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George Clinton—1st N.Y. State Governor—Confirms 1,500,000+ Acre Patent in Catskill Mountains, “Sold” by Native Americans
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GEORGE CLINTON. Document Signed, Land Patent, June 11, 1786. Includes attached Great Seal of New York, made from beeswax, covered with parchment, then embossed with brass matrix. 6 pp., 14¼ x 17½ in. with 3½ in. seal.

Inventory #24362       Price: $2,500

Historical Background
On March 22, 1707, Johannes Hardenbergh, then a merchant in Kingston, New York, purchased from Nanisinos, sachem of the Esopus tribe, an immense tract in the Catskill Mountains for £60. The Great or Hardenbergh Patent was issued in the name of Queen Anne on April 27, 1708, conveying nearly two million acres in Ulster, Greene, Orange, Sullivan, and Delaware Counties to Hardenbergh and six joint owners. The governor of the royal Provinces of New York and New Jersey from 1701 to 1708, Viscount Cornbury, Edward Hyde, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, the Queen’s cousin, signed the original deed.

In 1749, Ebenezer Wooster surveyed most of the patent and marked the bounds by monuments along the Delaware and Papakunk rivers. Wooster’s son negotiated with dissatisfied Native Americans, who in June 1751, sold the disputed portion of the land for $750. In the 1740s, Robert Livingston (1668-1775) began buying shares and eventually came to own about one third of the Patent.

In 1769, Colonel John Bradstreet (1714-1774) claimed 50,000 acres of the tract, and in 1771, petitioned the Earl of Dunmore, Governor of the Province of New York, to challenge the validity of the patent, by pointing out that though it contained more than 1.5 million acres, “there are not ten families settled thereon at this time” and the £3 annual rent meant that “a manifest injustice is done to his Majesties revenues.” Bradstreet’s petition was denied.

For most of the eighteenth century, as shares were sold, leased or bequeathed, the terms were so complex that clouded title impeded settlement. Parts of the land were sold by heirs, and other parts passed out of their ownership through adverse possession. After dispute over the Western boundaries, by the end of the Revolutionary War, Wooster’s markers had disappeared.

The 1786 document offered here copies the 1708 deed was likely prepared to help establish a clear title to this part of the Hardenbergh patent. In March 1790, the New York legislature appointed Charles Tappen and James Cockburn commissioners to make a survey of certain lines and mark them by stone heaps every two miles. The patent was divided into 42 great tracts.

Partial Transcript (complete transcript available upon request)
The People of the State of New York, By the Grace of God, Free and Independent: To all to whom these presents shall come, send Greeting: Know Ye that We having inspected the Records … Recorded in Book of Patents No 7 commencing in the year 1695 page 363, certain Letters Patent in the words and figures following, that is to say, “Anne, by the Grace of God of England Scotland France & Ireland Queen Defendr of the faith & To all to whom these prsents may in any wise concerne, sendeth Greeting Whereas our Loving Subjects Johannes Hardenbergh, Leonard Lewis, Philip Rokeby, William Nottingham, Benjamin Faneiul, Peter Fauconnier & Robt Lurting … Have prayd our Grant & Confirmation of a certain Tract of vacant and unappropriated Land situate in the countys of Ulster & Albany beginning att the Sand Bergh or Hills att ye Northeast corner of the Lands granted to Ebenezer Willson Dirick Vandenburgh &c att Minisinck so running all along their Line Northwesterly as the said Line runs to the Fish Kill or River and so to the head thereof including the same, thence on a direct Line to the head of a certain small River commonly known by the name of Cartwrights kill and so by the Northerly side of the said Kill or River to the Northermost Bounds of Kingstown on the said Kill or River thence by the Bounds of Kingstown, Hurley, Marbletown, Rochester and other patented Lands to the Southward thereof to the said <2> Sand Bergh the place where it first begun;… Yielding & Paying therefore yearly & every year from henceforth unto us our Heirs & successors att our Custome House at New Yorke to our Collectors or Receiver Generall there for the time being att or upon the feast day of the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary comonly called Lady day the Rent or sume of three pounds currant money of our province of new Yorke … upon that Condition that if no Improvement be already had or made upon the said Land and premises… Wee <5> have caused these our Lettrs to be made patents and the …  <6> Seal of our said State to be hereunto affixed Witness our Trusty and Well beloved George Clinton Esquire Governor of our said State General and Commander in Chief of all the Militia and Admiral of the Navy of the same, at our City of New York the Eleventh day of June in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred & Eighty Six and of our Independence the Fourth

                                                                        Geo: Clinton

<7> [Docketing:] Passed the Secretary’s Office the 11th June 1786. / Robt. Harpur D. Secry

George Clinton (1739-1812) was governor of the State of New York from 1777 to 1795, and again from 1801 to 1804, and as Vice President from 1805-1812 under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Born in New York to Irish parents, he served in the French and Indian War first on a privateer in the Caribbean and then in the militia. He began to practice law in 1764, and  served in the New York Provincial Assembly from 1768 to 1776, and was commissioned as brigadier general in both the militia and the Continental Army.

Johannes Hardenbergh (1670-1745) was born in Albany, New York. He was sheriff of Ulster County, New York, in 1709 and a major in the Ulster County Regiment. As a merchant in Kingston, he acquired an enormous tract of land from local Native Americans in the Catskill Mountains in 1707, confirmed to him and six co-owners by a patent from Queen Anne in 1708.

Condition: fold somewhat affecting end of signature, still fine.


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