The Totten and Crossfield Purchase is a massive land tract named for Joseph Totten and Stephen Crossfield, two shipwrights from New York City who, acting as front-men for two prominent land speculators, acquired the 1.15 million acres from the Mohawk and Caughnawaga Indians in 1772. This tract was sometimes referred to as Jessup’s Purchase. While much has been written about the Purchase, I want to impress upon the reader, especially those who live or enjoy leisure time in the Adirondack Park, the great extent of this tract and provide a quick overview of its history. If you would like to learn more about this very famous and important Adirondack land tract, see Volume 1 of A History of the Adirondacks by Alfred Donaldson, Rural Indigenousness by Melissa Otis, and Verplanck Colvin’s State Land Survey reports (which are available online through Google Books).
Posts Tagged ‘Totten Crossfield Tract’
Until Robert Maloney’s 1989 history, A Backward Look at 6th and 7th Lakes, local histories of the Fulton Chain region had mostly concentrated on the growth and development of the more populated First through Fourth Lakes of the chain.
Though my primary subject here is the popular hotel that existed on the north shore of Seventh Lake, I wanted to also supplement Mr. Maloney’s information with additional early history about Seventh Lake itself. » Continue Reading.
The Townships of Johnsburg and Thurman were named for John Thurman when Warren County was split off from Washington County in 1816. Beyond the boundaries of these two townships, however, few have heard of him or his accomplishments.
The story of John Thurman is an important chapter in the history of the Adirondacks. For too many, Adirondack history is limited to the great camps, guide boats, and environmental protection. Yet there is so much more.
For hundreds of years the Adirondacks were a dark and dangerous place; anyone traveling through the area had best be well-armed. However, after the American Revolution the Adirondacks became, for the first time, a land of great opportunity, ready for exploration and commercial enterprises. » Continue Reading.
On Route 28 between Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake there is a sign about a half mile south of the junction with Route 28N in Blue Mountain Lake that marks the divide between the St. Lawrence River and Hudson River watersheds. The waters of Blue Mountain Lake flow through the Eckford Chain into Raquette Lake, north through Long Lake and the Raquette River eventually reaching the St. Lawrence Seaway. The waters of Durant Lake, only a half-mile from Blue, eventually flow into the Hudson River.
If Farrand Benedict had been successful with his grand plans for the Adirondacks from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario, the waters of Blue, Raquette and Long lakes would today also flow to the Hudson River. » Continue Reading.
More than 200 property owners in the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, will receive letters asking if they want to resolve title issues to their properties as part of the Township 40 settlement, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced yesterday. The letters include a notarized statement form that must be returned to DEC within 90 days by any landowner who wants to be included in the settlement.
New York State voters approved a constitutional amendment last November that allows owners of the disputed properties to notify DEC whether they want their land parcel to be included in the Township 40 settlement. The State will release claims on properties whose owners “opt in” to the settlement. Those owners will have to sign a notarized statement, included with the letter, and will then be required to make a payment to the Town of Long Lake within one year. » Continue Reading.
Perhaps I first heard of the Township 40 disputed land titles during the Adirondack Park Centennial year, 1992. It was probably that fall during a Raquette Lake cruise on the WW Durant with Capt. Dean Pohl. I recalled the issues when canoeing on the lake later that decade. My friend Dan and I paddled Raquette Lake, took the Marion River Carry en route through the Eckford Chain of Lakes. I was back paddling on Raquette Lake through some high winds and waves when our mentor Paul Schaefer died in July, 1996.
I felt terribly that I was not with Paul when he died, but consoled myself with the knowledge that he would have certainly approved of where I was at the time he died, paddling into the teeth of the wind to reach a quiet bay on this great Adirondack lake. Paul was fond of showing us an early 20th century map of Township 40 to make the point that before becoming the famous first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot had (in about 1900) proposed lumbering thousands of acres east and south of Raquette Lake, a threat which had energized the organization of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the citizen and advocacy organization Paul served for 50 years and which I had the privilege of working for. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 New York State voters will have an opportunity to vote on several state-wide propositions. Proposition #4 (Prop 4), is one of two Constitutional Amendments affecting the Adirondacks. It’s the result of long-standing title disputes between the State of New York and property owners on Raquette Lake in the old Township 40 of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase.
A positive vote will correct an injustice that has been perpetuated for over 100 years.
I write as an interested party, but I’m not directly involved in any aspect of the controversy that gives rise to Prop 4. I don’t own property on or near Raquette Lake. I’m not one of the contested property holders. But, for nearly 35 years I have paddled the waters of this lake starting with a group of high school students, canoeing, camping, and learning about the outdoors. I’ve paddled the lake with my wife, with friends, and with clients as an Adirondack guide. In 2005, I paddled Raquette Lake recreating the 1883 paddle of George Washington Sears (a.k.a. Nessmuk) and many times since as a trail steward for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. » Continue Reading.
