Property and Boundary Mapping in Colonial New York
Copyright David Yehling Allen
The most distinguishing feature of British maps of colonial New York is their preoccupation with land ownership. This interest, or obsession, reveals itself in many ways. Numerous surveys of individual farms were carried out, many of which can still be found at the New York State Archives, at local government offices, and at libraries and historical societies. Maps were also produced showing larger land holdings, such as manors and estates. Conflicting boundary claims between New York and neighboring colonies were another favorite subject of British colonial mapmakers. To a lesser extent, town and county boundaries are also featured on these maps. This focus on land ownership and partition reflects the growth of population under British rule, as well as the characteristically English desire of poor men to become independent farmers, and of rich men to become landed gentry. Land was also the primary source of wealth during the colonial period, and land speculation became a popular form of gambling in colonial New York—playing much the same role as the stock market does today.
Much can also be learned about life in colonial New York through the study of the politics of land ownership, and cadastral (or property) maps are of considerable importance for—among others—genealogists, local historians, real estate specialists, environmentalists, and regional planners. The history of land ownership in early New York is murky, controversial, complex, and difficult to summarize. The related subject of the contentions between New York and neighboring provinces over boundaries is only slightly less complicated. The two subjects are interrelated—in part because some land grants were made in areas disputed between two colonies. Both subjects were embroiled in politics, charges of corruption, and conflicting special interests. Although a review of these subjects takes us rather far from cartography, land mapping cannot be understood without some knowledge of the politics of land ownership in colonial New York, which will be summarized in two sections of this chapter. For those who want to study this subject in detail, several specialized works are available.
The peculiar complexity of land policies in New York owes much to their Dutch beginnings, as well as to the remarkable weakness of English colonial rule in seventeenth-century New York. Unlike in New England or Virginia, the English in New York did not start from scratch in developing their land policies, and they had to make accommodations with what was already on the ground. This, along with other causes, prevented them from adopting as coherent and clear-cut a land policy as they might otherwise have done.
Something has already been said about land mapping under the Dutch. As we have seen, the Dutch in New York were not strongly interested in farming or estate ownership. Most of the Dutch farms that did exist were in the immediate vicinity of New Amsterdam, and to some extent near Esopus (later Kingston) and Albany. Only one patroonship (Rensselaerswyck) survived the Dutch period. Because the Dutch were primarily interested in the fur trade, they did not develop a system of land taxation comparable to the English quit rents, which stimulated the production of property maps in the Anglo-American period. In fact, the Dutch produced very few cadastral maps of any kind.
A different situation existed in areas that had been settled by the English during the Dutch period—mainly eastern Long Island, but also parts of Westchester County near Connecticut. Here the characteristic New England land system of small independent landholdings under town control prevailed. The township system continued to predominate in these areas throughout the colonial period, and was strongly defended by the English settlers. Even under Dutch rule, the New England model had considerable influence throughout New Netherland. The English towns under Dutch jurisdiction on western Long Island succeeded in obtaining most of the privileges of their New England neighbors. Furthermore, many Dutch settlers envied the self-government and the independent land holdings of their New England counterparts, and obtained from the West India Company at least some concessions trending in the same general direction.
Thus, there was already a good deal of tension and heterogeneity in land policies under the Dutch. When the English took over New Netherland in 1664, they were unable to make a clean sweep of things. In spite of its pretensions to autocracy, the government imposed on the province by Charles II, King of England, and his brother James, the Duke of York (later King James II), was in reality quite weak. At home, the royal government was poorly funded, and had to avoid policies that might reignite the flames of the recent Civil War. Partially because of these circumstances, the royal governors in New York were not backed by a strong administrative or military presence. Consequently, they were unable to enforce unpopular measures, and could not afford to antagonize either the local Dutch or the New England settlers. Accordingly, they wisely adopted a policy of compromise and conciliation. Existing Dutch land grants were confirmed, and the troublesome New Englanders on Long Island were grudgingly allowed to keep their land system, along with most of their independent ways.
The primary role of the royal government in matters of land policy was granting new estates. The English adopted some of the Dutch practices for granting land, such as requiring that it be purchased in advance from the Indians. The general procedure for obtaining a land grant remained much the same throughout the British colonial period. In theory, a land patent could be obtained by following these steps:
Predictably, things rarely worked out so neatly. To begin with, the requirement to purchase the land from the Indians was frequently ignored, or else the purchase was carried out by fraud, or it may have been disputed by different groups of Indians. The boundaries of purchases were often so vaguely defined that nobody knew what they were. In some cases, newly granted estates had already been sold to somebody else. Or else they may have been in an area under dispute by two colonies. Sometimes no survey was made—or it was incomprehensible. On many occasions, the necessary fees were not paid. Most early land titles had several of these flaws.
Nonetheless, granting land could be lucrative for the governor and other royal officials. It was also a way to buy or reward political allies. In theory, land was also a continuing source of income for the crown and its servants. After purchasing land, owners were expected to pay an annual “quit rent.” Although quit rents were in part a symbol of feudal subordination, they were mainly a kind of land tax, and a potential source of income for the provincial government. The quit rent was fixed under the so-called “Duke’s Laws” (promulgated by Governor Nicolls in 1665) at 2s.6d annual rent per hundred acres, but this provision was rarely enforced. Actual quit rents were set arbitrarily and at various levels; some huge tracts of land were charged nominal rates, which might be measured in bushels of wheat or animal skins. The most notorious example was the Dellius Patent, in which the minister of the Dutch reformed church at Albany received a grant of 620,000 acres in exchange for a quit-rent of one raccoon skin per year. Quit rents were often ignored and went uncollected for years. The setting and collection of quit rents was a major bone of contention throughout colonial period, and a significant cause of the American Revolution. If properly enforced, the collection of quit rents could have destroyed New York’s large landed estates. Since they could be collected without the approval of the provincial Assembly, they were also a form of “taxation without representation,” which could be used to fund the royal government. As we will see, the efforts of royal officials to assess and collect quit rents were a driving force behind their efforts to draw up accurate property maps.
It should be noted that quit rents and processing fees may have significantly inhibited the settlement of colonial New York. Armand La Potin has calculated that "the surveyor's fees alone could amount to well over two pounds on the average five hundred acre tract," and that the total cost of confirming a land patent on a farm of that size would probably have been over seventeen pounds, which is approximately twice the annual income of such a farm.Some of the early land patents theoretically conveyed manorial privileges, such as the right to maintain courts leet and baron, but by and large these privileges remained a dead letter, and there was little practical difference between manors and other large estates. Entail never became firmly established in New York. Nonetheless, large land-owners often preferred to lease out their lands to tenants, rather than sell land outright. This system of land ownership contrasted with that of New England, and has been the subject of much criticism and controversy from colonial times to the present. Many historians have attacked the system for discouraging settlement, and for being aristocratic and un-American.
In spite of the widespread criticism of New York’s manors, the situation was much more complicated than it at first appears. Critics of New York's land system included royal officials like Cadwallader Colden, who saw the large estates as threats to the royal prerogative. Some recent writers, especially Sung Bok Kim and Armand La Potin, have pointed out that there were other reasons why colonial New York had difficulty attracting settlers. Much of the farm land in New York was of poor quality; it was often exposed to Indian attack; and it was difficult to purchase because of the cumbersome procedures and expensive processing fees. These same authors have maintained that manorial rents were quite reasonable, and that the system of tenant farming allowed farmers without capital to establish themselves. Furthermore, it appears that the difficulty of buying small farms in colonial New York has been greatly exaggerated—farms that were for sale often went without takers for the reasons noted above.
Whatever one's evaluation of the overall consequences of New York's land system, it was certainly chaotic, and it opened the door to various problems and abuses. Usually patentees were expected to settle their lands within a specified period of time, or else forfeit their property. This provision was also frequently ignored, and huge tracts of land went both untaxed and uninhabited for decades. Some of these land patents were vacated, but serious abuses continued throughout the colonial period because of a mixture of political opposition, patronage, corruption, and bureaucratic sloth. Land grants offered many opportunities for corruption and for litigation. Surveyors' commissions, processing fees, and legal fees provided lucre for surveyors, attorneys, and government officials. A number of New York’s colonial governors were impoverished aristocrats sent out to the colonies to recoup their fortunes. It was generally expected that they and other officials would use their offices to make profits required to support the expansive life style of a gentleman, and they found many opportunities to do so in New York’s land system.
The land policies followed by individual governors varied greatly. Their grants ranged in size from small parcels a few acres in extent to huge manors covering hundreds of thousands of acres. These grants were made at irregular intervals and for various reasons. The prevalence of very large estates is characteristic of colonial New York. With the exception of Rensselaerswyck, none of these are real “patroonships” dating back to the Dutch period, although several of the largest estates were granted to people of Dutch descent. There are a variety of reasons why many of New York’s colonial governors tended to favor large land grants. Several governors sincerely believed that large estates would be better able to attract settlers to the under-populated province than small parcels of land offered to individuals. They reasoned that estate owners could pay for the transportation of new settlers, provide land on easy terms, and make available such infrastructure as roads and grist mills. Placing land grants in unpopulated frontier areas was also a way to shore up New York’s boundaries against neighboring provinces and the French. In other cases, liberal land grants were seen as a way to win friends and influence people. Political allies could be rewarded with estates, and foes could be bought off with the same reward. In some areas—especially on Long Island—estates seem to have been created as a way to develop countervailing powers to keep in check troublesome town governments. Last, and usually not least, land grants offered numerous opportunities for royal governors to feather their own nests through such devices as processing fees and “gifts” of land from grateful grantees. Let us take a chronological look at how this system operated.
The first land grants were made by governors Richard Nicolls (1665-1667) and Francis Lovelace (1667-1674). They show a distinct geographical pattern, being concentrated on eastern Long Island and in Westchester County. They were clearly intended both to reward friends and supporters, and to serve as political counterweights to the independent communities of settlers from New England in these areas. Another function of these early manors appears to have been to provide a form of government for English settlers that did not live in established townships. They also served to fend off land claims by Connecticut to parts of both Westchester County and Long Island. Most of these early land grants were relatively small. Nicolls granted manorial rights to Gardiner's Island, Fisher's Island, and Shelter Island off eastern Long Island; and to Pelham Manor in Westchester County. Lovelace created Fordham Manor in Westchester County and Fox Hall near Kingston.
Following the brief Dutch restoration, the next royal governor was Edmund Andros (1674-1682). He made no land grants whatsoever. Andros was one of the more capable and autocratic royal governors. Although his motivation is unclear, he seems to have been aware of the risk to royal authority of creating a class of powerful landowners, which made him the first of several "imperialist" governors who endeavored to strengthen the central government at the expense of the large landowners. He allied himself with the New York City merchants, who at this time were distinct from the estate owners.
Andros' successor, Thomas Dongan (1682-1688), reversed course, and was responsible for setting up or strengthening some of New York’s most important grants. The status of Rensselaerswyck (about 850,000 acres), which was uncertain, was clarified and confirmed by Dongan, who also granted the Rensselaer family the 250,000 acre Claverack Manor for good measure. Along the east side of the Hudson River, the Rumbout Patent was given out in 1685, and Livingston Manor (160,000 acres) was patented in1686. In Northern New York, the Saratoga Patent (150,000 acres) was given out in an effort to strengthen the frontier against the French. In addition, Dongan made grants for a number of smaller manors and estates, including Lloyd's Neck on Long Island. Dongan was one of the governors who charged only trivial quit rents for his new patents. He received a variety of fees and kickbacks, as well as several "voluntary gifts," in return for at least some of his patents, and he was willing to turn a blind eye to some spectacular frauds. A notable case in point is Livingston Manor. In words of Robert Livingston's historian: "Dongan took two widely separated tracts—the Jansen's Kill patent for 2,000 acres on the Hudson and the Taconic grant of 600 acres on the Massachusetts border—and treated them as contiguous, converting them into a unified manor. The new patent granted no additional lands; it merely confirmed the earlier titles. Yet when the Manor was finally surveyed years later, 2,600 acres had mysteriously become 160,000!"
