The Early History of Ontario County, New York

 Kindly transcribed by Deborah Spencer

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From the History of Ontario County, NY    

Published 1893     Pg 85 - 102


The Phelps and Gorham Purchase--Rev. Samuel Kirkland Superintends the Purchase of the Indian Titles--Treaty at Buffalo Creek-- Mr. Phelps Secures the Influence of Certain Lessees--The Purchase and its Approval--The Proprietors Fail in their Payments--Sale to Robert Morris--The London Associates--The Pre-emption Line--Error and Fraud Charged--The Re-survey--Charles Williamson. 

SOON after Massachusetts became possessed of the pre-emption right from the State of New York, Oliver PHELPS with a company of associates resolved to purchase a large tract of land, but before his plans were matured Nathaniel GORHAM had made a proposition to the Legislature at the session in 1787, but the matter failed.  Soon after this a consolidation of speculative interests was effected by parties who desired to become interested in the venture, and an association was formed of which PHELPS and GORHAM were constituted agents and representatives.  They made a proposition to Massachusetts "to purchase for the consideration of 300,000 pounds in consolidated securities of this Commonwealth, or 3,000 pounds specie together with 290,000 pounds in like securities, the right of pre-emption which this Commonwealth has in and to the western territory, so called, lately ceded by the State of New York to this Commonwealth." 

On the 1st of April, 1788, Massachusetts agreed to sell the lands to the Phelps and Gorham association for the sum of 300,000 pounds as above, to be paid in three annual installments, and authorized the proprietary to extinguish the claims of the Indians by purchase.  At the same time the Legislature appointed Rev. Samuel KIRKLAND to superintend the negotiations with the Indians, and approve or disapprove of whatever should be done. 

After the passage of this act the shareholders in the association held a meeting and appointed Gen. Israel CHAPIN to go out and explore the country; Oliver PHELPS to be general agent, and whose first duty should be to hold a treaty with the Indians and purchase the fee of the soil; Nathaniel GORHAM to be an agent to confer with the authorities of New York in reference to running the east boundary or pre-emption line; and William WALKER as the local agent of surveys and sales. 

Mr. PHELPS soon made preparations for a treaty with the Indians at Kanadesaga, and in order to facilitate operations, secured the influence of John LIVINGSTON, one of the most prominent members of the New York Genesee Land Company.  On arriving at Kanadesaga Mr. PHELPS soon found that the Niagara Genesee Company was in conflict with Mr. LIVINGSTON's company, and was holding and controlling the Indians at Buffalo Creek.  He at once proceeded to the latter place, and succeeded in securing the favor of John BUTLER, Samuel STREET and others of the Niagara Company, and LIVINGSTON, Caleb BENTON and Ezekiel GILBERT of the principal company (who claimed ownership under the long lease), by promising them a number of townships of land.  Thus Mr. PHELPS was at once enabled to hold a council with the Indians, and on the 8th of July following he concluded a treaty with them, securing all the lands the Indians would then sell, estimated to contain 2,600,000 acres, and agreeing to pay therefore the sum of $5,000 and an annuity of $500 forever. 

Inasmuch as the lands included in this sale embraced all that is now Ontario county, and as this purchase had a direct relation to the county's early history, it may be of interest to the reader to note the boundary line of this immense Phelps and Gorham purchase, as it has always been called; which boundaries were as follows: "Beginning on the north boundary line of Pennsylvania, at the eighty-second milestone, and from said point or place of beginning running west upon the said line to a meridian which will pass through that corner or point of land made by the confluence of Kanahasgwaicon (Canaseraga) Creek with the waters of the Genesee River; thence north along the said meridian to the corner or point last mentioned; thence northerly along the waters of the said Genesee River to a point two miles north of Kanawageras (Canawagus) village so called; thence running due west twelve miles; thence running in a direction northward so as to be twelve miles distant from the most westward bounds of the said Genesee River, to the shore of Ontario lake; thence eastwardly along the shore of the said lake to a meridian which will pass through the first point or place of beginning before mentioned; thence south along the said meridian to the point or place of beginning aforesaid, being such part of the whole tract purchased by the grantees aforesaid, as they have obtained a release of from the natives." 

