Mapping an Expanding State, 1784 - 1804
Copyright David Yehling Allen
The decades following the Revolutionary War saw dramatic growth in the population and economy of New York State. With the fighting over, New York's elite could put away their military maps and concentrate on more peaceful activities, such as land speculation. Before New Yorkers could begin making their fortunes (or going bankrupt) in real estate, a number of problems inherited from the colonial era had to be resolved—including the determination of New York’s boundaries, the disposition of land confiscated from Loyalists, and the allotment of New York’s greatly expanded public domain (mostly acquired at the expense of the Iroquois).
In the two decades following the Revolution, New York witnessed a full-scale land rush. A superficial look at New York in 1783 shows a state that had actually receded from its colonial boundaries. Because of wartime destruction, most of the settlements beyond Long Island and the central Hudson Valley had been abandoned. The frontiers of New York appeared to be approximately what they had been at the conclusion of the French and Indian War. However, this appearance is deceptive. As is often the case after the conclusion of a war, reconstruction was rapid, and old settlements were quickly repopulated. There was also a huge demand for land from emigrants. Little of this pressure came from overseas: most of it was from land-hungry American farmers seeking to better their lot. Much of this flood of emigrants came from New England, but many also came from the Hudson Valley, and some from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The story of the expansion of New York following the Revolution has been told in detail elsewhere. Here a brief summary will be presented as background for interpreting the maps of this period.
The flood of immigration into central and western New York is reflected in population statistics. The population of New York in 1783 has been estimated at around 250,000. At that time, it stood behind Connecticut in total population. According to the U.S. census, New York's population increased to 340,000 in 1790. In 1800, it stood at 589,000; in 1810, at 959,000, surpassing Virginia as the most populous state in the nation. In 1820, the population of New York stood at 1,373, 000; and in 1830 at 1,919,000. This rapid growth both reflected and contributed to the rapid settlement of the central and western portions of the state. In the case of Ontario County, which at that time included most of the western portion of central New York, population increased from 1,075 in 1790 to 42,032 in 1810. Overall, according to Laurence Hauptman, approximately 1000 non-Indians lived in New York west of Seneca Lake in 1790; in 1850, the figure was more than 660,000.
There were several sources of land for settlers in the years following the Revolution. Areas that had been lightly populated prior to the Revolution—such as the shores of Lake Champlain, the Susquehanna River Valley, and the Mohawk River Valley—were reopened for settlement following the conclusion of peace. In addition, a large amount of property formerly held by Loyalists was put on the market. With the conclusion of peace, new land also became available around the margins of the Adirondacks, and along the St. Lawrence River. Above all, the Iroquois lands in central and western New York were made available for purchase by speculators and land-hungry settlers.
By the 1790s, these activities led to a full-scale speculative boom in undeveloped New York State acreage. Land prices appreciated rapidly in a spiral that bears an uncanny resemblance to the real estate boom of the first decade of the twenty-first century. At the end of the decade, the bubble burst—producing a number of spectacular bankruptcies, as will be seen below.
All of this activity led to a great deal of surveying and mapping.
A key person in the mapping of New York in the decades following the Revolution was Simeon De Witt (1756-1834), who occupied the strategic position of surveyor general from 1784 until his death fifty years later. De Witt is a sphinx-like figure, who presided quietly over the carnival of land speculation, which was marked by vicious political infighting and various types of fraud and chicanery.
Figure 8.1. Portrait of Simeon De Witt by Ezra Ames. Original at Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Gift of the Grandchildren of Simeon de Witt. Image from Wikipedia Commons.
There is always some kind of relationship between cartography and politics, but rarely is it as evident as in the mapping of New York in the decades after 1783. During this period, New York's leaders found themselves with millions of acres of land at their disposal. At the same time, the state was split between political factions, including Clintonite Democratic-Republicans, Hamiltonian Federalists, and the followers of Aaron Burr. Later in De Witt's career, “Martling Men” associated with Peter Porter, and later Martin Van Buren's Bucktail Democrats, became important. In spite of these divisions, and the bitter controversies that were sometimes associated with them, there was a remarkable amount of agreement and cooperation on land policy. Not to put too fine a point on it, so much land became quickly available that anybody with money or a claim to political power could easily obtain a suitable helping of it.
De Witt's primary role was to survey and dispose of this land. As will be seen, he was also involved in a variety of other activities, but he was basically in the business of running a large and active state land office, which among other things sold massive amounts of land taken from former Loyalists and the Iroquois. Anyone in a position like this is certain to be subjected to all kinds of political pressures, and De Witt somehow managed to deal with them in ways that created remarkably little controversy. In the process, he also made important contributions to the mapping of New York.
We previously encountered Simeon De Witt as an assistant to Robert Erskine, whose place as Geographer and Surveyor General of the American army he occupied after Erskine's death in 1780. De Witt was related to General James Clinton (1733-1812), and to governors George Clinton (1739-1812) and De Witt Clinton (1769-1828). He received his initial training as a surveyor from his uncle James Clinton, and acquired advanced knowledge of surveying and cartography through his work with Erskine. De Witt's experience as a military surveyor made him one of the most highly qualified cartographers in America. He belonged to an elite circle of surveyors and geographers, which included such luminaries as David Rittenhouse Thomas Hutchins, and Andrew Ellicott. This group formed part of an interconnected network of surveyors, land speculators, and politicians. He was thus both professionally and politically well connected.
Although De Witt's family connections made him a Democratic-Republican of the Clintonian stamp, this did not prevent him from working hand-in-glove with Federalists, such as John Jay, Gouverneur Morris, and Philip Schuyler. In this respect, his politics resembled those of De Witt Clinton, who (more than populists like George Clinton or Aaron Burr) belonged to the patrician wing of the Democratic-Republican party. This collaboration is most evident in the case of Philip Schuyler, the Revolutionary War hero, who went on to become an important Federalist politician and a major land speculator. Schuyler also happened to be De Witt's predecessor as surveyor general. (The colonial office of surveyor general had been renewed by the legislature in 1781.) De Witt was appointed to this position after Schuyler resigned to become a United States senator. Although Schuyler became a bitter political opponent of George Clinton, he and Simeon De Witt, along with De Witt Clinton, were close allies in a variety of important projects, ranging from relieving the Iroquois of their allegedly "waste and unappropriated” lands to promoting the Erie Canal.
De Witt’s role in early republican New York can be illuminated by comparison with that played by Cadwallader Colden in the decades before the Revolution. Both of New York’s long-term surveyor generals were at the center of cartographic activities for long periods of time, and their personalities and policies present revealing similarities and differences.
Both Colden and De Witt came from "respectable," but non-aristocratic families. Colden was the son of a Presbyterian minister. De Witt was one of one of the fourteen children of a physician, Andries De Witt. Although De Witt's Clintonian relatives were politically powerful, they were only moderately wealthy. Both De Witt and Colden aspired to, and achieved, a considerable degree of gentility. Both had wide-ranging political and intellectual interests and connections. Like Colden, De Witt thought of himself as a man of learning and scientific talent. Colden's claims to scientific and literary eminence were more substantial than those of De Witt, but De Witt's accomplishments were not negligible. At least as early as 1790, he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society on the nomination of David Rittenhouse.[ 8] He was also a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York from 1798 until his death, and he was a founder of the Albany Institute of History and Art. His publications include a number of articles on scientific subjects, although none of them could be described as works of genius. They include pieces on the variation of the magnetic needle, on the climate of New York, and on agricultural subjects, such as the rotation of crops. He also happens to have published the first drawing of a Devonian fossil from New York, an ammonite, which he thought was a petrified ram’s horn. One of his articles bears the revealing title Considerations on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College, and Having More of the Children of Wealthy Citizens Educated for the Profession of Farming. He also published a small book on The Elements of Perspective.
Colden and De Witt also resembled each other in the way they lived. Both were patriarchal family men. De Witt was the father of six children by three wives. Both Colden and De Witt fancied themselves as landed gentry, and played at being farmers. Both took advantage of their positions to build up substantial amounts of landed wealth, although neither was rapacious by the standards of his time. Unlike Colden, De Witt had a reputation for almost superhuman virtue. His eulogist remarked: "I state it with pride, as one of the brightest traits in his character, that during the half century of his public life, he never purchased a single acre of public lands." While this may be literally true, De Witt found ways to advance both himself and his relatives. He somehow managed to acquire a fine piece of Albany real estate when he made a survey of that city, and at the time of his death he owned 1,932 acres in the vicinity of Ithaca.
De Witt also had no inhibitions about hiring friends and relatives, most notably his cousin, Moses De Witt (1766-94), who was also a surveyor and became a major land speculator in central New York. None of this is intended to suggest that De Witt was larcenous or a hypocrite, but only that he (like Colden) lived at a time when a certain amount of nepotism and profiting from office was regarded as normal and acceptable.
In spite of these external similarities, the two officials had radically different personalities and political styles. Colden was vain, verbose, and confrontational. De Witt’s temperament was almost diametrically opposed. Colden's career is easy to follow because he wrote volumes of letters and memoranda. In contrast, De Witt wrote little, and most of what he produced is curiously unrevealing. His letters, even those to close friends and relatives, are formal and impersonal, even by the standards of his time. George Geddes, the son of De Witt’s assistant James Geddes, wrote of him: "He was a man of caution, and dealt in facts, and had little or nothing of the extravagant in his nature."  In spite of his having been closely involved with politically sensitive matters, De Witt avoided political gossip, and left practically no paper trail expressing his own views and opinions, to the frustration of later historians.
De Witt was so unobtrusive that others took little notice of him. The correspondence and papers of his contemporaries—including Philip Schuyler, Thomas Jefferson, and John Jay—contain few references to him. What little can be found in such sources is either neutral or laudatory. He was almost uniformly described as capable, hard working, unaffected, and honest. Simeon De Witt's work during the Revolutionary War won him the praise of George Washington, who wrote to Jefferson: "I can assure you he is a modest, sensible, sober, and deserving young Man. Esteemed a very good Mathematician, and well worthy encouragement,…" Ironically, almost the only negative characterization of De Witt by a contemporary is a satirical poem that credited him (falsely) with responsibility for the remarkable collection of classical place names assigned to the townships of the New Military Tract. He seems to have had few personal enemies, which is remarkable in any age, and particularly so in the early years of the American Republic. Alvin Kass has observed that De Witt was the only Clintonian civil servant to survive the Bucktail purge of political appointees in 1820. It is little wonder that Jo Margaret Mano, who has studied De Witt's career closely, was led to title a presentation: “Simeon De Witt: Enigmatic Surveyor General, 1784-1834.”
This remarkably bland and even personality helped De Witt to pursue a successful career through a period of rapid economic and social change, and of political controversy. In so far as they can be ascertained, De Witt's politics were similar to those of his cousin De Witt Clinton. Only in a few cases, though, did he articulate strong political opinions, or state his opposition to particular people. We know that in 1804 he pressed Joseph Ellicott to support Morgan Lewis for governor against his opponent Aaron Burr, who was anathema to both George and De Witt Clinton. And, late in life, he made a rather detached political observation when he wrote from Ithaca to his deputy in Albany, Bernard S. Van Rensselaer: “Please send up my Extra Globe to lay on the table in the Clinton House reading room, where I am sorry to say, political heresy abounds—the old Hotel is the Jackson focus of this place.” But that is almost the extent of his visible political comments and activities.
