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Migration to Western New York


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Immediately following the conclusion of the American Revolution the new U.S. government began to acquire native land by treaty. Vast quantities of land traditionally claimed by the powerful Iroquois League was transferred to the U.S. by the Six Nations. It took only three years after the surrender of the British at Yorktown and only one year after the Treaty of Versailles for the U.S. to start to acquire these native lands. It took another three years--a total of six years -- before the U.S. Constitution was ratified and George Washington took office.

The first peace treaty between the United States and the Six Nations was agreed to at Fort Stanwix on October 22, 1784. The western frontier was established as beginning at the mouth of a creek four miles east of Niagara, on the lake named by the Indians, Oswego (Ontario). The Six Nations, on concurring in this limitation, were guaranteed the peaceable possession of their territories eastward of the line, excepting a reservation of six miles square around Fort Oswego for the convenience of the United States. By these treaties the U.S. set the stage to acquire most of western New York.

Summary of Land Transactions in the decade following the Revolution: (Footnote 1)

On September 12, 1788, the Onondagas, by treaty at Fort Schuyler (or Stanwix), sold all of their territory to New York--except for reservation around their chief village. On September 22, 1788 the Oneidas,ceded all their remaining lands to New York except for a small reservation and hunting and fishing rights. In only a few years, the Six Nations had signed away all but insignificant pieces of land to the new United States of America.


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The craving for land in the 'west' had driven America's growth from the outset.Except for a few experiments in communal societies such as the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 1620--every colonial settlement had attempted to expand even in the face of hostile enemies.

After the Revolution a new driving force added to the pressure. The government had to pay its debts to those who had served in the war. Bounty land was not a new concept. It had been used by the British. Now it was a means for a cash-poor government to pay its military--especially its officers.

See, for example, townships, counties and soldiers' names at these New York sites:

Controversy between New York and Massachusetts

However various states had conflicting claims: Massachusetts and Connecticut had claims to certain lands. (See also Ohio at this website.) The 1784 map by Buel gives a glimpse of the extent of colonial claims.(*NOTE)

Many conflicting interests had to be resolved--sometimes in the courts. Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut all claimed parts of this territory. These claims would not be resolved for many years. On December 16, 1786 the controversy between New York and Massachusetts over a large portion of territory within the acknowledged limits of New York was resolved.

LAND SPECULATORS--Phelps and Gorham Purchase

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The acquisition of Western New York was a collaboration between government and private enterprise. Government defined the geographic and legal limits within which subsequent commerce would evolve.

Oliver Phelps, a Massachusetts land speculator, entered the wilderness beyond the Hudson River and Mohawk Valley in 1788. It was then still inhabited by hostile natives. He negotiated with the Chiefs to purchase hunting ground at the mouth of the Genesee River on Lake Ontario.

Phelps convened a conference with the Chiefs and warriors which inluded the legendary Red Jacket and Farmer's Brother.

"The meeting had great potential to ignite underlying tensions, for though the Grand Sachem, Farmer's Brother, inclined to take a moderate position toward the white man, Red Jacket, notoriously hostile, was ready to stir his people to battle against the negotiating party. Fortunately for Phelps, Farmer's Brother was as skilled at parliamentary procedure as was Red Jacket at impassioned oratory." Footnote 1

Phelps managed to come away from the conference not only with his life, but with two million acres of land.It was one of the largest purchases on Lake Ontario. He immediately surveyd the land and created a new procedure for dividing land into ranges, townships and sections. His system became the basis for land division all across the new country. By 1789 the first land-office opened in Canandaigua, New York.


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General Caleb Hyde of Lenox, Massachusetts, heard about the Phelps and Gorham land sales and journeyed west to see for himself the forested lands west of Cayuga lake, the Genessee Valley and the falls where the river flowed into Lake Ontario. He purchased 1500 acres near the head of Irondequoit Bay and convinced some of his prominent neighbors in Lenox, Massachusetts, to join him. A group, including Judge Enos Stone, formed to purchase Township 13, Range 7 of the Phelps and Gorham land. It was quickly surveyed into farm lots and the first three settlers came to the new region early in the summer of 1789 with a small stock of provision, and some cattle. They built a log cabin, cleared twelve acres and planted wheat before returning to Massachusetts in the fall.

