Phelps and Gorham Purchase - Default


When Phelps and Gorham defaulted on their 1790 installment, the preemptive right to lands of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase west of the Genesee River, comprising some 3,750,000 acres (15,200 km2), reverted back to Massachusetts on March 10, 1791. On March 12, Massachusetts agreed to sell these rights to Robert Morris for $333,333.33. The land was conveyed to Morris in five deeds on May 11, 1791. At the time, Morris was the richest man in America, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a financier of the American Revolution.

Morris sold most of these lands in December 1792 and in February and July 1793 to the Holland Land Company in a transaction known as the Holland Purchase. Morris kept 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) in a 12-mile (19 km)-wide strip along the east side of the lands acquired from Massachusetts, from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario, known as the Morris Reserve. At the north end of the Morris Reserve, an 87,000-acre (350 km2) triangular-shaped tract ("the Triangle Tract") was sold by Morris to Herman Leroy, William Bayard, and John McEvers, while a 100,000-acre (400 km2) tract due west of the Triangle Tract was sold to the State of Connecticut. In September 1797 Morris extinguished the remaining aboriginal title for all the lands west of the Genesee at the Treaty of Big Tree held at Geneseo, New York.

The Phelps and Gorham lands east of the Genesee River that had not already been sold—some 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2)—were acquired by Morris in August 1790. He re-sold them to The Pulteney Association.

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