De Witt could go out of his way to avoid controversy. For example, when asked by the state legislature to investigate the desirability of providing relief to settlers forced into debt by declining land prices, he concluded his report with these typically labored and unrevealing words: "Unfortunate, embarrassing and delicate, as are the subjects of this report, the Surveyor-General has thus endeavored, with the aid of all the information he could obtain, to place before the Legislature in a point of view the best calculated, in his opinion, to assist and facilitate their deliberations. The reference being confined to information alone, he has avoided as much as possible expressions that might be construed into an obstruction of opinion relative to what is proper to be done;…" Another example of De Witt's tendency to equivocate comes from one of the American agents of a French company, which had purchased land in New York, who went to De Witt to get his opinion on the disputed boundaries of the large tract of land they had bought: "I perceived that he avoided as much as possible revealing himself in this regard, something which I could only attribute to the fear of compromising himself with our sellers, who are American, while we are foreigners and unable to be either useful for him or harmfull."
Nonetheless, De Witt was not completely impartial or apolitical. As both a member and a servant of New York's political establishment, he was immersed in controversial activities, on which he could not avoid taking positions, if only by implication. This could hardly be otherwise, since almost anything that had to do with the buying and selling of state land involved the Surveyor General's office. In spite of De Witt’s skill at not antagonizing people when dealing with difficult issues, he was nonetheless involved in implementing controversial policies (including the disposition of lands owned by former loyalists, the purchase of land from the Iroquois, and the construction of the Erie Canal). His opinions on these subjects, although never aggressively stated, were substantially the same as those of George and De Witt Clinton. Like most of his contemporaries, he took it for granted that the Iroquois lands should be acquired for Euro-American settlement. He saw the Erie Canal as an instrument for furthering the progress and power of New York and America. He could be described as an early believer in progress and manifest destiny, and in spite of being a Jeffersonian Democrat, he shared with Federalists and Whigs the belief that the state under enlightened leadership should play a leading role in guiding America's destiny.
His involvement in New York's successful efforts to acquire most of the land belonging to the Iroquois appears particularly dubious today. A revealing example of his handling of Indian affairs is his role in the state’s efforts to acquire lands from the Oneidas. Some of these activities, which involved circumventing treaties between the federal government and the Iroquois, were regarded as questionable even in his own day. Although De Witt never actively defended New York's position on this issue, he clearly acquiesced in the position of George Clinton, which was to ignore the federal treaties. Clinton's position was not as flagrant to contemporaries as it seems to us. George Clinton was an advocate of "states rights," and had opposed the adoption of the Constitution in the first place. Although Washington and other Federalists believed that the federal treaties superseded state law, Anti-Federalists did not agree. After Thomas Jefferson became president, the federal government ceased questioning New York State's actions.
De Witt’s cautious approach to dealing with controversial subjects is also exemplified by a letter he wrote in 1789 to his assistant Abraham Hardenberg regarding a particularly messy political situation involving conflicting claims of settlers and Cayuga Indians: “I suppose you cannot do otherwise with the Canaserago [Kanadasega?] Creek than what you mention—if you keep within the letter of the law & treaty your conduct in other respects must be discretionary and dictated by expediency. Col. Read (?) will I suppose give you all the news Verbatum & Literatum—Therefore I shall not touch on that subject.”
De Witt was aided in his efforts to navigate New York’s turbulent political waters by the considerable agreement among political factions on issues involving land. After the Revolution, there was no royal government to restrain settlement in western New York, and the Iroquois were so weakened that they could offer little resistance to the flood of white settlers. Most of New York’s landed elite (including the Rensselaers, the Schuylers, and the Livingstons) weathered the Revolution with their estates intact, but (continuing a trend that was visible before the Revolution) large landowners increasingly preferred land speculation and selling land outright to settlers over taking on the burdens of managing tenant farmers. New York was financially bankrupted by the Revolution, and its politicians were eager to balance the state budget by selling land and then taxing settlers. Among the small farmers who formed the backbone of the constituency of Republican politicians like eight-term governor George Clinton, there were many who were eager to buy fertile farms from land speculators. The only conspicuous losers in the rush to develop western New York were former Loyalists and Indians.
Establishing New York’s Boundaries
Let us now consider how New York's politicians and surveyors actually dealt with the problems of expansion. Establishing clear lines of governmental jurisdiction was an important prerequisite for settling the land. Conflicting claims of ownership based on patents issued by different states inhibited settlement by creating uncertainty and conflict. This is most obvious in the case of Vermont.
As was seen in a previous chapter, conflict between New Hampshire and New York over the disposition of lands in what is now Vermont went back far into the colonial period. By the 1760s, both colonies had issued numerous land patents in the area, and tensions over the possession of tracts of land in modern Vermont sometimes reached the point of violence. In 1764, The Crown attempted to settle these controversies once and for all by establishing New York's eastern boundary with New Hampshire at the Connecticut River. But that decision did not stand because of the continued influx of New Englanders into Vermont, and during the Revolution Vermont set itself up as virtually an independent state under the leadership of Ethan Allen. Finally, in 1789, Governor George Clinton reluctantly acknowledged Vermont's existence as a separate state. Some of the "Vermont Sufferers" (those with invalidated land claims from New York) were eventually resettled on 41,000 acres in Chenango County.
Conflicting land claims also had to be adjudicated with Massachusetts. The boundary between the two states had not been completely settled during the colonial period, and only in 1785 was the modern boundary finally surveyed. Massachusetts also had a long-standing claim to most of what is now western New York. This claim was based on its colonial charter, which in theory extended its western boundary all the way to the Pacific Ocean. New York, on the other hand, claimed all of the lands once ruled by the Iroquois. These conflicting claims were settled in a compromise embodied in the Hartford Convention of 1786. Massachusetts was given the preemption right (the right to buy and sell land from the Indians) in exchange for ceding governmental jurisdiction to New York. The area where Massachusetts exercised its preemption right consisted of about six million acres belonging to the Seneca Nation between Seneca Lake and Lake Erie. In addition, Massachusetts retained the preemption right to some 230,000 acres in an area west of the Catskills known as the "Boston Ten Towns." These lands were quickly sold to speculators, and became the foundations of several huge development projects, whose history will be sketched below.
The boundary between New York and Pennsylvania was surveyed along the 42nd parallel in 1785-86. This survey, which commenced at the intersection of the 42nd parallel and the Delaware River, was carried out by a stellar team headed by David Rittenhouse and Andrew Ellicott for Pennsylvania, and by Philip Schuyler, James Clinton, and Simeon De Witt for New York. For Rittenhouse, this survey must have brought back interesting memories, since he had previously started it in 1774 in the company of Samuel Holland—an effort which had to be abandoned at the outbreak of the Revolution.
The survey was carefully done using up-to-date techniques and instruments, most of which were supplied by Rittenhouse and Ellicott, rather than by De Witt. It involved the measurement by astronomical means of large numbers of latitudes, which were used to correct the survey line for the curvature of the earth. This survey occupies an important place in the mapping of America. A recent commentator has written: “…the way in which the Pennsylvania- New York boundary was run would become the prototype for nearly all subsequent east-west borders in the United States, including the immense frontier with Canada.”
The long latitudinal line separating New York and Pennsylvania was particularly important for the future mapping of New York. The survey, which later surveyors have confirmed to be accurate to within one foot per mile, was marked by milestones. These were used as starting points for north-south meridians that were drawn across the state—thus helping to establish a grid of longitudes and latitudes for locations in central and western New York. The results of the boundary survey were certified Oct. 12, 1786.
The last major adjustment in the boundary between the two states was made in 1789-90, when the Erie Triangle was surveyed by Andrew Ellicott (with the assistance of his brother Joseph). The Erie Triangle is a small piece of land nipped off the westernmost part of New York between the 42nd parallel and Lake Erie. It was ceded by New York to the federal government, and then sold by Congress to Pennsylvania to give it access to Lake Erie. Ellicott’s survey defined the western boundary of New York, which was drawn on a meridian running through the westernmost end of Lake Ontario. The results of this boundary survey are shown on a map of northern Pennsylvania and western New York made by John Adlum around 1791, which will be discussed later in this chapter.(Figure 8.1).
Figure 8.2. John Adlum, Detail of Map of Part
of the State of New York. Nineteenth-century facsimile
of a map originally published
The manner in which New York was divided in the decades following the Revolution is dramatically revealed in small-scale property maps. The best overview of the large land grants in the state is in an atlas published by J.R. Bien in 1895, which is readily available on the Web. To understand how and why this land was mapped as it was, it is worth quickly reviewing the highlights of the history of its acquisition and subdivision.
A massive amount of land in the older parts of New York was made available through the confiscation of properties belonging to the British Crown or to Loyalist landowners. The seizure of these lands was authorized by a law passed in 1779, and their sale went on through at least the first decade of the nineteenth century. It has been estimated that approximately two-thirds of the land in New York was confiscated from the Crown or the Loyalists, and its sale contributed huge sums to the state treasury. There was much controversy and litigation over which estates should be confiscated, and concerning the rights of heirs of former Loyalists, which ultimately led to additional legislation. In the end, some 60 estates were confiscated, including those of such well-known colonial landowners as Gugh Wallace, Philip Skene, the heirs of Sir William Johnson, the Philipses, Oliver DeLancy, John Butler, and Ebenezer Jessup. Some of this land was purchased by former tenants, although much of it was initially acquired by speculators. The final result of this process was the creation of numerous small land holdings, which has been described as "the most concrete indication of the social aspects of the American Revolution." It is telling that this confiscation and redistribution of land was supported by the populist governor George Clinton (himself no mean land speculator), and strongly opposed by manor holders like Robert B. (" the Chancellor") Livingston and Philip Schuyler, who feared the precedent being set by this seizure of private property. It is equally remarkable that this conflict did not prevent these figures from cooperating a few years later in a variety of land grabbing projects further to the west.
The manner in which the lands of former Loyalists were developed is illustrated by the much-studied example of the property acquired by William Cooper (1754-1809), the founder of Cooperstown and father of James Fenimore Cooper. Much of this land was owned prior to the Revolution by George Croghan (1720-1782), the well-known Indian agent and friend of Sir William Johnson. After considerable maneuvering and intrigue, Cooper purchased this land, and proceeded to gain fame by pioneering ways to sell it to farmers from New England. His technique was to make settlement easy by building infrastructure, such as roads and mills, and by offering land in small parcels and on easy credit. This general approach to promoting settlement and selling land was later followed on a larger scale by other land developers in central and western New York.
The amount of land made available through the confiscation of crown lands and royalist estates was dwarfed by the acreage that remained in Indian hands west of the old 1763 Proclamation Line. Most of this territory did not remain in their hands for long. The seizure of the Iroquois lands is one of the most controversial episodes in the history of New York. Most of this land was theoretically sold voluntarily by the Indians, but these sales were often illegal under federal law, and usually involved varying amounts of bribery, coercion, dispensation of alcohol, and other forms of fraud and manipulation. Much has been written about this subject, and there is no need to give a detailed account of it here. While it is easy for us to condemn the manner in which the Indian lands were taken, it should also be noted that there were only about 6000 Iroquois and other Native Americans in western New York. Demographics alone made the loss of most of these lands to European-Americans all but inevitable, and few of New York’s leaders at the time seem to have seriously questioned what they were doing. Still, most scholars today agree that, at the very least, the process should have proceeded with more justice and consideration for the Indians.
