CONDENSED EARLY HISTORY OF PHELPS & GORHAM
The recorded history of Victor begins with the 1687 attack on the Seneca capitol village in Victor. This attack was lead by the military governor of Quebec, Dennonville, from Montreal. Totiakton (Rochester Junction) was also destroyed. The attack was meant to punish the Senecas for trading furs with the British and harrassing French traders. Two years later, the Iroquois Confederacy enacted a greater destruction to the Lachine, near Montreal in retaliation. That village of the Senecas was what is now called Ganondagon. Be sure to visit the Ganondagon Historic site, about three miles south of Valentown on Rte. 444 and Boughton Hill Rd.
After the cessation of hostilities between England and the 13 Colonies, the new nation held a council with the Iroquois at Fort Stanwix (near present day Rome, N.Y.) in 1784 to verify the boundary between the state of New York and the local natives. This agreement confirmed the British Stanwix Line, which was negotiated in 1768 with the Iroquois. The original line extended down through Pennsylvania, Virginia, and down to the Tennessee territory. The Iroquois Confederacy, also called the 6 Nations, consisted of the Mohawks, Oniedas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and the Tuscarora Tribes. Portions of the political rules of this confederacy are often cited as influencing parts of the Constitution of our country.
It is hard to imagine now; but both New York and Massachusetts had defendable claims to the west of what is now New York, dating back to colonial times. This was despite the Stanwix recognition of the Iroquois land. The two states met and negotiated a compromise in 1786 at Hartford. Massachusetts surendered the jurisdiction of the land area; but retained the Pre-Emption rights, which meant that they owned it and potential buyers had to pay Mass. for the land.
Oliver Phelps and Nathanial Gorham, of Connecticutt and Massachusetts, organized a purchase from Mass., amounting to $1,000,000 for all of WNY. They still had to make a deal with the Indian landowners.
A council was held on July 8, 1788 at Buffalo Creek between Phelps & Gorham and the Senecas, in which they agreed to sell part of the land; but only as far west as the Genesee River. The Senecas knew that the new economy advancing rapidly from the east would replace the diminishing fur trade towards agriculture. The new land consortium arranged for Indian Allen, a Tory leaning local pioneer of the area to build a grist mill on the Genesee River, not far from where the Dinosaur Barbeque now resides in Rochester. A monetary amount was agreed upon, which was roundly dissappointing to the Senecas when the coin was delivered. They had expected Canadian value pounds, while the buyers delivered New York pounds at about half the value.
A serious unrest developed among the Senecas, who were considering joining an indian confederacy in the west areas bordering western Lake Erie. This action was being strongly encouraged by the British, who wanted an Indian barrier state between the US and Canada. The object was to contain the Americans and protect the British fur trade. President George Washington was aware of these developements and called for a council in 1793 to be held at Sandusky River (in present day Ohio) to tamp down the threat of a united Indian uprising . The Indian unity did not establish and only then, the Senecas were persuaded to negotiate a new peace treaty with the U.S. in 1794 at Canandaigua.
The 1794 treaty, copied on the wall of the Valentown Hall Community Room, was between the 6 nations of the Iroquois and the USA. The native chiefs signatures were engaged by pressing their thumbs onto melted seal wax on the document. This treaty is still celebrated to this day in September in Canadaigua, as re- established by Sheldon Fisher decades ago. The 222th anniversary parade/celebration will be held in early November of 2016.
The Phelps and Gorham purchase had acquired all the Massachusetts/Seneca owned land from the pre -emption line near Geneva to Lake Erie. When Alexander Hamilton changed the monetary system, Phelp's & Gorham's old notes became much lower in value, and they limited the purchase to roughly halfway west to the Genesee River, which conformed to the Seneca determination. Robert Morris, financier of the Revolution, paid Mass. for the rest of it, which became through several transactions, the Holland Land Purchase. The Holland Land Office in Batavia on Main St. is currently a museum, which invites visitors into the actual Purchase office.
The Phelps & Gorham land sales office was selected to be in Canandaigua, and was the first land office in America - 1788.
Many items from that office were collected by Shedon Fisher and are seen in the south end of the community room, including:
- Oliver Phelps office desk (see handwritted note for Oliver inside)
- cast iron stove from the office
- Oliver Phelps leather travel trunk
- Micah Brooks travel trunk. Brooks was a surveyor for the company (see picture of Brooks in the glass case)
- survey gunters chain, possibly from Micah Brooks travel case
- examples of survey equipment of the time, compass, chaining pins
- copies of land sale documents written at this land office.
Historic Valentown possesses a large collection of land office original documents from this land office.
For more of the story, refer to "Rochester History", Vo. 1, No. 1 Jan. 1939 by Blake McKelvey, Published by the Rochester Public Libary
Frank Kosmerl 8 - 29 - 16