In addition to enriching himself, Dongan's purpose was clearly to win friends and gain political influence. Many of his grants went to wealthy merchants or to others with political connections. His policy was to strengthen and ingratiate himself with the local men of property. Characteristically, he increased quit rents for the townships on Long Island in exchange for confirmation of their land patents, while he charged the large estates only trivial quit rents. It is possible that his policies were also designed in part to control the newly formed General Assembly, which was created in 1683 following instructions from the Duke of York. Several of the manors were represented in the Assembly, and people of wealth were in various ways able to dominate that body (which met three times between 1683 and 1687, and was then revived permanently in 1691).
The year 1688 marked a significant turning point both for Great Britain and New York. Britain experienced the “Glorious Revolution,” in which James II (the former Duke of York) was deposed and replaced by the Protestants William and Mary. This far-reaching event, which has been seen as a victory for political liberalism and constitutional government, was attended by the birth of the Whig and Tory factions in British politics. An event of this magnitude was bound to have repercussions in British North America, and it did. In New York, it became intertwined with a curious happening known as “Leisler’s Rebellion.” To simplify a complex story, the followers of Leisler saw themselves as supporters of the new order in Britain. They were mostly smaller merchants, and were also opponents of the owners of large estates in New York. Although their leader, Jacob Leisler, was executed in 1691, his followers continued to be a major force in New York politics. Respectably middle class, they had many ties with New England and with Whig politicians in Britain. Leisler’s rebellion marks the beginning of a period of bitter and vindictive strife between the owners of large estates and their more Whigish opponents. It is against this background that the gyrations in land policy of the next few decades need to be viewed.
The next royal governor, Benjamin Fletcher (1692 to 1697), was a political ally of the large estate owners, and his policies resembled those of Dongan. Fletcher saw the Leislerians as a threat to royal control of the province, and was pleased by the willingness of several of the estate owners to provide loans to help finance New York’s role in a war with the French (King William’s War), which broke after the Glorious Revolution. He rewarded his friends generously with major land grants, including: the Evans Grant (300,000 acres in Ulster County); the Manor of St. George in Suffolk County; the Dellius Grant (840 sq. miles north of Albany); Philipsburg Manor, Cortland Manor, Morrisania (all in Westchester County); Philipse’s Highland Patent north of the Cortland Manor; and a number of small grants along the Hudson River to members of the Schuyler family. Thus, by the end of Fletcher’s governorship, families like the Rensselaers, Livingstons, Schuylers, Philipses, and Van Cortlandts were already well established on the New York scene. Members of these families intermarried and they formed one of the most important forces—possibly the most important force—in the politics of the province prior to the American Revolution. These families, which became increasingly allied to the large merchant families, would remain prominent throughout the colonial period and beyond.
A remarkable change of policy took place with the appointment of Richard Coote (Lord Bellomont), who was governor from 1698 until his death in 1701. Bellomont, whom we have already encountered as the patron of Wolfgang Römer, was an unconventional and energetic governor. Even before his arrival in New York, he was a critic of Fletcher, and had close links with the increasingly ascendant Whig politicians at the British court. Bellomont turned out to be a strident partisan who allied himself with the Leislerians, and he regarded Fletcher’s “extravagant grants” as corrupt and the source of much evil. He resolved to undertake a frontal attack on the manors and other large landholdings and “break” their patents. His ideal was a colony made up of small to medium-sized farmers, who would support the government with their quit rents, and be more politically manageable than the wealthy estate owners. Bellomont's plans for a social restructuring of New York bordered on the revolutionary, and they drew the predictable response from large landowners and their political allies. Bellomont’s policies were largely thwarted by opposition in both New York and England, and they came to an end with his sudden death in 1701.
It should be noted that Bellomont’s ideas resemble those of a number of later British colonial officials, most notably Cadwallader Colden. They cannot be understood in terms of such conventional political categories as Whig and Tory, or liberal and conservative. If they must be given a label, they might be described as “monarchical-bureaucratic" or "imperialist." These officials envisaged a rational, well-run monarchical state. They thought that the best interests of the colony and the mother country would be realized by the king working through his officials and army on behalf of the pubic welfare. The primary beneficiaries of these policies would be a large class of freeholders or yeoman farmers (somewhat anticipating the Jeffersonian ideal). Such instruments as elective assemblies were considered to have a place in governance, but royal officials were to hold in check both corrupt special interests and the excesses of the ignorant populace. In certain respects, these views resemble those of some of the political theorists of the Stuart monarchy, such as James Harrington, and of eighteenth-century advocates of “enlightened despotism” on the continent.
Bellomont did succeed in vacating several of Fletcher’s grants, including the Evans Grant and the Delius patent with its infamous quit rent of one raccoon skin . In addition, he persuaded the Board of Trade to issue, or reaffirm, instructions to prevent abuses in the future. Once again, the rate for quit rents was established as two shillings six-pence per hundred acres. The amount of land to be granted to one person was limited to two thousand acres, as it had been previously (at least on paper). Later (in 1753) that amount would be reduced to one thousand acres. Requirements were imposed that unsettled grants be vacated, and efforts were made to keep the Indians from being defrauded. Had these rules actually been enforced, the colonial history of New York would have been very different, but, predictably, none of these laws and regulations had much effect. Often they were ignored, or they were circumvented by such subterfuges as establishing paper "partnerships" to purchase large blocks of land. Individual governors or other officials frequently continued to ignore or encourage violations of these rules, since they could profit by turning a blind eye and holding out an open palm. The main result of Bellomont’s crusade was to heighten the controversy surrounding the large estates.
Bellomont’s policies were reversed by the next governor, Edward Hyde, Vicount Cornbury (1702-08). Lord Cornbury's main claim to fame is as New York’s transvestite governor, but the story of his cross-dressing has been discredited by recent research. Cornbury’s alleged transvestitism appears to have been a political smear concocted by his numerous enemies, who were mainly Leislerians antagonized by his land policies. Cornbury basically reverted to the policies of Fletcher: he allied himself with the large landowners, and resumed the practice of giving out “extravagant” grants to reward his friends and political allies.
Many of Cornbury’s land grants were on the western side of the Hudson River. The largest of his patents in the Hudson Valley region are the Beekman Patent (100,000 acres in Dutchess County, 1703), the Wawayanda Patent (356,000 acres in Orange County, 1703), the Minisink Patent (more than 200,000 acres in Orange and Ulster counties, 1704), and the Cheesecocks patent Orange County (1707). Taken together, they included almost all of the unpatented land south of Albany. Cornbury's most bizarre patents were in more remote areas, and reflected the rise of land speculation as a primary motive for acquiring tracts of unsettled territory. One of these was the Oriskany Patent in the western Mohawk River Valley. This patent for more than 30,000 acres was made to five partners in 1705. It was in a completely unsettled area still controlled by the Indians, did not include a settlement clause, and required a quit rent of only ten shillings per acre. Another spectacularly controversial land grant was the Kayaderosseras Patent (1708), which consisted of 406,404 acres north and west of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, including most of modern Saratoga County. It was so full of legal defects and ambiguities that it kept attorneys and surveyors occupied until well into the nineteenth century. Last, but definitely not least, is the Great Hardenburgh Patent of approximately 1.5 million acres. Made in 1708, it covered almost all of the Catskill Mountain area.
The story of the Hardenburgh Patent is worth recounting briefly as an example of the problems and abuses associated with these large land grants. This huge tract of land has been subjected to painstaking research, which has thrown considerable light on the murky issues surrounding colonial land politics in New York. Only the highlights of its history will be touched upon here as the reader can find the details of this astonishing story elsewhere.
The Hardenburgh Patent was granted in 1708. Like many of Cornbury's patents, it was made without a prior purchase from the Indians or a survey of its boundaries. The description of its bounds in the patent reads as follows:
This description was so vague that it left the boundaries of this patent uncertain, but it covered an area of roughly 1.5 million acres (approximately the size of Rhode Island). As was often the case with large land grants, the Hardenburgh Patent was made to a consortium of partners (seven in this case). The use of such consortia (which sometimes included silent partners and dummies) was a common device to evade the limitation of no more than 2000 acres being granted to any single person. Admittedly 1.5 million acres divided by seven works out to considerably more than 2000 acres per person, but the text of the patent does not mention its acreage. This omission was doubtless made in part to avoid drawing attention to this little problem, but also because the land was unsurveyed, and nobody knew exactly how many acres the tract included. The seven partners were a collection of politicians, lawyers, businessmen, and relatives of one Johannis Hardenbergh, a merchant and trader who lived in Kingston. A remarkable feature of this consortium was that it included an eighth person, a “silent partner” in the person of the Surveyor General, Augustine Graham. As Surveyor General, Graham was legally prohibited from purchasing land grants, but a way was found to get around this limitation through a legal device known as “lease and release.” It is not known whether Lord Cornbury himself profited directly from this purchase, although at the very least he would have received the usual fees.
It took more than a century to resolve the problems created by this patent. In 1746, most of the land was finally purchased from the Indians. The patent was actually surveyed in several stages starting around 1740. (It was not completely surveyed until the middle of the nineteenth century.) There were numerous changes in the ownership of the land, and in the middle of the eighteenth century about a third of the patent fell into the hands of the acquisitive Livingston family. As the boundaries of the patent overlapped those of several neighboring patents, legal disputes arose and more surveys were made. Very little settlement actually took place in this area until after the Revolution. Eventually most of the land was broken up into small tracts. In spite of the bizarre history of this huge tract of land, it appears that the overall course of settlement and development of this land took place much as it would have under more normal circumstances.
The Hardenburgh Patent exemplifies problems that appeared throughout much of colonial New York. Although this Patent is an extreme example, several other early land grants have equally bizarre histories. By the end of Cornbury’s governorship in 1708, the atmosphere surrounding the large estates was so heated that the land system became a staple of New York politics through the American Revolution and into the nineteenth century.
Cornbury's departure in 1708 marks something of a turning point. His immediate successors, particularly Robert Hunter (1710-1719) and William Burnet (1720-1728) were among New York's most capable colonial governors, and they began a series of attempts to correct the worst abuses of the land system. Hunter is also to be credited for appointing Cadwallader Colden as New York's Surveyor General (although his appointment only took effect under Burnet in 1720). In spite of his numerous imperfections and foibles, we will see that Colden made a prolonged and partially successful effort to reform New York's land system. Of particular concern to the subject of this book, the policies he pursued led to the mapping of most of the large estates in the colony.
The history of land mapping in New York has to be understood in the context of the chaotic history of the land “system” described above. A respectable number of land maps were produced in the years prior to 1720, but most were of relatively small tracts of land up to a few thousand acres. Only a few of the large land grants given out in this period were actually mapped, and (as we have seen) some were not even surveyed. Most land grants were eventually surveyed, but the early surveys were not usually accompanied by maps. The earliest maps showing the boundaries of most of these large tracts appeared around the middle of the eighteenth century. There is no absolute necessity for surveys to be accompanied by maps, and we have seen that land surveys from the Dutch period almost never included them. The boundaries of a piece of land can always be described in words, and a map is basically just another way of presenting the same information.
However, there were advantages to having property maps, which explains why they became increasingly common during the colonial period. A written description of the boundaries of a piece of land is cumbersome to read, and difficult to interpret unless one is physically present on the property and able to compare the description with the features actually on the land. Often, written surveys from the colonial era include features such as piles of rocks or blazes on trees, which disappear or become impossible to identify over time. With the aid of a map, it is possible at a glance to see the size and shape of a piece of property, and the location of any landmarks defining its edges. Maps can identify or prevent truly spectacular errors. An example is a survey of a tract of land in Flatbush made by Jaques Corteljou. As previously mentioned, Corteljou and other surveyors of the Dutch period almost never made maps of the lands they surveyed. Corteljou’s original survey of this property was made using “a rose compass, made upon ye meridian of Holland," which caused the property lines of lots in this tract, which were supposed to be evenly spaced at twenty-five feet apart, to diverge at various angles. It was not until maps were later made of this area that these boundary lines were finally straightened out.
Maps have several other advantages over written descriptions of property boundaries. Maps can show the boundaries of adjoining properties, and a person looking at several property maps of a particular area can quickly and unambiguously identify overlapping grants and areas that have not yet been granted. Also, because of their abstraction, geometrical lines on a piece of paper can be much more precise and definitive than natural landmarks, provided they are tied in to one or more fixed and easily identifiable points. Thus, maps could do much to remedy the problems created by boundaries defined by shifting stream banks, by heaps of stones, or by lines of blazed trees, which might have been chopped or burned down.
