ontario; this last named
line became and is known as the Transit Line, and crosses the county
of Orleans on the western line of the east tier of towns.

1 Turner.


The Morris Reserve was sold out in several large tracts. A tract
containning 87,000 acres, lying just west of the Phelps and Gorham
"Mill-Yard" was sold to Le Roy, Bayard and McEvers, and is known
as the "Triangle," in the western part- of Monroe county. Imme-
diately west of this, in Orleans county, is the "Connecticut Tract" of
100,000 acres, which was purchased by the State of Connecticut and
Sir William Pulteney, and divided between them. The Cragie tract
of 50,000 acres joins the Connecticut tract on the south, and immedi-
ately east of this is the "40,000 acre tract." Still other tracts were sold
off from other parts of the original purchase; but in none of them are
we directly interested in treating of Wayne County.

The title which Mr. Morris acquired from Massachusetts was merely
the right of pre-emption. The soil was still the property of the Seneca
Indians, and it does not appear that Mr. Morris attempted after his
purchase to obtain the extinguishment of the Indian title. If he did,
he failed; for the Indian title was not wholly extinguished until 1797.
In that year a council was held at "Big Tree" on the Genesee River,
near the site of Geneseo, and a treaty was made under which the
Indians sold to Morris all their remaining lands in New York west of
Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, excepting the following reservations:
Two square miles at Canawagus, near Avon; two squre miles at Big
Tree; two square miles at Little Beard's Town; two square miles at
Squakie Hill ; the Gardeau Reservation on the Genesee River, containing
four square miles; the Canadea Reservation, extending eight miles
along the Genesee River and two miles wide ; a reservation at Cat-
taraugus Creek and Lake Erie ; another on the south side of Cattaraugus
Creek; forty-two square miles on the Allegany River, and two
hundred square miles to be laid out parti y at Buffalo and partly at
Tonawanda Creek. At various times since then these reservations have
been sold to the State of New York, except a few insignificant tracts.

A short sketch of the military tract, a part of which went into the
formation of Wayne county, will close these brief notes of the early
territorial divisions in which readers of this work will be interested.

On the 16th of September, 1770, while war measures were under
consideration in Congress, the following resolutions were adopted:

That eighty-eight battalions be enlisted as soon as possible, to serve during the
present war; and that each State furnish their respective quotas in the following
proportions, viz: [The quota of New York was four battalions ; those of other States
may be omitted here.]

■- a


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That twenty dollars be given as a bounty to each non-commissioned officer and
private soldier who shall enlist to serve during the present war, unless sooner dis-
charged by Congress.

That Congress make provisions for granting lands in the following proportions to
the officers and soldiers, who shall so engage in the service, and continue therein
until the close of the war, or until discharged by Congress, and to the representatives
of such officers and soldiers as shall be slain by the enemy.

Such lands to be provided by the United States ; and whatever expenses shall be
necessary to produce such lands, the said expenses shall be borne by the States in
the same proportion as the other expenses of the war, viz. : to a colonel, 500 acres ; to
a lieutenant-colonel, 450 acres; to a major, 400 acres; to a captain, 300 acres; to a
lieutenant, 200 acres; to an ensign, 150 acres; to each non-commissioned officer and
soldier, 100 acres.

By an act of 12th of August, 1780, Congress also made provision for
land bounties for major-generals, 1,100 acres, and brigadier-generals,
850 acres.

When the war closed, in 1783, the New York Legislature undertook
the discharge of this obligation, and also granted gratuities in lands on
its own account. This was accomplished by a resolution granting
lands in addition to the before- mentioned bounties, in the following
proportions: To a major-general, 5,500 acres; to a brigadier-general,
4,250 acres; to a colonel, 2,500 acres; to a lieutenant-colonel, 2,250
acres; to a major, 2,000 acres; to a captain and regimental surgeon, each
1,200 acres; to each chaplain, 2,000 acres; to every subaltern and sur-
geon's mate, 1,000 acres; to every non-commissioned officer and private,
500 acres.