The deed of land thus procured from the Seneca Indians, was witnessed by Rev. Samuel KIRKLAND and many others, and approved by him as superintendent in the manner following: "Pursuant to a resolution of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, passed March 30, 1788, I have attended a full and general treaty of the Five Nations of Indians, at the chief village in their territory, on the Buffalo Creek, alias TEYOHEGHSCOLEA, when the foregoing instrument or deed of conveyance, made to the Hon. Nathaniel GORHAM and Oliver PHELPS, esquires, of a certain part of lands belonging to the said Five Nations, the description and boundaries thereof being particularly specified in the same, was duly executed, signed, sealed and delivered in my presence, by the sachems, chiefs and warriors of the above mentioned Five Nations, being fairly and properly understood and transacted by all the parties of Indians concerned, and declared to be done to their universal satisfaction and content; and I do therefore certify and approve of the same." 

The tract of land above described was all in this State that Phelps and Gorham ever procured.  At the time they made the purchase Massachusetts currency was worth only about twenty cents on the dollar, but when the first payment fell due it had appreciated and was nearly at par.  In consequence of this, and from other causes, they were unable to make the payments according to the terms of their contract, and were finally obliged to compromise with Massachusetts, and surrender to the State the portion of the territory not purchased by them from the Indians. 

The survey of the Phelps and Gorham purchase was begun in the late summer or early fall of 1788, under the direction of Col. Hugh MAXWELL, and with the assistance of Augustus PORTER and other surveyors, was finished in 1789, the whole territory being divided into "divers tracts or townships, and as nearly in regular ranges as the sides contained within oblique or irregular lines would admit;" there being seven long ranges, each six miles in width, and in length extending from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario.  There were also two of three short ranges at the northwest corner of the tract.  The ranges were numbered from one upward, beginning with number one on the eastern side, the eastern boundary being the old pre-emption line, and each range was divided into townships or tracts of six miles square, numbered in each range from one at the Pennsylvania line to fourteen at Lake Ontario. 

The plan adopted by the proprietory for dividing their territory into ranges and townships, preparatory to sub-divisions for sale, was substantially the same as the land surveys in new territories of the United States, which are uniform and done under what is known as the "rectangular system," which was adopted by a resolution of Congress, passed May 20, 1785. 

Scattered throughout the field notes of the surveys on the Phelps and Gorham tract are notations of Indian paths which were crossed by the surveyors; none, however, were mentioned except those of prominence and of common use.  The traverse of "Candaughque" Lake was begun June 1, and on finishing the work is the following entry: "The whole of the traverse of Canadaque lake with that of the main inlet is thirty-eight miles."  Ranges four, five and six are noted as being five and one-half miles in width from east to west, while range seven was to be six miles.  There is also the traverse of "Hayanaya" (Hemlock) and "Kaunaughshus" Lakes. 

The difference between the townships as surveyed by Colonel MAXWELL and his assistants, and the towns as they at present exist, must be explained, or confusion will follow relating to different localities.  The size of the original townships was necessarily somewhat arbitrarily fixed and made as uniform as possible, that they might more readily be resurveyed into allotments and to facilitate sales of the land.  The early settlements of course were made according to inclination and interest, and when the territory became populous enough it was necessary to have the security of the law extended over the settlement, and hence under legislative enactments the territory was organized into towns, making such apportionments of the territory as the then existing wants of its inhabitants seemed to require. 

The territory of present Ontario county became apportioned substantially as follows: (This is not absolutely correct as the lines of some of the towns for various reasons were not literally on the township lines, but such difference can generally be seen by a glance at the map).  The town of Seneca, including the present town of Geneva, comprised the whole of township No. 9 and the south half of No. 10 in the first range, and that part of the gore lying east of the same.  The town of Phelps comprised the north part of township 10 and south half No. 11 in the first range and that part of the gore east of the same.  In the second range the towns of Gorham, Hopewell and Manchester comprised, respectively, townships 9, 10 and 11.  Canandaigua is from 9 to 10 and Farrington from No. 11 in the third range.  In the fourth range townships 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 were formed into Naples, South Bristol, Bristol, East Bloomfield and Victor.  In the fifth range, Canadice, Richmond and West Bloomfield comprise townships 8, 9 and 10. 