Thus, maps became critical tools for property owners, who needed to define the borders of their lands before selling, subdividing, or developing them. Last but not least, cadastral maps were indispensable administrative tools. As we have seen, quit rents and other property taxes were potentially important sources of income for governments. Without having reasonably accurate maps showing who owned which acres, it was practically impossible to impose and collect land taxes, which largely explains why British officials struggled throughout the colonial period to produce better property maps.
One reason for the slow development of property mapping was the lack of professionally trained surveyors. Most colonial surveyors were self taught, or learned through working with other surveyors. Their knowledge of mathematics was usually rudimentary, and they possessed few surveying instruments. They were often able to measure distances fairly accurately using chains mounted on poles, although even this was difficult and unreliable in heavily wooded areas and other difficult terrain. Angles were measured mostly by using pocket compasses. Usually no effort was made to correct for the magnetic variation of the compass, or to take note of the deflection of the needle caused by large bodies of iron ore. Compass cards were not yet generally divided up into 360 degrees, and it is not unusual to see on early property maps notations such as "west southwest a little more southerly." Corners and changes in the direction of boundary lines were usually marked by landmarks or by blazes on trees. All of this left much room for error and confusion. As the eighteenth century progressed, the training of surveyors gradually improved, and special surveyors’ compasses (called "circumferenters") were more widely used. The development of property mapping skills in the course of the eighteenth century will be described below.
The early maps accompanying land surveys were crude, and often showed only boundary lines. Usually such features as creeks and river banks were shown when they defined a part of the boundary. Occasionally, surveyors added other features to their maps—sometimes apparently for reasons of amusement or vanity. Houses, roads, and topographic features appear on a small number of early property maps, and where these things are shown, they can be quite illuminating about early conditions and map making. For example, the map of the area around Hempstead Harbor shows, in addition to some topographic features, several European houses, along with a corral and three structures that are probably Indian wigwams (Figure 5.1).
Figure 5.1. Philip Welles, "Draught of a Tract of Land Lying on the East Side of Cow Neck on Long Island," 1683. New York State Archives.
But detailed property maps are scarce before 1720. Even large estates went completely unsurveyed for decades, although it is possible that some maps may have disappeared without any record of their existence. Rensselaerswick is a case in point. One of the largest and best established of the old manors, we have seen that it was mapped as early as 1632. But the next recorded map of Rensselaerswick does not appear to have been made until1767. I have been able to identify only a handful of maps of land patents and manorial grants made prior to 1720. These include a 1685 map of Lloyd Neck on Long Island; a map of the Minisink Patent (Orange County) dating from around 1703; A map of the Rambout Patent (Dutchess County) dated 1693; and an exceptionally detailed map of Livingston Manor made in 1714 (Figure5.2). As a rule, only later in the eighteenth century did maps of manorial grants become more common and show much detail, such as the location of houses and the names of individual homeowners. Of course, during this early period most of these manors were so sparsely settled that there was little in the way of human geography to show. In spite of their relative scarcity, maps of large estates are the most common form of property mapping in the early colonial period. The estate owners had enough money to pay for extensive surveys, and there is a certain sense of satisfaction to be obtained from contemplating one's property on a map.
Figure 5.2. Detail of John Beatty, Map of Livingston Manor Anno 1714. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
There are practically no early maps of land allotments for the townships on Long Island and elsewhere. Many maps turn up in libraries and archives showing property distributions in early towns, but almost all are reconstructions from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries based on real estate records. There is good reason to suspect that landowners and town authorities deliberately avoided mapping their lands to facilitate tax evasion. Township dwellers were assessed taxes based on their land allotments, and, as a contemporary observer complained in 1681: "most of the patents granted in former Governors time make no mencôn of any Quantity of Acres, especially on Long Island, where most is granted in Towne shipps without Quit Rent or any other rent..." 
The period prior to 1720 also showed almost nothing in the way of detailed property mapping for the cities of New York and Albany. As we have seen, early maps of these cities were sometimes sufficiently detailed to show individual buildings and street grids, but there are very few examples of what we would describe as real property maps. One of the exceptions is a map dated 1696 by New York City Surveyor James Evetts entitled "A Map or Chart of a Certain Tract of Land Commonly Call’d the Shoemakers Land."
There are various reasons why there is such a poor showing of property maps during this period. The unsettled character of the land explains a lot, as does the wild and wooly character of life on the frontier (which then included most of modern New York). Another explanation for the dearth of maps is the previously mentioned shortage of skilled surveyors, combined with the expense of surveying. In the last half of the seventeenth century, skilled surveyors were not completely lacking. In the 1670s, Jacques Corteljou and Robert Ryder were among the best surveyors of their time. Somewhat later, Phillip Welles (or Wells), who was Surveyor General of New York in the 1680s, was at least aware of such things as magnetic declination, and produced reasonably accurate surveys of limited areas, at least judging by his existing work (almost nothing is known about his life). His successor, Augustus Graham, surveyor general from 1691(at the latest) to 1719, was apparently inefficient, and neglected to gather papers and make surveys. Lord Bellomont (admittedly not the most impartial judge of men) remarked of him: "he is a most profligate man, often drunk, and then his common exercise is to break glass windows and disturb all the town in the night." When Cadwallader Colden later became surveyor general in 1720, he complained that there were no maps of any kind in Graham's office.
From what was said in the first section of this chapter, it might be thought that all of the land in New York had been given away by the end of Cornbury's governorship. Indeed, in the first decades of the eighteenth century, contemporaries, including Governor Hunter and Cadwallader Colden, complained that practically all the land in the province had already been patented. However, it turned out that there was still plenty of land to keep New York's real estate juggernaut rolling through the colonial period and beyond.
To begin with, the boundaries of most of the existing patents were so poorly defined that speculators, politicians, lawyers, and surveyors could keep themselves profitably employed by attempting to snatch pieces of these grants. Furthermore, several of the large patents were completely or partially disallowed (particularly the Evans, Dellius, Bayard, and Kayaderoseras patents). These lands were thus once again thrown open for distribution. As the eighteenth century progressed, at least some of the large landowners started to sell off portions of their holdings to settlers or to other speculators. Last but not least, land continued to become available on New York's frontiers. The frontier areas included lands disputed between New York and other colonies, as well as Indian lands around the Mohawk River. After the end of the French and Indian War in 1760, vast tracts of land became available in northern New York, including parts of the Adirondacks, the lands around the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, and the land around Lake Champlain. The land available for distribution included all of modern Vermont, which was disputed between New York and New Hampshire.
On the whole, it can be said that land grabbing took place in somewhat more seemly fashion in the latter part of the colonial period. Most of the royal governors following Lord Cornbury were not as lavish in their grant giving or as blatant in their corruption as some of their predecessors had been, but there were several colorful exceptions. The powerful relatives of Governor George Clinton (1743-1753) reputedly forced to secure him the governorship of New York to keep him from being thrown into debtor’s prison, and he attempted to use his position to reestablish his fortune. One of his predecessors, William Cosby (1732-1736), reputedly decided that his fair share of graft should be one-third of all of the land he granted.. Individuals like Sir William Johnson (1715-1774) and Robert Livingston of Clermont (1688-1775) showed great talent in accumulating estates totaling hundreds of thousands of acres. Even the self-righteous Cadwallader Colden and lesser figures like the surveyor William Cockburn managed to acquire sizable amounts of property, often in ways that would today be considered more than dubious. Real estate remained the path to wealth and prestige for established gentry and aspiring gentlemen.
During this period, most major land purchases were made for speculative purposes, often with the intention of eventually reselling the land to individual farmers, rather than establishing quasi-feudal estates with tenants. Larger purchases were usually made by consortia to comply with the requirement that no one person could buy more than 1000 or 2000 acres. Occasionally these consortia consisted primarily of "dummy" partners, who quickly ceded their land to a single owner. In most cases, partnerships seem to have been designed as a means to reduce the individual cost of surveying and other fees. When land was purchased by groups of investors, it was not divided among the purchasers, but held in common by the entire group. All shareholders had to agree before any of the land could be sold, which inhibited land improvement and the sale of individual farms until a more flexible policy was gradually adopted toward the end of the colonial period.
Increasingly after 1720, land grants were better surveyed, and the surveys were better recorded—leading eventually to better maps. Cadwallader Colden had much to do with this, though his efforts were in part a reflection of policies emanating from London. Before going on to describe these policies and the resulting maps, it would be well to summarize the major land grants made in the period between 1710 and 1775.
The first decades of the eighteenth century saw the extension of settlement to the Mohawk Valley area. This process proceeded in piecemeal fashion in part because of the necessity of conciliating the Mohawk Indians, and much of this land was granted in fairly small parcels. A critical event in the settlement of the area beyond Schenectady was the foundation of Fort Hunter in 1712 at mouth of Schoharie River. This encouraged settlement to the west along the Mohawk River, and also in the Schoharie and (eventually) Cherry valleys south of the river. Many Germans from the Palatinate settled in the vicinity of the Mohawk River. However, settlement was not extensive in these areas until after the American Revolution because of the danger of attack from the French and their Indian allies (and later from the British and Indians during the Revolution).
Orange and Ulster counties, on the west side of the Hudson, also were divided up into smaller grants and individual holdings during the 1720s. This was made possible in part by the disavowal of the Evans Patent. This region became an important area for independent farming in the colonial period, although here, too, settlement to the north and west was inhibited by the threats posed by the French and Indians.
Not all of the land patents issued during this period were for individual farms. Even in the Mohawk Valley, several patents were issued to speculators involving sizable tracts of land. Most of these patents were, at least on paper, made to multiple individuals. They included the Morris Patent at Canajoharie (about 12,0000 acres in 1722-23), the Stone Arabia Patent (12,000 acres in 1723), and Cosby Manor (about 42,000 acres granted to Governor Cosby in 1734 through a particularly elaborate piece of chicanery). During this period, Colden's friend and correspondent, Sir William Johnson, began his career as a land magnate. He used a variety of devices to accumulate land, relying on wealth from the fur trade and his friendship with Indians. The Stevens purchase (1753) was one of Johnson's most spectacular coups. To get around the prohibition on granting more than 1000 acres of land to a single individual, he set up a dummy “partnership” of twenty people to purchase 20,000 acres of land from the Indians. According to James Flexner, a biographer of Johnson, Governor Clinton “was secretly assigned a sixth share in the land which, after he had shepherded the grant through his council, he sold back to Johnson for Ł213. The ostensible patentees were given presents and a fine party during which they signed over all their rights.” Johnson eventually managed to put together estates totaling more than one million acres in the Mohawk Valley area. Another of Johnson's more remarkable acquisitions involved his maneuvering to evade the restriction on large purchases by obtaining from his Indian friends a free "gift" of about 100,000 acres, to which he responded by giving cash and expensive presents in return. Although the legality of this "gift" was questioned by Colden and others, the land was finally bestowed upon Johnson in 1769 as a personal present from the king in return for an annual quit-rent of two beaverskins.
Other large patents made between 1720 and the French and Indian War include the Oblong Patent along the border with Connecticut (50,000 acres in 1731), Lindsley's Patent (about 11,000 acres in Otsego County in 1738 and 1741), and the Northampton Patent (6000 acres, northwest of the disputed Kayaderosseras Patent in 1741).
These grants were dwarfed by the flood of new lands opened up after the conclusion of the French and Indian War. With the conclusion of peace, most of northern and eastern New York became available for settlement. Western New York was made off limits for settlement by the Indian line, which was adopted by royal proclamation in 1763. More will be said about this Indian line below.
After 1760, much of the newly available land was granted to veterans of the French and Indian War. Typically, officers received vastly larger grants than enlisted men. In some cases, it was expected that officers would set themselves up as manorial lords and lease land to former soldiers. Among the largest of these new grants were the Provincial and Artillery Patents, which were made between the Hudson River and Lake George. According to Higgens: "The first contained twenty-six thousand acres for William Cockroft and twenty-five commissioned officers of the New York Infantry, and the other embraced twenty-four thousand acres for Joseph Walton and twenty-three officers of the New York Artillery forces." 