Another resolution contains the following provisions:

That the lands so to be granted as bounty from the United States, and as gratuity
from the State, shall be laid out in townships of six miles square; that each township
shall be divided into 156 lots of 150 acres each, two lots whereof shall be reserved for
the use of a minister of the gospel, and two lots for the use of a school or schools;
that each person above described shall be entitled to as many such lots as his bounty
and gratuity will admit of ; that one-half the lots each person shall be entitled to
shall be improved at the rate of five acres for each one hundred acres, within five
years after the grant, if the grantee shall retain the possession of such lots; and that
the said bounty and gratuity lands be located in the district of this State reserved for
the use of the troops by an act entitled, "An act to prevent grants or locations of the
lands therein mentioned, passed the 25th day of Juy, 1782. '^

1 These lands are bounded on the east by the country of the Oneidas ; north by
Lake Ontario ; on the west by a line drawn from the mouth of Great Sodus Bay,
through the most westerly inclination of the Seneca Lake ; and on the south by a line


On the -20th of March, 1781, the State Legislature passed an act
which further provided for the raising' of troops to complete the "line"
of this State in the United States service, and for two regiments to be
raised on bounties of lands, for the further defence of the frontiers of
the State. The land granted by these last mentioned acts was known
as "bounty" land, and those granted under the previous action of the
State government were known as "gratuity" lands.

The original acts granting these lands were afterward modified and
amended until finally it was ordered by an act passed February 28, 1789,
"that the commissioners of the land office shall be, and they are here-
bv authorized to direct the surveyor-general to lay out as many town-
ships in tracts of land set apart for such purpose, as will contain land
sufficient to satisfy the claims of all such persons who are or shall be
entitled to grants of land by certain concurrent resolutions,
which townships shall respectively contain GO, 000 acres of land, and be
laid out as nearly in squares as local circumstances will permit, and be
numbered from one progressively to the last inclusive; and the com-
missioners of the land office shall likewise designate every township by
such names as they shall deem proper."

The same act ordered the surveyor-general to make a map of these
townships, dividing each into one hundred lots of six hundred acres
each, and number them from one upwards. The same act ordered :

All persons to whom land shall be granted by virtue of this act, and who are en-
titled thereto by any act or resolution of Congress, shall make an assignment of his,
or her, proportion and claim of bounty or gratuity lands under any act or acts of
Congress, to the surveyor-general, for the use of the people of this State. It was
also provided that for all lands thus assigned, an equal number of acres should be
given by the State, and so far as possible in one patent, "provided the same does
not exceed one-quarter of the quanity of a township."

These grants were to be settled within seven years, or the lands
would revert to the State. A tax was laid upon fifty acres in one cor-
ner of each six hundred acre lot, of forty-eight shillings, as compensa-
tion for the survey, which tax was to be paid in two years, or the lot
would revert to the State and be sold at public auction. The proceeds

drawn through the most southerly inclination of the Seneca lake, embracing to the
country of the Oneidas 1,800,0(1(1 acres. It comprises, generally speaking, the coun-
ties of Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, Tompkins, and Seneca, and the east half, or
nearly so, of the county (if Wayne, and that part of Oswego county west of the Os-
wego River." — M acanley s History of Nev York, /Ssg.


of the sale were to be devoted to the payment of the expenses of the
survey and sale, and any surplus funds to be expended "in laying out
and making- roads in the said tract."

By an act of February 28, 1789, six lots in each township were re-
served, "one for promoting the gospel and a public school or schools,
one other for promoting literature in this State, and the remaining
four lots to satisfy the surplus share of commissioned officers not cor-
responding with the division of six hundred acres, and to compensate
such persons as may by chance draw any lot or lots, the greater part
of which may be covered with water."

It was provided also, "that whenever it appeared that persons ap-
plying for bounty or gratuity land, had received from Congress the
bounty promised by that body, or in case they failed to relinquish their
claims to such land, then the commissioners were to reserve for the
use of the people of the State, one hundred acres in each lot to which
such persons were entitled; designating particularly in which part of
said lot such reserved part was located." This action gave rise to the
term, "State's hundred," so frequently heard in connection with the
military tract.

