The Pioneer History of
 Orleans County, NY

Chapter II
Phelps and Gorham's Purchase

Online Edition by Holice & Deb




When Made -- Territory Included In -- Consolidated Securities -- Their Sale to Robert Morris -- Divisions of Their Purchase --The Triangle.

The original charter, granted by the King of England to the colony of Massachusetts, included all the country between the north and south boundaries of the colony, extending from the Atlantic Ocean on the east, to the Pacific Ocean on the west. The western boundary had not then been explored, and the extent of the continent was unknown.

New York was afterwards charter by the same authority, covering a portion of territory previously granted to Massachusetts. After the close of the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts urged her claim. The difficulty was finally compromised between Massachusetts and New York, by commissioners mutually agreed upon, Dec. 16, 1786, by giving to New York the sovereignty of all the disputed territory lying within her chartered limits; and giving the property in the soil to Massachusetts, or the right to buy the soil from the Indians, who were then in possession.

All of the State of New York lying west of a line running from Sodus Bay through Seneca Lake, to the north line of Pennsylvania, estimated to contain 6,000,000 of acres, was sold subject tot he title the Indians then had to it, by Massachusetts, to Phelps and Gorham, in the year 1786, for $1,000,000, to be paid for in a kind of scrip, or stock, which had been issued by Massachusetts, called "Consolidated Securities," which at the time of the sale was worth about 50 per cent.

In July, 1788, Phelps and Gorham made a treaty with the Six Nations of Indians, by which they purchased from them a tract estimated at 2,250.000 acres; bounded eat by the Pre-emption Line; which was the eastern boundary of their purchase from Massachusetts, and west by a line from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania, twelve miles west from Genesee River.

From this sale to Phelps and Gorham, and other causes, the market price of these "Consolidated Securities" rose so high that Phelps and Gorham were unable to buy them to fulfill their contract with the State; and so were compelled to surrender to the State of Massachusetts, all the lands lying west of the west boundary of the tract they had purchased of the Indians, as stated above.

To these lands so surrendered, the Indian title had not then been extinguished.--This tract was sold in the year 1791, by the State of Massachusetts to Robert Morris. About the year 1793, Robert Morris sold this tract to an association of capitalists residing in Holland, expecting and reserving a parcel of land, twelve miles wide, to be taken off from the east side. This strip was afterwards called, "the Morris Reserve," a part of it was sold by Morris to Bayard, Leroy, and McEvers, known as the Triangle, containing 87,000 acres, and another portion lying west of the Triangle, and containing 1000,000 acres was sold by Morris to Cragie and others and by them to Sir William Pultney and the State of Connecticut, every since known as "The 100,000 Acres Tract," or "Connecticut Tract."

The tract so purchased by the Holland Company contains about three million six hundred thousand acres, and is distinguished as "The Holland Purchase."


One of the large divisions of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, lying west of the Genesee river, is known as "The Triangle.' By treaty between Phelps and Gorham and the Indians, after they had granted to Ebenezer Allen, a piece of land of 100 acres, on which to erect a saw mill, at what is now Rochester, another tract was granted to Phelps and Gorham, for a "Mill Yard." This was called "The Mill Yard Tract," and was twelve miles wide eat and west, by twenty-four miles north and south, from Lake Ontario.

The agreement was, this "Mill Yard," should be bounded east by the Genesee River; south by a line running west from about where Avon now stands; and west twelve miles ; thence north to Lake Ontario. It was then supposed that the course of the Genesee River was about due north, and the west line as at first run by Hugh Maxwell, due north from said south west corner, accordingly.

It was afterwards ascertained, that the mouth of the river was more than twelve miles east from the termination of this line, on the lake shore.

The matter was afterwards arranged by a new line being run by Mr. Augustus Porter, nearly parallel with Genesee River, and twelve miles west of it, for the west bounds of the Mill Yard Tract. This left a triangular shaped piece of land lying between the lines so sun by Maxwell and Porter, contained about 87,000 acres, forming the towns of Clarkson, Hamlin, Sweden, Bergen, and Leroy. This tract has ever since been described and known as "The Triangle.

The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas


Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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