The Story Behind the 1834 Holmes Hutchinson Canal Maps

This is a reprint of an article from the Issue 53 (Winter 2011) of the Bottoming Out. The numbers are footnotes that do not copy over in this blog format. If you wish to have a list of the footnotes, please contact the webmaster.

A number of years ago when I was working on a book about the canal in Cayuga County, Craig Williams gave me copies of maps of Weedsport, NY that showed the village in 1834. Up to this point, the earliest maps I had were from 1853, so these maps brought to life a period of time in Weedsport, Port Byron and Montezuma that I had only scant writings about. These were known as the Holmes Hutchinson maps, and they had details showing the early canal and basin that had all but disappeared by the 1850’s.(1)

One day, years later, when I was researching canal topics on the internet, I stumbled across a court case involving Holmes Hutchinson which provided information into the making of these maps. In addition, it provides some “behind the scenes” details that might be otherwise lost to history. But before we get into the details, I would like to introduce the two people around whom this story revolves. Much of what is known about this case comes from the testimony of the principals before Legislative Committees. I will do my best to lay out the story in chronological order.

Holmes Hutchinson (HH) was born in Port Dickinson, Broome County, NY in 1794 He began work on the Erie Canal in 1819 as an engineer.(2) He held this post until 1835, when he became the Chief Engineer of the middle division. He worked in this capacity until 1841. He died in 1865 in Utica, NY. Hutchinson’s career is well documented because of his public work on the canal system.

Jacob Trumpbour (JT) was born in Saugerties, Ulster County, NY in 1779. He lived all his life in Ulster County, and died in Kingston, NY, in 1843. He was a judge and surveyor. Jacob was a nephew of William Cockburn, a well known surveyor, land agent and land speculator.(3) William also taught the art of surveying and it is presumed that Jacob learned his craft from him. Little else is known about Jacob.

One might think that the canals had been mapped as they were built. But apparently this was not the case, for in 1827, the Legislature of the State of New York ordered that a survey be made of all the canals. This fell under the Revised Statutes of 1827, Part I, Ch. 9, Title 9, Article 1. In part, it said; “A complete manuscript map and field notes, of every canal that now is, or hereafter shall be completed, and of all the lands belonging to the State adjacent thereto, or connected therewith, shall be made, on which the boundaries of every parcel of lands, to which the State shall have a separate title, shall be designated, and the name of the former owners and the date of each title be entered.” And then; “If the Canal Commissioners, on examination of the premises, be satisfied that the cost and expense of making such a map, field notes and survey will exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, no such map and field notes shall be compiled.” (4) The statutes also state that the maps were to be approved by the Canal Commissioners and copies placed in the office of each county clerk that the canal passed through, and that the maps were to be “received as presumptive evidence in all judicial and legal proceedings.”(5) This last phrase refers to ownership, even though it seems fairly vague.

Jacob Trumpbour was the first to submit a proposal for doing the field work and maps. Not surprisingly, his proposal was for $5000, the amount allowed by statute. He shortly learned that Holmes Hutchinson had submitted a proposal for $4000, plus any additional expenses not to exceed $1000, or basically a $5000 bid.(6) This type of cost plus bid was something Trumpbour had been told was not allowed. Trumpbour was then told that Hutchinson’s proposal was more favorable to the State. He requested that his proposal be modified to $4000 plus expenses. His resubmitted bid was rejected at first, but he persisted. As a result, the Canal Commissioners then sought to divide the survey between the two men. (The fact that the Commissioners took this step seems to indicate that they had made a mistake among themselves.) In April 1829, they dispatched Hutchinson with a letter and instructions to meet with Trumpbour in Kingston and to try to reach an agreement where both men could survey. The question comes then; why send Hutchinson instead of sending a Commissioner? When Commissioner Seymour had Hutchinson go to see Trumpbour, was the understanding with Hutchinson that he was serving as a contractor taking on a State contract; or was he working on behalf of the State as a Canal employee; or was he acting as an agent of the Commissioners? Hutchinson was a paid State employee at this time, so his role in the hiring or negotiating with Trumpbour could be seen from many different viewpoints, and as we shall see later, no one was clear on this at the time. But evidence later showed that some sort of agreement was reached to split the survey at Canistota. Trumpbour was to survey the western part of the Erie, all of the Cayuga Seneca and Oswego, and Hutchinson was to survey the eastern half of the Erie and all of the Champlain.