The largest grant to the east of Lake Champlain was the Skene Patent (25,000 acres in 1765). This patent was made to Major Philip Skene, and was supplemented by the "Skene Little Patent" of 9000 acres in 1769.
During this period, numerous grants were also made in the area around headwaters of the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. George Croghan, an Indian trader and associate of William Johnson, accumulated around 250,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Lake Oswego by 1770. After the Revolution, some of this land came into the possession of William Cooper. Like Cooper after him, Croghan was interested in developing his land and selling it to individual farmers. In 1770, Sir William Johnson added to his holdings in this area through the acquisition of the 54,000 acre Susquehanna and Charlotte River patents.
The largest of the patents issued between 1760 and 1775 is the inadequately researched Totten and Crossfield Purchase (1772). This patent consisted of some 800,000 acres in the southern Adirondacks, and was made in the name of two shipwrights, Joseph Totten and Stephen Crossfield. These two seem to have been "front men" for one Ebenezer Jessup, a real estate speculator who headed a consortium of investors that intended to resell this land. The land was surveyed into rectangular townships, but the project had to be abandoned during the American Revolution. This patent is of particular interest because it prefigures some of the land policies followed after the Revolution—both through the wholesale purchase of huge tracts of land by speculators for resale to settlers, and through the use of a rectangular survey system.
Most of the large land acquisitions after 1760 were made by royal officials or former military officers. In contrast to many of the older estate owners in the Hudson Valley region, most of these new land magnates maintained their loyalty to the crown during the American Revolution. Consequently, their land was seized during the Revolution, and it once again became available for purchase and sale.
The British government during the decades after 1720 tried to gain control over New York’s chaotic land system. Both the Board of Trade and several colonial governors attempted to reform abuses and collect quit rents. Although some progress was made, attempts at reform stirred up opposition from landowners and from some governors, who (as we have seen) continued to use land grants to enrich themselves and reward their friends. Nonetheless, by the time of the American Revolution, property mapping in New York had greatly improved.
The man most closely associated with the reform efforts was our old acquaintance Cadwallader Colden, New York’s long-term surveyor general. We have seen that Colden was an unusually energetic and intelligent official, who was not afraid of controversy. Colden consistently argued throughout his long career that the large estates were inhibiting the settlement of New York, undermining the political power of the crown, and preventing the collection of quit rents. He and other royal officials saw quit rents as a way of financing the provincial government—thus making it independent of appropriations from the troublesome provincial Assembly.
Although Colden—rather like Governors Andros and Bellomont before him—can be described as a royalist reformer, he was not entirely disinterested. Colden received much of his income from surveying fees and from collecting quit rents. It therefore comes as no surprise that the he favored land policies that facilitated the collection of quit rents, and which also required extensive fee-producing surveys. There were still numerous possibilities for nepotism and graft in the system, and Colden took advantage of some of them, although he avoided the most outrageous excesses. Colden and his family dabbled in land speculation and become moderately large landowners, with parcels of land scattered throughout New York. His largest holding was a 3000 acre estate in Ulster County, which he called Coldengham, where he lived with his family and up to six slaves. Like many others, he combined a sincere belief in reform with a healthy sense of self-interest.
When Colden took up his position in 1720, the surveyor general’s office was apparently in a state of chaos. As previously noted, Colden later claimed that he could not find a single map or survey record in the office. Much of his career was spent in trying to create accurate surveys and land maps of the province. Over a period of more than fifty years, Colden and other royal officials made considerable progress toward realizing these goals. Although huge land grants continued to be made, their boundaries were better defined, and the number of overlapping grants was reduced. Colden believed that the creation a detailed land map of the entire province was critical to his efforts, remarking with impressively awkward syntax: “...without a good Map of this Province the Crown could not be truely informed of the nature of the Grants made by former Governors that without such Map no compleat rent roll could be formed nor could it be known that any rent roll is compleat nor without such Map could the officer collect the Quitrents effectually.”
As early as 1722, the Board of Trade received two memorials from Colden outlining the problems with land grants, and calling for the more effective collection of quit rents. Colden repeated the same basic positions in numerous documents that he prepared throughout his career. The main argument he made to his superiors and the Board of Trade was that accurate records and maps were essential for the collection of His Majesty’s quit rents, which could then be used to make the provincial government more independent of the evil designs of the New York Assembly. He also believed that the collection of quit rents would force the break up of large uncultivated estates—thereby encouraging the settlement of the colony by small farmers. As has already been seen, these were controversial subjects, and it appears that British officialdom's preoccupation with collecting fees and quit rents was itself a major cause of the lack of settlement that Colden and others denounced. The blunt and outspoken way in which Colden handled these issues was bound to stir up a hornet’s nest of opposition, and it did. Colden’s vision of a colony run for the public good by a smoothly functioning royalist bureaucracy was unpopular with just about everybody except other royal officials. As early as 1744, the provincial Assembly passed a resolution declaring him "an enemy to the colony.", and this was long before he became involved in enforcing such unpopular measures as the Stamp Act and the tea tax.
Colden was equally persistent in his efforts to map New York’s large estates. His important manuscript map of New York, dating from around 1726, has already been mentioned. The main purpose of this map was to inform the Board of Trade of the need to reform the land and quit rent system. Colden must have been referring to this map—or to another very much like it—in his memorial to the Lords of Trade dated December 4, 1726, when he wrote: “...the far greatest part of the lands in this Province are now in the hands of a few persons paying trifling Quit Rents as will more fully appear by a Map of this Province which I am preparing by the Governor’s Order for their Lords....” On this map, Colden delineated many of the large estates, and wrote down the amount of quit rent they were paying. For example, his annotation for Rensselaerswyck reads: “The Manor of Renslaerwyck granted to Kilian van Renselaer in the year 1685 containing about 1770 square miles or 113200 acres paying 50 bushels of wheat yearly and confirmed in 1704.”
Colden's efforts to produce a better map of New York and neighboring provinces were defeated by the lack of careful surveys of many large estates, and by political opposition. According to Colden, he was paid a salary out of the quit rents "to make extracts of the boundaries and of the Quit rent reserved of all the Grants on Record in the Secretaries office," but was forced to give up this project after he had finished the extracts for grants made prior to 1708. The funding for this project was stopped, Colden claimed (probably correctly) through political intrigue in London by one of his landholding enemies. The map that Colden showed Lewis Evans around the middle of the 1740s does not appear to have been greatly different from his map of 1726. From the 1720s through the 1740s, Colden confined himself to surveying smaller tracts of land—mostly in the Hudson Valley—and to surveying areas that were in dispute between New York and neighboring colonies. The most significant map he produced during this period was of the "the Oblong," which was the disputed area of land along the Connecticut border that was supposed to provide compensation to New York for the loss to Connecticut of a wedge of land along the coast of Long Island Sound. This map, which must have been made shortly after the boundary was settled in 1731, shows land allotments in the area, including several to Colden himself.
As the eighteenth century progressed and wealth increased in the British colonies, there was a gradual improvement in the amount and quality of surveying. One indication of this is the establishment, in 1730, of the first shop dealing primarily in surveying and navigational instruments in New York City. This was Anthony Lamb's "At the Sign of the Compass and Quadrant." Lamb's shop was located on the waterfront, and much of his business seems to have been in making and repairing navigational instruments for ship captains. He also sold chains and compasses for surveying, as well as a variety of other things useful to surveyors and mapmakers. He supplemented his income by making and selling a colorful miscellany of products, including German flutes, billiard balls, and false teeth. He seems to have prospered and stayed in business until the Revolution (which he supported).
By the 1740s, Colden was paying increased attention to the technical problems of surveying. In 1740/41, he was engaged in correspondence with his agent in London about the possibility of creating an improved quadrant for use by American surveyors.. Two years later, he was writing to his close friend and counterpart in New Jersey, James Alexander (1691-1756), about the problem of determining the magnetic variation of the compass. At this time he also ordered an improved surveyor's compass (circumferentor) from the London instrument maker Sisson, and when Alexander heard about it, he also ordered one for use in New Jersey. Very likely, Colden also tried to improve the standards of surveyors working under his supervision. Although almost nothing has been published about the internal workings of the surveyor general's office in colonial New York, we know that Alexander issued a set of instructions for surveyors in East and West New Jersey around 1746. These General Instructions still exist. Given the close relationship between Alexander and Colden, it seems likely that similar procedures were followed in New York.
Alexander's General Instructions did not, to put it mildly, call for a high level of technical expertise on the part of surveyors. They included such basic instructions as to check the length of the chain and "forget not the scale." They basically called for surveying by chain and compass, but required that the surveys be conducted carefully and be reported in a uniform manner. Alexander stated his concern that the starting point of a survey be clearly ascertained, and expressed by its relationship to the boundaries of an existing survey or, failing that, "from the meeting of Brooks, from Rocks, or some other remarkable Thing, that there may remain the least Uncertainty that is possible of the Situation of the Tract surveyed." Approximately half of Alexander's instructions dealt with the variation of the compass. Alexander was very much aware that the direction of north varied somewhat in different parts of New Jersey, and that it changed through time. Accordingly, his instructions included procedures for determining the variation of the compass, and he urged surveyors to observe once a year the variation of the compass in the county where they worked, and to forward the results to his office. These procedures were still far from perfect, since they did not address variations caused by such local phenomena as bodies of iron ore. Still, although Alexander's instructions were undemanding, they did ensure (insofar as they were followed) relatively accurate surveys in comparison to the chaos that had prevailed at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
In spite of efforts similar to those followed by Alexander, Colden made little progress in mapping New York until after the French and Indian War. Colden described the difficulties of his situation in the revealing letter he wrote to James Cuningham (aide-de-camp of Lord Loudoun) at the end of 1756. (Loudoun was commander of the British forces in North America during the early years of the French and Indian War; he had apparently requested from Colden a detailed map of New York.) A portion of this letter was quoted earlier, in which Colden complained about the lack of support from the crown for his proposed mapping activities, and about the need for a good map of New York to facilitate the collection of quit rents. In this same letter he remarked: "What Surveys we have are in parts of the Country distant from each another in detached pieces which it was impossible for me to join or to lay doun in their proper places on one general Map of the Province…." Writing from his Orange County estate, he added that what maps he once had were now in the New York office of his son, and that he had only a few maps of the local area on hand. (Said son, Alexander Colden, had been made responsible in 1754 for the "execution" of the duties of surveyor general, while Cadwallader continued to collect his salary!) Colden did, however, send Loudoun a copy of a fairly detailed map he had made of a large area of Orange and southeastern Ulster counties. This map, which shows the houses of individual settlers, includes an annotation observing that most of the houses west of the Shawangunk Mountains had been "either burnt or destroyed" by raids of the French and Indians.
After about 1750, the British made a substantial, if ill-fated, effort to gain greater control over their North American colonies. This involved strengthening the army and the administrative bureaucracy, as well as trying to find ways to tax the colonies to pay for the enlarged establishment. Gaining control of the chaotic land situation in New York was an important part of this effort. As early as 1742, the Provincial Assembly was strong-armed to pass the first of a series of laws to facilitate the collection of quit rents. In 1753, the Board of Trade sent detailed instructions to the new governor, Danvers Osborne, which dealt in part with land issues. Among other things, new efforts were made to reduce the size of land grants and to enforce the collection of quit rents. Another bill to improve the collection of quit rents was passed by the Assembly in 1755, and in 1762 Colden, then Acting Governor, signed a culminating law entitled "An Act for the more Effectual Collecting of his majesty's Quit Rents in the Colony of New York." This long piece of legislation, which elaborated on the earlier laws passed in 1742 and 1755, set out procedures for surveying and subdividing large estates. Two important clauses specified that the surveyor general or his deputy must survey the outlines of all land grants to be subdivided, and that maps be made showing the boundaries of every lot within each subdivision. It also required that copies of these maps and their field books be filed with both the local county supervisor and in the surveyor general's office.