During the Revolution, New York, like most other states, had obligated itself to provide land as a bounty to former soldiers. Even before the Treaty of Paris (July, 1782), the New York State Legislature had identified a large tract of land in the Finger Lakes area as suitable for this purpose. But there was a small problem with this idea—the land still belonged to the Iroquois. Because of continuing pressure from veterans, the legislature decided in 1786 to allocate them lands around the Adirondacks in northern New York, which became known as the "Old Military Tract." Most of this land was unsuitable for farming, and consequently pressure continued from former soldiers for better land. Finally, New York acquired the territory it had originally intended for the soldiers through treaties with Onondagas (1788) and Cayugas (1789). This land, which amounted to more than 1.5 million acres, became known as the "New Military Tract." It was surveyed between 1789 and 1793 by Moses De Witt and Abraham Hardenbergh under the supervision of Simeon De Witt. The land commissioners ignored almost all of the old Iroquois place names in this area, and substituted classical and literary names. This renaming of conquered lands is a characteristic feature of European and American expansionism. The way in which this land was surveyed will be discussed below.
As was generally the case with military bounty lands after the Revolution, little of the New Military Tract was actually farmed by former soldiers. Usually the soldiers sold their rights to small-scale speculators—sometimes several times over, thereby creating numerous legal conflicts. The speculators ultimately sold the land to a variety of settlers. The majority of the settlers of the New Military Tract came from other parts of New York, rather than from New England, as was the case in much of upstate New York. At least the land did finally end up in the hands of farmers, and the way in which it was acquired and surveyed has had considerable influence on the history of central New York down to the present.
There was a notable shift in land policy following the Revolution. In the 1780s and early 1790s, land was sold to speculators in huge blocks by state legislatures. This practice benefited the states, which desperately needed to raise money to pay off war debts. The land speculators hoped to make a fortune by reselling the land to smaller speculators or directly to farmers. Sometimes they succeeded in unloading their lands at a profit, although several major speculators went bankrupt. Although old landed families like the Schuylers, Rensselaers, and Livingstons remained influential—and in some cases purchased land in the newly opened areas—no serious attempt was made to extend the manorial system to central or western New York. In order to sell their land, developers found that they had to offer properties on easy terms, and to improve them by building roads, mills, blacksmith shops, taverns, and other necessities. Charles Williamson (1757-1808) even tried to lure settlers to the vicinity of Bath by building a theatre and racetrack. Few pioneers were able or willing to strike out into the wilderness on their own and build their world from scratch. This approach to settling the land was not entirely new. To a certain extent, colonial manor holders like the Livingstons and the Johnsons had attempted to attract tenants by building mills and making other improvements. The basic features of the approach followed after the Revolution had been even more directly anticipated by George Croghan and the Totten and Crossfield group, more than a decade before William Cooper refined and popularized their methods.
The first grants made by the New York State Legislature were on a relatively small scale, and were mostly in northern New York around the fringes of the Adirondacks. A considerable amount of the land involved in the original Totten and Crossfield purchase was redistributed to the remaining (Loyalist) members of that consortium in 1786-87, and these lands appear under the Totten and Crossfield name on maps published in the early nineteenth century. Just to confuse matters, this area was also known as “Jessup’s Purchase.” Other grants were made under a law passed by the legislature in 1781, which gave 500 acres of undeveloped land to each man who enlisted in the army, and included a provision that if enough enlistees joined together to be entitled to 30,500 acres, they could apply for a township seven miles square.
This law was used in 1784, when Zephaniah Platt and others purchased the rights to 33,000 acres around Plattsburg, which had previously been held by the Loyalist Count Charles de Fredenburgh. In 1785, the town of Plattsburgh was formed. This area, which possessed some good farmland and had considerable natural resources, was settled fairly rapidly by emigrants from Vermont and other nearby areas.
New York's land sales speeded up after the legislature created a land commission in 1784, which was authorized to quickly dispose of New York's "waste and unappropriated lands." The land commissioners, who were all high-level state officials, sold off a total of 5,542,170 acres. Predictably, most of these sales were made on easy terms to the politically well connected, including both supporters of Governor Clinton, and Federalists who showed signs of political cooperation. The biggest of these grants was made in 1792 to a consortium headed by Alexander Macomb (1748-1831). Macomb’s Purchase was the largest land grant made by New York State, and ultimately constituted 3,670,000 acres. It included much of the land in and around the Adirondack Mountains and the St. Lawrence River—some 12% of the state's surface area. This ambitious project turned into a disaster for Macomb, who quickly went bankrupt. Ultimately the purchase was broken up and sold to smaller speculators.
Credit for surveying the boundaries of Macomb's Purchase goes to William Cockburn and his son. We first encountered the ubiquitous William Cockburn as one of the leading surveyors in upstate New York prior to the Revolution, and he and his family continued to play a major role in exploring and surveying well into the nineteenth century. Another important surveyor who was active in this area was Charles C. Brodhead, who has been credited with producing "the first accurate map of the Black River country."
Brodhead's activities in this area included surveying Castorland (also known as Chassani's Tract or the French Company’s land), which is One of the most interesting of the spinoffs from Macomb's Purchase. Founded in 1793, and located mostly in Jefferson and Lewis Counties, this project was initially intended to provide a home for aristocrats and others fleeing the French Revolution. The colony was never very successful, but after 1815 it received an infusion of new aristocrats when Joseph Bonaparte and other followers of Napoleon were attracted to the area. The largest of the French landlords in this area, James Le Ray de Chaumont, owned 348,205 acres in 1823, when he transferred his lands to his sons following the usual bankruptcy. Ultimately, most of these notables moved back to France or to other locations in more congenial climates. Still, this enterprise played an important part in the initial development of the area, contributed to a significant French presence in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and provided local historians with entertaining anecdotes about the strange doings of the French aristocrats in the wilderness.
Another immense state land grant was Scriba’s Patent (originally known as the Roosevelt Purchase), which consisted of about 500,000 acres in modern Oswego County. This land was sold to George Scriba (1752-1836) in 1792, and patented by him in 1794. Scriba made extensive efforts to develop the region, but ultimately he too went bankrupt, and his lands were distributed to his creditors. In its general evolution, this tract is typical of many others. Scriba's Patent was first surveyed by Benjamin Wright, and a manuscript map of his survey of the patent can be found at Syracuse University Library.
The largest land grants were sold not by New York, but by Massachusetts under its "preemption right" (right of first purchase from the Indians). These grants were all on land formerly controlled by the Iroquois, and they played a major role in shaping the development of the state. They included all of New York west of Seneca Lake, except for a narrow strip along the Niagara River. Massachusetts also controlled some 230,400 acres in modern Broome and Tioga Counties known as "The Boston Ten Towns." The preemption rights to western New York were quickly sold by Massachusetts to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham in what became known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. The lands involved constituted almost all of New York west of Seneca Lake (about 6,000,000 acres). Title to the land itself was acquired from the Iroquois in a series of treaties, starting with the Treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1788, and culminating in the Treaty of Big Tree in 1797. Only the Buffalo Creek treaty was actually negotiated by Phelps and Gorham, and it gave them control of some 2,500,000 acres, which was mostly located between Seneca Lake and the Genesee River. The company lost control of this area in the middle of 1790, but by the end of 1789 it had managed to sell off 46 townships, mostly in the vicinity of its central settlement at Canandaigua
The owners of the Phelps and Gorham lands pioneered many of the techniques that were later used by land developers elsewhere in New York and the United States. Based in Massachusetts, they were among the earliest users of the rectangular survey system in New York, which hints at its partial derivation from the New England township system. Although they, like other large landholders in this period, labeled these large blocks of land "townships," they were not governmental units, as they were in New England.
To attract settlers, they planned towns in advance, built roads, and engaged in efforts to recruit settlers from New England. The first survey of the land between the Preemption Line and the Genesee River was done for this company in 1788-89. This survey, which was performed by Hugh Maxwell and others, was done quickly and was not very accurate. As will be seen below, it was soon disputed, and the land had to be resurveyed before a survey was accepted by the state.
This company quickly ran into financial problems, which led to the breakup of its holdings. In 1790, the unsold Phelps and Gorham lands were purchased by Philadelphia financier Robert Morris (1734-1806), along with the purchase right to the remaining Massachusetts preemption lands. In 1792, Morris hired a group of surveyors headed by Andrew Ellicott and Augustus Porter to resurvey the lands he had purchased. This survey revealed substantial errors in the earlier survey done for Phelps and Gorham, especially in the location of its eastern border (which marked the “Preemption Line”). This new survey, which relocated the town of Geneva and part of Sodus Bay to the west of the Preemption Line, was accepted as official by the state in 1795.
Although Morris was one of the wealthiest men in America, he also found that had bit off more land than he could chew. In 1791, he sold the eastern portion of his lands to a group of British investors headed by Sir William Pulteney. The Pulteney Purchase constituted about 1,000,000 non-contiguous acres, mostly between Seneca Lake and Genesee River (what remained of the Phelps-Gorham Purchase). The American agent for the Pulteney Association was Charles Williamson (1757-1808). He is the most important of the publicists who wrote books or pamphlets about the newly opened lands in central and western New York. Several of these works contain maps, which will be discussed below.
The Pulteney sale did not put an end to Robert Morris’ financial troubles, and he sold most of the remaining land to the Holland Land Company, except for a strip to the east known as the "Morris Reserve." Even this he was not able to keep for long, and the collapse of his speculations led to the distinguished “financier of the American Revolution” being imprisoned for debt between 1798-1801.
The last and largest of the huge swaths of land to be the developed in New York was the 3.3 million acres purchased by the Holland Land Company from Robert Morris. This purchase included most of New York west of the Genesee River, except for the then sizable Indian reservations, and a narrow strip of land along the Niagara River. Like the Pulteney Association, the Holland Land Company was made up of European investors who did not plan to live on the land themselves, but hoped to profit by making improvements and reselling it to settlers. The Holland Land Company was one of the more successful and long-lived of these speculative enterprises, although it too confronted considerable financial and political difficulties. Many of the farmers who bought land throughout New York were desperately poor, and could not afford to pay for their farms even when granted credit and a long payment schedule. This situation led to defaults, and to discontent and sporadic rebellion after 1820. Agrarian unrest was a striking feature of New York history around the middle of the nineteenth century, and it affected both tenant farmers in the Hudson Valley and indebted "free" farmers in western New York.
The American resident agent of the Holland Land Company was Joseph Ellicott (1760-1826), who surveyed this area between 1797 and 1799. After Simeon De Witt (with whom he was associated), Ellicott was the most important figure in the mapping of New York during this period. De Witt made him a deputy surveyor general, and thereby gave official status to his surveys of western New York. De Witt even authorized him to survey the boundary between the Holland Land Company's lands and the strip of state land along the Niagara River. Joseph Ellicott was a capable surveyor. He received his training from his brother, Andrew Ellicott, who is famous for surveying the layout of Washington, and for his implementation of the rectangular survey system on federal lands. Unlike De Witt, Joseph Ellicott was articulate and communicative, and has left us detailed descriptions of his surveying techniques. He was also an accomplished practitioner of the rectangular survey system. Ellicott's surveying techniques will be described in greater detail in the following section.
The role of land surveyors in the history of this period has been little studied, but they played a major role in the developments described in this chapter. In the early years of the Republic, major land owners and politicians (including George Washington, George Clinton, and Philip Schuyler) were frequently also trained surveyors. Somewhat below them in the social scale, were skilled professionals like Simeon De Witt and Joseph Ellicott. They, in turn, supervised those who actually conducted most of the surveys, including William Cockburn and his sons, Moses De Witt, Abraham Hardenburgh, Charles C. Brodhead, James Geddes, Benjamin Wright, and many lesser lights. All of these individuals played important roles in the well-oiled land grabbing and processing machine.
