Chapter VIII - The
In the charter granted by King
Charles II to William Penn, dated the 4th of March, 1681, the limits of
Pennsylvania are described as "three degrees of latitude in breadth, and
five degrees of longitude in length, the eastern boundary being the Delaware
River, the northern the beginning of the three and fortieth degree of
northern latitude; on the south a circle drawn at twelve miles distance from
New Castle (Delaware) northward and westward unto the beginning of the
fortieth degree of northern latitude, and then by a straight line westward to
the limits of longitude above mentioned."
Distinctly as these lines are stated, the boundaries of the State were long a
subject of earnest and sometimes bitter controversy. Fifty years before the
grant to Penn, King James I granted to the Plymouth Company "all the
land lying in the same latitude with Connecticut
and Massachusetts, as far west as the Pacific Ocean, not previously settled by other
Christian powers." Under the construction placed upon this clause by Connecticut, more than one-third of Pennsylvania, including the whole northern
part, belonged to that province. The dispute was finally settled by the
action of Congress, which appointed Commissioners in 1782 to investigate the
subject, who reported that "Connecticut
has no right to the land in controversy," and that "the
jurisdiction and pre-emption of all lands within the charter limits of Pennsylvania do of
right belong to that State."
The Western Boundary
A contention of almost like character took place with Virginia
in regard to the western boundary of Pennsylvania.
The former claimed the entire territory embraced in Penn's charter west of a
line drawn a little to the east of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
This controversy was settled in 1786, by agreeing that the western boundary
of Pennsylvania should commence at a point on Mason and Dixon's line, five
degrees west from the Delaware River, and extend from there directly
northward to Lake Erie.
The land in the northern and northwestern parts of the State was purchased
from the Six Nations by Commissioners appointed by the Legislature, who met
in conference with the Indians at Fort Stanwix (now
Rome), N. Y., and concluded a treaty in October, 1784. The action of the Six
Nations was confirmed by a treaty made with the Delaware
and Wyandots at Fort McIntosh
in January, 1785. Neither of these purchases covered the territory known as
The New York Line
By mutual agreement between New York and Pennsylvania,
Commissioners were appointed in 1785 to determine and establish the east and
west boundary line between the two States, being the Forty-second degree of
latitude. David Rittenhouse was the Commissioner on
the part of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Holland
on that of New York.
These gentlemen merely took measurements to locate the point in the Delaware River where the line should begin, when cold
weather came on and compelled the work to cease. Rittenhouse
and Holland were succeeded in 1787 by Andrew
Ellicott on the part of Pennsylvania, and
James Clinton and Simeon DeWitt on that of New York. They surveyed the entire line
from the Delaware to Lake
Erie, planting a stone every mile, with the distance from the
river marked upon it, and marking mile trees in the same manner. The distance
from the point of departure to where the north line of Pennsylvania
terminated on the shore of Lake Erie in Springfield Township,
this county, was found to be 259 miles and 88 perches. The report of the
above Commissioners was confirmed by the Legislatures of both States, and has
ever since been accepted as the true northern boundary of Pennsylvania.
The charter of New York defined its western
boundary as extending from the south shore
of Lake Erie to the forty-second
degree of latitude, on a line drawn from the western extremity of Lake Ontario.
In determining this line it became necessary to agree whether the
"western extremity of Lake Ontario" included Burlington Bay,
or was at the peninsula dividing the latter from the lake. Andrew Ellicott
Saxton, the surveyors sent out to establish the boundary, decided upon the
peninsula as the proper point from which to draw the line, and the western
boundary of New York
was therefore fixed at twenty miles east of Presque Isle. This left a
triangular tract, which was not included in the carter of either State, and
which was variously claimed by New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
During or some time after the Revolution, Gen. William Irvine was sent to the
Northwest by the authorities of Pennsylvania, to examine into the quality of
its lands and report upon the best manner of putting them into the market.
While upon this tour he was struck with the fact that the State had no harbor
upon the lake, and the great desirability of securing the one at Presque
Isle. On his return to the East he interested a number of intelligent and
progressive citizens in the project of purchasing the Triangle. After a
protracted negotiation, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut
released their claims to the United States Government, and the latter, in
turn, conveyed the tract to Pennsylvania.