At this point in the story, it might be helpful to cover the methods of survey used because it is so critical to this case. Surveying was a multi-person job. One man looked through some sort of compass device (often called a transit) to take directional readings, another may have worked with him to record the readings and make rough sketches. Another man would have carried a rod marked in increments, and another one or two men handled a 66 foot long but light weight metal chain that was made up of 100 links that folded up much like the old wooden tape measures. The transit was set up level, and the rod man would walk straight as far as he could. Then the chainmen threw out the chain and it was pulled tight. If the rodman had not been reached, a pin was stuck in the ground and the chain was dragged or picked up and moved forward. When the rodman was reached, the number of full chains and then the number of links were counted. This gave the chains and links measurement seen on old deeds.(7) The transit man also looked through his instrument and took a reading of the rod to measure the change in elevation. He then moved forward and the process was carried out again and again. Surveyors will often close their loops by working back to the beginning point to check the correctness of their readings.

We know that Jacob Trumpbour sought to construct a very detailed survey. His method was much as one would expect if you have ever had a property surveyed; he ran his lines along the outside boundaries of the canal lands, noting in his field book the compass readings and elevations. This method forced him to note encroachments onto canal lands, since he would need to work around them. And as he surveyed, Trumpbour also took readings to permanent nearby landmarks. By taking this extra step, Trumpbour was providing starting points for future surveyors. This method would force Trumpbour to work on the outer edges of the State property, so if it was next to a creek, tree covered, muddy, or whatever condition existed; he would have to take extra time to get good results.

We don’t know what plan Hutchinson had planned on using, or even if he had a plan when he took the contract. Later testimony seems to point out that his employees settled this question. We know that he settled on a method that ran a base line down the inside edge of the tow path, and then every 100 feet; or when the compass heading changed; or when the construction of the canal called for it, such as at a wide waters or basin; he would run offsets to the outside boundaries of the canal. By using this method, he would miss any variations in the boundaries unless he made an effort to measure it. Any building encroaching onto canal land, which would have to show up on Trumpbour’s survey, may not be shown by this method. This method would keep the lead man on the flat and clear towing path. Of course, this method was far cheaper and faster.(8)

Looking back from my vantage point in 2010, it is easy to read a lot of conspiracy into the dealings of the players in this little drama. If you read all the Statutes under Title Nine, the Legislature seemed to be asking for a lot, but attempting to squash any efforts by under funding the work and piling onto the Commissioners a lot of work. In addition to the survey and maps, the Commissioners were to approve, certify, copy and deliver maps to all the counties along the canals. And the wording that the Commissioners “be satisfied that the cost and expense of making such a map, field notes and survey, will exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, no such map and field notes shall be compiled.”, seems to be an attempt to give everyone an easy and legal way out. Even in 1829, $5000 was not a lot of money. It represents about $116,000 today. For a team of men to survey across the 500 plus miles of canal land; then to draft up the maps and compile the notes; then copy and deliver; seems like a lot to ask. So looking at it just from this perspective, Hutchinson’s methods of cutting corners may have appealed to the Commissioners. They get the job completed, and stay within the budget. But I have not found any reference that suggests that the Commissioners looked at the Statute and the costs and said “No way!”