The surveys into townships of the Phelps and Gorham purchase were made from the eastern pre-emption line, as run in 1788.  The work itself was done under the direction of Col. Hugh MAXWELL, but it must not be understood that he, having charge of the entire work, could give his personal attention to every detail of the survey of this immense tract of land.  The survey and location of the eastern boundary line of the purchase was of the utmost importance, and while waiting for the result of the negotiations, Colonel MAXWELL made a preliminary survey of the southern part of the east line of cession, running a trial line from Pennsylvania to a point opposite Seneca lake.  In his book of field notes we learn that on the 10th of June he set out with Captain ALLEN and three assistants and rowed up the lake from Kanadesaga to about three miles above the great point.  On the 11th they continued southward, "found a large sunken Marsh at the south end of the lake" and "landed up the creek at Kathreen's Town."  The next day they arrived at Newtown, five miles below present Elmira, and on the 13th began a survey from the eighty-second mile stone on the Pennsylvania line.  After running the trial line for about twenty-three miles, on the 11th they turned the course to the east and in a little less than four miles the party came to Seneca Lake.  They then returned to Kanadesaga.  As Mr. PHELPS did not leave Kanadesaga until July to attend the Indian treaty, he was aware that from this trial, when the line would be actually run, it would pass to the west of Kanadesaga, and his company would not own the place where he had intended to build a city

The actual work of running the pre-emption line was begun by Colonel MAXWELL with the assistance of Mr. JENKINS and others at the eighty-second mile stone on the 25th of July, 1788, and as the work progressed the end of every sixth mile was marked as the corners of townships, each mile of every township also noted as to the kind of timber, quality of land, whether level or hilly, and the points where brooks, creeks and streams were crossed and whether they were large enough for mill-seats.  Colonel MAXWELL left the line on the 7th of August for Geneva, probably to obtain supplies, and was detained there against his will until the 11th, when, as he wrote his wife, he was not to return until he had run the line quite through to Lake Ontario, and perhaps run around a number of towns there, which might take him perhaps three weeks in the bush.  It was while Col. MAXWELL was at Geneva that it is said a fraud was committed in running the line whereby Mr. PHELPS was deprived of the locality of Geneva, but it must be remembered that the trial line gave evidence that such would be the case, and there is no positive evidence as to whether any or what surveys were made during Colonel MAXWELL's absence, the field notes of the whole line being in his hand-writing.  The error in the line was soon suspected by Mr. PHELPS, and in 1789 he wrote to Col. William WALKER, the local agent for survey and sales, to that effect, and advising him to have the work performed over, but circumstances prevented it being done at that time, and afterwards when the new pre-emption line was established many complications followed with all the unfortunate consequences ever attendant upon conflicting titles.

Nearly every person who has written upon the subject of the survey of the pre-emption line has stated that a fraud was actually committed, or that there were strong grounds for suspicion of fraud in the performance of the work; and it has been freely intimated that Mr. JENKINS, who appears to have been prominent in the surveying party, was either in the employ of the lessees or of REED and RYCKMAN, and that he took advantage either of the temporary sickness or the absence of Colonel MAXWELL to commit a fraud which he was charged with having been employed to do. 

In the present connection it is well enough to state that at the time mentioned Kanadesaga, or Geneva, was a village of much importance, and the chief seat of operations in the whole Genesee country, and with all a very desirable acquisition.  This point the ruling sprits of the lessee company desired to retain and control, but could not do so with the correct running of the line as described in the pre-emption compact.  The absence of Colonel MAXWELL opened a possible opportunity to the surveyors to deviate from the meridian line and establish a boundary to the westward of Kanadesaga, thus throwing the coveted village without the Massachusetts tract and bringing it within the territory claimed by the lessees under their lease with the Six Nations.  It was charged that this was done, and that the engineers made a deflection to the westward and so established the first pre-emption line, as to defraud PHELPS and GORHAM of many thousand acres of land. 

