February 1993

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History of Bath

for the First Fifty Years


Ansel J. McCall

Historical Address, June 6, 1893
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII

Part II

Phelps and Gorham opened an office in Canandaigua, and commenced the sale of the townships thus surveyed. The distance of these lands from the inhabited districts and the difficulty of reaching them for the want of feasible highways and water communication, necessarily retarded the sales, and in consequence of a rise in the value of the securities in which payment was to be made, the proprietors found themselves unable to keep their engagements. In their embarrassment they applied for aid to Robert Morris, of Pennsylvania, the Revolutionary financier, who purchased from them the unsold lands, except two townships reserved by them, and preemptive right in the western portion, and assumed their obligations. For the nominal consideration of five dollars, on November 18, 1790, they executed a conveyance to Morris of such lands. Morris forthwith directed his agent in London to offer these lands for sale. In a short time a contract of sale of the lands ceded by the Indians was made with an English syndicate, consisting of William Pulteney, a capitalist, William Hornby, late Governor of Bombay, and Patrick Colquhoun, an advocate of Glasgow, for the sum of $333,333.33. Pulteney's interest was nine-twelfths; Hornby's two-twelfths, and Colquhoun's one-twelfth.

At this time aliens could not legally hold title to land in the State of New York. It was, therefore, necessary that the syndicate should select a person who could take the title and convey such lands as they deemed advisable to sell. Captain Charles Williamson was chosen—a most fortunate selection. [The data of the foregoing abstract of title is gleaned from the papers of George S. Conover and Howard L. Osgood, well-known local historians.]

Provided with the requisite authority from his principals to carryout the purposes of his appointment, in December, 1791, he sailed for Norfolk, Va., accompanied by his family and several reliable young Scotchmen as assistants. Upon his arrival he proceeded at once to Philadelphia to meet Robert Morris. On the 9th of January, 1792, he was duly naturalized by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and became a citizen of the United States. There being no direct road leading from Philadelphia to the Genesee country, he proceeded, by way of New York and Albany, to make an examination of the purchase before completing the contract, and left Albany on the 15th of February for the Genesee. He confined his explorations to the region of the Lakes and the Genesee River. He was charmed with the country and satisfied of its value. He determined to locate his headquarters on the Genesee River at the mouth of the Canaseraga. Many years of cultivation by the Indians had prepared these broad and rich river bottoms for the white settler. Captain Williamson returned to Philadelphia, and on the 11th of April, 1792, received from Morris a deed of the tract in pursuance of the agreement.

Historical Address of Ansel J. McCall, June 6, 1893,
published in The Centennial of Bath, New York 1793-1893,
reprinted by the Steuben County Historical Society 1992
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII
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