But leaving that as it is, as the survey work proceeded, there may have developed a far larger issue for cutting corners. The State through the statute is asking for maps that show what lands were parts of the canal system. Or, put another way; in the building of the canal, what land did the State purchase, acquire, or simply build over (and I will ask; without regard to ownership)? Although the State Legislature may have wanted to know the answer, this was a question the Commissioners did not wish to answer. Trumpbour pointed this out in a letter from 1831; If the reason for the maps were; “to furnish an authentic and precise record of the land belonging to the State, so that the owners of adjoining lands may know where the boundary line is, and that in controversies which may arise, evidence may be easily obtained from the county clerks office, to determine the respective rights of the State and of individuals”, then, Trumpbour went onto say, that the Hutchinson maps “will not furnish any such evidence. The boundaries of the State property are not actually run, but are artificial lines laid down on the map and depend upon a base line on the margin of the canal.”9 But this question about land ownership may have been the can of worms that the Commissioners did not wish to open as they wrote, “…it will be seen that there is no record or public document (except the deeds which have been taken) which designates, or describes the bounds of the lands appropriated or purchased for the canals…”(10)

Jacob Trumpbour began his survey in the spring of 1829 at Port Byron. Trumpbour said that before he had begun his work, he had met with the Surveyor-General DeWitt and Commissioner Seymour and settled on the method of survey. He began his work, but in June, 1829, he fell ill and took a couple months off to recuperate, apparently staying in Port Byron. During this time, Hutchinson stopped by and they discussed the survey methods. Hutchinson later admitted that he did not object to anything that Trumpbour was doing at the time. In August, recovered from his illness, Trumpbour continues his work until late fall. In November, Trumpbour stopped his work for the season and traveled to Rome to compare notes with Hutchinson. By this time, Trumpbour had completed his survey on all of the Cayuga Seneca, and 85 miles of the Erie.

Trumpbour discovered that Hutchinson had not been so productive. In September 1829, Hutchinson hired Edwin Johnson to conduct the survey for him. By his testimony, Johnson suggests that either he alone, or perhaps with Hutchinson, had come up with the plan of using the baseline off the towing path.(11) By the time Trumpbour had stopped work for the season, Edwin Johnson had only completed about 30 to 40 miles of work. When they compared surveys, they discovered the difference in methods. And here it gets messy.

So when was Mr. Trumpbour made aware of this change, or perhaps we should say adoption of methods? Remember that Hutchinson had been shown Trumpbour’s work in the summer of 1829 and had not voiced any concerns. Trumpbour, working under the idea that he had the approval of the canal commissioners, advised Hutchinson that he (Holmes) was incorrectly conducting the survey. Of course, Hutchinson disagreed and the man took the issue to the canal board. It was at this meeting that Trumpbour also learned that some on the Board, along with Hutchinson, thought that Trumpbour was working for Hutchinson, not for the Board. Instead of walking away, or adopting Hutchinson’s methods, Trumpbour dismissed the notion that he was an employee of Hutchinson. Trumpbour clearly felt that he had been awarded one half the survey and that he was working for the Board. Hutchinson thought that he had been awarded the entire survey and had been forced by the board to take Trumpbour on as an employee.

That winter, both sets of surveys were sent to the Surveyor General for his opinion. He said that JT’s was the best, but asked for the two men to settle the dispute and continue. If not, both should continue and complete their work, make their maps and submit them to the board. The State did not wish to pay either man to resurvey his work that was already complete.

On May 20, 1830, Trumpbour wrote to Seymour and told him that he is proceeding with his work and if Seymour has any comments to make, to do it to him. Seymour writes back telling him that he was not to continue work. “The Commissioners consider Mr. Hutchinson as the sole contractor for the survey of the canals, will hold him responsible for its due performance, and will pay him and him only, for the expense of completion.”(12) Trumpbour was undaunted. He wrote to Seymour on August 31, 1830, telling him that he had completed his work. But no one will answer his letters.