In relation to the intimation of fraud it must be said that no imputation was ever made against Hugh MAXWELL.  That competent authority, Judge PORTER, fully exonerated him, and in common with all who knew Colonel MAXWELL, entertained for him the highest respect, and not a shadow of suspicion was ever cast upon his honor or integrity.  The first 45 miles of the old line was run under the direction of Colonel MAXWELL, and it is a well known fact that at that point it was nearly two miles west of the true meridian, and the deviation must be laid to the imperfect instruments in use at that time, and to the fickleness and uncertainty of the compass.  If the line had continued to be run in the same direction, it would have passed fully as far west of Geneva as the line that was actually run. 

There is no doubt that at that time there was some feeling between the lessees and the PHELPS and GORHAM proprietary, both of whom considered Geneva a very desirable acquisition, and as it was known that the line must pass near this place, some anxiety was felt as to which party it might belong.  Judge PORTER, referring to this subject, said: "Colonel MAXWELL, on the part of PHELPS and GORHAM, and Mr. JENKINS on the part of the lessees, began on the Pennsylvania line and ran through to Lake Ontario the pre-emption line, which was the basis of the surveys afterward made.  The line afterward proved to have been incorrectly run, the fact being charged as a fraud on the part of JENKINS, whose object was to secure to his employers, the lessee company, the location of Geneva.  The suspicion of fraud led to the re-survey of the line under the direction of Robert MORRIS." 

At that time the lessees claimed all the land east of the pre-emption line, and although the State had repudiated their lease, they still hoped in some manner to retain the land, and still continued their headquarters at Kanadesaga, holding that as a central point for all their operations with the Indians and others, and keeping there their depot of supplies. 

Having released their claims to the Seneca's country west of the pre-emption line, they had embraced the opportunity offered at the close of Mr. PHELPS's treaty, to have a new lease executed by the Indians, confirming their long lease of all the territory east of that line, and there was no other locality for them to retain a foothold where they could so easily operate with the Indians.  However, it was not until the following February that the lessees delivered up their lease to the State, and as they were the only persons that could be benefited, if a fraud was actually committed or attempted, it must have been in their interest that they might retain control of a location at Geneva.  When they saw that the Indians were under the influence of REED and RYCKMAN, and that a treaty with the State could not be prevented, then, with a show of magnanimity, they surrendered their long leases, hoping finally to be remembered with compensation lands, which they eventually secured. 

Colonel Seth REED and Peter RYCKMAN had for some time been residents at Kanadesaga.  It does not appear that Colonel REED had any positive connection with the lessees, but RYCKMAN was a shareholder in the company, being made such to secure his influence with the Indians.  However, his connection with the company was not of long duration, for he was soon found in the employ of the State negotiating with the Indians.  Still in the early part of 1788 he was in league with the lessees, but by the 1st of September he had broken with them and, with Colonel REED, was bitterly opposed to the company.  In February, 1789, REED and RYCKMAN had obtained a cession of land lying between the pre-emption line and Seneca Lake, while the former had also secured another tract lying north of the joint cession.  Their grants were not obtained until some time after the old pre-emption line had been established, and it is, therefore, difficult to see what interest either of them could have had in participating in a fraud, as charged against them. 

As has been stated in the present chapter, the enterprising land operators, PHELPS and GORHAM, in 1789, found themselves to be in an embarrassed financial condition.  To be sure they were the possessors of upwards of 2,000,000 acres of the best land in the State of New York, and to a fair proportion of that vast area they had succeeded in extinguishing the Indian claim of title.  However, the expenses incurred in doing what had been done up to this time had been enormous.  The surveyors charges had been large, while the payment to the Indians and the distribution of influencing presents among them amounted to a large sum.  Then, too, was the ever present contingent of hangers on, persons who had helped or claimed to have assisted in bringing about a settlement of difficulties, and who were persistent in their demands for money and lands.  Added to these expenses was the compensation and gratuities paid the members of the lessee companies for their services and influence. 