At a meeting of the land commissioners held at the secretary's office
in New York city, on Saturday, July 3, 1790, there were present, "his
excellency, George Clinton, esq., treasurer; Peter T. Curtenius, esq.,

The secretary laid before the board maps of twenty-five townships,
made by the surveyor-general, Simeon De Witt. These townships
were named as follows and numbered from one upward in the order
given: Lysander, Hannibal, Cato, Brutus, Camillus, Cicero, Manlius,
Aurelius, Marcellus, Pompey, Romulus, Scipio, Sempronius, Tully,
Fabius, Ovid, Milton, Locke, Homer, Solon, Hector, Ulysses, Dryden,
Virgil, and Cincinnatus. To these were afterwards added the town of
Junius (Seneca county), to compensate those who drew lots sub-
sequently found to belong to the "Boston ten towns."

From Junius was taken Wolcott, in 1807; and Galen in 1812. Wol-
cott then included the present towns of Huron, Rose and Butler, and
Galen included the present town of Savannah. Galen was also added
to the military tract, to supply lands to those who belonged in the hos-
pital department of the army. This gave substantially what are now
the six eastern towns of Wayne county, to the military tract. The



town of Sterling, Cayuga county, was added to the tract to satisfy all
other unsettled claims.

( )n January 1, 17'.) 1, the commissioners began to determine claims
and ballot for individual shares. Ninety-four persons drew lots in
each of the townships, and the reservations before alluded to were
made. The adjustment of these individual claims was a source of al-
most infinite perplexity to the commissioners, as well as to the real
owners. On account of the many frauds committed respecting the land
titles, an act was passed in 1794, requiring all deeds and conveyances
executed prior to that time to be deposited with the county clerk of
Albany county, and such as were not so deposited were to be considered
fraudulent. But the trouble did not end here, and the courts over-
flowed with business relating to the claims. Soldiers coming in to
take possession of their lots often found them occupied by pugnacious
squatters, and discouraging and costly litigation followed. Finally the
inhabitants of the tract became so wearied and exasperated with con-
tinued contentions that, in 1797, they united in a petition to the Legis-
lature for a law under which the whole matter could be equitably ad-
justed. An act was accordingly passed appointing Robert Yates,
Tames Kent, and Vincent Mathews a Board of Commissioners, with
power to settle all disputes respecting the land titles. After laborious
investigation the vexatious differences were all adjusted with reason-
able satisfaction to all concerned.


Early Conditions in the "Genesee County" — Efforts of Great Britian to Retain the
Territory — Fears of Indian Invasion — Lack of Means of Communication with the
East — Charles Williams and his Work — Colony on the Genesee River — Quaker Settle-
ment at Jerusalem — Settlement at Canandaigua — List of Settlers West of Pre-
emption Line — Opening of Roads — A Journey Westward from Albany — Privations
of Pioneers.

Before proceeding to separately consider the pioneer settlement of
what is now Wayne county, a brief chapter may be profitably devoted
to early conditions in the great Genesee country as a whole.

The treaty of peace made at the close of the Revolutionary War did
not by any means end the difficulties and anxieties of the pioneers in


