Rewind: February 15, 2021
Land Titles and Land Grants – Making Warren County
This material comes from History of Warren County, (1885) Edited by H. P. Smith. This book is perhaps the best source for early history, and has become the go-to source, especially for people who don’t have the new history – which is 12 years old already.
According to Smith, the military posts at Fort George and Fort Edward were responsible for the settlement of the area. People were reluctant to live beyond the sound of a gun from the fort. Warren County was pretty rustic. Once enlistments were up, soldiers could apply for a little tract of land. This was often done in small groups with the thought of starting a small community and taking into consideration the need for protection (safety/strength in numbers).
Another consideration was the quality of soil. The people coming to new areas had to be able to sustain themselves. In the region there were small patches of arable land which would not sustain a large accumulation of farmers. Had any group raised more than was needed for home consumption, it wouldn’t have been easy to take excess food to market; “…the falls in the Hudson at Luzerne, Corinth, Glens and Baker’s, rendered that stream almost, if not entirely, unnavigable.” (p. 207)
Those inhabitants who had ‘mechanical trades’ would most often have a small farm attached to their land. Blacksmiths, millers and the like met their own needs. “Since nine-tenths of the heads of families (of these early pioneers) had been soldiers…very few had such mechanical trades.” (p. 207)
Since many of the patents were given to persons who, for whatever the reason, were unsuccessful at meeting the requirements (occupancy, rents, recording, etc.), land was often re-conveyed to other parties. After the Revolution, abandoning property because disloyalty to the new government was also a major factor of re-conveying property.
Most patents in the area were for small alluvial tracts on both sides of the Hudson and on the West side of Lake George – granted to officers and soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War. Other patents were granted to what professed to be actual settlers, …”and to no man more than a thousand acres.” (p. 207)
This was quite different from the British method of land grants where a field officer was allowed 5,000 acres; a captain, 3,000 acres; a subaltern staff officer (holding rank below captain), 2,000 acres; a non-commissioned officer, 200 acres; and to a private, 50 acres. These reserved for the king, “all mines of gold and silver, and all pine trees fit for masts of the growth of twenty-four inches diameter and upwards at twelve inches from the earth.” (p 208)
There were many other requirements attached to the British grants, including specific requirements for the amount of land to be used for cultivation, and the payment of yearly rent (two shillings and sixpence sterling for each hundred acres).
There is a long and winding story of Rev. Godfrey Dellius, a Dutch minister from Albany who fraudulently gathered land deeds from the Indians and ended up in 1696 with ”…all the land within twelve miles on the east side of the Hudson River…” up to Willsborough (in Essex County). This gave him a 70 mile-long, 12 mile-wide patent that was most of what would be Warren-Washington-Essex Counties. In March of 1699, the patent was vacated (made void) but claims were held on it until The Queensbury Patent was granted May 20, 1762.
The Queensbury Patent contained approximately all of what is Warren County today, 23,000 acres made to twenty-three individuals. The patent was granted on May 20, 1762, in the second year of the reign of George III; given the name Queensbury in honor of his then lately wedded consort. Several of the most notable patents that came out of this are as follows:
James Caldwell was granted four tracts of land on the west side of Lake George (September 29, 1787) for 360 acres, 485 acres, 155 acres, and 1,000 acres. He was granted another 600 acres in 1791 and an additional 800 acres which extended his holdings up into Essex County. Caldwell owned over 3,400 acres, in addition to other tracts of land he purchased.
Dartmouth Township consisting of 18,036 acres was granted to Jeremiah Van Rensselaer and James Abeel with forty-five others (in the Stony Creek and Thurman area.
Hyde Township was granted to Edward and Ebenezer Jessup and thirty-eight others. The tract was to contain 40,000 acres, but actually contained more. The area lies in Warrensburg and Thurman.
The Jessup brothers (above) with fourteen petitioned for 15,000 acres. They took it in several places and one parcel of 4,100 acres includes the area where the village of Lake Luzerne stands today.
The Totten and Crossfield tract covers all the northwest corner of the county and includes all of Johnsburg and part of Chester.
John Thurman, after 1778, was instrumental in bringing people to settle in the area on land he purchased from the Totten and Crossfield patent that included most of the northwestern parts of present day Warren County. His land included the present Thurman, Bolton, Chester, Warrensburg, Stony Creek and Johnsburg. The Thurman story is an interesting one, and one that deserves a column of its own.
Dividing up the wild territory of northern New York was done primarily through land grants and patents. Those names above can still be found on many of the deeds today.
This article was prepared by Stan Cianfarano, Co-President of Warren County Historical Society and Warren County Historian.