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Old Military Tract

Nearly two million acres of land in central New York State set aside to compensate New York soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War.

…Being all that tract or parcel of land situated in part of lot number eleven in Township number seven of the old military tract bounded as follows to wit: Beginning at the south east corner of said property… and running thence west on the south line of said lot sixteen chains to the middle of Trout River thence south twenty degrees east four chains and thirty three links, thence south three degrees thirty minutes west three chains and ten links, thence south forty five degrees east seven chains and thirty one links, thence south four chains thence east eight chains and ninety links…

In the late 1700s, Alexander Macomb purchased a tract of land containing 821,819 acres in what later became Franklin County, New York, for a mere eightpence per acre. Adjoining this tract to the east were Military Tract lands, originally surveyed to award as bounty to Revolutionary War soldiers or those soldiers who protected the north from Indian raids, but eventually sold by New York State as wild lands (they were believed to be practically un-inhabitable because of the climate). The land was surveyed into townships of one hundred square miles which were divided into numbered lots of varying size and shape. Some townships weren’t divided into lots at all.

It has been said that unlike a homesteader later filing on a claim in the west and taking his parcel of land – warts and all – based on the coordinates of the claim, buyers in the metes and bounds lands of Franklin County got to chose the parcel of land they wanted, then it was platted accordingly. Therefore, when James Wilder bought and sold land in Franklin County, the legal description reads like the bit shown above, taken from the 1858 deed whereby he sold a large portion of his farm to his brother-in-law, Andrew Day.

All deeds in Franklin County still reference the Old Military Tract townships and lots, so in order to “know where your land lies on the map,” you have to be able to read the original O.M.T. survey map. Fortunately, that map is readily available. But to make it even more fun when looking up Franklin County deeds, many of the older deeds begin with reference to a parcel of land simply belonging to a previous named owner, so you often have to trace back through deeds of previous owners for decades to find a property description that can be plotted on the map. This was a new experience for me, and it took me a while to familiarize myself with how the O.M.T. map was laid out before I was able to make head or tails of the deeds themselves, much less locate individual parcels. If you’re heading to New York to do Wilder research, it will save some time if you do your homework first. It helps to have copies of both O.M.T. map and current maps with you, otherwise you’ll be running from one side of the courthouse to the other to get your bearings. Trust me.

It also helps to know that there are 100 links in a chain, and that a chain is 66 feet.


Old Military Tract