Pennsylvania Historical Geography

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Pennsylvania went through a complicated process before the present state boundaries were defined. British Crown grants to several individuals which were conflicting which resulted in much confusion and serious boundary disputes.

A brief but helpful account of these disputes is William A. Russ Jr., How Pennsylvania Acquired its Present Boundaries, Pennsylvania History Studies, no. 8(University Park, PA.; Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1966. FHL book 974.8 A1 no. 19.

During its early history, France, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, and Virginia laid claim to portions of Pennsylvania. French claims to western Pennsylvania were resolved by the French and Indian War (1754-63).

Connecticut. Connecticut considered that all of Pennsylvania north of the 41 degree parallel was theirs based on a charter from Charles II given in 1662.

From 1753 to 1782, Connecticut issued claims to land in the Delaware River Valley and the Wyoming Valley. The Delaware River Valley land was distributed by the First and Second Delaware Companies, but the records are very incomplete.

The Susquehanna Company was charted by Connecticut to distribute the Wyoming Valley claims. Before the Revolution, the company issued land to over 5,000 settlers. Many claims were not settled until the early 1800s. The records are found in:

Boyd, Julian P., and Robert J. Taylor, The Susquehannah Company Papers, 11 vols. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1962-1971. FHL book 974.8 H2su

Pennsylvania, Surveyor General's Office, Connecticut Patents (Applications, Deeds, etc.), for Land in the Seventeen Townships of Luzerne County, PA, 1785-1810. FHL film 987920 (first of 25 films)

Pennsylvania Archives series 2 volume 18 contains much information about this dispute including some lists of names and many land records.

Pennsylvania also moved settlers into this area of Connecticut. There were many conflicts, including the so-called "Pennamite" wars, and some blood was shed. Finally the United States Congress became involved in the dispute and decided in Pennsylvania's favor in 1782. For a more in-depth discussion of this controversy see:

Warfle, Richard T. Connecticut's Western Colony, The Susquehannah Affair. Hartford, Connecticut.: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut, 1979. FHL book 974.6 H2w

Munger, Donna Bingham. Six Steps to Susquehanna Company Settlers, Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 37 (1991): 125-34.

In the "Periodicals" section see: Donna Bingham Munger, Following Connecticut Ancestors to Pennsylvania: Susquehanna Company Settlers, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 139 (1985): 112-25. FHL book 974 B2ne

Maryland. Maryland claimed that portion of Pennsylvania south of the 40 degree parallel except the southwest section claimed by Virginia. This area of dispute was resolved peacefully in Pennsylvania's favor in 1767 by the famous Mason-Dixon survey. See Pennsylvania Archives, second series volume 7, Papers Relating to the Boundary Dispute Between Pennsylvania and Maryland, 1734-1760 FHL film 599235 item 1, and volume 16 for more information and some records. Volume 16 often gives the age (or sometimes year of birth) for the witnesses.

New York. Few conflicts occurred between New York and Pennsylvania. The boundary was finalized at the 42 degree parallel and surveyed by 1787. Pennsylvania purchased from the United States the small section that provided them frontage on Lake Erie.

Virginia. Virginia claimed the southwestern portion of Pennsylvania which included the present counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland. Virginia called it the District of West Augusta and organized three counties: Monongahela, Ohio, and Yohogany. The current Pennsylvania boundary for this area was established in 1784. An explanation of some of the Virginia records that were kept is found in Virginnia Land Grants in Pennsylvania in The Virginia Genealogist, vol. 7, 1963. FHL book 975.5 B2vg and FHL film 844856 item 4

Some records for this area are contained in Richard William Loveless, Records of the District of West Augusta, Ohio County, and Yohogany County, Virginia . . . (Columbus, Ohio: State University Printing Dept., 1970. FHL book 975 P2L and FHL film 1035976 item 8. A list of names is found in Pennsylvania Archives, series 3, volume 3, pp. 507-73.

Duplicate records were being kept in several of these areas until the disputes were settled. For example, settlers loyal to Virginia recorded land records under that jurisdiction and those loyal to Pennsylvania recorded them in Pennsylvania. This inability to obtain a clear title to land caused many settlers to move farther west.

To find records for these areas of Pennsylvania during this unsettled time, check the records of all states and counties involved in the border controversies.

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