PENNSYLVANIA ORIGINAL LAND RECORDS SERIES FOR YORK COUNTY, PA

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(excerpts from The Chancefords: Chanceford and Lower Chanceford Townships, 1997, Neal Otto Hively. Copyrighted material. All Rights Reserved.)

 PENNSYLVANIA COLONIAL LAND POLICY

Land settlement West of the Susquehanna River was neither normative nor encouraged until after this territory was fully released by treaty with the Native American Indians in 1736. After that date, generous inducements and terms were used to promote settlement and expansion into this region of Pennsylvania. The Proprietors' objective in land settlement was to encourage actual settlement at extremely favorable terms, then subsequently bringing the settlers under regular colonial oversight and taxation. The purchase price for 100 acres of land was fifteen pounds ten shillings; the quit rent was one sterling halfpenny per acre, per year, until 1776.

DISPUTE WITH THE COLONY OF MARYLAND

     From the time of their establishment, both the Maryland and Pennsylvania colonies were at odds as to where to place their common demarcation boundary. As a result officials from both colonies claimed title to what would later be determined as territory within the other's jurisdiction. Maryland assert claim to land as far north as the Fortieth Parallel (in York County, approximately where the Codorus Creek enters the Susquehanna River). Pennsylvania claimed land as far south as the Thirty-ninth Parallel (in Maryland, this would have included Baltimore City). Thus, a horizontal strip of virgin territory about fifty miles wide from Philadelphia in the East the Kittochtinny Mountains to the West was at stake.

As early as 1722, Philip Syng and Thomas Brown secured a Maryland warrant on the west side of the Susquehanna River, called "The Partner's Adventure" (Springettsbury Manor Survey "S-391"). Soon after others from Maryland followed, along with hundreds of unauthorized settlers from either colony.

An informal territorial dispute, known as " Cressap's War" was joined by settlers having allegiance on either side. Insult, abuse, abductions, arrests and occasional armed conflict ensued. The issue was appealed by both colonies to the Royal Court in England. As a result, on August 18, 1737 the royal order commanded that neither colony was to make grants within the other's confirmed territory. The next year, on May 25, 1738 an eight-part judgment was issued, establishing the conditions of authority and government over the disputed lands until the boundary issue could be settled by actual survey. A temporary line was laid out in May 1738 running along 39 Degrees 43 Minutes 18 Seconds Latitude. The survey commission reported back on May 28, 1739, effectively ending serious future boundary incursions. This colonial boundary was finalized in the Mason-Dixon Line in 1765.

"PRESUMPTIVE SETTLEMENT: SQUATTERS"

        Many early settlers settled on vacant tracts of newly opened land without recourse to official authorization from the Proprietors of the colony. This was accentuated by the accelerated rate of European immigration at about the time the lands West of the Susquehanna River were opened for general settlement, and the inability of the Pennsylvania land grant system to deal with the vast surge of settlers. Settlers of Irish and Germanic extraction, especially took it upon themselves to locate and "improve" a vacant tract of land without obtaining any warrant for the land.

    A major Pennsylvania colonial policy shift in 1765 permitted settlers who had squatted on unwarranted land, and who were willing to accept the results of a land survey, to be granted an official warrant for their land, upon application. The "East Side" and "West Side" Applications (corresponding to land on the East and West sides of the Susquehanna Rive) were exceptional warrants issued to deal with settlers living on unwarranted land. The warrantee was granted an official Pennsylvania warrant, agreed to abide by the subsequent land survey, and pay the original purchase price of the property, with back interest. The large number of "Applications" listed in these volumes are an illustration of this phenomenon. "Interest dates" correspond to the date of actual settlement upon which the back rent was paid. Some 5600 West Side Applications were granted between 1765 and 1769.

PENNSYLVANIA LAND WARRANTS, SURVEYS, AND PATENTS 

There were five steps in the official land acquisition process from the Proprietors of Pennsylvania. Beginning in the late 1730's, the proprietors of the colony initiated the process based on a (1) Application to Warrant from interested prospective settlers. This resulted in the issuance of a warrant. Most warrants were issued from Lancaster city during this time of the colonial period.

A (2) WARRANT was an official order for the county Deputy Surveyor to initiate a survey of the described tract of land. The warrant document designated the county, township, the person to whom the warrant was issued, the approximate acreage, and the date of issue. The earliest warrants give a general description of the land location. Later warrants give increasingly greater and more accurate detail of the property, including contiguous neighbors.

COPY OF A 1749 ORIGINAL WARRANT CERTIFICATE

Original warrant applications and warrant certificates are maintained at the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA. The Deputy Surveyors duplicate copies for York and much of Adams Counties are in the extensive collection at the Historical Society of York, PA.

The third stage in securing land from the Proprietors of Pennsylvania was the official (3) SURVEY that was authorized by the warrant. Usually the survey followed the issuing of a warrant. Occasionally, a surveyor would lay off a property at the request of a prospective warrantee, at his own initiative, or at the request of a "squatter" who was already living on a tract and desired to officially acquire it. Surveys give graphic representation to the land within the designated boundaries. They note the compass "courses" in degrees, and the distances between corners (distances listed in "perches"; one perch = 16.5 feet). The narrative that accompanies the actual survey usually contains detail on the county, the township, the warrantee, the amount of acres contained in the survey with a 6% allowance for roads and error, natural features such streams, springs, etc., and the date of the original warrant and the subsequent survey. Early county roads are approximately located on some surveys.

COPY OF AN ORIGINAL 1767 COLONIAL SURVEY

The (4) APPLICATION FOR A PATENT was the preliminary step that led to a review process leading to the issuance of a Patent. A (5) PATENT was the official granting of full, clear release and title to the land by the Proprietors of Pennsylvania. It was always issued at the owner's initiative. When, and under what circumstances a family applied for a Patent varied widely. Some Patents were granted at almost the same time as the warrant survey in the Eighteenth Century. Other families delayed applying for a Patent until the mid 1870's, more than one hundred years after the first warrant and survey had been conducted. In the Nineteenth Century, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania attempted to prod land owners to secure patents for their lands, by any number of various means. The large number of 1864 patents was one result of this focused initiative by the Legislature.

    The records summarized in this research does not pretend to detail every owner or settler within the county, or be exhaustive in its scope. Deed transactions beyond the five-fold official Pennsylvania acquisition process are excluded from this research, with only a very few exceptions. This material is available in published form because I have limited the scope of the project; otherwise I'd still on Volume One. I'll leave the remaining deed research up to others with that as their project goal.

GO TO TOWNSHIPS PAGE - to see where townships are located in York county.

 

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