The older William Cockburn seems to have been the only important surveyor whose career antedated the Revolution. Most were younger men, who often got their start as military surveyors during the Revolution, or were protégés of people like Simeon De Witt or Philip Schuyler. Often they worked at various stages of their careers for both the state government and for major land owners. Sometimes they were also land agents for the tracts that they surveyed. Several of them made small fortunes as lesser land speculators, or went on to play important parts in such activities as surveying the route of the Erie Canal. They were indispensable lesser pillars of New York's political and economic establishment.
The basic techniques used by surveyors at this time, including Simeon De Witt and Joseph Ellicott, did not differ much from those employed by Cadwallader Colden or James Alexander in the middle of the eighteenth century. Almost all of their surveying was done by chain and compass. De Witt owned a theodolite (which is in the possession of the Albany Institute of History and Art), and he knew about triangulation, but in practice does not seem to have engaged in “scientific mapping.” In 1819, he offered to sell a zenith sector (used mainly for observing latitudes) made by Rittenhouse because he had no use for it beyond his "personal gratification."
The surveyors under De Witt's supervision, who did most of the actual work of his office, were mostly trained on the job, and had few scientific or mathematical skills. De Witt made no effort to have them correct their maps for the curvature of the earth or for magnetic variation. Instead, he issued very basic instructions on how lots should be surveyed and numbered. These are on the order of: “Whenever it can be conveniently done make the sides of townships North South East and West magnetically.” In 1808, De Witt issued printed instructions to his assistants on how to observe variations in the magnetic needle. These instructions, which resemble those of his colonial predecessors, in theory made it possible to determine the actual north-south orientation of individual surveys. His letters also contain occasional admonitions to surveyors on such matters as making certain that the lengths of their chains had not changed because of stretching through use.
We know more about the Joseph Ellicott’s surveying techniques than those of Simeon De Witt. This is mainly because Ellicott was required to submit detailed reports about his activities to the Holland Land Company. Generally, Ellicott's methods of surveying were similar to De Witt's, but Ellicott was a little more precise and systematic, and his methods were sometimes more advanced. Thus, Ellicott took particular pains to ensure the accuracy of the measurements made by his surveyors. This extended to establishing a standard length for the foot. Even in Ellicott’s time, there was no standard for the foot in the United States, and consequently the length of surveyors’ chains varied appreciably. He dealt with this problem by constructing what was, in effect, his own standard, and used it to calibrate all of his chains. In addition, Ellicott made certain that the compasses his surveyors used were adjusted so that meridians were based on true north instead of magnetic north, and he periodically checked their measurements by astronomical observations.
Ellicott’s most impressive surveying feat was drawing a meridian from the Pennsylvania boundary line to Lake Ontario using astronomical observations and the newly invented surveyor’s transit, rather than the usual compass and chain technique. This technique was apparently first used in New York by Andrew Ellicott in his resurvey of the Preemption Line for Robert Morris in 1791. This laborious process required astronomical observations and cutting down trees to obtain a straight line of sight for the transit.
The most important changes made in surveying at this time took the form of simplification and standardization. Crucial in this regard was the widespread adoption of the rectangular survey system. Although not followed with complete consistency, rectangular surveys of one sort or another were characteristic of almost all of the major land developments in New York after 1790. In comparison to the “metes and bounds” used in most colonial surveys, it was relatively difficult to make serious surveying errors using a simple grid of squares or rectangles, and the rectangles could easily be subdivided into smaller parcels. This mitigated the problems of overlapping boundaries and uncertain survey lines that characterized so many earlier surveys.
The rectangular system was ideally suited for the quick sale of large quantities of land, which is the main reason why it also became the cornerstone of the federal land system, which was based on an ordinance passed by congress in 1785. Under both the federal and the New York State systems, land was surveyed into large blocks called “townships.” In New York, unlike New England, these townships never became units of government, although many of them later evolved into “towns” with elected officials. In some cases, as in the New Military Tract, the names of the old townships were often carried over to the new towns, but this was not always the case. In other cases, the original townships were numbered, or their names were simply forgotten over the course of time. This whole situation has understandably led to a good deal of confusion about the relationship between towns and townships in New York.
By 1800, surveyors had ascertained by astronomical means a fair number of reasonably accurate latitudes for New York State. Observations of longitude were still rare. I have found no references to the use of the chronometer to ascertain longitudes in New York prior to 1801, and very few references to longitudes being taken by any method prior to 1806. As late as that year, Simeon De Witt estimated the longitude of Albany by using surveys to calculate its distance from Philadelphia, rather than by making astronomical observations. Even Andrew Ellicott, who had made astronomical determinations of longitudes in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, does not appear to have made any in his surveys of the boundaries between Pennsylvania and New York. This reflects the difficulty of determining longitude by such making observations of the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter--which requires repeated observations, good telescopes, and an accurate chronometer for measuring local time.
This lack of a large number of directly measured longitudes was not as much an obstacle to accurate mapping as might be thought. Since a number of meridians and latitudinal base lines had been established along New York’s boundaries, and the longitudes of a few places had been astronomically determined, it was possible for surveyors to interpolate reasonably accurate longitudes by measuring north-south meridians from established positions. Thus, relative longitudes within the state could be calculated fairly well, even though they were not measured astronomically from a standard meridian, such as Greenwich, Philadelphia, or New York City.
This process is best illustrated by the example of the New York – Pennsylvania boundary. Although the longitudes of the ends of this line were not determined astronomically, they were fairly well known by indirect means. Ellicott connected the survey of the boundary along the 42nd parallel with the meridian of the western boundary of Pennsylvania, the southwest corner of which had been determined astronomically—thus providing, at least in theory, a roundabout measurement for the longitude of the western end of the New York – Pennsylvania boundary. And the distance between Philadelphia (the longitude of which had been repeatedly checked) and the eastern end of the New York boundary line had also been carefully surveyed—starting as early as 1774, when Rittenhouse surveyed the Delaware River between Philadelphia and the starting point of the New York boundary line.
Furthermore, carefully measured lines like the New York - Pennsylvania boundary could be very useful even if their longitudes were not known to perfection. Although the astronomical longitudes of the ends of this line were somewhat uncertain, the relative longitudes of the individual milestones were carefully measured from the starting point of the survey. Consequently, the milestones could be used as starting points for meridians surveyed to the north from the baseline. This is exactly what Andrew Ellicott did in resurveying the Preemption Line for Robert Morris, and which Joseph Ellicott did when he surveyed the eastern boundary of the Holland Purchase. The latitude-longitude grid created by such means was good enough to determine with sufficient precision the locations of parcels of land within the state, and it was used by De Witt to improve the mapping of New York as a whole.
Another practice widely adopted by surveyors in the 1790s was the use of field notes to describe the general characteristics of the lands they surveyed. Both Joseph Ellicott and Simeon De Witt issued instructions to their surveyors specifying what was to be recorded. De Witt wrote: “All the surveyors are to keep their field books according to the form which will be prescribed and note the quality of the land the chief kind of timber & the lakes creeks and rivers and their directions at crossing them.” Ellicott’s field notes were submitted with his reports to the Holland Land Company, and are readily available on microfilm. The field notes compiled for De Witt were not recorded and maintained so systematically, but many of the field books for the military tract can be found in the De Witt Family papers at Syracuse University. These field notes have been used by environmental historians and geographers to reconstruct old vegetation patterns in upstate New York.
All of this surveying produced a rich harvest of hand-drawn property maps, many of which can still be found in the New York State Archives, in the offices of county clerks, in historical societies, and in other repositories. There are literally thousands of them, and most have not been individually cataloged by their owners. Almost all of these maps were never published and remain in manuscript. They generally cover small areas of land, which makes them of interest to only a few. But, taken as a group, these maps, along with the field notes that sometimes accompanied them, are invaluable resources for students of local history. Although most of them are too specialized to describe here, a few manuscript maps of larger areas will be singled out here to give some idea of the overall trend of developments.
Several maps by Simeon De Witt reveal something about the relationship between colonial property mapping and the early mapping of New York State. In the settled areas of the state, it must have been a formidable challenge for the Surveyor General to sort out who owned what. The problems created by the incomplete and imprecise mapping of the colonial era, with its conflicting land ownership claims, were compounded by the confiscations and forced sales of Loyalist lands. Soon after taking office as Surveyor General in 1784, De Witt wrote to Jeremiah Rensselaer asking him for permission to copy any maps he had of colonial land patents, as “the papers belonging to the Surveyor General’s office before the war are not to be had.” De Witt had to reconstruct the colonial land holdings, and several of his early manuscript maps are basically copies of pre-Revolutionary property maps. One of these, which is now housed at the library of Congress, shows landholdings in the vicinity of Orange County, and appears to be mainly based on maps made by Cadwallader Colden. De Witt also copied an old map of the Totten and Crossfields Purchase in northern New York. The best known example of this type of work, which was published later in the nineteenth century, shows the lands between the Mohawk and Delaware rivers. It resembles Sauthier's Chorographical Map, and shows property boundaries in this area as they existed just before the Revolution (Figure 8.3). Many of these tracts changed ownership during or shortly after the Revolution. It would be interesting to know what role these maps played in determining the outcome of litigation over the ownership and boundaries of newly acquired properties, such as those of William Cooper near Cooperstown.
Figure 8.3. Detail of Simeon De Witt, Map of the Head Waters of the Rivers Susquehanna & Delaware (ca. 1790). New York State Library.
De Witt is not the only person who engaged in this type of mapping. Another example is Gerrit Lansing (1760-1834), who drew A Map of the Survey and Partition, of Oriskany Otherwise Called Oriskary Patent (1786). A slightly later map of this same area drawn by Lansing in 1789 shows how this important tract of land on the north side of the Mohawk River was initially subdivided. Like most of these maps, it does not go down to the level of the individual farms that ultimately resulted from the subdivision process. The story behind this map is typical of many. Gerrit Lansing was an officer in the Continental Army who became a surveyor after the conclusion of the war. Much of the land that he surveyed in 1786 had been confiscated in 1784 from the Loyalist DeLancey family, but the Schuylers also had interests in this area antedating the Revolution, and Lansing was employed by them. In 1802, Lansing returned to this area, bought 400 acres of land, and became an important figure in the early history of the town of Oriskany and of Oneida County.
Oneida County is particularly well represented in the maps of this period—in part because it straddled the pre-Revolutionary "Proclamation Line" of 1763, and also because portions of it had previously been granted to colonial landholders. These years saw the dispossession of the Oneida Indians from most of their land in New York—in spite of their being the only Iroquois tribe allied with the Americans during the Revolution. The location of the Oneida lands made them early targets for takeover. The Oneidas’ possessed extensive farmlands easily accessible just to the west of the settled areas along the Mohawk River. In addition, their territory included valuable salt springs near Syracuse, and it controlled the routes later followed by roads and canals leading to western New York and the Great Lakes. The best known, and one of the most revealing, of the maps depicting the Euro-American takeover of these lands is Gideon Fairman's A Map of Oneida Reservation including the Lands Leased to Peter Smith. It shows the Oneida reservation as it existed at that time, along with land given by the Oneidas to the Stockbridge Indians, and the land recently acquired by non-Indians laid out in townships with numbered subdivisions.