Western New York. The English king and his chief councillors could
scarcely realize, and were reluctant to admit, they were whipped by a
few weak colonists, and deprived of a prospectively vast and rich ter-
ritory. Their only solace lay in the confident hope that our efforts to
establish a free government would fail, in which contingency they be-
lieved they might retain the allegiance of the Indians and renew the
struggle. When this prospect began to fade away, they turned their
attention and hopes in another direction. By continuing their alliance
with the Six Nations and the Western Indians, with the latter of whom
the Americans were still fighting, the English would endeavor to re-
tain all of Canada that had been under French dominion, with Western
New York and the lake and Mississippi country. To carry out this de-
sign England, through various flimsy pretexts, disregarded the plain
terms of the peace treaty, withheld the posts on Lake Ontario and at
other points and steadily followed a policy of commercial outrage and
annoyance, influenced the Indians against us in our negotiation with
them, and in many other ways exhibited a spirit of revenge and irrita-
tion. Lord Dorchester, governor-general of Canada; his deputy -gen-
eral, Simcoe; Sir John Johnson, the notorious tory; Col. John Butler,
then living at Niagara and occupying a position of great influence with
the Senecas, all united in efforts to breed and continue hostility.
Valuable presents of goods and arms were made to the Indians to win
their favor and incite them against the settlers. "There was a long
period of dismay and alarm, in which the new settlers of the Genesee
country deeply and painfully participated; every movement in the west
was regarded with anxiety ; and the Senecas in their midst were, watched
with jealously and distrust. . . The hindrances to peace negotia-
tions with the Indians were vastly augmented by British interference.
Not content with encouraging the Indians to hold out, and actually
supplying them with the means for carrying on the war, on one occa-
sion they refused to let a peace embassy proceed by water via Oswego
and Niagara ; and on another occasion, with a military police, prevented
commissioners of the United States from proceeding to their destina-
tion — a treaty ground." 1

These shameful acts on the part of the British were opposed by
Colonel Pickering, Samuel Kirkland, and particularly by Gen. Israel
Chapin, who had been a brigadier-general in the Revolutionary War

1 Turner's Phelps and Gorham's Purchase, p. 295.


and was afterward appointed agent among the Six Nations. He was
fully qualified for the difficult office and took up his residence in Canan-
daigua. The season of 1794 opened amid gloomy prospects. Negotia-
tions with the western Indians had failed, and their atrocities on the
borders continued, while war with England was considered not improb-
able, and her agents continued their iniquitous work. General Chapin
did all in his power to quiet apprehension and keep the settlers from
fleeing from their homes. Throughout all the country west of Utica,
danger was feared. A boat load of stores belonging to Sir [ohn
Johnson, which he was attempting to take from Albany to Canada, was
waylaid at Three River Point, in Onondaga county, and captured; this
was in retaliation for British annoyance of lake commerce at Oswego
and in hatred of Johnson. The lawless act led to threats of an invasion
of Onondaga by a force which would land at Oswego, and rumors that
Johnson and Brant were organizing for that purpose.

But the time at last came when the settlers in Western New York could
pursue their peaceful avocations without fear. General Chapin made
arrangements for a council with the Indians to be held at Canandaigua
on the 8th of September, 1794; but it was far into October before the
Indians could be gathered, their final assembling being stimulated by
the victory of Wayne in the West. By this time, also, all anticipations
of war with England were quelled. In speaking of the treaty made at
this council, General Chapin said:

Since the Indians were first invited to it, the British have endeavored, if possible,
to prevent their attendance, and have used every endeavor to persuade them to join
the hostile Indians, till at last they found the Indians would not generally join in
the war; the governor told them in the council at Fort Erie that they might attend
the treaty, and if anything was given them by the Americans to take it.

A successful treaty was concluded and mutual pledges of peace and
friendship made which led to enduring quietude.

The great purchase made by Robert Morris in 1791 has been men-
tioned. Morris was the celebrated financier of the Revolution, his
personal credit alone being sufficient to carry Washington and his army
through the period of danger and distress. He was also the owner of
immense tracts of land, for the sale of which he had numerous agents
in Europe. His agent in London was William Temple Franklin, a
grandson of Benjamin Franklin, to whom he wrote after he had made
his purchase, that " Ebenezer Allan, the oldest settler in the country,
had assured him that hemp grows like young willows, it is so rampant


and strong, and that he has raised forty bushels of the finest wheat he
ever saw, and so of other articles in like abundance." In another letter
he assured his agent that he had the most flattering reports concerning
his lands in the Genesee country. At just about the time that Mr.
Morris had become thoroughly convinced of the fertility and beauty of
his great purchase, he received word from Franklin that he had sold it
to an "Association" consisting of Sir William Pultney, John Hornby,
and Patrick Colquhoun. Sir William Pultney was a London capitalist
and occupied a high position as a citizen and a statesman ; the other
two were also men of character and wealth. The price paid for what
was supposed to be about 1,100,000 acres, but was in reality, almost