In February, 1831, Trumpbour goes to Albany to visit face to face with the Canal Commissioners, or finding no satisfaction there, with the Legislature. He learns that Hutchinson has been dispatched to resurvey all of Trumpbour’s work. He is outraged by this action. He tells the Commissioners that the work Hutchinson is doing is worthless; “Your memorialist would neglect that duty which every citizen owes his country, if he failed to apprise the Legislature that the surveys and fields notes made under the direction of Mr. Hutchinson, will not attain the object for which the map is directed. That object is believed to be, to furnish an authentic and precise record of the land belonging to the State, so that the owners of adjoining lands may know where the boundary line is, and that in controversies which may arise, evidence may be easily obtained from the county clerk’s office, to determine the respective rights of the State and of Individuals.”(13)

In his efforts to make a proper survey, Jacob Trumpbour may have stumbled upon something that the State did not wish to be common knowledge, or at least make evidence of easily attainable. It appears that Trumpbour saw his duty to the State and to his fellow citizens to provide them with the information they needed to settle canal land disputes. Whether it was surveyors pride, or a chance to help the State, he seems to have reached the opinion that the records of who owned what was a complete mess. He continued to write; “Your memorialist is constrained to say, from an examination of the maps and field notes made by the persons employed by Mr. Hutchinson, that they will not furnish any such evidence. The boundaries of the State property are not actually run, but are artificial lines laid down on the map, and depend upon a base line on the margin of the canal, and upon off-sets across the canal and towing –path, leaving the outlines which constitutes the boundaries on the map, to be located without the aid of any written description of them, and without courses or distances, the buildings and other permanent monuments along the canal are not described, nor is their position designated in reference to any point of the outlines. This has been the general plans adopted by the surveyor employed by Mr. Hutchinson; but when they came to a basin or other place, when it was impossible to measure across the canal, they have abandoned their plan and pursued that of your memorialist. An inspection of the maps and field notes made by those surveyors, will more fully exhibit the radical defect of their plan.” Then Trumpbour went on with what he thought was the key issue in his favor. But perhaps not knowing or realizing who he was appealing to, it seems to have worked against him; “Your memorialist would further represent, that in making the survey herein before mentioned, he could discover no releases to the State, of land occupied for the purposes of the canal, no entries by the appraisers or Canal Commissioners, of lands appropriated for those purposes, as required by law, and in fact no evidence whatsoever, of the title to any such property being vested in the State, (except in a few instances where information has been forwarded to your memorialist by the Comptroller, to whom your memorialist was referred by the Canal Commissioners for information, they stating that there were no documents on the subject in their possession). Jacob went onto say that he had; “…surveyed and marked out the boundary lines on each side of the State property, and has designed the same on his maps, with their course and distances. When completed, they are to be accompanied by a written description of the boundaries on both sides of the lands belonging to the State, with the necessary references to buildings and other permanent monuments.”(14)

In the winter of 1832, Trumpbour wrote to the Legislature that he desired payment for his work completed. He included a letter written to him from Holmes Hutchinson asking if Trumpbour would like to work for him, resurveying his own work using Hutchinson’s methods. Jacob refused to answer. And the matter goes to the Legislature for settlement.

Assembly Document #334, June 27, 1832, is a fascinating investigation into the facts of this case. It covers the investigation of the select committee to whom the case of Holmes V. Trumpbour has been referred. Quite quickly, the Committee seems to agree with Trumpbour on that the Statutes called for a survey of the canal. And to make a proper survey, a man needs to make an actual map of the canal boundaries. Simmon DeWitt, the Surveyor-General was asked to appear before the Committee and asked to read the Statutes. He concurred with the Committee, and in large part with the methods of Jacob Trumpbour. The Committee seems to grasp that the reliance of the towing path as a base line is questionable, since it is not a fixed point. Weather, frost, wear and tear, or floods could cause it to move and shift. John Kiersted, a witness called by JT, (and a student of William Cockburn) testifies that JT’s survey matches what the Statutes call for; “I do not conceive the survey of Mr. Hutchinson to be conformable to the requirements of the act, because it gives no actual location on the ground, by metes and bounds of visible monuments, designating the division lines between the lands of the State and those of individuals: because also, his manner of taking offsets without taking the course of them by the compass, is, in my judgment, too loose for any survey.”(15)