Today we move our surveying saga forward from the eighteenth century to the nineteenth. We will not dwell in this century for long. The stories of two dominant explorers of the 1800’s, geologist Ebenezer Emmons and surveyor Verplanck Colvin, have been well documented and need no retelling here. But before Emmons, who was active in the region in the 1830′,s there was plenty of important surveying work done in the Adirondacks.
If you will, please consider the following two résumés, each an example of early American pioneering virtue: » Continue Reading.
Last week we left Charles C. Brodhead in Indian Pass, he having arrived almost fifty years prior to David Henderson’s well-documented venture. As he chained through the pass Brodhead was slightly less than halfway through a survey of the line marking the boundary between the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, the Old Military Tract and the Macomb Purchase, the third and largest of the three great early Adirondack Tracts.
We have not previously encountered the Macomb Purchase and we will only touch upon it now. The Macomb purchase lay to the west of the Military Tract and its southern boundary was supposed to be the northern boundary of Totten Crossfield. But as we have seen there was no completed northern boundary for Totten Crossfield, thus the extent of the Macomb Purchase could not be properly calculated. It was Brodhead’s job to rectify that and to connect to Archibald Campbell’s unfinished line. As we will see, as astonishing as his High Peaks survey was, in the end he failed in this task. » Continue Reading.
When last we left surveyor Charles Brodhead he was standing in two feet of snow atop Giant Mountain. His task, to finally survey the boundary between the Old Military Tract and the Totten and Crossfield Purchase and in the process connect to Archibald Campbell’s distant northern line, lay before him, directly into the formidable jumble of higher peaks ahead. Unlike his predecessors, all of whom managed to avoid setting this line, Brodhead, the hard-headed, uncongenial tough guy that he was, took in the view without written comment, recorded his chain measurements and headed down into the Keene Valley and history. » Continue Reading.
On June 2nd, 1797, twenty-five years after Archibald Campbell surveyed part of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase, another surveyor named Charles C. Brodhead, tasked with working to the same line but starting from the east and chaining to the west, made the following entry in his field journal: “3 Miles, 20 Chains: assg. Ye mountain, Top ye mountain – (snow 24 inches deep) Timber Balsom and Spruce. 3 Miles, 23 chains: desending steep rocks, no Timber.”
This relatively pedestrian entry has at least the curiosity of recording so much snow in June but it otherwise causes one to long for the florid prose and colorfully descriptive thoroughness of Verplank Colvin. Colvin’s accounts of his surveying journeys make for real drama, whereas this journal, typical of the time, offers the barest details beyond the numbers, with only occasional comments on the quality of the land or detours that needed to be taken.
As I described in last week’s Dispatch, the more I become engrossed in Adirondack history the more my interest has grown in Archibald Campbell’s incomplete survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield Purchase.
Having possession of his field notes and maps plus a 1911 large-format map of the Adirondack Park as well as modern USGS maps, I did a bunch of digitizing, calibrating, measuring and finagling, virtually recreating his journey. This summer I plan to hike it to see it for real and compare my experiences to his. But the virtual trip was a most interesting project for me and I would like to take you along.
Beware! Unless you are a Class-One Adirondack Nerd this Dispatch might lead to narcolepsy. But if you have been following my surveying series with interest, then lace your boots, grab your gaiters, your Gunter’s chain and your rum and let’s hike together into the primeval forest. » Continue Reading.
From Champlain firing his arquebus in 1609 to Colvin’s ascent of Seward in 1870 to Forever Wild in 1894 to the Olympics and acid rain, history gives us a long list of worthy possibilities. There being no single correct answer, one candidate high on my list would be Archibald Campbell’s aborted and errant 1772 survey of the northern line of the Totten and Crossfield purchase. » Continue Reading.
What if I told you that the specifics of our American system of land measurement, with its miles and acres and such, was the direct result of a bunch of oxen standing tired in a field during a morning’s plowing more than a thousand years ago. Would you believe me? Read on.
If you peruse historical documents pertaining to the great Adirondack surveys you will encounter a variety of measurement units. Some, like feet and miles, will be common knowledge to you. Others, like acres, will be familiar terms though you may not know precisely what they are. But a few, like the chain, which seems to be the fundamental unit of surveying distance, may well be unknown. Every major land division in the Adirondacks was originally measured in chains using an actual metal chain called a Gunter’s chain. » Continue Reading.
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