The extensive mapping of the New Military Tract in central New York, which was done under the supervision of Simeon De Witt, is shown on De Witt's published maps, which will be discussed below. However, additional light on the history and geography of this area can be obtained from the manuscript maps that preceded the printed versions. A spectacular example is A Map of the Military Lands by De Witt’s assistant, Abraham Hardenbergh, which was probably drawn in 1792. [80 ] This pen-and-ink map is drawn on a very large scale (two miles to an inch), and includes a minute depiction of the hydrography in the townships and ranges of the military tract. It appears to be a kind of “master map,” which may have provided the basis for the smaller-scale maps that were published later. De Witt himself drew A Map of the Military Tract and Lands Adjacent, (ca. 1792), which is an early draft of a map later published as the "1st sheet" of his map of the State of New York. These drafts were produced over a period of two or three years, and show significant differences in detail.
There has been insufficient research on the manuscript maps of the lands surveyed for the Phelps-Gorham group, for Robert Morris, and for the Pulteney Association. A large number of these maps, all of which are within the original Phelps and Gorham purchase, were made in the years following 1788, and it is easy to confuse them. Because the original survey (done by Hugh Maxwell and others) was widely regarded as defective, the land was quickly resurveyed for Robert Morris by a group headed by Andrew Ellicott and Augustus Porter. The main issue at stake was the location of the eastern boundary of this area. Under Charles Williamson, additional surveying was done. These overlapping surveys need to be carefully described and compared. The printed maps of this area, which will be described below, are difficult to interpret without knowing which surveys they are based on.
Finally, the archives of the Holland Land Company constitute a rich resource of maps of westernmost New York. Most of the contents of the Holland Land Company archives in Amsterdam and elsewhere have been microfilmed by the Holland Land Company Project based at the State University of New York at Fredonia. They are available at the Reed Library at SUNY Fredonia, and at other major research libraries in New York State. They include color microfiche of many maps and lot survey field books. This collection is now also available on the Internet.
In spite of the extensive surveying and selling of land that took place in the two decades following the Revolution, few real estate maps were actually published at this time. This contrasts with the situation during the last half of the nineteenth century, when hucksters printed off large numbers of maps as broadsides to entice buyers. It is not entirely clear why so few real estate promotion maps were published during New York’s initial land rush, but one reason is certainly the comparatively great expense of engraving and printing before 1830. There is also some indication that small farmers and other potential immigrants did not make much use of published materials, either in the form of pamphlets or maps. This could reflect the comparatively high cost of printed matter, but it may also be an indication of marginal literacy and map reading skills in these groups. Studies show that immigrants tended to move in groups of related people or communities, and were motivated primarily by letters from relatives, by word of mouth, by verbal promotions of salesmen, or by community leaders, such as clergymen. The extent to which ordinary immigrants actually used maps to guide their steps remains unclear. There is some evidence that these maps were available to potential settlers in such places as libraries (reading rooms), courthouses, and taverns.
Printed maps were used in at least a few publicity efforts to attract investors or settlers to newly opened lands in central and western New York. The earliest production of this kind appears to be A Map of the Genesee Lands in the County of Ontario and State of New York According to an Accurate Survey Which Was Made of the Same, 1790. This map was originally included in a booklet , which was probably published in London for Robert Morris by his agent William Temple Franklin. Both booklet and map were intended to induce British investors to buy lands in the Morris Purchase. This map is based on the earliest survey made for Phelps and Gorham. It provides a reasonably detailed overview of the slice of land between the Pennsylvania border and Lake Ontario, bounded roughly on the east by Seneca Lake, and on the west by the Genesee River. It shows the few settlements existing in 1790, along with lakes and streams, as well as township boundaries. The eastern boundary (the “Preemption Line”) is drawn somewhat ambiguously, and the town of Geneva appears to be deliberately misplaced to include it within the Morris Purchase.
A similar map was published in New Haven in 1794. It claimed to be “from an actual survey” by Augustus Porter, who was one of Robert Morris’s surveyors along with Andrew Ellicott. This appears to be the first map of this part of western New York designed to attract American investors and probably actual settlers.
Most of the land shown on these maps was acquired by the Pulteney Association, whose enthusiastic American agent was Charles Williamson. Although Williamson was active in developing this area starting in 1792, it was not until the end of the decade that he began publicizing it through pamphlets and maps. Not much is known about the distribution and audience of Williamson's works, which were published in both the United States and Britain. They seem to have been directed not so much at potential farmers, as to smaller land speculators and to potential investors in land development companies. Williamson’s maps were on a smaller scale and covered a wider area than the maps of the Morris Purchase discussed above. They covered most or all of New York and large parts of neighboring states, and mainly served to locate the Pulteney lands in a regional context. This sequence of maps is conveniently reproduced in Schwartz and Ehrenberg’s The Mapping of America. The last of these maps is not a bad overview map of New York and parts of adjacent states.
A similar pattern appears in the maps of the Holland Purchase. The earliest published map of western New York prepared for the use of the Holland Land Company appears to have been engraved in Amsterdam around 1793 or 1794. Joseph Ellicott’s earliest maps of the Holland Purchase were also prepared primarily for use in Europe. The most important of these is his Map of Morris's Purchase or West Geneseo in the State of New York, which is dated 1800, but actually published in early 1801 (Figure 8.4). This map, which was revised and republished several times, was "respectfully inscribed" to "the Holland Land Company, their general agents Theophilus Cazenove & Paul Busti…." In the words of Cazenove, who was Ellicott’s supervisor in New York, the map was intended “to facilitate sales in Europe.” Since this map was republished and widely distributed in the United States, it must have also been used to lure American investors and settlers. It would almost certainly have been studied by small land speculators interested in buying distant tracts of land, probably by community leaders engaged in investigating new lands in the west for future settlements, and possibly by some individual farmers. It is not difficult to imagine a copy of the map on the wall of the Holland Land Company office in Batavia being used to show potential buyers the location of farms for sale.
Figure 8.4. Joseph Ellicott, Map of Morris's Purchase or West Geneseo in the State of New York (1804). Courtesy David Rumsey Collection.
Simeon De Witt's map of the New Military Tract was created for somewhat different reasons. Published in 1793, it bears the title 1st Sheet of De Witt's State-map of New York.(Figure 8.5). It covers central New York from slightly east of Little Falls on the Mohawk River to the west side of Seneca Lake, and from the Pennsylvania line to Lake Ontario. It is partially based on the surveys of the New Military tract done under De Witt's supervision, but it covers a much larger area. Although it is primarily a property map, it includes hydrography, towns, and Indian reservations. It would obviously have been useful to De Witt in his work as surveyor general, and to anyone buying or selling property in central New York. But, as its title makes clear, De Witt also intended this map to be an installment on his long-delayed map of New York, which did not finally appear until 1802 (and will be discussed below). The township divisions shown on this map were widely copied on other maps published in the final years of the eighteenth century. It is the first detailed and authoritative map covering a large part of central New York.
Figure 8.5. Simeon De Witt, 1st Sheet of De Witt's State-map of New York (1793). New York State Library.
Another important regional map is the previously mentioned Map Exhibiting a General View of the Roads and Inland Navigation of Pennsylvania and Part of the Adjacent States, which was published around 1795 by John Adlum and John Wallis (Figure 8.2. Pennsylvania-based surveyor John Adlum (1759-1836) was a major land speculator, and later became known as the "Father of American Viticulture." He was involved in surveying the boundary between New York and Pennsylvania, and had land interests in southern New York. His activities also including surveying the western boundary of the Phelps-Gorham Purchase. This map includes a good overview of existing geographic knowledge of all of New York south of the Mohawk River, except for eastern Long Island. An unusual and telling feature is its use of a prime meridian based on the intersection of the 42nd parallel with the Delaware River—the starting point of the New York – Pennsylvania east-west boundary line. This underlines the difficulty cartographers still had in ascertaining accurate longitudes, and emphasizes the importance of this boundary as a base line for subsequent mapping in New York State. The Adlum map also shows very clearly the Erie Triangle, and displays the location of the Six Nations with a prominence that does not appear on later maps made after settlers actually began to move into western New York
In spite of the relatively small number of published maps of specific regions within New York, the output of printed maps showing the state as a whole was fairly substantial by the 1790s. Even though these maps were soon overshadowed by Simeon De Witt's landmark Map of the State of New York (1802), they played an important role in determining how New Yorkers conceptualized their state.
The mapping of New York during this period, as is usually the case, cannot be separated completely from regional and national mapping. Geography and maps played an important role in the self-definition of the new nation and of its constituent states, and numerous maps showing the boundaries of both the United States and of individual states were produced shortly after the Revolution, both in this country and in Europe. Maps showing state and national boundaries were important for establishing political identities during these years. Like a map of the United States, the outline of a state, such as New York, constitutes a kind of "logo" or icon, which legitimates the claims to authority of the state government, and (like a flag) serves as a concrete symbol for the tenuous political abstraction known as "the state." Many of these maps were relatively inexpensive and widely circulated. It is significant that they often appeared in geography books, which sought to teach the youth of the new nation patriotic values.
The publication of maps in New York and elsewhere in the nation during these years was limited by the small number of trained cartographers, as well as by the lack of skilled engravers. Many of the maps published in New York were engraved by Peter Rushton Maverick (1755-1811), whose whole family was involved in engraving. Other prominent Mavericks include his sons Peter Maverick (1780-1831) and Samuel Maverick (1789-1845). The two Peter Mavericks are easily confused. The younger Maverick had a large family. He had several daughters who also contributed (inconspicuously) to the family business, and he trained a number of apprentices, several of whom also became involved in engraving maps.
William Cockburn almost became the first person to publish a map of the State of New York. As mentioned in chapter 6, he had earlier produced numerous manuscript maps of colonial New York with extensive cadastral information. In 1780, he updated his 1774 manuscript Map of the Province of New York, and added this note at 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." In 1783 he revised this map gave it a new title: "Map of the State of New York." Cockburn was never able to publish his map, and so lost the honor of producing the first printed map of the new state.
The honor went instead to Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826). Morse was a Congregational clergyman and Federalist statesman, who also took an interest in geographic education, and is sometimes known as "the father of American Geography." Morse published a small and simple "Map of the State of New York," in his American Geography ( London 1794), which appears to be the first map of the state printed after the Revolution. Aside from being the first map of the new state, it is unremarkable, and omits the portion of New York west of the Genesee River.
Most of the early maps showing New York as a whole appeared in atlases or geographic readers. The first atlas published in the United States was Matthew Carey's American Atlas (1795). Carey was a Philadelphia map publisher, and his atlas included a map engraved by another Philadelphian, Samuel Lewis (1753 or 4 – 1823), which was entitled The State of New York Compiled from the Best Authorities.(Figure 8.6). Lewis's map resembles late colonial maps, but it shows the recently solidified boundaries of the new state, and includes up-to-date information about central and western New York. Among other features, it shows the townships laid out by Simeon De Witt in the New Military Tract, and depicts a road leading across northern New York to Fort Niagara. All in all, it is a creditable performance, which gives an adequate overview of the geography of the new state. It appears to have been widely distributed, and could have been used by potential settlers looking for land to purchase. Carey's atlas cost $5.00 ($6.00 if colored), which would have been too expensive for most people, but it would have been available in schools and libraries. Individual sheets of the atlas sold for as little as twelve and a half cents, which would have made the map within reach of almost everyone.
Figure 8.6. Samuel Lewis, The State of New York Compiled from the Best Authorities (1795). Courtesy David Rumsey Collection.