During the period of their ownership the proprietors had succeeded in disposing of about fifty townships, but the purchasers were in the main persons who held shares or stock in the association, and who had accepted town grants in exchange for their interest in the company.  Therefore the year 1789 found the proprietary with a large amount of land, but with very little cash, and the payment of $100,000 to be made to Massachusetts was now due, an obligation they could not meet.  In this emergency PHELPS and GORHAM petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature, offering to surrender that portion of their purchase from which the Indian title had not been extinguished, and asking that they be released leased from the payment of a large part of the principal sum, expressing a willingness to pay for a portion of the land.  This proposition was agreeable to the State, the more so, perhaps, from the knowledge they had that the remaining territory could be readily sold to Robert MORRIS, of Philadelphia, the financier of the Revolution, and a man of large means and influence. 

Early in 1789 PHELPS and GORHAM opened a land office at Canandaigua and the lands of their purchase, known as the Genesee Tract, were put upon the market.  The sales, however, did not come up to expectation, for although several townships and parts of townships were sold, they were mainly taken by those who had an interest as shareholders and at cost price.  PHELPS and GORHAM soon finding themselves in further financial difficulties, applied to Robert MORRIS, and on the 10th of August, 1790, he became the purchaser of all the unsold lands in the Genesee Tract, except Township No. 10 of the 3d range, and No. 9 of the 7th range, the two towns comprising about 47,000 acres, which PHELPS and GORHAM retained for their own use.  This purchase was consummated by deed from PHELPS and GORHAM and their wives, to Robert MORRIS, dated November 18, 1790, and by articles of agreement at that time it was stipulated that the tract should contain one million acres of land, payment for which was then made, and for any surplus over said amount further payment was to be made after the contents of the tract should be accurately ascertained.  Mr. MORRIS soon employed Major Adam HOOPS to cause a resurvey of the tract to be made.  This work was performed during the years 1791-2, Frederick SAXTON, John ADLUM, Augustus PORTER, Thomas DAVIS, Robert JAMES, and Morgan JONES being the surveyors who assisted Major HOOPS in the work, the calculations being made by Major HOOPS and Mr. SAXTON. 

The old pre-emption line was run by Col. Hugh MAXWELL in 1788, having been surveyed with very primitive instruments, was known to be erroneous, and a new line was run in November and December, 1792, by Benjamin ELLICOTT, assisted by James ARMSTRONG, Frederick SAXTON and Augustus PORTER, and which was surveyed with such accuracy that its correctness has never been questioned.  Under an act of the Legislature, passed March 24, 1795, a description and map of the pre-emption line was procured by Simeon DE WITT, the surveyor-general of the State, from Benjamin ELLICOTT, with his oath attached, certifying that it was an "accurate representation of the eastern boundary of Massachusetts as run by himself and others;" that the line run was in accordance with the act of cession, and that "the said pre-emption line was truly performed."  Under an act of April 6, 1796, the description and map were duly attested by the surveyor-general and deposited in the office of the secretary of state and the line formally adopted.  The map contains not only the new line, which is divided into miles, but also the old line with all the points of deviation from the true course, with the distances at the different points between the two lines.  Both lines begin at the 82nd mile stone on the north bounds of Pennsylvania and at a distance of about 45 and one-half miles, just after crossing the outlet of Crooked or Keuka Lake it was found that the old line was distant one mile and 78 chains and 25 links, having gradually diverged to that distance from the starting point.  Some two or three miles north of Dresden, and nearly 49 miles from the the starting point, the new line enters Seneca Lake, at which point the distance between the lines has increased to 2 miles, 56 chains and 50 links.  The new line passes out of the north end of the lake at Pre-emption Street and runs due north to Great Sodus Bay, being in total length 84 miles, 77 chains and 45 links.  From the point mentioned above, the old line runs nearly parallel, being at 81 miles only 9 chains and 14 links farther west.  From the "Return of Survey" made at Philadelphia, by Major Adam HOOPS to Robert MORRIS, we learn that there were 85,896 acres of land in "the Gore" between the pre-emption lines.  Although a meridian or true north and south line, the pre-emption line is not on the meridian of Washington as some have supposed, that meridian being some four miles farther west.  The new line passed nearly as far to the east of Geneva as the old line did to the west. 