This piece of legislation was a compromise, and Colden thought it much too weak, but the fact that it was passed at all by the provincial Assembly shows that Colden was not totally without allies. It is true that most large landowners—including the Livingstons, the Schuylers, and the Van Rensselaers—viewed with foreboding his efforts to collect quit rents and limit the size of estates, and they resisted them where they could. Their opposition to the extension of the royal prerogative helps explain why many of them became leaders of the American Revolution. However, Colden had a powerful ally in fellow Iroquois expert Sir William Johnson (1715-1774). Johnson exerted immense influence over both white settlers and Indians in the Mohawk Valley area. The reasons for the alliance between Colden and Johnson are complex, but they are rooted in their shared background as royal officials; their mutual animosity against the Kayaderosseras Patent and other dubious land grants (which frequently infringed on lands Johnson wanted to acquire, or which were claimed by his Iroquois allies); and on Johnsons' need for Colden's support for his own land grabbing schemes. Although there is little direct evidence, it appears that Johnson funded or otherwise supported many of the extensive surveys that were made of portions of northern New York in the 1760s and 1770s. Other political notables supported Colden from time to time—either because they needed his help in land transactions, or because they found it expedient to ally with Colden against mutual adversaries. Finally, Colden had the potential of obtaining important support from smaller landowners and tenants, who might have benefited from the breakup of the large estates. He was not able to play this card successfully, but its existence may have caused his opponents to act with greater caution. Later, during the American Revolution, the British appealed to these groups with some success.
After 1760, the efforts of British officials to gain control over the land situation began to produce results. Materials compiled by Colden since the 1720s enabled British officials by 1765 to make a rent roll listing land grants by counties. The collection of quit rents gradually improved, although the amount collected never approached what it should have been on paper. It has been estimated that in 1721, the amount collected was less than 400 pounds; by 1761 it had increased to 800 pounds. Although small, this increase was enough to provide valuable aid to the royal government in its struggles to attain financial independence from the Assembly. In terms of cartographic output, the years between 1760 and 1775, saw the creation of a considerable number of manuscript maps outlining the boundaries of individual estates. These were eventually fitted together into composites showing groupings of estates in various regions. This process culminated in productions like Sauthier's Chorographical Map of New York (to be discussed below), which delineated the boundaries of all of the major estates in the province.
It is difficult to determine exactly how this sequence of maps came to be produced, or what Colden's exact role in this process was. During this period, Colden was no longer surveyor general, although in most of these years he was either lieutenant governor or acting governor. He must have exerted a good deal of influence on the surveyor general's office, both through his official positions, as well as through his sons Alexander and David, who successively held the title of surveyor general. However, very little in the extensive correspondence of Colden during this period directly relates directly to the mapping of New York, or to the activities of the surveyor general's office. Peculiarly, there is very little documentary evidence of any kind—outside of the maps themselves—bearing on cartographic activity in New York during this period. However, there are a number of bits of information that enable us to put together the outlines of what happened.
To begin with, New York's local surveyors were reinforced by outside help. A number of military map makers, who arrived during the French and Indian War, stayed on through these years, and into the period of the Revolutionary War. These included John Montresor and Samuel Holland, whose activities will be described in more detail in the following chapters. In addition, Claude Joseph Sauthier, who was trained as a surveyor in France, came to New York as the personal assistant of William Tryon, the last British governor of the province. Sauthier was also an architect and designer of landscape gardens, and he was employed primarily in those capacities when he was brought to America by Tryon, who was appointed governor of North Carolina in 1767. The line between military and civilian surveying was not clear cut, and Sauthier himself served as a military surveyor during the American Revolution. These military and civilian officials were instructed by the Board of Trade to cooperate with the surveyor general's office in New York, and to at least some extent they did. It is noteworthy that Sauthier's Chorographical Map includes a note stating that it is based on records in the land office (i.e. the surveyor general's office). Nonetheless, there is little in the correspondence or papers of these gentlemen concerning the nature and extent of their collaboration. There seems to have been some coolness in the relations between the military surveyors and their civilian counterparts; at the very least, their collaboration was extremely loose.
It also appears that the staffing and training of the surveyor general's office was improved in these years. Again, this is more evident from the maps that were produced than from any written evidence. A large number of surveys can be found in the Land Papers after 1760 that are ascribed to Alexander Colden, who was surveyor general at that time, but we do not know whether he actually made these surveys, or (more likely) just approved them. Most of the actual estate mapping done between 1760 and 1775 was probably carried out by people who bore the title "deputy surveyor." This title had existed since the first years of British rule (Robert Ryder was one who bore it), but it is not clear what compensation, if any, was provided for deputy surveyors, or even how they acquired their office. In one case, we know from existing documentation that Alexander Colden appointed Thomas Valentine as deputy surveyor to help survey the line between Quebec and New York, and that his salary was paid by a grant from the legislature. From the existing evidence, it appears that more commonly the deputy surveyors were unsalaried, and gained their income through surveying fees paid by landowners. This seems to have been the case even with Cadwallader Colden II, who was a deputy surveyor, and (unlike his brothers David and Alexander) never became a surveyor general. Apparently, deputy surveyors served at the pleasure of the surveyor general. There is a strong indication of this in a preemptory note Cadwallader Colden sent to dismiss one of his deputies: "I have thought it proper to put an end to a Deputation to Survey lands formerly given you by me & I hereby revoke annull & make void all & every Deputation Power or Authority from me to you to Survey lands or to execute or do any part or branch of the Surveyor Generals office whatsoever."
The names of three deputy surveyors frequently appear on maps of this period: Gerard Bancker (1740 - 1799), John Rutger Bleeker (1713 - 1800), and William Cockburn (before 1760 - 1804). Bleeker was a member of an important Dutch landowning family. Active in the Albany area, he was consulted by Lewis Evans in constructing his General Map of the Middle British Colonies. Bleeker's productions include an important map of Rensselaerswyck made in 1767, copies of which are widely available. Bleeker's map is carefully surveyed, and it is especially useful to historians and genealogists because it shows the owners of individual houses on the manor. This map is also notable as an illustration of the increasing sophistication of surveying techniques in eighteenth-century New York. It includes annotations along boundary lines, such as: "South 87˚ 30΄ W. along the Old marked Trees as the Needle pointed in the Year 1765." This shows that the more competent surveyors in New York were by that time at least making precise directional measurements, and that they noted the variation of the compass over time.
Bancker was similarly engaged, mostly in upstate New York. He seems to have been hired to take on some responsibilities above and beyond those of an ordinary deputy surveyor. There exists a written agreement between David Colden and Gerard Bancker, which spells out his salary, and states that "said Gerard Bancker shall prepare all the Returns, and compile and make all the Maps which are necessary to be made in the Office of Surveyor General; That he shall examine all the Returns of Surveys made by Deputy Surveyors or others, which are received in the Office;…"
William Cockburn was one of the most prolific and capable of the deputy surveyors at this time. Born in Scotland, he settled in the Kingston area in the 1760s. In addition to producing numerous maps, he begat five children, and members of his family were active in surveying and land speculation through the first half of the nineteenth century. One of his sons was also named William, and his maps are frequently confused with those of his father. The family papers, which are preserved in the New York State Archives, provide us with a glimpse of the activities of an eighteenth-century surveyor. It is nonetheless hard to assess the extent of his work, since most of his maps are not listed in nationally available online catalogs, and they are scattered around in various archives, libraries, and historical societies. It appears that Cockburn made his living mainly from fees paid to him by landowners, rather than from any salary paid to him as a deputy surveyor.
Predictably, most of Cockburn's maps are of areas relatively near his Kingston home. His career spanned the American Revolution, and he easily managed the difficult transition from colonial surveyor to surveyor for New York State. Through the early years of the Revolution he carried out surveys for landowners of all political persuasions, and never committed himself to either side in the conflict. He did a lot of surveying in and around the Hardenburgh Patent—often as an agent for the Livingstons. Many of his surveys are limited in extent, such as the map of a farm reproduced below, which is a typical example of his work (Figure 5.3).[74a] He also produced a few impressive maps of larger areas t. All the while, he managed to accumulate substantial pieces of land in most of the areas he surveyed—often as partial payment for his work.
Figure 5.3. William Cockburn, "A Map of the Farm of Johannes & Myndert Dedricks on the Baverkill [sic]," 1774. New York State Archives.
During the final years of British colonial rule, the many maps of individual land grants were brought together to form regional property maps covering large areas of New York. Cockburn himself was involved in this activity. Union College holds the original of an elaborate manuscript map produced by Cockburn in 1768 showing land holdings in most of northern New York. In addition to the boundaries of the major land patents, it gives the names of their owners, although it does not include acreage or names of tenants. Like many other maps produced between the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, it shows grants of lands to military officers and soldiers east of Lake Champlain (in what is now Vermont). A similar map, covering a smaller area on the south side of the Mohawk River, is held by New York State Library (Figure 5.4).[76a]
Figure 5.4. William Cockburn, Detail of "A Map of Sundrie Patents on the South Side the Mohawk River in the Counties of Albany & Troy" (1775). New York State Library.
In 1774, Cockburn produced a somewhat less detailed cadastral map of the entire province, which he unsuccessfully tried to publish. Cockburn issued several updated versions of this map at least as late as 1783. The 1780 edition of this map contains an interesting note at the bottom: "Whereas this map has cost the compiler great labour and pains, as well as expence in collecting, reducing, and protracting the different patents in the State of New York; and whereas he proposes to make other improvements and corrections thereon, and publish the same by subscription, it is therefore hoped that the commissioners will not suffer copies of all or any part to be taken from it, but such as are requisit for the present business. State of New York 10th March 1780."
During the years preceding the Revolution, other mapmakers were also diligently surveying estates and producing similar regional collations. The New York Historical Society has an excellent collection of these cadastral maps, many of which are anonymous, and some of which are detailed and carefully drafted. One of the most elegant covers much of northern New York, focusing on the Mohawk River area. In addition to property boundaries, it shows some rivers, roads, Indian paths, Indian villages and other landmarks. Internal evidence indicates that it was probably prepared under the direction of either Sir William or Guy Johnson. Another map at the New York Historical Society provides an interesting illustration of the difficulties that map draftsmen had to overcome in compiling such maps from individual surveys, many of which were still far from perfect. This map, similar to the one above, was created in 1771 and signed by Augustine Prévoste, who according to a note on the map copied it "from an original of Guy Johnson Esqr." This elegantly drafted map was unfinished with the center left blank. It appears that individual surveys were put together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, but that they had to be stretched and modified to make them fit together on a common scale. It seems that, as the cartographer moved to the center of the map, errors started to accumulate to such an extent that additional pieces could no longer be made to fit, and the work had to be abandoned.
In spite of such problems, and doubtless many other unresolved imperfections in individual maps, British cartographers in the decades before the Revolution did succeed in putting together detailed maps showing the boundaries of the major land grants in New York. In addition to Cockburn’s efforts, Samuel Holland was involved in trying to create a property map of New York. We know that as early as 1757 Holland had put together a map of much of New York showing the boundaries of the major estates. This map was destroyed in the 1911 fire at the New York State Library, but we can get some idea of its appearance from two maps of smaller areas that Holland created at that time, which probably were incorporated in the larger map, and from a map attributed to Charles Rivez, which will be discussed in the next chapter. Although Holland was later to distinguish himself for his careful regional surveys of British North America, it appears that this 1757 map was a work of compilation based on earlier surveys. Holland also produced the first published map showing property divisions in New York in some detail: this was his map of The Provinces of New York, and New Jersey (1768), which shows major land holdings in Northern New York, including French land grants around Lake Champlain.
The years immediately preceding the Revolution saw the production of even larger and more detailed cadastral maps of New York. There exists another anonymous manuscript map, dating from around 1775, which was sent to London and bears the title "A Plan of the Province of New York in North America for the Kings Most Excellent Majesty". This huge map (approximately six by eight feet) is elegantly drafted and beautifully colored (as befits a map made for a king).
