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LAND GRANTS AND PARCEL MAPS

The most westerly settler shown on a 1759 map of the Mohawk Valley. Courtesy of the Clements Library.

It is valuable to consider, before searching for property maps applicable to this 1730 excavation, how sparsely the upper Mohawk valley was settled in that time. Fort Williams, the cornerstone of westward trade and travel, would not be built for another 16 years (1746) and Fort Bull, at the western end of the Oneida Carry, would not exist until almost a decade after that (1755). Travelers through this region were very much isolated from even the most tentative fingers of civilization. Although the area of what was to become Herkimer was populated in 1759 by "about 100 families,"13 the lone habitation marked "Rynard's - Uppermost Settlement" on the 1759 map (above), and as "Rynards the uppermost Setler" on the 1757 map and "Rynarts the upper most Setteler" on the 1756 map, was still some ten miles downstream, to the east of "the Neck," near the present village of Frankfort. There is every reason to believe that in 1730 the entire stretch of river west of Herkimer was uninhabited by other than Indians, although traversed by citizens of several European nations.

Just as in many other parts of the Northeast, it was not until the close of the French and Indian War (1763) that settlement in outlying regions was actively pursued, with the frontier pushed gradually westward toward the Great Lakes. In fact, within what was to become New York State, it was the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 that fixed the boundary between the lands of the Europeans to the east and the lands of the Iroquois to the west. This treaty line placed the navigation corridor between Fort Bull, on Wood Creek, and Albany, on the Hudson, within the domain and control of the British, and shortly thereafter surveys were being made of land grants and royal patents along the Mohawk River, some of which having been granted years earlier.

It is through these later eighteenth century surveys that we can begin to gain a more specific picture of the configuration of the Mohawk River within the study area, but with the understanding that in most cases these are manuscripts drawn over a half century after the fact of the 1730 canal. It was hoped that these more particular land survey maps would record the finer details that the statewide maps of the 1750s could not hope to portray at the scales at which they were necessarily drawn.

In assembling a compendium of historic maps relating to the research area, and on which we hope to find details to help resolve the selection of meanders, we have to determine within which historic land grants and properties the study area falls. A good general guide to eighteenth century land holdings along the Mohawk River is the Simeon DeWitt map of 179014.

The 1790 DeWitt map of land patents in the Mohawk Valley. Courtesy of the NY State Library.

But as instructive as this map is regarding property lines, it is somewhat discouraging to see that "the Neck" so prominently represented on earlier maps is totally absent from this rendering. We must necessarily, therefore, estimate its location from the relative position of the Oriskany and Sauquoit creeks. Very quickly we see that the area in question falls within a parcel bounded on the west by the massive land grant known as the "Oriskany Patent," and on the east by an equally large parcel called the "Cosby Patent."

A comparison of the river course as represented in each of these patent maps confirms that we are correct in assuming that the search area within which the historic canal site rests lies between these two eighteenth century land grants. The 1789 map of the Oriskany Patent15 shows the entirety of the land grant stretching from west of Fort Schuyler (previously Fort Stanwix) eastward on the north side of the river to a point opposite the mouth of Oriskany Creek, and on the south side some 168 chains (11,000 feet) further. Comparison of this 200 year old map with the field confirms that the configuration of the Mohawk at the junction of Oriskany Creek has essentially remained unchanged.

By projection, the eastern boundary of the Patent on the south side of the river would fall near the present County Route 12 and at precisely the same angle. This is also the angle and almost the same position as the west line of the Village of Whitesboro. Such coincidence of modern property lines and features suggests a derivation from the original east line of the Patent. The 1789 map shows a road along the north side of the river crossing to the south side immediately west of the eastern Patent boundary, just as the modern road from Careys Corners crosses the Mohawk immediately west of the west line of the Village of Whitesboro. It would seem, therefore, that the Oriskany Patent falls short by a few thousand feet of providing coverage of the study area on the south side of the river, and by over two miles on the north side.

Examination of the maps for the Cosby Patent16to the east clearly shows the west line of this grant being set across the river at the mouth of the"Sidaghquada Creek." Since we are using the intersection of the Sauquoit Creek with the Mohawk River as the eastern bounds of our search area, one can see that this patent only meets the edge of the study area, but does not cover any part of it.

It is within this gap, between the Cosby Patent on the east and the Oriskany Patent on the west, that the site of the 1730 canal must lie. It is within this area, therefore, that the search for land records and property maps is concentrated.

The most frequently used guide to the geography of eighteenth century New York is the 1779 Sauthier Map,17 as reproduced in O'Callaghan's Documentary History of the State of New York.18 This map portrays in some detail the entirety of settlement, features of terrain, and courses of the waterways across the State at that time.

The 1779 Sauthier Map, re-engraved for publication in 1849.

Examination of the minute detail recorded between "Burnets Field" and "Ft. Stanwix" pretty much confirms our assumption that the search area lies between "Cosbys Mannor" and "Ochriscany Patent," as both the "Oriscany Cr." and "Sidaghqueda Cr." are indicated. In fact, even though this detail was omitted from some earlier maps of the area, Sauthier enters the words "the Neck" on the south side of the river within this area , but the tell-tale cut-through loop is not portrayed.

Sauthier facsimile, detail.