The deed of cession by New York, was made on the 1st of March, 1781, and that of Massachusetts on the
19th of April, 1785. In the release by Connecticut
she reserved 120 miles lying west of Pennsylvania's
western boundary, within the present limits of Ohio, which became known as, and retains
the title to this day of "The Western Reserve." The contract for
the sale of the Triangle, made between the Representatives of the United States and Pennsylvania was ratified by Congress on
the 4th of September, 1788. On the 18th of April, 1791, the governor was
authorized by the Legislature to complete the purchase. March 3, 1792, a
patent was issued to the State, signed by George Washington as President, and
Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. The consideration was $151,640.25.
Below is a copy of the bill of sale from the General Government to the
The commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the purchase of the Lake Erie
tract in account with the United
19, 1792. To general account of sales of the Western lands, the property of
the United States:
purchase or consideration money of the territory and tract of land on Lake
Erie, of which tract a survey and return hath been made and lodged in the
office of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States by Andrew
Ellicott, pursuant to a resolution of Congress passed in August, 1789, by
which return the said tract is found to contain 202,187 acres, at
three-fourths of a dollar per acre, payable in gold or silver, or in
certificates of the debt of the United States, bearing interest, according
to the terms proposed by William Bingham and James R. Reid, delegates in
Congress, to the late Board of Treasury, on behalf of the said commonwealth,
and accepted by the said board on behalf of the United States
certificate of registered debt. No. 558, dated 28th February, 1792, with
interest from 16th August, 1779
ditto, on interest from August, 1783
interest arising thereon, calculated to 10th June, 1791, being the time
Secretary of the Treasury informed he was ready to settle the account for
TREASURY DEPARTMENT, REGISTER'S OFFICE,
6th September, 1796
Release of the Indian Title
Pending the negotiations with the General Government, the State authorities
proceeded to secure a release of the Triangle tract from the Six Nations, which
was only effected after a protracted effort. The conference for this purpose
with the chiefs and warriors of the several tribes was held on the 9th of
January, 1789, and the deed from the Indians appears to have been signed
sometime during the same month. The following is a copy of the document:
Know all men by these presents,
that we, the undersigned, chiefs, warriors and others, representing the
following named tribes of the Six Nations, to wit: The Ondawagas
or Senecas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras, Onondagas and Oneidas, for and in
consideration of the sum of $2,000, to us in hand paid, by Richard Butler and
John Gibson, Esquires, Commissioners for and in behalf of the State of
Pennsylvania, the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge, and we for ourselves,
our tribes, our and their heirs and successors, are therewith fully paid and
satisfied, have granted, bargained, sold and assigned over, and by these
presents do grant, bargain, sell, remise, release, quit claim and assign over
unto the said State of Pennsylvania, all our right, title, claim and interest
of, in and to all that tract of country situate, lying and being within the
territory of the United States, bounded on the south by the north line or
boundary of Pennsylvania; on the east by the western boundary of the State of
New York, agreeable to an act of cession of the said State of New York and
the State of Massachusetts to the United States; and on the north by the
southern shore or margin of Lake Erie, including Presque Isle and all the
bays and harbors along the shore or margin of the said Lake Erie from the
west boundary of the said State of Pennsylvania to where the est line or boundary of the State of New York may cross
or intersect the southern shore or margin of the said Lake Erie; to have and
to hold, etc.
In testimony whereof, we, the said chiefs, have hereunto set our hands and
seals this -- day of January, in the year of our Lord 1789:
Senecas -- Gyantwachia,
or the Cornplanter; Gyashota,
or the Big Cross; Kanassee, or the New Arrow; Achiont, or the Half Town; Anachkont,
or the Wasp; Chishekoa, or the Wood Bug; Sessewa, or the Big Bale of a Kettle; Sciawhowa
or the Council Keeper; Tewanias, or the Broken
Twig; Souachshowa, or the Full Moon; Cachunevasse, or Twenty Cones.
Tuscarora Chief -- Hichonquash,
or Tearing Asunder.
Senecas -- Cageahgea, or
Dogs about the Fire; Sawedowa, or the Blast; Klondashowa, or Swimming Fish.
Onondaga Chief -- Oncheye, or the Dancing Feather.
Cayuga Chiefs -- Soahaes, or Falling Mountain; Otaschsaka, or Broken Tomahawk.