Carey published other editions of his atlas, and a less expensive American Pocket Atlas (1796). His maps were also recycled in schoolbook geographies. All of which further increased the circulation of his maps.
Carey's efforts inspired competition, including some from New York publishers. The second atlas published in the United States, which was similar in appearance to Carey's, was published in New York in 1796 by John Reid, and also called The American Atlas. It also includes a copy of Lewis’s map of The State of New York.
Possibly the best and most intriguing, and certainly the most detailed, map of New York to appear during the 1790s is the so-called "Ebeling-Sotzmann" map, which was published in 1799. This map was created in Germany, and is the result of the collaboration between a teacher at the Hamburg Gymnasium, Christoph Daniel Ebeling, and the Berlin-based engraver and cartographer Daniel Friedrich Sotzmann. Considerable research has been devoted to this collaboration, and it seems likely that Ebeling is primarily responsible for the content of the map, although Sotzmann actually drew it. Ebeling was interested in America, and he devoted himself to writing a multi-volume geography and history of the United States. His map of New York was one of seven maps of American states in a series accompanying that work.
As might be expected, given his geographical situation, Ebeling had a difficult time gathering materials for his map, and went so far as to complain about his difficulties in a letter to Noah Webster: "As to New York I am very much at a loss, as I have not but Gathier's [Sauthier's?], Pownall's, Ratzer's (?) maps and one sheet of De Witt's. If there is published any more, I should be extremely rejoiced in getting it. Carey's map I have also, but it is very defective."
According to Ralph H. Brown, Ebeling indicated elsewhere that the principal sources for his map of New York were De Witt and Abraham Bradley's 1796 post-road map. Brown correctly observes that Ebeling's map was a collation, but Ebeling's scattered statements about his sources should not be accepted at their face value. In fact, Ebeling's map bears a fairly close overall resemblance Samuel Lewis's map of New York, which appeared in Matthew Carey's atlas, although that must be the map Ebeling described as "very defective." However, Ebeling's map contains a good deal of additional information, most of which is clearly copied from De Witt's "1st Sheet", from Sauthier, and from Pownall's edition of Samuel Holland's map. French place names along the shore of Lake Ontario suggest that Ebeling also borrowed from eighteenth century French sources.
It is remarkable that Ebeling's map is as good as it is. This type of collation from multiple sources often leads to cartographic disasters, especially when the compiler is on another continent. Through careful research, Ebeling somehow managed to select the best sources and to avoid glaring errors. The main peculiarity of the map is its strange mixture of outdated and very recent place names. All things considered, the Ebeling-Sotzmann map is "better" (i.e. more detailed and accurate) than any other map of the state that appeared between 1783 and 1802. It would not be long, however, before it would be surpassed.
Many of the above developments were brought together in Simeon De Witt's landmark Map of the State of New York (1802), which is the first highly detailed map of the entire state since Sauthier's Chorographical Map of 1779. De Witt's map (Figure 8.7) was a long time in the making. As early as 1786, the State Legislature had passed a law instructing the surveyor-general to make a map the state. As previously noted, De Witt's 1793 map of the New Military Tract (1st Sheet of De Witt's State-map of New York) was intended as the initial installment of this project.
Figure 8.7. Simeon De Witt, Map of the State of New York (1802). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
De Witt had great difficulty in gathering sufficient materials to complete his map. He had available the surveys he and Erskine had made during the Revolution, the surveys of the Pennsylvania line, and the surveys of the New Military Tract made under his supervision. He also possessed Ellicott's surveys of the Holland Purchase, and other surveys submitted to his office. He lacked recent maps of the parts of New York settled before 1784, as well as good maps of several thinly settled areas, such as the Adirondacks. We have seen that he made considerable effort to collect and copy colonial maps. He even went so far as to place advertisements in newspapers calling for "those who wish to see lands in which they are interested laid down with the utmost accuracy, to furnish him for that purpose with such surveys as they may have in their possession, or be able to procure," adding that "favors of the same kind from gentlemen who can produce maps of particular towns or other parts of the state, especially of the old settlements, with their improvements, will be thankfully acknowledged."
On several occasions between 1796 and 1800 the legislature passed laws requiring all town supervisors and county clerks to send to the surveyor general's office maps of the areas under their jurisdictions. Evidently, it was difficult to get all of the towns and counties to comply with these laws, which became increasingly specific about penalties and enforcement. Many of these manuscript maps have survived in the New York State Archives, and are themselves valuable sources of information about conditions at the local level in New York at the end of the eighteenth century. These maps sometimes contain details that cannot be found on De Witt’s map, or in any other source, but their quality is extremely variable. De Witt himself remarked that some of the maps were “so erroneous as to be of little or no use.”
All of these materials found their way into De Witt's map of New York. In terms of technique, it does not mark a radical departure from earlier maps. It is essentially a work of synthesis and compilation, rather than a new creation based on a comprehensive survey. Most of the map is at a scale of 1:245,000, making it the first large-scale map of New York since Sauthier's Chorographical Map of 1779. The western portion of the state is shown in an inset at half-scale.
A comparison of De Witt's map with Sauthier's reveals the remarkable changes that had taken place in New York in less than twenty-five years. To begin with, there is much less white space on the De Witt map. Sauthier's map does not show most of what is now central and western New York, which at the outbreak of the Revolution was still controlled by the Iroquois, and mostly closed to white settlement. On Sauthier's map, most of the area taken up by the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains, as well as the lowlands along the St. Lawrence River are also shown as almost completely uninhabited. In other words, Sauthier's map is a faithful reflection of New York on the eve of the Revolution, which still consisted of Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, the lower Mohawk Valley, and the two narrow communication corridors from the Mohawk River to Oswego, and along Lake Champlain to Canada. Sauthier's map also shows Vermont as part of the Province of New York.
The state boundaries shown on De Witt's map are nearly identical with those of modern New York. In addition, a tremendous amount of detail is filled in. The major lakes and rivers of the state are shown in nearly their correct positions. These features reflect the extensive surveying done by De Witt and others to establish the boundary with Pennsylvania, to lay out the New Military Tract in the Finger Lakes Area, and to survey the territories of the Holland Land Company and other land developers. Even the major lakes and rivers of the Adirondacks are captured surprisingly well, and the outline of Long Island is shown much more accurately than on any previous map. A computer analysis confirms that on De Witt’s map the latitudes and longitudes of individual locations throughout the state are quite accurate. These point locations are consistently close to the modern readings, and much better than those on any colonial maps of New York.
In other respects, a comparison of the two maps shows considerable differences, along with a few surprising similarities. As a technical performance, De Witt's map stands on pretty much the same level as that of Sauthier. The quality of the engraving and clarity of lettering on De Witt’s map are not quite as good as on the best late eighteenth century British maps, including Sauthier's, but they are nonetheless quite respectable. Both maps are still essentially works of collation, which combine information drawn from previous maps with information from new surveys. In the older areas of New York, De Witt copied extensively from pre-revolutionary maps, including Sauthier's Chorographical Map. In the area around the Mohawk River, he still shows some holdings of pre-revolutionary land owners, including Sir William Johnson and George Croghan. However, De Witt's map includes much new information, such as town boundaries, which are carefully delineated. Even in older areas of New York, De Witt's map is vastly superior to Sauthier's in its depiction of roads and other details. None of this is surprising, since De Witt, because of his many years in office, was in a position to gather more information than Sauthier. The improvement of the outline of Long Island on De Witt's map is something of a puzzle, since I have been unable to uncover any evidence that a new survey was made of the island. De Witt was remarkably conscientious. He even traveled around the state to check the accuracy of previous maps, and somehow he managed to put together an improved picture of the overall shape of Long Island.
Predictably, there is a good deal of cadastral information on De Witt’s map. Most of the land in central and western New York is shown laid out in “townships.” Instead of Indian names, we find those of heroic figures from Greek and Roman antiquity, many of whom still populate the landscape of upstate New York. The New Military Tract included the townships Lysander, Manlius, Pompey, Homer, Solon, Cincinnatus, Scipio, and Brutus, along with some modern heroes of literature, such as Milton, Locke, and Dryden. Those who preferred their republican virtues in more abstract form might seek out their land in northern Herkimer and Lewis counties, where could be found the townships of Unanimity, Frugality, Perseverance, Sobriety, Economy, Regularity, Enterprise, and Industry. These townships belonged to “John Brown’s Tract,” in the western Adirondacks near the town of Old Forge—an area that remains lightly settled even today.
Although some of these township names existed on paper only, they illustrate the use of maps to impose on the land a kind of fictive reality, which in some (but not all) cases served to guide future developments. Although much of the state was still largely unpopulated, De Witt's map shows several roads going through western and central New York, along with such infant towns as Buffalo (then New Amsterdam), Geneva, Ithaca, Batavia, Bath, Cayuga, Seneca Falls, Plattsburgh, Utica, Massena, and others. The magnitude of the changes in this area between the maps of Sauthier and De Witt is remarkable, even startling.
Particular attention should be paid to the depiction of Indian Reservations on De Witt's Map. By 1802, the vast land holdings of the Iroquois in western New York had been reduced to scattered reservations, which are shown as basically empty and undeveloped. They are surrounded by the elaborate grid of townships with distinctly un-Indian names.
There is an oddly visionary quality about De Witt’s map, and particularly about the parts dealing with central and western New York. Although most of the roads, towns, and property boundaries shown actually existed, they were often embryonic at best, and (as is seen most clearly with property boundaries) some existed only on paper. As will also be seen with De Witt’s maps of Albany and New York City, which will be discussed in the next chapter, his maps are to some extent planning instruments: they projected a vision of how he thought the state should develop. To a surprising extent, this vision was realized.
Little is known about the sales and distribution of De Witt's map. We know that he had to borrow from the state $3000 to prepare his map for publication. It could not have been purchased by many people. It was advertised for $10 "pasted and colored" or $8.50 "in sheets." This was at a time when unskilled laborers earned less than one dollar per day, and skilled workers (such as carpenters or masons) were lucky to earn two dollars per day. It would be interesting to know exactly who did purchase De Witt's map, and how many copies were sold, but that information is lacking. We can assume that it adorned the walls of some public offices, and those of wealthy land speculators and their agents. We know that the State Legislature distributed copies of the map to other states, and De Witt was required by law to send copies to county clerks and town supervisors. It was advertised extensively for a decade or so after its publication. Probably it was exhibited in such places as libraries, schools, or taverns—although direct evidence for that is lacking. By being displayed in such places, it probably received greater exposure to the general public than would be indicated by its price. Directly or indirectly, it did much to create a kind of social consensus concerning the reality of De Witt’s vision of New York State.
In 1804, De Witt published a reduced-scale version of his state map. The engraving of the1804 map is somewhat careless, but it nonetheless looks more like a modern map of New York State than his 1802 map, since all of it is at the same scale (ca. 1:950,000), and no part of the map is contained in an inset. The reason this map looks so familiar is that the outline of New York shown on this map, ungainly though it may be, has become a kind of "logo" for the state. As such, it is instantly recognizable to most New Yorkers, and it appears on official and commercial publications that wish to associate themselves with the state. As noted above, this use of outline maps to represent and in some sense "make real" artificial political creations is widespread in post-Enlightenment cartography, and has been commented upon by a number of scholars. This standardized presentation also makes it easier for us to compare various maps of the state. Colored copies of this map were sold for two dollars, but apparently it was sold only by subscription. In spite of its lower price, it does not appear to have been as widely distributed as its predecessor.