This point was made again by the Surveyor-General to the Legislative Committee. Hutchinson was using the locks and other points on the canal to pin his survey to the landscape. But what happens when there are no locks nearby? If a property dispute came up, in order for the Surveyor-General to use Hutchinson’s maps, he would need to begin a resurvey of the canal at the nearest lock, even if it was twenty miles away. Trumpbour was using nearby objects to lock his survey to the landscape, and where there were none, he was creating monuments by marking trees or buildings. Hutchinson’s defense of his methods centered on the ability and ease of the surveyor to walk along the edge of the canal banks, and precisely measure them with a surveyor’s chain. Later, in response to this, the Committee noted; “The great pains which Mr. Hutchinson has taken to prove by witnesses the innumerable difficulties of surveying the boundaries of the public property, as will appear by a reference to the affidavits, seems to have little other tendency that to shew [show] the steady fortitude, and unyielding perseverance , with which that duty has been actually performed by Jacob Trumpbour, according to the true construction of the statute, and the design of the Legislature, so far as that could be done.”(16)

Trumpbour had brought in as his witnesses surveyors from the Cockburn school of surveying. Cockburn has taught him and his friends and relatives and JT found them to be friendly witnesses. But Hutchinson was a long term canal employee and also had many friends. He decided to bring in the big gun to back his methods. He gets John Jervis, Canal Engineer. Unfortunately, Jervis was not a great witness for Hutchinson. At the beginning of his testimony, he is asked by the Committee if he had the opportunity to examine HH’s methods. He replies; “I suppose it is the book I have seen here in the committee room; I have looked at a few pages of it only, and cannot say I have examined further than to ascertain the plan upon which the survey was conducted, but not sufficient to give the details.” Jervis was then asked if he had seen Trumpbour’s maps and plans. He replies that he had given it the same examination as Hutchinson’s. Apparently, Jervis had not been prepped for this testimony, but under questioning he does state that he would conduct a similar survey much in the same fashion as Hutchinson. Jervis was then asked by Hutchinson’s lawyer; “Can you, from Mr. Hutchinson’s survey, map and field book, or either of them, ascertain, without further measurements on the ground, how many feet and inches, or chains and links, any buildings along the canal encroach upon the State property?” Jervis’ answer is brief; “Not without it is described in the field book.” [ed- I believe this should say, “Not as it is described in the field book.”] The Committee then asks; “Does the field book contain any such description?” Jervis: “I have not noticed any description in reference to buildings in the field book, but there may be such entries contained in it. My examination of it has been brief. In examining some cases upon the first sheet of the atlas of the survey of the Champlain Canal by Mr. Hutchinson, I think it would be necessary to take a measurement on the ground from some offset, to ascertain the encroachment.” Jervis is then asked, based on his examination of the maps, which survey better describes; “the parcels of land taken by the State for the use of the canals?” Jervis again states that he is not sufficiently acquainted with the plans, but adds; “…but from what I have seen from the samples produced, there is more fullness in Judge Trumpbour’s specimens of field book, submitted, and should rather give it the preference over that of Mr. Hutchinson…”(17) If John Jervis had been called in to bolster Hutchinson’s case, he does not seen to have gotten the message. Or perhaps, once he saw Hutchinson’s methods, he couldn’t whole heartedly support them.

Even Hutchinson’s own employee, a Mr. Edwin Johnson, wasn’t a good witness for his boss. The Committee reported that; “his atlas [of the survey of the Champlain Canal] is a very beautiful topographical map of that canal. Its practical utility is, as we have seen, a very different matter.” John told the Committee that he; “…was not directed to notice any interference or encroachment by the erection of buildings on the State property.” He went on to say; “The object of the survey was to obtain the means of determining at any future day, with the greatest practical degree of precision, the boundaries of the State property. It was with reference to that leading object, that all measurements were made.” He went onto say that either he or Hutchinson regarded most of the buildings on Canal property to be of a temporary nature.(18)