Oneida Chief -- Tekchiefs, or the Long Tree.
Seneca Chief -- Onesechter, or the Leaded Man.
Munsey Chief -- Kiatlahoh,
or the Snake; Aqueia, or Bandy Legs.
Senecas -- Kiandock-Gowa,
or Big Tree; Owenewah, or Throw into the Water.
N.B. -- The two Munseys signed as being residents
of the land, but not owners.
In the presence of A. St. Clair, Joseph Harmar
Twelve hundred dollars were also paid by the United States Government for the
extinguishment of the Indian titles.
The cession of the Triangle gave great offense to a portion of the Indians,
who claimed that they had not been fairly represented in the council. There
was a good deal of talk among them of resisting its occupancy by the State,
and at one time matters looked really serious, but by wise efforts what might
have been an long and murderous border war was avoided. On the 3d of
February, 1791, Cornplanter, Half Town, and Big
Tree executed a second instrument, in which, after reciting the
dissatisfaction that existed among the Seneca nation, they acknowledged the
receipt of 4800 as full satisfaction of all claims and demands by their
nation against the commonwealth, and "fully, clearly, and finally
remised and forever quit-claimed" their interest in the Triangle to Gov.
McKean, "from the beginning of the world to
the date of these presents." It was several years after the signing of
this deed, however, before the Indians became sufficiently quieted to enable
settlements to be made with safety, as will be more fully related in another
part of these annals.
The territory above purchased extends some forty miles in a straight line
along the lake, and is about eighteen miles in breadth along the New York
boundary, tapering from there to a point in Springfield Township, between
four and five miles east of the Ohio line. It embraces 202, 187 acres, and
the United States
received pay for it at the rate of three-fourths of a dollar per acre. The
townships embraced in the Triangle are North East, Greenfield,
Venango, Harbor Creek, Greene, Summit,
Mill Creek, a small portion of Springfield,
about two-fifths of Girard and McKean, and
four-fifths of Fairview.
The terminus of the Triangle on the shore
of Lake Erie was marked by a stone
on the Joseph Hewitt farm in Springfield,
which has disappeared.
The old State line forms the southern boundary of Venango,
Greene and Summit Townships, and the northern of Waterford and Amity. It passes through the
boroughs of Girard and Middleboro nearly in the center. The portion of the
county within the original limits of the State is some forty-five miles long
from east to west by ten miles in width from north to south, being about
two-thirds of the whole. The townships wholly in it are Wayne,
Concord, Amity, Union, Waterford,
Le Boeuf, Washington, Franklin,
Elk Creek and Conneaut.
A corps of engineers have recently been at work
renewing the monuments marking the boundary between New
York and Pennsylvania,
many of which had been destroyed or lost sight of. In the execution of their
task they make use of blocks of Quincy
granite, about four feet long and six inches square at the top. The stones
"are dressed one foot down, that distance being left above ground. Heavy
creases are cut at right angles across each. The letters 'Pa.,' and 'N. Y.'
about two inches long, from Pennsylvania and
respectively. At highways, street and railroad crossings, the tops of the
stones are one foot by six inches in size, and in other particulars like the
rest. Those of the ordinary size are set just one mile apart."
In explanation of the "certificate" Mentioned in the bill of sale,
it should be stated that in the contract for the purchase of the Triangle, it
was stipulated that the Commonwealth might make payment "in gold or
silver or in public securities of the United States, bearing
interest." When the time came for closing the transaction, the State,
with Quaker shrewdness, offered one of the funded bonds of the General Government,
commonly known as "continental certificates," which were then in
decidedly bad credit, and demanded that interest should be allowed, according
to the terms of its fact. This was rather a surprise to the Federal
authorities, and a long correspondence ensued, in which the Commonwealth
seems to have had the better of the argument. After considerable delay, her
legal right to pay in the manner proposed was conceded, and she turned over
the bond and received credit for the accumulated interest, as is shown in the
bill of sale above printed. It is apparent that the State drove a very sharp
bargain, but whether the transaction was much to her honor, may admit of some
Bibliography: Samuel P. Bates, History
of Erie County, Pennsylvania, (Warner, Beers &
Co.: Chicago, 1884), Part II, Chapter VIII, pp. 194-200.