The last of this sequence of colonial property maps is Jean Claude Sauthier's Chorographical map of the Province of New-York in North America (Figures 5.5 and 5.6). The manuscript of Sauthier's map seems to have been produced by the end of 1775. Unlike most of the property maps under discussion here, Sauthier's was actually published (in 1779). It has been reprinted several times, and is by far the best known property map of eighteenth-century New York; some consider it the best map of New York made in the colonial period. Although it contains some errors and omits subdivisions of land grants and other smaller properties, it provides an excellent overview of the state of settlement of the province on the eve of the American Revolution. Note that, even at this time, the settled areas of New York had not progressed much beyond Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and the eastern part of the Mohawk Valley. Strategic lines of communication with Canada via the eastern Mohawk-Lake Oneida corridor, and the Lake George-Lake Champlain corridor are shown as part of New York, but were basically unsettled. Western New York, which was ruled off limits for white settlers by the British government, is designated as "the territory of the Six Nations." The boundaries of New York were still in the process of being settled. The long-disputed boundary line between New York and New Jersey is shown, and all of Vermont is shown as belonging to New York. County boundaries and the boundaries of most land grants made prior to the American Revolution are carefully depicted.
Figure 5.5 Jean Claude Sauthier, Chorographical map of the Province of New-York in North America, 1779. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
Figure 5.6. Detail of Sauthier's Chorographical Map showing Area around Mohawk River. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
Given the immensity of the task and the strength of the political opposition to it, this map is a testimony to the persistence of Colden and his allies. It is a useful tool for historians and genealogists, and constitutes a fitting culmination for this part of our story. It should nonetheless be noted that the boundaries shown by Sauthier reflect the claims made by his employer (Governor Tryon) and his allies, and were often disputed by others. As historian Sara S. Gronim has observed: “In New York the representation of land in maps was never mistaken for the land itself. Maps were not understood as simply objective and uninflected reflections of territory, for the stakes in their representation were too obvious.”
New York’s boundaries with other colonies remained largely undetermined throughout the colonial period, although considerable progress was made in defining them. When the Duke of York took over the province in 1664, it included on paper all of New Jersey, Connecticut west of the Connecticut River, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket Island, and the eastern Maine. Almost immediately, New Jersey was spun off as a separate province, and most of what is now western Connecticut was early recognized as belonging to that colony. But for many years the governors of New York remained responsible for Delaware, the islands south of Cape Cod, and eastern Maine. In 1681, the Delaware province was transferred to William Penn, but only in 1691 were Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and eastern Maine transferred to Massachusetts. For a brief period in 1688 and 1689, New York was officially part of the Dominion of New England. Even after 1700, New York's borders with New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts were unresolved. New York maintained a claim to what is now Vermont until after the American Revolution. And its borders to the North and West were completely undetermined. Mapping both reflected this inchoate situation, and played an important part is determining New York's eventual boundaries.
Let us take a closer look at these individual areas, beginning with northern and western New York. There was, as has been seen, no agreement between Britain and France concerning the proper boundaries between their colonies in North America, and the boundary between New York and Quebec was not determined until after the conclusion of the French and Indian War. This boundary was determined by royal decree as running along the 45th parallel. It was surveyed as far as Lake Champlain in 1771-72 by Thomas Valentine, who represented New York, and John Collins (Surveyor General of Quebec). Valentine died before the completion of the survey, and was replaced by Claude Joseph Sauthier, who drew a manuscript map delineating the eastern portion of this boundary, which can be found at the Library of Congress. This boundary, known as the Collins-Valentine line, was found in the early nineteenth century to deviate as much as a mile both to the north and to the south from the true 45th parallel. These errors were the cause of much tension and negotiation between the United States and Britain, which will be touched upon in a later chapter, although finally in 1842 it was agreed the uncorrected Collins-Valentine line should serve as the final boundary between the United States and Canada. The errors in this important boundary are another illustration of the inability of even the best eighteenth century surveyors to measure latitudinal distances with precision.
New York’s western boundaries were even more imprecise. Most of central and western New York was still held by the Iroquois, although the British asserted a vague claim to sovereignty over the Iroquois based on a clause in the Treaty of Utrecht, and at times paraded this out to assert rightful ownership over all tribes that the Iroquois had conquered or forced into paying tribute. In theory, this gave New York a claim to large parts of Canada, and to much of the present United States between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. In practice, New York maintained control only over such lands as had been purchased from the Natives (fraudulently or otherwise), and which they could successfully defend from attack in time of war. After the French and Indian War, a demarcation line was drawn marking the westernmost boundary of white settlements (FIGURE 5.11). It was only after the American Revolution that the Iroquois were sufficiently subdued to make it possible for New York gain control of the area west of the Mohawk Valley and Oswego. Even then, New York had to deal with residual Indian claims and with Massachusetts' claim to much of this area based on its colonial charter.
The boundaries between New York and the neighboring provinces of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were actively disputed during the colonial era, but here some progress was made in negotiating solutions. It is appropriate that the subject of New York’s boundaries should be discussed in the same chapter as New York’s land policies, for the two subjects are closely related. Both involved the same basic underlying concept of land as something that can be “possessed” through a legal document, and which can be defined through surveys and maps. The same individuals were often involved in surveying land grants and boundaries, and both were highlighted on British maps of the eighteenth century. Issues such as quit rents figured in imperial decision making regarding boundaries between provinces, as well as in promoting surveying of land grants. During the period between 1763 and 1775, the imperial government, which was trying to assert its authority in a number of areas, was also active in attempting to resolve boundary disputes.
What is more, land grants were used as tools to assert control of New York’s border areas. We have already seen that large grants of land were made in disputed areas in an effort to strengthen New York’s claims, including border areas with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Almost the entire state of Vermont also fits into this category. The situation along these borders was exacerbated by aggressive land owners who pushed their claims as far as possible across these uncertain boundaries. All of these areas were characterized by sporadic violence, which flared up intermittently for decades.
The political maneuvers surrounding some of these disputes were spectacularly complex, and sometimes make for tedious reading. Those who wish to explore this subject in depth can consult the works referenced in the footnotes of this section. For those interested primarily in interpreting what they see on maps, a brief summary will be presented here of the issues involved on each border, and something will be said about the involvement of surveyors and mapmakers in each case.
Connecticut: The boundary between New York and Connecticut was the first to come under serious dispute, and the first to be largely settled (1731). We have seen that boundary disputes between Connecticut and New Netherland dated back to around 1640, and that they were temporarily resolved when Connecticut worked out an arrangement with Peter Stuyvesant, whereby the Dutch practically gave up their claims to the Connecticut Valley and eastern Long Island to the New Englanders.
The situation was not improved by the English takeover in 1664. In that year, King Charles II decreed that the west bank of the Connecticut River should mark the boundary between New York and Connecticut, and also placed the Yankee settlements on eastern Long Island under New York’s jurisdiction. This came as considerable shock to the people of Connecticut, since, as recently as 1662, the very same king had decreed that Connecticut’s western boundary should reach “to the South Sea” (i.e. the Pacific Ocean).
There ensued a complicated period of negotiation and political maneuvering, in which New York tried to hammer out some kind of agreement with Connecticut. The King and his brother the Duke of York were adamant about keeping eastern Long Island as part of New York, but agreed to allow Connecticut to retain most of its other settlements. The most intense and long-standing negotiations between the two colonies involved the border area on the mainland. As we have seen, early land grants were made by Governor Fletcher and others in Westchester County to strengthen New York's claims in this area. In the 1683, New York made a fragile agreement with Connecticut, which anticipated the final settlement, but this did not put an end to negotiations, which dragged on until 1731. In the final settlement, which was largely brokered by Cadwallader Colden, Connecticut obtained the small wedge of territory that juts into New York along Long Island Sound in exchange for a strip of “compensatory lands” running along the border further north. As previously mentioned, this strip, known as “The Oblong,” was surveyed by Colden, who produced a detailed map of the area, which can be found at the New York Historical Society. “The Oblong” appears on many colonial maps (see Figure 5.12), and the 1731 settlement essentially established New York’s modern boundary with Connecticut, although there remain a few small areas of contention between the two states that persist to this day.
Massachusetts: The issues involving the border between New York and Massachusetts were similar to those between New York and Connecticut, but they were not completely settled until after the Revolution. Like Connecticut, the charter of Massachusetts extended its western boundary to the Pacific Ocean, which gave it a theoretical claim to a large swath of New York. Massachusetts was more persistent and aggressive in pursuing its claims to western lands than its southern neighbor. For its part, New York interpreted its charter as setting its boundary with Massachusetts at the Connecticut River. Serious conflicts arose during the colonial period over a region extending from somewhat to the west of the present border to the Housatonic River Valley on the east. The most commonly proposed settlements involved extending the boundary between Connecticut and New York to the north, and drawing the boundary line twenty miles to the east of the Hudson River.
Most of this disputed area was included in the Westenhook Patent, or comprised lands claimed by Livingston Manor and Rensselaerwyck. The issue became a matter of serious contention in the eighteenth century when settlers from Massachusetts moved into the Housatonic River Valley and started to push to the west from there. At the same time, the Schuyler, Livingston ,and Rensselaer families tried to extend the boundaries of their lands as far to the east as possible, and to settle the contested lands with tenants. The result was a long period of low-level violence between Massachusetts settlers and the owners and tenants of the New York manors. Most of the alleged tenant "rebellions" on New York manors have been shown to be associated with this conflict, rather than to have been protests by oppressed tenants in New York. After much conflict and intricate negotiations, an approximation of the present boundary was reached by the Hartford Agreement in 1773, but this settlement was not officially adopted until after the American Revolution. Massachusetts' claim to lands reaching from "the west of New York" (wherever that might be) to the Pacific Ocean, remained unresolved prior to 1787.
New Jersey: New Jersey was separated from New York in 1664, but boundary disputes between the two provinces began early on, and have continued to the present day. The Hudson River was supposed to mark the east-west boundary between New York and New Jersey, but it was disputed whether the boundary ran through the middle of the river or along the New Jersey waterfront, which left open to interpretation the possession of Staten Island and the islands in the Hudson River. As recently as 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court awarded most of Ellis Island to New Jersey in opposition to the claims of New York State.
The major dispute between the two provinces concerned New Jersey's northern boundary with New York, where conflicts arose that resembled those between New York and Massachusetts. When New Jersey was separated from New York, it is thought that the Duke of York consulted Visscher's 1656 map of New Netherland, and drew the boundary from a point 41 degrees north on the Hudson River to the northernmost branch of the Delaware River at a latitude of 41 degrees, forty minutes. The problem was that there was no branch of the Delaware River anywhere near the place where it was shown on Visscher's map, and there was consequently much uncertainty about where the line actually should run. Governor Cornbury's grants in Orange and Ulster counties were intended in part to shore up New York's claims to areas that might be disputed by New Jersey.
In 1719, an attempt was made to settle this dispute by appointing a commission headed by James Alexander (representing New Jersey) and Allane Jarrett (a New York surveyor). The two surveyors took sightings near an Indian town named Kasheton on a branch of the Delaware, which they established as being located at 41 degrees and 40 minutes. This should have settled the matter, but some New York landowners would have lost acreage by accepting this boundary, and Jarrett was persuaded to state that his observation should not be accepted because his instrument was “imperfect.” This story illustrates the extent to which conflicting interests and social consent played a role in establishing boundaries, as well as the difficulty of measuring precise latitudes in the early eighteenth century.
The upshot of this situation was that several thousand acres remained in dispute between the two provinces from 1719 to 1769. Farmers in this area were called upon to pay taxes and to serve in the militias of both colonies. This retarded settlement in the area, and led to low-level border warfare, with magistrates arresting each other, barns being burned, innumerable threats issued, and even a few people killed. New York and New Jersey drew up a series of conflicting border claims, which were shown on several contemporary maps (see Figure 5.7). After much political intrigue and complicated maneuvering, the border was settled by a royal commission, which surveyed the boundary in 1769.