The Committee came to the conclusion that Hutchinson was making a survey for surveyors. His methods were to allow others who might have questions concerning canal property the means to begin their own surveys, whereas Trumpbour was making a survey for the people. As they began to close, the Committee pointed very clearly at the lack of leadership by the Canal Board lead to the problem of method of survey. The Statute called for a survey and it was up to the Canal Board to set the method before work began. They didn’t do this; instead once the matter came to a head, they adopted Hutchinson’s methods; “without expressing any decisive opinion thereon.”(19)

Everyone on the Committee seemed to agree that the Trumpbour method was better in all respects. And they agreed that Trumpbour had finished his part of the survey and produced field books and rough maps. So the question came back to who did Trumpbour work for? If it was the State, then the State should pay him. But if it was Hutchinson, and Trumpbour did not do the work the way Hutchinson wished it done, even if it was not as good as Trumpbour’s, then he should not be paid. The Canal Board may have seen this as the loophole to reach their goal.

The Canal Commissioners were not to be deterred. In their Annual Report of 1833, they lashed back at the findings of the Assembly Committee in a remarkable rebuttal that includes a rewriting of the goals of the 1827 Statute. Since the Statute places the survey in the hands of the Canal Commissioners, then; “The statute evidently contemplates that the survey, map and field notes be made in such a manner as shall be approved of by the Canal Board.”(20) So the argument, the Commissioners reasoned, was that it was up to the Commissioners to advise the Canal Board and the Assembly as to the proper way to carry out the Statute. If they chose Holmes Hutchinson, then that was their duty, regardless of the method of survey. The Commissioners reason that the Assembly really wanted two surveys to be completed. The first was of the lands appropriated for the canal. The second was to survey the lands adjunct to the canal, complete with names and titles. They wrote; “The [Assembly] committee have evidently confounded these two classes of cases; and they seem to suppose that the statute requires ‘an actual survey on the ground…’” (21) If the Statute has wished a real survey of all the grounds, they should have appropriated at least $15,000 instead of the $5000. And, the Commissioners argued, “It has been the uniform practice of the Commissioners to reserve the power in their contracts of limiting, controlling, and changing the mode of their execution, whenever, in their judgment, the interests of the State require it.” (22) With this re-reading and re-writing of the Statute, then Holmes Hutchinson was simply carrying out the first phase of the survey as the Commissioners felt best for the people of the State. They also added; “The misconstructions which they [the Assembly Committee] have put upon the acts of the Canal Commissioners and the Canal Board, will be passed over in silence.” (23) They had not been given the opportunity to defend themselves before the Assembly Committee, so they wrote; they were using the Annual Report of 1832 to put the matter to rights. However, even in their rebuttal, they admitted that many of the agreements reached between Trumpbour and the Commissioners were informal, and that the Surveyor-General had given an “offhand and verbal assent” to the survey methods proposed by Trumpbour. And since the Statute had been entrusted to the Canal Commissioners, the Surveyor-General did not have the authority to say anything one way of the other.

In the mean time, the Albany Evening Journal was having a good time covering the issue. “Among the petitions presented to the House of Assembly this morning, was the memorial of Jacob Trumpour, which discloses some extraordinary facts in relation to the conduct of the Canal Commissioners, and the situation of the property belonging to the State.”(24) A year later, the AEJ again laid out the facts of the case, showing examples of how some in the Albany Regency were attempting to squash the claim and the investigation. The case would cause embarrassment to some in the party if they came to the light of day.(25) On February 2, 1834, the AEJ wrote;
“Judge Trumpour’s Claim- The Canal Commissioners obtained a vote in the Assembly, yesterday, which again defeats the liquidation of this claim. For the last two years, when they were too weak to defeat it by direct vote, it was by various legislative arts and contrivances, left as unfinished business.
It is a singular fact in the history of this claim, that no member of the Legislature whose duty it has been made to examine it thoroughly, has arrived at a conclusion adverse to the claimant. Two years ago an intelligent Committee, consisting of Mr. Hammond, or New York, Mr. Hogeboom, of Columbia, and Mr. M’Donald, of Washington, were appointed, with power to send for persons and papers, and to sit thirty days during the recess of the Legislature, for the purpose of making a full investigation of the subject. The result was an entire and unanimous conviction of the justice of this claim.
This Report was submitted to the last House of Assembly, in which so many members were familiar with the subject that the Regency dare not come to a direct vote, and therefore bent all their exertions to give it the go-by.
It is the opinion of all competent, disinterested judges, that Judge Trumpour’s survey of the Canals is the only true and practiced one, and one which will ultimately be adopted. But Holmes Hutchinson, the pet Engineer, and the partner of Henry Seymour, in various Canal Speculations, has been paid for the entire survey: and now, to relieve the Commissioners from the odjurn of having overpaid their pet Engineer.”(26)