De Witt’s 1802 and 1804 maps were extremely influential. Although the information on them quickly became dated, the overall framework produced by De Witt was not significantly improved on for nearly 100 years. We will see that a number of later maps and atlases updated De Witt’s work with new information, but none of them were based on extensive new surveys or other sources of information. Although both De Witt and his successors relied primarily on compilation to put together their works, none of the mapmakers following in his footsteps were able to devote the same amount of time and effort to their maps. Only much later did the expensive “trigonometrical" surveys, mostly conducted by federal agencies like the U.S. Coast Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey, make it possible to construct substantially better maps of the state as a whole.
1. For a detailed analysis of the sources of settlers in central and western New York, see James W. Darlington, "Peopling the Post-Revolutionary New York Frontier," New York History 74:4 (1993), 340-81. Also, David M. Ellis, "The Yankee Invasion of New York, 1783-1850," New York History, 32 (Jan. 1951).
2. For an overview, see D.W. Meinig, "Geography of Expansion, 1785-1855," in John H. Thompson, ed., Geography of New York State (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1977), 140-71. Additional details can be found in Higgins, Expansion of New York, 100-149. For a bibliography and research guide see James Folts, Sources, Guides & Models for Land Research in New York State and City, a Fact Sheet (Albany, N.Y.: New York State Archives, 2001). A great deal of additional information can also be found in works dealing with specific geographic areas, such as the holdings of the Holland Land Company in western New York. Those works will be cited below.
3. The 1786 state census gave the total population of New York as 238,897. See Peter R. Eisenstadt and Laura-Eve Moss, The Encyclopedia of New York State ( Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 363.
4. Historical Statistics of the United States (2 vol.; Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1975), I, 32 (also available online at http://www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/statab.html). Statistics for Ontario County are from Barbara Shupe, Janet Steins, and Jyoti Pandit. New York State Population, 1790-1980: A Compilation of Federal Census Data (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1987), 217.
6. For De Witt, see: Walter W. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1985), 73-83; Theodoric Romeyn Beck, Eulogium on the Life and Services of Simeon De Witt (Albany: E.W. and C. Skinner, 1835); William Heidt, Simeon De Witt, Founder of Ithaca (Ithaca, N.Y.: De Witt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1968). A brief biography of De Witt written by Stefan Bielinski is available at the New York State Museum Web site (http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/albany/bios/d/sdewitt.html). An interesting sidelight on De Witt's early years is "The Cosmos in Miniature: the Remarkable Star Map of Simeon De Witt," Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, http://americanhistory.si.edu/documentsgallery/exhibitions/dewitt_1.html.
7. Hauptman, Conspiracy, 58-81, has much on Schuyler and Indian lands. The phrase "waste and unappropriated lands" was used in New York State legislation to refer to Iroquois lands in western New York (see Hauptman, Conspiracy, 63).
10. Simeon De Witt, Considerations on the Necessity of Establishing an Agricultural College, and Having More of the Children of Wealthy Citizens Educated for the Profession of Farming (Albany, N.Y.: Websters and Skinners, 1819).
13. For De Witt as a landowner in Ithaca, see Heidt, Simeon DeWitt, 20-37. The magnitude of De Witt's investments and activities as a landowner in the Ithaca area are revealed in his correspondence with his agent Francis Bloodgood in the Simeon De Witt papers at Cornell University Library. A selection of these letters is included as an appendix to Heidt’s book
14. George Geddes, Origin and History of the Measures that Led to the Construction of the Erie Canal (1866; published in Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, II, 1980), 269-70. Available online from Cornell University, New York Historical Literature Collection at: http://dlxs2.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=nys;cc=nys;q1=Canal;rgn=title;view=toc;idno=nys123.
15. Washington to Jefferson, March 3, 1784, The Thomas Jefferson Papers. Online at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/jefferson_papers/.
16. Albert Hazen Wright, Simeon De Witt and the Military Tract Township Names, New York Historical Source Studies II, Studies in History No. 25 (Ithaca, N.Y.: De Witt Historical Society, 1961); Charles Maar, "The Origin of the Classical Place Names in Central New York," New York Historical Association Quarterly Journal 7 (July, 1926): 155-67. For a more general account of classical place names in upstate New York and elsewhere, see George R. Stewart, Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967), 181-88.
22. [Simon Desjardins?] in Simon Desjardins and Pierre Pharoux, Castorland Journal: An Account of the Exploration and Settlement of Northern New York State by French Émigrés in the Years 1793 to 1797, ed. and trans. by John A. Galluci (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2010).
26. Higgins, Expansion in New York, 109; Eisenstadt, Encyclopedia of New York , 1640; Benton, Vermont Settlers; Van Zandt, Boundaries of the United States; University of the State of New York, Report of the Regents of the University, on the Boundaries of the State of New York (2 vols.;Albany: Argus, 1873-74), available online at: http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/moa-cgi?notisid=ANX0439-0001 (vol. 1); and http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/cgi-bin/moa/moa-cgi?notisid=ANX0439-0002 (vol. 2).
27. Andro Linklater, The Fabric of America: How Our Borders and Boundaries Shaped the Country and Forged Our National Identity ( New York: Walker & Company, 2007), 60. For the contributions of Ellicott and Rittenhouse to the surveying of New York, see: Brook Hindle, David Rittenhouse (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964), 279-83; Silvio A. Bedini, “Andrew Ellicott, Surveyor of the Wilderness,” Surveying and Mapping 36 (1976), 119-20, 127; Catherine Van Cortlandt Mathews, Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters (New York: Grafton Press, 1908), 55-79.
28. University of the State of New York. Boundary Commission, Report of the Regents' Boundary Commission upon the New York and Pennsylvania Boundary (Albany, Weed Parsons and Company, 1886). There is also a good deal of documentation on the Pennsylvania boundary in the previously cited (1884) Report of the Regents...on the Boundaries, 241-87.
29. John Adlum and John Wallis, Map Exhibiting a General View of the Roads and Inland Navigation of Pennsylvania and Part of the Adjacent States (s.l., s.n. 1790s). A facsimile with a new title was published in the middle of the nineteenth century. This is John Adlum, Map of Part of the State of New York with Parts of the Adjacent States Made in 1793-4 by John Aldam [ sic.] & John Wallis. Copied from the Original 1/3 Off (Albany: Munsell, 1861); it originally appeared in Franklin B. Hough, ed., Proceedings of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs Appointed by Law for the Extinguishment of Indian Titles in the State of New York (Albany: Munsell, 1861), I, facing p. 45. It is Described by Mano, "Unmapping the Iroquois," in Hauptman, The Oneida Indian Journey, pp. 182-85. A copy of the facsimile map is also available online from the New York State Library at http://purl.org/net/nysl/nysdocs/51723683.
30. The most detailed maps of early land grants are contained in Joseph R. Bien, Atlas of the State of New York (New York: Bien, 1895), http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/2v0b12 . Good overview maps can be found in Higgins, Expansion of New York, and at the end of volume five of Alexander C. Flick, ed. History of the State of New York (10 vol.; New York: Columbia University Press, 1934).
31. The initial act authorizing confiscation of property of Loyalists is Laws of New York State, 3rd Session, Chap. 25 (1779). A detailed accounting of the lands seized and properties sold is in Alexander C. Flick, Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution (New York: Columbia University Press, 1901), 135-60, 215-72.
35. For the activities of William Cooper, see Alan Taylor, William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York, Knopf, 1996). William Cooper's own account was originally published as A Guide in the Wilderness, or, The History of the First Settlements in the Western Counties of New York: with Useful Instructions to Future Settlers, in a Series of Letters addressed by Judge Cooper, of Cooperstown, to William Sampson,Barrister, of New York (Dublin: Gilbert & Hodges, 1810). See also A.T. Volwiler, “ George Croghan and the Development of Central New York, 1763-1800,” The Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association 4:1 (Jan., 1923), 21-40, http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/articles/nyhistory/1923nyhistory-volwiler.html.
36. See Hauptman, Conspiracy of Interests and Taylor, TheDivided Ground. See also Margaret Mano, “Unmapping the Iroquois,” In Laurence M. Hauptman, ed., The Oneida Indian Journey: from New York to Wisconsin (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1999), 171-95.
37. J.B. Harley, “New England Cartography and the Native Americans,” in Emerson W. Baker, ed., American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 287-321.
38. See Higgins, Expansion in New York, 104-06; Richard H. Schein, "Framing the Frontier: The New Military Tract Survey in Central New York," New York History 74:1 (1993), 5-28; Jeannette B. Sherwood, "The Military Tract," Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association 24 (1926): 169-79.
40. Francis P. Boscoe, "Totten and Crossfield Purchase" in Eisenstadt, Encyclopedia of New York State, 1568; Alfred L. Donaldson, A History of the Adirondacks (2 vol; 1921; Fleischmanns, N.Y.: Purple Mountain Press, 1992), I, 51-61.
41. For the development of the area around Plattsburgh, see Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Clinton and Franklin Counties (1880; reprinted Plattsburgh, N.Y.: Clinton County Bicentennial Commission, 1978), 148-52. See also: http://www.historiclakes.org/towns/plattsburgh_gallery.htm; Thomas A. Rumney, “ Plattsburgh,”Encyclopedia of New York State, 1212; Higgins, Expansion of New York, 139.
42. The original act setting up the Land Commission is Laws of New York State, 7th Session., Chap. 68 (May 11 1784); this act was amended several times, most importantly by Laws of New York State, 9th Session, Chap. 67 (1786).
45. The activities of the Cockburns and Brodhead are mentioned in Howard Thomas, Black River in the North Country (Utica, N.Y.: North Country Books, 1985), 21-22, 25-26. The best and most detailed account of the surveying and settlement of this area is still, Franklin B. Hough, A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, New York, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Albany: Munsell, 1853). Charles C. Brodhead's map was later engraved and published as A Map of the Tract of Land in the State of New York called Macomb's Purchase Compiled from the Official Returns under the Inspection of the Surveyor General (Albany?: Gavit, 1853). It appears in The Documentary History of the State of New York, III, facing p. 649. A copy of the facsimile can be viewed at the Alabama Maps site at: http://alabamamaps.ua.edu/historicalmaps/us_states/newyork/index_1850-1865.html.
46. For an overview, see Thomas, Black River, 19-28, 57-65 and Higgins, Expansion in New York, 143. For more detail, see Franklin B. Hough, A History of Lewis County, in the State of New York: from the Beginning of its Settlement to the Present Time (Albany: Munsell and Rowland, 1860), and his A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Albany: Munsell, 1854). See also, Edith Pilcher, Castorland: French Refugees in the Western Adirondacks (Harrison, N.Y.: Harbor Hill Books, 1985). For the surveying of this area see Desjardins, Castorland Journal, and Mary Pedley, "Land Company Mapping in North America: Fiefdom in the New Republic," Imago Mundi 42 (1990): 106-13.
49. The history of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase and its aftermath can be pieced together from: William H. Siles, “Pioneering in the Genesee Country: Entrepreneurial Strategy and the Concept of a Central Place," in Jonas,New Opportunities, 35-68; Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase and of Morris' Reserve (1851; Geneseo, NY : James Brunner, 1976); R.W. G. Vail, “The Lure of the Land Promoter: A Bibliographical Study of Certain New York Real Estate,” University of Rochester Library Bulletin 24:2-3 (Winter-Spring, 1969), http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?PAGE=1008; Howard Lawrence Osgood, The Title of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase (Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Historical Society, 1891), http://books.google.com/books?id=gZwvAAAAYAAJ
52. For Morris, see: Barbara Ann Chernow, "Robert Morris: Genesee Land Speculator," New York History 58 (1977): 195-220; and her Robert Morris, Land Speculator 1790-1801 (New York: Arno Press, 1978). Andrew Ellicott’s 1792 survey is described in Mathews, Andrew Ellicott, 105-07.