Figure 5.7. Detail of Samuel Holland's map of New York and New Jersey (1768?), showing the disputed border between New York and New Jersey and part of "the oblong" along the Connecticut border. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
Pennsylvania: The boundary between New York and Pennsylvania lay far enough to the west that there was relatively little conflict over the border in the colonial era, since this area had few European settlers. As was the case with New York’s other neighbors, the boundary negotiations between New York and Pennsylvania were incredibly obscure and complex. In this case, they were complicated by Connecticut’s claim to part of Pennsylvania on the basis of its “sea to sea” charter, which New York’s negotiators were able to turn to their advantage. In the course of the eighteenth century a vague agreement emerged between the two colonies that the boundary should run along the forty-third parallel. Pennsylvania claimed the forty-third degree of latitude as its northern boundary, and this was generally accepted by New York in the Colonial period, even though it potentially excluded much of what is now the western part of the state. However, this latitude line was subject to two interpretations. Today, most people would assume that such boundary would run along the 43rd parallel, just as the boundary with Canada runs along the 45th. This boundary is shown on many colonial maps, including John Mitchell's 1755 map of eastern North America. However, New Yorkers and their allies ingeniously argued that the “43rd degree of latitude” actually begins at the 42nd parallel, where the present boundary with Pennsylvania lies, on the theory that any latitude higher than 42 is part of the 43rd parallel. It was on the basis of this interpretation that, in 1774, New York and Pennsylvania agreed to survey a border starting at the point where the 42nd parallel crosses the Delaware River. A survey along these lines was commenced in 1775, but it was not completed because of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Only after the Revolution, was the border finally surveyed along the forty-second parallel.
New Hampshire (Vermont): An area that included almost all of present-day Vermont was disputed between New York and New Hampshire. The conflicting claims were adjudicated by the King's Privy Council in 1764, which allotted the disputed lands to New York. The decision was based almost entirely on Colden’s advice to Board of Trade. Colden did an effective job of "selling" New York's case to the Crown by promising lands to officers of the army, and by arguing (among other things) that New York would do a better job of collecting quit rents and administering the area for the Crown than the "republican" New Englanders. This decision was supposed to be definitive and final, and it explains why maps of the Province of New York in the later colonial period almost always include Vermont. In this case, the royal decision did not count for much, since Ethan Allen and other New England settlers in Vermont refused to accept it. Only after the Revolutionary War was Vermont constituted as a separate state.
It should be noted New York's boundaries with other colonies frequently appear on general purpose maps depicting New York and neighboring states. The way in which maps depict these disputed boundaries can be revealing. They show the uncertainty surrounding New York's borders, and they served as propaganda for the political claims of various states. Because most of the maps published after 1750 were made by surveyors with connections to the military or to royal officials, they tended to reflect favorably on New York's claims (especially vis à vis New England, where the crown had less control over the provincial legislatures). But this is not always the case, and because the boundaries were sometimes colored in by hand, different copies of these maps sometimes show different boundaries.
John Mitchell's 1755 map of eastern North America, which will be discussed in the following chapter, shows a boundary line between New York and New Jersey that favored the claims of New Jersey, and it came under attack for this reason. As previously mentioned, it also shows the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York as running along the 43rd parallel. It describes New York's boundaries with Massachusetts and New Hampshire as disputed, but the hand coloring on at least some copies shows Vermont as belonging to New Hampshire. Mitchell was greatly concerned about the border disputes between New York and its neighbors, which he saw as distracting these colonies from their primary threat—the French.
Both the 1749 and 1755 maps by Lewis Evans also showed the 1719 boundary between New York and New Jersey, and they were criticized for the same reason as the Mitchell map. The coloring on different copies of the Evans’ 1755 map at the Library of Congress show the boundary between New York and Pennsylvania as running along either the 42nd or the 43rd parallel.
In 1763 a map entitled The British Governments in Nth. America: Laid Down Agreeable to the Proclamation of Octr. 7, 1763 was published in the influential Gentleman's Magazine. A simple black and white map, it provides a clear view of the location of colonial boundaries and of the Indian proclamation line. The author of this map does not seem to have looked with favor on New York's claims, for it reduces the province to a minimal size.
After the 1764 proclamation granting Vermont to New York, most British maps depicted present-day Vermont as part of New York. We have seen that this was the case with Samuel Holland's 1768 Map of New York and New Jersey. As New York's claims to New Jersey had not yet been adjudicated (a process in which Holland was to play a prominent role), this map shows several possible boundaries between the two colonies, although it strongly highlights a line close to the one that was finally adopted. Holland's map also shows New York's boundary with Massachusetts somewhat to the east of the final settlement. Most of the boundaries shown on Sauthier's Chorographical Map of the Province of New York are close to the modern ones, although Vermont is still shown as belonging to New York, and western New York is described as “the Six Nations Indian Country.”
1. A good starting place for the study of land ownership in New York is the relevant chapters in Price, Dividing the Land. Price's work, which also deals with the other eastern states, is particularly valuable for treating developments in New York in a comparative context. Another excellent brief account, which includes a balanced overview of the previous literature, is the chapter on New York's land system in Patricia U. Bonomi, A Factious People: Politics and Society in Colonial New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), 179-228. For an older but more detailed account, see Higgins, Expansion in New York. Charles Worthen Spencer, "The Land System of Colonial New York," New York Historical Association, Proceedings, 16 (1917): 150-64, is still a useful summary, particularly for political aspects of the land system. See also Irving Mark, Agrarian Conflicts in Colonial New York: 1711-1775 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940). Sung Bok Kim, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978) is an important and influential revisionist study. There are also many studies of land policies in specific regions. Of these, Armand Shelby La Potin, The Minisink Patent (New York: Arno Press, 1979) is particularly notable. Other specialized studies will be noted below.
For those interested in researching the history of specific land parcels, Joseph R. Bien's Atlas of the State of New York (New York: J. Bien and Co., 1895) is useful for its detailed maps showing boundaries of the most important early land grants. The Bien atlas is available online at the David Rumsey Collection, http://www.davidrumsey.com. An extensive table of the most important land patents (including location, county, date, extent, and patentees) can be found under the heading "Lands" in J.H. French, Gazetteer of the State of New York (Syracuse, N.Y.: J. Pearsall Smith, 1860), 46-53. Land maps in the New York State Archives are listed in David E.E. Mix, Catalogue of Maps and Surveys, in the Offices of the Secretary of State, State Engineer and Surveyor, and Comptroller, and the New York State Library (Albany: Charles van Benthuysen, 1859); a reprint edition published in 1981 gives the present location of the materials that still exist: James Corsaro, ed., : Mix's Catalogue of Surveys & Maps ([Marcellus, N.Y.] : Central New York Society of Land Surveyors, ). The existing maps, along with a much larger number of written land patents, can be found in an archival collection at New York State Archives cataloged as: New York (State). Dept. of State, Applications for Land Grants, 1642-1803. This collection is familiarly known as "the land papers," and it is also available on microfilm. The land papers themselves are indexed in E.B. O'Callaghan, ed. Calendar of N.Y. Colonial Manuscripts, Indorsed Land Papers: In the Office of the Secretary of State of New York, 1643-1803 (1864; Harrison, N.Y.: Harbor Hill Books, 1987). This reprint edition also lists the materials that are missing in the existing land papers.
2. The English towns on western Long Island were Hempstead, Flushing, Gravesend, Middelburgh (Mespath or Newton), and Rustdorp (Jamaica). For land policies in the English and Dutch towns of New Netherland see Clarence White Rife, "Land Tenure in New Netherland," in Essays in Colonial History Presented to Charles McLean Andrews (1931; Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1966), 41-73, and Albert E. McKinley, "The English and Dutch Towns of New Netherland," The American Historical Review, 6:1 (1900): 1-18.
3. Although New York sported the only permanent military garrison in British North America, it was pathetically week prior to the American Revolution. Split between Albany and New York, the garrison numbered around 200 troops in the seventeenth century, and about 400 in the eighteenth. Poorly funded and disorganized, it does not seem to have posed much of a threat to anybody, either in war or in peace. See Stanley McCrory Pargellis, "The Four Independent Companies of New York," in Essays in Colonial History Presented to Charles McLean Andrews, 96-123.
4. Spencer, "The Land System in Colonial New York," 161. See introduction to microfilm edition of land papers (see above note 1) for a more detailed listing of the steps. Higgins, Expansion in New York, 29-31, also describes these procedures and the associated fees in greater detail.
8. Colden wrote quite an incisive critique of New York's land system, which was published as "The State of the Lands in the Province of New York in 1732," in O'Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, I, 377-389.
11. Lawrence H. Leder, Robert Livingston, 1654-1728, and the Politics of Colonial New York (Chapel Hill: Published for the Institute of Early American History and Culture by the University of North Carolina Press, 1961), 35.
17. A good overview is Norman J. Van Valkenburgh, The Hardenburgh Patent: The Largest Colonial Grant ([Syracuse, N.Y.]: New York State Association of Professional Land Surveyors, 1988). Alf Evers provides an entertaining account of history of the Hardenburgh Patent, including its ramifications and unwindings through the first half of the nineteenth century, in The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock (rev. ed.; Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1982).
22. For an overview of seventeenth-century surveying techniques in New York, see Sara Stidstone Gronim, Everyday Nature: Knowledge of the Natural World in Colonial New York (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 26-30.
24. This map is cited as "Draught of a tract of land, lying on the east side of Cow Neck on Long Island, belonging to Mr. John West, April 9, 1683, Philip Welles, Surveyor," in Mix Catalogue of Maps, 138 (Vol. 2, No. 12).
25. John Rutse Bleecker, "A Map of the Manor of Renselaerwick" (manuscript map, 1767) copy by David Vaughn published in O'Callaghan, The Documentary History of the State of New York, III, facing p. 552); available online from the New York State Library at: http://nysl.nysed.gov/Archimages/83219.PDF.
26. A copy of a map of Lloyd Neck dated 1685 is in volume I of the Lloyd Family Papers (Collections of the NY Historical Society, 1926); a detailed map of the Minisink Patent (Orange County) dating from around 1703 is held by the New York Historical Society (M22.2.5); John Howell, Map of of the Rombout Patent [Dutchess County]: Surveyed & Delineated by Me John Hol[w]ell, Surveyor Aprill 1st Anno Domini 1689, dated 1693 on verso, and held by the New York Historical Society (M29.2.10); John Beatty, Map of Livingston Manor Anno 1714 (facsimile published in The Documentary History of the State of New York, III, facing p. 414); a copy of this facsimile is available on the World Wide Web from the Library of Congress at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/rbpe.10203500.
29. Welles lived as a farmer on Staten Island, and is referred to as a "steward" of Edmund Andros in 1680-81. A number of his surveys on Staten Island, Long Island, and around Kingston are listed in Mix, Catalog of Maps. He is also mentioned as a commissioner for running the boundary between Connecticut and New York in 1684. According to a family genealogy, a record from Virginia indicates that he died before 1705. See: Brodhead, Documents Relative to the History of New York, III, 302, 312 and IV, 630; and http://genealogy.patp.us/wellesde.shtml. According to Warner, Civil List and Constitutional History of the Colony and State of New York (p. 167), Welles served as Surveyor General from 1683-1690.
32. For the venality of New York’s royal governors in the middle of the eighteenth century, see Smith, History of the Province of New York, 1:117, 2:61, and elsewhere; Stanley N. Katz, Newcastle's New York: Anglo-American Politics, 1732-1753 (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1968), 21-38.
45. These memoranda are mentioned and apparently reflected in "Representation of the Lords of Trade to the King," Brodhead, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York, V, 504. Two similar documents, dated 1726, can be found on pages 805-809 of the same volume. A more extended version can be found in Colden's essay in O'Callaghan's Documentary History of New York (cited above note 5.7). For Colden's political ideas generally and their relation to his views on land, see Carole Shammas "Cadwallader Colden and the Role of the King's Prerogative," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, LIII:2 (1969), 103-26.
49. The extent of Colden's mapping activities in these years is something of a mystery. Mix's Catalogue of Maps lists a number of maps made by Colden in Orange and Ulster Counties around 1720. Most of these are for lands in the former Evans Grant. After that, there is a gap until 1750, after which many maps signed "Cadwallader Colden and Alexander Colden, Surveyors-General" start to appear. Some of these may be based on earlier work by Cadwallader Colden, although the Coldens may have just signed the maps to indicate their approval of work done by other surveyors. Colden's map of "the Oblong" can be found at the New York Historical Society. A reduced-scale facsimile is the frontispiece to volume II of the Colden Letters and Papers. For the controversy over allocation of lands in the Oblong, see Katz, Newcastle’s New York, 80-81.
52. Alexander to Colden, June 10 1744, Colden Letters and Papers, III, 61-63. Alexander, who was also an immigrant from Scotland, served on the Governor's Council of New York with Colden. He was among other things a prominent attorney in New York, while at the same time serving as surveyor general of East and West New Jersey. Like Colden and Douglass in Massachusetts, he was a leading figure in eighteenth-century American science. See also John P. Snyder, The Mapping of New Jersey (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1973), 29-35.
