The Whitestown Map

A map of the early land grants on the Upper Mohawk, showing the settlement at Whitestown in the Sadaqueda Patent.

But can we confirm this convincing, but nonetheless hypothetical, assertion with some scrap of primary data; some missing piece in the complex and scattered puzzle of the Upper Mohawk of the eighteenth century?

Fortunately we can, and a more sure proof would be hard to construct if we were to create one for the purpose.

In examining the history of the settlement of Whitestown, one of the modern townships within which our study area falls, we find it is rooted in a subdivision of lands previously known in the eighteenth century as the Sadaqueda Patent. This patent is identified on an 1829 map (right) of the region.40 As described in a regional history, the subdivision occurred in 1784:

Hugh White . . . came by water to Albany, crossed by land to Schenectady, where he purchased a batteau, in which he made passage up the Mohawk River, to the mouth of the Sauquoit Creek. Immediately after the revolution, Judge White became one of the purchasers of Sadaqueda Patent, jointly with Zephanial Platt. . . Ezra L'Hommedieu, and Melancthon Smith. By an arrangement between the proprietors, it was agreed that they should meet on the land in the summer of 1784, and make a survey and partition. Upon the arrival of Judge White, at the mouth of the Sauquoit, a bark shanty was erected for a temporary residence. During the summer the patent was surveyed into four sections, and the particular section of each owner was decided by lot.41

A map previously cited and dated 178442 may be the partitioning of the portion of the Sadaqueda Patent lying north of the river. But a second manuscript (above), discovered at the Oneida Historical Society, anonymous, and tentatively dated circa 1790,43 appears to show the partitioning of lands on the south side of the river, and appears also to confirm our hypothesis.

The Mohawk River in 1803 with the location of Meander C indicated at the arrow. A detailed map of the Whitestown grant lying west of the Sauquoit Creek and showing Meander C as a closed ox-bow and Meander B as open.

Clearly seen are the Mohawk River, the intersecting "Sedaghqueda River"and the location of several houses along the old "Oriskene Road." But the astounding feature of this map is the accuracy of the configuration of the Mohawk River, which matches precisely the alignment as we know it existed circa 1800. Moving left to right we see a straight line course across the location of the meander at Area A, the high loop of the river as it enters the boot-shaped meander at B, with that meander drawn just as it appears today, the jog in the channel east of B that denotes the position of meander Area C, the large northward trending boxy loop of the river just west of the Sauquoit Creek intersect, and the intersect itself, drawn out exactly as it still appears. But the feature shown here that we have never seen on any other detailed eighteenth century map is the water-filled loop connected to the river on the westerly leg of the boxy meander, which is, in fact, our own meander Area C.

Detail of the map above.

This map clearly shows that historically Area C was watered and connected to the main channel, exactly as indicated on the British maps of "the Neck" drawn in the 1750s. It also seems to indicate a much greater separation of the main channel from the west arm of the loop than is evident today, suggesting confirmation of our hypothesis about a rapid eastward migration of the main channel here, perhaps due to the destabilization of the river by an artificial cut. The dry channel noted in the field just west of the old river bed may be the position of the river portrayed on this circa 1790 map.

This map shows that in 1790 both Area A and Area B were already fixed in their terminal configurations, but Area C continued to evolve after 1790, suggesting the introduction of a destabilizing influence (the canal) prior to 1790. In addition, the map appears to establish the relative ages of the two cut-off meanders, Area A and Area C, with Area C being the youngest.

The question arises as to why this rather dramatic loop is shown here but omitted from other maps drawn at the same period. It can be noted that on this map the island formed within the loop of the meander at C is given a lot number and acreage. Apparently there was some concern that this 7 acre parcel be correctly assigned in the division of lands here. This could only have been at issue if meander loop C was connected to the river and if the land within it was in fact an island, completely surrounded by water. Had it merely been an ox-bow, as it is today, there would have been no ambiguity about its attribution.

Why then are other maps of lands in this area not also mindful of the peculiar nature of this feature in drawing up their boundaries? Probably because all the earlier property maps divided these lands more broadly, being divisions of land on the north side of the Mohawk from lands on the south side, and including this loop of the river totally within a single parcel assigned to a single owner.

Then there is the tantalizing mystery of the date, or number - "1730" - entered on the bottom of the map. There seems little doubt this was written at the same time the map was drawn. There is equally little doubt the map post-dates 1784, the year in which the owners named on the parcel first moved to this property and commissioned the partitioning of the lands. Could the date refer to an earlier base map on which the partitioning was later added? Or is it just a file number that, by some bizarre coincidence, is the same as the date of the construction of "the Neck" which only this map accurately portrays? We may never know.