By the "Return of Survey," just mentioned, it was ascertained that the actual area of Mr. MORRIS's purchase was one million two hundred and sixty-seven thousand five hundred and sixty-nine acres  (1,267,569), two rods, and thirty perches; and from the final settlement made between the parties at Philadelphia, February 16, 1793, we learn that the full number of acres as per the "Return of Survey," which included the Gore, was paid for and that the price paid by Mr. MORRIS was eight pence half penny per acre, Massachusetts currency, or between eleven and twelve cents per acre in United States money, the settlement paper being signed by Nathaniel GORHAM, Oliver PHELPS, Robert MORRIS, and also Charles WILLIAMSON to show his privity to the transaction. 

Previous to this time, however, in the early part of the year 1791 this great tract of land had been sold by the London agent of Robert MORRIS to some English capitalists, Sir William PULTENEY taking a nine-twelfths interest, William HORNBY, two twelfths and Patrick COLQUHOUN, one-twelfth.  Soon after the purchase Charles WILLIAMSON, a Scotchman by birth, then residing in Great Britain, entered into an agreement with the purchasers to proceed to America as their agent, to settle on the Genesee tract, to sell the lands and remit the proceeds to London.  He soon came to America, and after becoming a naturalized citizen, obtained from Robert MORRIS and his wife an absolute conveyance of the Genesee tract to himself in fee, after which he proceeded to settle on the tract and commenced operations for bringing the lands into market.  The deed of conveyance from Morris to Williamson is dated April 11, 1792, the consideration named therein being seventy-five thousand pounds sterling. 

In this connection an explanation of the currency of early times is perhaps necessary.  The act of Congress April 2, 1792, establishing the mint, provided, "That the money of account of the United States shall be expressed in dollars or units, dismes or tenths, cents or hundredths and milles or thousandths," and "that all accounts in the public offices and all proceedings in the courts of the United States shall be kept and had in conformity to this regulation," also, that the silver dollar should be of the same weight and fineness as the Spanish milled dollar then in common use.  Individual and mercantile transactions, however, for a great many years continued to be carried on in pounds, shillings and pence.  This continued in fact until an act of Congress, February 21, 1857, debased the foreign coins, when such currency rapidly went out of existence.  As the value in dollars of the pound of account became fixed at different rates in the several States, in consequence of the depreciation of the early currency of the American colonies, it is necessary to know what kind of currency is mentioned, and the real value of it, in order to know the actual value mentioned in any early transaction.

Although the pound of account was composed of twenty shillings, both in Great Britain and in this country, yet the English shilling, worth about twenty-two cents, was of more intrinsic value than the Spanish real or shilling, which was of less weight.  The Spanish silver coins were the principal currency of the country, and it was upon the value of these that moneyed transactions were principally based.  The pound sterling of Great Britain being rated as 4s. 6d. to the dollar, the conventional rate for sterling exchange was $4.44 4/9 to the pound and this rate or value was maintained for many years.  In New England, Virginia and Kentucky the dollar was fixed at six shillings in value, hence the shilling was the shilling was worth 16 2/3 cents, and the pound of those States worth $3.33 1/3; in New York and North Carolina the dollar was fixed at eight shillings, the shilling worth 12 1/2 cents and the pound worth $2.50; in South Carolina and Georgia the dollar was fixed at four shillings eight pence, the shilling worth 21 3/7 cents and the pound worth $4.28 4/7; in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland the dollar was seven shillings six pence, the shilling worth 13 1/3 cents, and the pound worth $2.66 2/3.  From this it will be seen that the price paid by Sir William PULTENEY and his associates for the Genesee tract was $333,333.33, being about twenty-six and one-third cents per acre. 

The accompanying map is a reduced reproduction of the map of the resurvey of the Phelps and Gorham purchase under direction of Major HOOPS, by Augustus PORTER, from a copy of the original map in possession of Geo. H. HARRIS, esq., Rochester, N. Y. 