53. [James Alexander], General Instructions by the Surveyor General to the Deputy Surveyors of the Eastern Division of New Jersey (New York: James Parker, 1747; microfiche edition, Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications, 1997, Selected Americana from Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America. Similar instructions were issued for West New Jersey. See Deborah Jean Warner, "True North--And Why it Mattered in Eighteenth-Century America," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 149:3 (Sept., 2005), 375-76.
55. Ibid., 101-02. The original of this map is available at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA), where it has been assigned the title [Map of Ulster and Orange Counties, New York, Showing the Settlements between the Blue Mountains and the Hudson River]. A copy of this map was apparently sent to the Governor's Council of New York in November 1757, where it is referred to as "a Map of that part of the Western Frontier of this Government new infested by the Enemy Indians." Colden Letters and Papers, V, 208-09.
59. For Colden's critique of this act, see his letter to the Board of Trade, Jan. 25, 1762, in Cadwalader Colden, Colden Letter Books (2 vol.; New York: New York Historical Society, 1877-78), 1:155-58.
61. Sir William Johnson's land transactions are summarized in Flexner, Mohawk Baronet; more research needs to be done to determine Johnson's role in commissioning the large- scale surveys made in northern New York in the years following the conclusion of the French and Indian War.
64. Alexander Colden held the position jointly with his father from 1751-1762. From Feb.10, 1762, until June 29, 1774, Alexander had sole responsibility for the job. David Colden was surveyor general from June 29, 1774, to June 30, 1775. Civil List and Constitution .
65. A summary of Sauthier's career is in Mark Babinski, Notes on C.J. Sauthier and Lord Percy with a Listing of Maps of the State of New York Drawn by Simeon de Witt and David H. Burr (Garwood, N.J.: Krinder Peak Publishing, 1997).
66. See "Instructions Issued to Governor William Tryon Concerning Grants of Land" from King George III, Feb. 3, 1774. Copy in Colden Letters and Papers, VII, 206-211. These instructions explicitly state that Tryon should work together in producing surveys and maps "with the Advice and Assistance of Our Lieutenant Governor of Our said Province, our Surveyor General of Lands for the Northern District of N. America, Our Secretary, Our Surveyor General of Lands, and Our Receiver General of Our Quit-Rents for Our said Province of New York…."
67. See documents reprinted in New York State University, Boundary Commission, Report of the Regents of the University on the Boundaries of the State of New York, Daniel J. Pratt, ed. (2 vol; Albany, 1884), 2:27, 28.
68. For Cadwallader Colden II's activities as deputy surveyor, see Fingerhut, Survivor, 13. Cadwallader II's chief claim to fame is that he survived the American Revolution and continued to hold Coldengham for the family.
70. For Evans' consultation with Bleeker (also spelled Bleecker) see his "Analysis of a General Map of the Middle British Colonies," in Gipson, Lewis Evans, 61. There is also considerable confusion about Bleeker's middle name, which is sometimes given as Rutse or Rulse. See Lois Mulkearn's note to Thomas Pownall, A Topographical Description of the Dominions of the United States of America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1949), 16 (note 6).
71. John Rutger Bleeker, "A Map of the Manor of Renselaerwick" (manuscript map). "By a scale of 100 Chains to an Inch." A reduced-scale facsimile was made around 1850 for the Documentary History of the State of New York "from the original in the possession of Genl. Stephen Van Renselaer." This facsimile has been reproduced by Johnathan Sheppard Books (Albany, N.Y., ca. 1990). Information about Bleeker is available at the People of Colonial Albany website http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/bios/b/jorbleecker201.html. A copy of the nineteeth-century facsimile is available from the New York State Archives at http://nysl.nysed.gov/Archimages/83219.PDF
73. The Cockburn papers can be found in two separate collections at the New York State Archives. The first is "Cockburn field notes, land records, and maps, [ca. 1755]-1884" (call number B1773), and "Land papers, 1732-1864. Cockburn family" (call number SC7004). Brief descriptions of both collections are in the Archives’ Excelsior online catalog. A number of maps from the Cockburn family papers and other sources are available on the World Wide Web from the sites of the New York State Archives and the New York State Library. They can be located by searching the Archives Digital Collections at http://www.archives.nysed.gov, and the Library's catalog at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/.
74a. William Cockburn, "A Map of the Farm of Johannes & Myndert Dedricks on the Baverkill [sic]," 1774. New York State Archives. Available on the World Wide Web at http://iarchives.nysed.gov/PubImageWeb/viewImageData.jsp?id=81360.
75. Cockburn's more notable maps of the Catskill region include: "A Map of the Northerly Part of the Great or Hardenbergs Patent, together with the Country Adjacent between Kingston and Kattskill Made for Messrs. Ludlow & McEvers" (manuscript, 1773), on display at the Ulster County Historical Society, and a 1771 map of the Hardenburgh Patent at the New York State Office of Real Property (detail reproduced in Evers, Catskills, following p.152).
76. William Cockburn, "A Map of the Patented Lands in the Countys of Albany, Ulster, Dutches & Cumberland in the Province of New York: viz between the Highlands and Crown-point, As far East as Connecticut River and West as Orisconi & Delaware River" (manuscript map, 1768). A photostat of this map is available at the New York State Library.
77. William Cockburn, "A Map of the Province of New York as Divided into Counties, together with the Adjacent Provinces Compiled from the Latest Maps and Actual Surveys" (manuscript). The map itself is dated 1774, although Cockburn's note is dated 1780. Copies of this edition are at the New York State Library and the New York Public Library. These libraries also hold copies of the 1783 edition of this map.
78. This anonymous map is identified by the New York Historical Society as "[Map of New York land grants and purchases]" (call number M28.2.10). It is drawn to a scale of four miles to an inch (or 1:253,000), which is the scale used on several other late colonial property maps. A large detail is reproduced in Carole Shammas, "Cadwallader Colden and the Role of the King’s Prerogative," New-York Historical Society Quarterly 53 (1969): 120-21.
80. "Map of Part of the Province of New York on Hudson's River, the West End of Nassau Island, and part of New Jersey. Compiled pursuant to the order of the Earl of Loudon, Septbr. 17, 1757. Drawn by Captain Holland" (manuscript map). This is evidently the map "by Captain Holland and others" called by the Lords of Trade in 1766 “a very accurate and useful survey, … in which the most material patents are marked and their boundaries described,” Brodhead, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, VII, 845.
81. These maps, located at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA) are: "Map of the Great Pattent or Hardenburg Patent" (HM 15444) and "[The Lower Part of Hudson’s River]" (HM 15409). It appears probable that Holland also used Colden’s 1726 map of New York, since the copy of it at New York State Library bore the note: "This is a rough copy by Samuel Holland, probably made in 1757."
82. Full title: The Provinces of New York, and New Jersey; with Part of Pensilvania, and the Governments of Trois Rivieres, and Montreal (London: Robert Sayer and T. Jefferys, ). Available on the World Wide Web from the Library of Congress at: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3800.ar103900. There is considerable controversy concerning Holland’s role in the creation of this map, which will be discussed in the following chapter.
83. Anonymous, "A Plan of the Province of New York in North America for the Kings Most Excellent Majesty" (manuscript map, hand colored, ca. 1775). The original of this map is in the Crown Collection at the British Library; the Library of Congress has a colored photostat. This very large map is on a scale of 1:253,000 (four inches to a mile), and bears many similarities to Sauthier's Chorographical Map, but the names of grant holders and boundaries are sometimes different from Sauthier's, possibly reflecting an earlier date. A map at the Clements Library (Brun 371)) also bears a close resemblance to Sauthier's map.
84. Claude Joseph Sauthier, A Chorographical Map of the Province of New-York in North America, Divided into Counties, Manors, Patents and Townships; Exhibiting Likewise All the Private Grants of Land Made and Located in That Province; Compiled from Actual Surveys Deposited in the Patent Office at New York, by order of His Excellency Major General William Tryon (London: Faden, 1779). The manuscript of this map was apparently in London by the end of 1775. In the nineteenth century, a facsimile was published in O’Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York, I, facing p. 526. Three copies of the original published map are available online from the Library of Congress, one of which can be found at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3800.ar107000.
86. A summary of the history of New York’s boundaries can be found in Franklin K. Van Zandt, Boundaries of the United States and the Several States. U.S.G.S. Professional Paper 909 (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1976). Those interested in pursuing this subject in depth should start with Schwarz, Jarring Interests, which includes a comprehensive bibliography. Additional detailed information is contained in, New York State University, Boundary Commission, Report of the Regents of the University on the Boundaries of the State of New York (2 vols.; Albany, N.Y.: Argus Company, 1873-74).
87. The Duke of York's patent can be found in Laws of N.Y., I, 1-5., and in Report of the Regents on the Boundaries, 1:10,12, 14, 16, 18, 20. See note 5 to Chapter one in Schwarz, Jarring Interests for information about other copies of this patent.
88. This map is cataloged by the Library of Congress as Thomas Valentine, “A Plan of the Division Line between the Provinces of New-York and Quebec. In the 45th Degree of North Latitude. Survey'd in the Year 1771 & 1772. By Thomas Valentine & John Collins, esquirs. Drawn by C. J. Sauthier “ (manuscript map, ), http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3751f.ar107100.
89. For an account of the Collins-Valentine line and subsequent developments, see Francis M. Carroll, A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), 70-80. A map showing the deviation between the Collins-Valentine line and the 45th parallel can be found on page 76 of that book.
90. Guy Johnson, "Map of the Frontiers of the Northern Colonies with the Boundary Line Established between Them and the Indians at the Treaty Held by S. Will Johnson at Ft Stanwix in Novr 1768, Corrected and Improved from the Evans map, by Guy Johnson Dep. Agt of Ind Affairs (manuscript map, 1768). Facsimilies in Brodhead, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York, VIII, p. 136; Documentary History of the State of New York, I, facing p. 376. Boundary is shown as ridge of "Alleghany Mountains."
93. For a summary of the Massachusetts-New York boundary negotiations, see Schwarz, Jarring Interests, 74-133, 191-221. For the relationship between boundary disputes with Massachusetts and tenant “rebellions” in New York, see Kim, Landlord and Tenant, 281-415.
94. New York Times, May 27, 1998, A1.95. The evidence that the Duke of York consulted the Visscher map is largely circumstantial, but this would have been the most up-to-date map of the province available to him in 1664. It was assumed by the members of the New York – New Jersey boundary commission in 1769 that the Visscher map had been consulted by the Duke when he designated the boundary (see Schwarz, Jarring Interests, 186). Also Mitchell, Contest, 25-27.
98.The commission included Samuel Holland, who is also the author of the map illustrated in the text, The Provinces of New York, and New Jersey; with Part of Pensilvania, and the Governments of Trois Rivières, and Montreal ([London] Printed for Robt. Sayer ... and T. Jefferys [1768?]), which is available on the World Wide Web from the Library of Congress at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3800.ar103900. For the history of the developments described in this paragraph, see La Potin, Minisink Patent, 131-73; Schwarz, Jarring Interests, 133-61, 179-190.
99. For a summary of the colonial era boundary negotiations between New York and Pennsylvania, see Schwarz, Jarring Interests, 175-78. The surveying of the final boundary will be discussed in chapter 8 of this book.
100. Schwarz, Jarring Interests, 168-74; Nye, New York Land Patents (includes list of Vermont Patents); Michael A. Bellesiles, Revolutionary Outlaws: Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993).
102. Mitchell is generally thought to be the author of the anonymous, The Contest in America Between Great Britain and France With Its Consequences and Importance (London, 1757), http://books.google.com/books?id=D40BAAAAQAAJ&dq=Mitchell+Contest+in+America&source=gbs_navlinks_s . See pages 24-28 for discussion of New York’s Boundaries.
103. For Evans’ defense of the 1719 boundary, see Gipson, Lewis Evans, 20-21, 155.104. J.G. [John Gibson], The British Governments in Nth. America: Laid Down Agreeable to the Proclamation of Octr. 7, 1763. Published in Gentleman’s Magazine, 33 (Dec. 1763). Available online from the New York Public Library at: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?435005.