53. For the Pulteney Association and Charles Williamson, see: Higgins, Expansion in New York, 123-28; Paul D. Evans, "The Pulteney Purchase," Proceedings of the New York Historical Society 20 (1922): 83-103; Helen I. Cowan, Charles Williamson: Genesee Promoter, Friend of Anglo-American Rapprochement (1941; Clifton, N.J.: Augustus M. Kelley, 1973).
54. The activities of the Holland Land Company have been documented in a series of important monographs: Paul D. Evans, The Holland Land Company (Buffalo, N.Y.: Buffalo Historical Society, 1924); William Chazanof, Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1970); William Wyckoff, The Developer's Frontier: The Making of the Western New York Landscape (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Charles E. Brooks, Frontier Settlement and Market Revolution: The Holland Land Purchase (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996).
55. For Joseph Ellicott as surveyor, see, in addition to the works of Chazanof and Wyckoff cited above, G. Hunter Bartlett, "Andrew and Joseph Ellicott," Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society 26 (1922): 3-48; Silvio Bedini, "Andrew Ellicott, Surveyor of the Wilderness," Surveying and Mapping 36 (1976): 113-35; John E. McIntosh, Jr., "Monumenting the Western Transit of the Holland Purchase," Empire State Surveyor 13 (Nov.-Dec., 1977): 7-10.
65. The rectangular survey system has a long history going back to the Greeks and Romans. In America, it has antecedents in the New England township system, and in the theories of Thomas Jefferson. In New York it was used for the colonial-era Totten and Crossfield Purchase. See Albert C. White, A History of the Rectangular Survey System (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1983), and Andro Linklater, Measuring America: How the United States Was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale in History ( New York: Plume Books, 2003).
66. The Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 6 (1809) contains several articles dealing with the measurement of longitudes in North America in the first years of the nineteenth century. Particularly important is the article by the Spanish refugee scientist Jose Joaquin de Ferrer, “Astronomical Observations Made by Jose Joaquin de Ferrer, Chiefly for the Purpose of Determining the Geographical Position of Various Places in the United States and Other Parts of North America,” 158-64. Ferrer started taking measurements in New York, both with a chronometer and by astronomical means, in 1801. Andrew Ellicott and David Rittenhouse were also involved in measuring longitudes by astronomical means in the early nineteenth century. For De Witt and the longitude of Albany, see his article “Observations on the Eclipse of 16 June, 1806,” published in the same volume of the Transactions, 300-02, and his letter to Jedidiah Morse, May 7, 1808, Misc.Ms., De Witt, New-York Historical Society. By the end of 1806, Ferrer had ascertained the longitudes of a number of locations along the southern coast of Long Island, and along the Hudson River as far north as Albany, by using an Arnold chronometer.
69. The field books have been microfilmed by the Holland Land Company Project at the Reed Library, SUNY Fredonia, and are available in several research libraries in New York State. Additional information is available at the Western New York Heritage site at http://www.hlc.wny.org/
70. Much of this literature is summarized by Brooks, Frontier Settlement, 13-18. See especially, P.L. Marks et. al., Late Eighteenth Century Vegetation of Central and Western New York State on the Basis of Original Land Survey Records, New York State Museum Bulletin 484 (Albany, N.Y., 1992).
74. See Totten and Crossfields Purchase in Certified Copies of Ancient Field Notes and Maps (Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor, New York State Assembly Documents, 127th Session, 1904, vol. 25, no. 65, pp. 414-495).
75. Simeon De Witt, Map of the Head Waters of the Rivers Susquehanna & Delaware Embracing the Early Patents on the South Side of the Mohawk River (ca. 1790). This map was published in The Documentary History of New York with the dates of the patents added by E. B. O'Callaghan. This version is also available on the World Wide Web from the New York State Library at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandoclinks/ocm52731116.htm.
77. A copy of this map is available online from the New York State Museum (http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research_collections/research/history/neck/oriskany.html). For Lansing and his role in Oneida County history see: http://www.iment.com/maida/familytree/lansing/gerritglansing.htm.
78. The story of the takeover of Oneida lands has been told by Hauptman in Conspiracy of Interests and in The Oneida Indian Journey. This subject is also treated by Taylor in the latter part of The Divided Ground. For a list of maps dealing with the Oneida lands see: http://www.rootsweb.com/~nyccazen/Maps/SGOneidaMaps.html
79. Gideon Fairman, A Map of the Oneida Reservation Including the Lands Leased to Peter Smith (1795). This map was published by Franklin Benjamin Hough in his Notices of Peter Penet and of His Operations among the Oneida Indians (Lowville, N.Y.: Albany Institute, 1866). It has been republished several times, including in Hauptman, Conspiracy of Interests, 59. It is reproduced, described and analyzed by Mano in "Unmapping the Iroquois," in Hauptman, The Oneida Indian Journey,178. A copy of a map with this title dated 1810 is available from the New York State Archives at: http://iarchives.nysed.gov/PubImageWeb/viewImageData.jsp?id=153442. Many other early manuscript maps of Indian reservations can be found be searching the digital collections of the Archives.
81. This map (attributed to one John S. De Witt, probably an error for Simeon De Witt) is located at the Huguenot Historical Society in New Paltz, New York. Another early manuscript map by De Witt, dated 1790, bears the title Township no. XXII: a map of township number twenty two of the lands directed by law to be surveyed for the troops of this State in the late Army of the United States. It is held by the De Witt Historical Society in Ithaca, New York.
82. The gateway page for much of information on the Holland Land Company is located at http://www.hlc.wny.org/. The maps are now available on the Web through the Western New York Legacy site at http://www.wnylegacy.org/cdm4/collection_XFM001.php?CISOROOT=/XFM001
84. Martin Brückner, The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 120-34. At a somewhat later date, Amos Lay wrote that his map of the State of New York could “be inspected at the Reading-Room, Printing-Offices, and at the publick inns in Providence.” Rhode-Island American and General Advertiser, Oct. 30, 1821, .
85. A Map of the Genesee Lands in the County of Ontario and State of New York According to an Accurate Survey Which was Made of the Same, 1790 (London: n.p., 1791). This map was reprinted around 1850 by R.H. Pease in Albany and published in O'Callaghan, Documentary History of the State of New York. A copy of this facsimile has been posted on the World Wide Web by Bill Hecht at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~springport/maps/w_fingerlakes_1790.jpg
86. An Account of the Soil, Growing Timber, and Other Productions, of the Lands in the Countries Situated in the Back Parts of the States of New-York and Pennsylvania, in North America. And Particularly the Lands in the County of Ontario, Known by the Name of The Genesee Tract, Lately Located, and Now in the Progress of Being Settled ([ London:] n.p., 1791. Reprinted in Documentary History of the State of New York, II, 1111-25.
88. A Map of Messrs: Gorham & Phelps's Purchase; Now the County of Ontario, in the State of New York ([ New Haven]: A. Doolittle, 1794). This map was reproduced in the 1976 reprint edition of Orsamus Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase. This and two other early maps of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase are also reproduced in Osgood, The Title of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase (Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester Historical Society, 1891), http://books.google.com/books?id=gZwvAAAAYAAJ
89. Charles, A Williamson, Description of the Genessee Country …in a Series of Letters from a Gentleman to his Friend (Albany: Loring Andrews & Co., 1798); Charles Williamson, A Description of the Genessee Country in the State of New York … to which is added an Appendix Containing a Description of the Military Lands by Robert Munro (New York: Printed for the author, 1804).
92. Joseph Ellicott, A Map of Morris's Purchase or West Geneseo in the State of New York, Exhibiting Part of the Lakes Erie and Ontario, the Straights of Niagara, Chautaugue Lake and All the Principal Waters, the Boundary Lines of Several Tracts of Land Purchased by the Holland Land Company, William and John Willink and Others (s.l., sn. 1800). This map was published by the Holland Land Company, possibly in New York. It and other early manuscript and printed maps by Ellicott are also described in Vail, “The Lure of the Land Promoter.” The 1804 edition is available online from the David Rumsey Collection at http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/yq0132
94. Simeon De Witt, 1st sheet of De Witt's State-map of New York ( New York: s.n., 1793). Available online from the New York State Library at: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandoclinks/ocm42581699.htm.
97. Stephen DeWitt Stephens, The Mavericks, American Engravers (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1950). Excerpted at: http://talesofthenewworld.blogspot.com/
98. 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, 1774 with revisions, 1780). Photocopies of this map are located at the New York State Library and New York Public Library. The original is privately owned.
99. William Cockburn, A Map of the State of New York and Parts Adjacent (manuscript, 1783). Photocopies of this map are located at the New York State Library and New York Public Library. The original is privately owned.
100. Jedidiah Morse, A Map of The State of New York ( London: J. Stockdale, 1794). A copy is available online from the David Rumsey Collection at http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/9x1bwc
102. Samuel Lewis, The State of New York Compiled from the Best Authorities ( Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1795). Available online from the David Rumsey Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/383k91).
104. John Reid, The American Atlas ( New York: Reid, 1796). This atlas accompanied William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the American United States ( New York: Reid, 1796). The entire atlas (41 maps) is available online from the David Rumsey Collection (http://www.davidrumsey.com).
105. Daniel Friedrich Sotzmann , New York ( Hamburg: Karl Ernst Bohn, 1799). Available online from the Harvard University Map Collection at: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL:476639?buttons=y. This map was one of ten maps prepared for a projected Atlas von Nordamerika, which was to accompany his Erdbeschreibung und Geschichte von America, die Vereinten Staaten von Nordamerika (7 v.; Hamburg: Karl Ernst Bohn, 1793-1816). It is described in Ristow, American Maps, 169-78; Ralph H. Brown, “Early Maps of the United States: The Ebeling-Sotzmann Maps of the Northern Seaboard States,” Geographical Review 30:3 (Jul., 1940): 471-79.
108. Simeon De Witt, A Map of the State of New York (Albany: G. Fairman, 1802). Available online from the Library of Congress at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3800.ct001270.
115. This 210,000 acre parcel was purchased by John Brown of Rhode Island (not the abolitionist, who later held a small tract of land in the Adirondacks). It was a subdivision of the Macomb Purchase, and predictably proved to be a disastrous investment for its owners. See Henry A.L. Brown and Richard J. Walton, John Brown’s Tract: Lost Adirondack Empire (Canaan, N.H.: Phoenix Publishing, 1988); Alfred L. Donaldson, A History of the Adirondacks, I, 88-100.
118. In 1804 De Witt reported to the assembly that sales were not sufficient repay a $3000 interest-free loan that he had received from the legislature to pay for the publication of the map New York State, and to pay for its distribution to every town and county government in the state. Assembly Journal, February 27, 1804, 108-110.
120. Simeon De Witt, Map of the State of New York ( [ Albany?]: s.n., 1804 ). Available on the World Wide Web from the Library of Congress at: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3800.ct001269
121. The 1804 map was advertised for sale by subscription in several newspapers, including the American Citizen, May 10, 1803, [p. 4]. I have been unable to find advertisements for it after its publication.