The discovery that the State did not own the lands in the Gore worked to the great disadvantage of the State, and to the owners and settlers who had by that time taken possession of their lands.  The State had sold and granted to divers individuals all the lands lying between the old pre-emption line and Seneca lake, and many of the purchasers and grantees under these sales were in possession.  Now the true pre-emption line had been surveyed and fixed, and within the Phelps and Gorham purchase, as by that survey decided, were found the lands and improvements of persons holding titles from the State.  Nothing now remained to be done on the part of the State other than to satisfy the claims of the injured parties.  In many cases Mr. WILLIAMSON confirmed the State titles and received compensation therefore from the State by grants of land in other localities from the public lands, while in other cases the State satisfied the claimants by grants of public lands, but generally was compelled to give from three to six acres for each one possessed by the person found to be on the pre-emption tract. 

As has already been stated these lands had been granted by the State to various persons and the discovery of the error and the subsequent resurvey of the eastern boundary was the source of much confusion.  Captain WILLIAMSON, acting for the association, purchased a number of these patents, and made arrangements to quiet the title of other owners to the extent of 37,788 acres, 25,000 acres of which had been purchased for him by his agent, John JOHNSTONE.  However, in 1799 WILLIAMSON received as compensation lands 56,682 acres, or one and one-half acres for one, which were granted him by the State and located adjoining the pre-emption line in Wayne county.  John LIVINGSTON and Thomas MAULE, the then owners of the REED and RYCKMAN tract, which WILLIAMSON took and retained in possession, received from the State patents for 42,969 acres, being five and one-half acres for one, as compensation lands for their loss.  Robert TROUP, agent for Sir John Lowther JOHNSTONE, in 1811 obtained a decision from the land office for compensation for lands in Seth REED's patent for 2,000 acres, the title of which WILLIAMSON had purchased.  Numerous other illustrations might be given in this connection, but the above are deemed sufficient for the purpose of this chapter. 

Charles WILLIAMSON, who has been frequently mentioned in connection with the PULTENEY association, was as intimately associated with the early history of Ontario county as were PHELPS and GORHAM, or any other of the early land proprietors.  WILLIAMSON was born in Scotland, and is said to have first come to this country during the Revolution as a captain in the British service; but the vessel on which he was making the passage was captured by a French privateer, and WILLIAMSON was detained as a prisoner at Boston until the close of the war.  He improved every opportunity to become acquainted with the country, and his services therefore were much sought by foreign investors in United States lands.  His first visit to the Genesee country was made in February, 1792, he having then been recently appointed representative of the PULTENEY association.  The next year he founded the village of Bath, now in Steuben but then in Ontario county, and at the same time caused a survey and map of Geneva to be made, the latter work being performed by Joseph ANNIN.  By this time, also, Canandaigua had become a village of much importance, it being the county seat of the newly erected county of Ontario.  In 1796 a sloop was built by WILLIAMSON on Seneca Lake to be run as a packet between Geneva and Catherinestown.  In the same year, also, a printing office was established at Geneva.  However, these are subjects which may be more appropriately treated as local rather than general history, and therefore need no further discussion at this time. 

In 1796 Charles WILLIAMSON was elected to the Legislature from Ontario county, and served three successive years.  March 18, 1795, he was appointed a judge of the county of Ontario and served in that capacity at several terms of the court held at Canandaigua.  March 31, 1796, he was appointed first judge of Steuben county.  He was also appointed by the governor, lieutenant colonel of the militia.  In the infancy of settlements in the Genesee country he was a most important agent, and much of the early prosperity of the region was due to his enterprise.  Eastward of Geneva was an uninhabited wilderness, and not a road within a hundred miles of the Genesee country would admit of any sort of conveyance except when the ground was covered with snow.  He opened roads in various directions, and often made advancements to induce settlement.  The lands he was generally compelled to sell upon credit, and payments were often postponed.  Many of WILLIAMSON's enterprises were ahead of the times, and were rewarded with slow returns.  His resources were mainly the capital of his principals, who advanced large amounts for improvements, freely at first, but soon began to be impatient at the slow return of their outlays.  By the year 1800 there had been expended by the association the sum of $1,374,-470.10, and there had been received for lands sold only $147,974.83, while at this time there was owing for lands purchased about $300,000. 