Enos Stone joined them when they returned the next Spring in 1790. With his young son Enos Stone, Jr. they drove oxen, cows, hogs and a few sheep to the Genesee. They stopped at Utica, the jumping-off point of the New York frontier, and then they travelled about 25 miles per day, camping each night. When they reached Lake Cayuga they crossed their stock in two Durham Boats. They had run out of provisions by the time they arrived at Geneva. They returned to Lenox, Massachusetts, satisfied at having brought the first stock west of Seneca Lake.

For more information on the development of Western New York--specifically the region that became Monroe County and Rochester, see New York GenWeb site for Monroe County.

The following family histories are told in the context of the emergence of Rochester, New York.


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After the Revolution local authorities throughout the country began to systematically confiscate the property of Tories.

The Genesee scheme was developed to get Tories out of North Carolina by wagon through Pennsylvania. The trail led up through the Shenandoah Valley along the road on which their ancestors had first come to North Carolina fifty years before. Following a route much like the warring Iroquois had followed for centuries, they were led northward through Pennsylvania to the headwaters of the Genesee River into western New York and finally to Lake Ontario where they could escape to Canada. Some of the fleeing Loyalists detoured and found a new life in communities like Bath, New York.

Proprietors of the newly emerging lands of the Genesee also actively recruited North Carolina financial interests.

Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, a Patriot from Hillsborough, North Carolina had been among the first to explore the newly opened Indian lands in western New York. He purchased a large tract in Ontario County near the town of Dansville but found its environment unhealthy. In association with Col. Wiliam Fitzhugh and Major Carroll, he purchased the "Hundred Acre Tract" -- a swamp that became the City of Rochester at the Falls of the Genesee.

F O O T N O T E S:

Source: Henry O'Reilly, Sketches of Rochester ,1838 (rpt Geneseo: James Brunner, 1984.) See pp. 105-138 and Appendix pp 338-406. Back

*Note: To see information about the Buel Map, go to Buel Map Title Block at my site at Early Settlers of Solon, Iowa



Family Histories
  Granville Beardsley & Malana Stone (NY)
  Andrew Cady & Sarah Hibbard (NY)
  Charles Cameron & Caroline Beardsley (MI)
  Varnum Card & Rosetta E. Hatch (IN)
  Elisha Bryan & Margaret Garrison(NY)
  Isaac Bryan & Sally_____(NY)
  Jacob B Bryan & Maria Clark(NY)
  William W. Bryan & Jane Viehl (NY)
   Andrew Cady & Sarah Hibbard
  Samuel V. Calhoun & Verlinda Dawson (PA)
  Hezekiah Coleman & Elizabeth Belew (SC)
  Jarret Coleman & Mary___ (SC)
  Isaac Conn & Docia Coleman (GA)
  George Dawson & Narcissa Dawson (PA)
  David Frank & Louisa Hornette (PA)
  James Griffith & Mary Elizabeth Hall(MD)
  Joseph Griffith & Catherine [Burson] (OH)
  Charles Hagaman & Harriet Stone (NY)
  Charles Hagaman & Harriet Stone (NY)
  William B. Harris & Elizabeth Hibbard
  Bronson Hatch & Elizabeth Stone (NY)
  Uriah Clayton Herr & Lillian Painter(PA)
  James Henderson & Nancy Dean (MS)
  Alexander Boardman Hibbard (NY-CA)
  Charles H.Hibbard & Marie J.Osborn (NY)
  Enoch Hibbard & Sally Stone (NY)
  Lewis M. Hunt & Caroline Hagaman (NY)
  George Hudson & Frances J Hagaman(NY)
  Henry Knickerbocker & Caroline West
  John Jarvis Lowell & Elizabeth Beardsley (NY)
  Joseph Morton & Jemima Harrel (VA)
  George Newkirk and Margaret Johnson (PA)
  Samuel Painter & Katherine Frank (VA)
  David Reed and Elizabeth Pletcher (PA)
  Rueben Reid and Mary Anne Raye (OH)
  Enos Stone & Sallyl Bronaugh (Mrs.)
  Oringh Stone & Elizabeth Mabee (NY)
      see also Stone descendants
  Robert Van Rensselaer & Emily Hibbard
  John Van Rensselaer(NY-CA)
  Addison West (NY-CA)
  Charles West and Ella Calhoun (MO)
  George West & Mary A.Stone (NY-MI)
   Frederick A.West & Lydia H.Corliss (NY-MI)
  John West & Clarissa ___ (NY,IA)
      see also John West, Solon IA
  Orson West & Catherine Griffith (NY-MO)
  Orson West & Olive Stone (NY-MI)