It appears from this map that a third land grant encompasses the search area and "the Neck," and Sauthier has labeled this parcel "F. Morris." But the map in O'Callaghan is a later copy or facsimile issue, not the original.

Viewing the original19 would, at first glance, seem to reveal no major differences. But a closer examination reveals a slightly more easterly position for "the Neck" and the identification of "Fred.rick Morris" as the landholder of the new parcel. [We will return later in the discussion to issues relating to the designation of "the Neck" on the Sauthier map.]

A map of the Frederick Morris grant of 1736,20 redrawn at a later date (below) to reflect the reassignment of portions of the tract, confirms that it is the missing piece of land lying between the Oriskany and Cosby patents. Disappointingly, the river course through the grant is abstracted as a relatively straight line, which is unsupported by any other contemporaneous, or modern, evidence. The suspect southward trending loop shown at the west limits of the parcel is a later addition, penciled in and then partially inked over.


1769 map of the Morris lot. Morris parcel map, detail.

But although this map does not reveal the sought after "Neck," it does reveal four very significant facts. First, the Frederick Morris parcel does indeed begin at the mouth of the "Sadehqueda" creek and runs from there westerly. Second, the loop of the river added to the Morris map, which might have been seen to indicate "The Neck" is over 10,000 feet west of the Sauquoit Creek, placing it outside the search area. This suggests it is the large open meander that presently exists south of Careys Corners.

Third, a wedge-shaped lot attributed to Donald McKay and set off to him in May of 1770, appears to fill in a discrepancy between the original Morris grant and the east line of the Oriskany Patent south of the river. This discrepancy is apparent in a 1769 map of the region,21 which shows a gap between the west line of the Morris tract and the east line of the Oriskany Patent. Fourth, the adjusted west lines of the Morris tract match exactly the position and alignment of County Route 12 north of the river, through Careys Corners, and the west line of the Village of Whitesboro south of the river.

Referring back to the facsimile version of the Sauthier map we can see that this wedge-shaped lot appears to be included within the multiple lines defining patents and grants along this section of the river, being attached correctly to the western edge of the "F. Morris" tract. In fact, it would appear that Sauthier intended to indicate "the Neck" as lying within this tiny parcel, although the position of this label may just as easily be explained by the priority given to the "F. Morris" identification. The same space, particularly so small a space, could not be given to two different labels, and landowner designation was certainly the more significant.

To further clarify the ambiguous loop added to the Morris tract map, and to ensure that it is not, in fact, the infamous "Neck," a search was initiated for maps relating to the McKay lot through which the loop ran. Only one map, and that drawn in 1770,22 the date indicated on the Frederick Morris map as when the parcel was set off, portrays the particulars of the McKay property . Significantly more detailed than the representation in the Morris survey, the loop of the Mohawk drawn here clearly suggests a southwestward trending, broad, and open meander, slightly more flattened on its eastern side, and with a pronounced extension at the base of the meander in its downstream, right, corner. This extension would be expected given the flow of the river from west to east, left to right, as the maximum force of the flood stage waters would be focused on this sharp northward turn, and the river would have the greatest tendency to cut laterally at this point, accentuating the corner, just as it appears on the 1770 map.


A 1770 map of the McKay parcel. The same meander on the river today.

If we then compare this meander, as drawn in 1770, with the meander previously identified from the Morris survey as being the loop indicated, lying just south of Careys Corners, we can see a striking similarity in form. In fact, the angularity noted on the 1770 map along the eastern side of the meander, and easily mistaken for an abstract rendering by the cartographer, is actually present in the river at this precise point today. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the southward trending loop of the river indicated within the Morris tract, and suspected as a candidate for the 1730 "Neck," is actually the broad, open meander immediately to the west of the three loops within our primary search area. The configurations of this meander today, in 1803/1811, and in 1770 strongly indicate that it was never a closed, neck-like feature, and also reveals to us with some precision that the Mohawk River has not been subject to major natural alterations of alignment here for at least the past 220 years.

An earlier map of this section of the Mohawk Valley , drawn in 1769,23 clearly shows the relationship of the Morris tract, assigned here to "Lewis Morris junr", to the western edge of "Cosbys Manor." While the configuration of the river within Cosbys Manor matches very well the known configuration of the Mohawk in that area, and while the general proportions of the river through the Morris tract are similar to those existing here, with a wavy alignment in the easterly section followed by a northerly arching alignment in the westerly portion, there is too great an oversimplification in the area immediately west of "Sadaquida Creek," shown only as a small tongue of water on the south side of the river.

A 1769 map of the Lewis Morris grant.

An even earlier map of the area is more detailed,24 including the intersects of the Oriskany and Sauquoit Creeks and a configuration of the Mohawk through the Morris tract that more closely approaches what we see today. Yet no indication of either the large open meanders seen west of the Sauquoit Creek, nor of any neck-like cut-off, is to be seen.

It is ironic that the short segment of the Mohawk River that is the focus of our search is the only stretch between Burnetsfield (Herkimer) and Fort Williams (Rome) that was apparently never mapped in detail during the eighteenth century! In fact, if one did not know that the straightline river course that presently exists west of Sauquoit Creek, through what was then the Morris tract, is the result of 20th century channel realignments connected with the construction of the Barge Canal and the Thruway, one could easily assume it was the channel exactly as shown on eighteenth century maps of the area.

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