Sir William PULTENEY was the principal man in the association, his interest being so large that upon the division of the lands his share exceeded that of both of his associates.  However, the HORNBY and COLQUHOUN shares were each large, and were managed as an estate, the agency of which was at Canandaigua under the charge of John JOHNSTONE, and upon his decease John GREIG, of Canandaigua succeeded to the agency. 

In the final adjustment of affairs with his principals, Mr. WILLIAMSON obtained a princely compensation and a large estate was left to him.  Major James REES was his agent until Mr. WILLIAMSON returned to Scotland, in 1803 or ' 4, when his matters were left with Col. Benjamin WALKER of Utica.  Mr. WILLIAMSON died of yellow fever in 1808, while on a passage from Havana to England.  His wife did not leave this country, but continued to reside in Geneva, where she died August 31, 1824. 

Much that might properly come within the province of this chapter, particularly that which relates to the sale and disposition of the several townships now forming Ontario county, is omitted from the present narrative, but reference to them will be found in one of the later chapters (relating to the organization of the county), and also to the chapters devoted specially to township history. 

In the settlement of WILLIAMSON with his principals, he conveyed the real estate directly to them by deeds dated the 16th of May, 1801, under an act of the Legislature, April 2, 1798, enabling aliens to purchase and hold real estate.  This act expired by limitation in three years from its passage.  The amount of personal property, consisting of bonds and mortgages and notes he thus conveyed at different dates, according to an adjustment statement between the parties, was $551,699.77.  According to the same statement the valuation of the land conveyed was, to Sir William PULTENEY, in Ontario and Steuben counties, $2,607,682.25; to William HORNBY, in said counties, $350,924.45, and to Patrick COLQUHOUN, in the same counties, $37,188.13, making the whole amount conveyed valued at $3,547,494.58. 

Robert TROUP was the attorney of Sir William PULTENEY in effecting the settlement with WILLIAMSON, and to his surprise received a full power of attorney, dated July 26, 1801, to act as the permanent agent and attorney.  At first he absolutely refused the agency, but finally was persuaded to accept, and commenced his duties in September, 1801.  Sir William PULTENEY died intestate, May 13, 1805, and the property descended to his only child, Henrietta Laura, the countess of Bath; she died July 14, 1808, intestate as to her real estate, and that property descended to Sir John Lowther JOHNSTONE, her cousin and heir-at-law; he died August 7, 1811, leaving a will under the powers of trust in which the management of the property has continued until this day.  Colonel TROUP continued in the agency until his death, which occurred January 14, 1832, and his successors have been Joseph FELLOWS and Benjamin F. YOUNG, the latter continuing as yet the agency at Bath, Steuben county.  This part of the PULTENEY estate is usually known as the Johnstone Branch. 

The countess of Bath, bequeathed the personal part of the estate for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth MARKHAM, the wife of the Rev. George MARKHAM, afterwards the wife of John PULTENEY, and her children.  The personal estate in America consisted of moneys due and to become due on sales of real estate by contracts of purchase, and by bonds and mortgages taken on such sales.  Elizabeth Evelyn PULTENEY died March 18, 1856, bequeathing to her son, the Rev. Richard Thomas PULTENEY, the residuary personal estate of the countess of Bath.  This part of the PULTENEY estate has become known as the Pulteney Branch.  Joseph FELLOWS was the agent for a number of years and was succeeded by Edward KINGSLAND in 1871, who yet retains the agency at Geneva.  Although the personal property branch of the PULTENEY estate was but a minor part of the whole estate, yet after all it was considerable.  It has, however, been gradually reduced until it is now comparatively small, and as soon as it can be done, without detriment to the estate or inconvenience to the parties, it will be entirely closed up.

Created by Dianne Thomas  

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