While this was going on, in January 1835, Holmes Hutchinson applied to the Canal Board who then turned to the Assembly for additional funds for the completion of the making of the survey and maps. His expenses were over $6000, a figure that did not include his own time, plus he was seeking to cover the cost of counsel for the Assembly investigation.(27) In 1836, Hutchinson was awarded an additional $2,545.

The matter of Trumpbour V Hutchinson was repeatedly introduced and legislatively given the “go-by” In 1837, an Assembly Committee wrote that they had “not been able to ascertain whether there ever was any understanding between the memorialist and Hutchinson, or the Canal Commissioners, as to what precise plan of survey should be adopted; nor does it appear with certainty, whether the memorialist was expected to be governed by Hutchinson’s directions in that particular, the evidence on these points having been somewhat loose and conflicting.” And they finished with; “[The Committee] are also of opinion that the weight of testimony is decidedly in favor of the superiority of the mode of surveying pursued by the memorialist.”(28) This committee also stated that Trumpbour should be paid for his services before and after his dismissal, and for his efforts in pursuing his claim.

In 1838, the Committee of Claims of the Assembly once again ruled in favor of Trumpbour, but only for his work of doing half of the survey and not for his efforts since to collect his money.(29) The bill is introduced into the Assembly and passed. The matter goes to the Senate, where the Committee on Canals takes up the issue. After reviewing the years of investigations and claims, the Committee makes their observations, I of which I summarize here; That Hutchinson had been given the contract and had he [HH] allowed Trumpbour to take half the work, and that an agreement had been entered into by both men. That both Hutchinson and Trumpbour had agreed on the method of survey and that Hutchinson would head up the drawing of the final maps. That Trumpbour had gone off on his own before he had the agreement of the Canal Commissioners. That Trumpbour had been given notice in 1830 by the Commissioners. That Trumpbour had already been given $500. That Trumpbour had rejected Hutchinson’s offer to resurvey the canal. That Trumpbour had finished his surveys without the agreement of the Commissioners once they had terminated him. That Trumpbour had forced his services upon the State because he [JT] had felt his methods were better. That it was up to the Canal Commissioners to decide on what plan of survey they wished to have used. That Trumpbour, if his figures were correct, had spent nearly $4000, $1500 more than the $2500 he would have received and based on this alone, JT should have been happy that he had released from his contract. That based on his figures, Trumpbour was overpaid for his work in 1829.

After stating all this, the Committee then wrote that they were “disposed to take a more practical, and they believe, a more just and equitable view of the subject.”(30) They state that the initial agreements were; “founded in mutual misunderstanding.” They wrote that Trumpbour should be paid for his services in 1829; “although” they added, “his services were of no value to the State.” Using figures based on estimates of surveying of “experienced engineers” they agreed to pay him a fee per mile, minus his $500, plus his interest over the last ten years, an award of $287.58. Then they state that Trumpbour should not be given money for his services forced upon the State, nor for his time in sittings of the Legislature. They finished with; “although there are doubtless cases of individual hardship and injustice, it is better they should be endured, than that a precedent so pernicious should be set as that of inviting the services of claimants against the State in the legislative halls, by offering them a bounty.”(31) With that, the matter was over.

But let us go back to Trumpbour’s claim that the Holmes Hutchinson maps were worthless as a legal document to determine the ownership of State or private lands. This issue was never really addressed in the end. Perhaps the Canal Board was able to divert the issues raised by Trumpbour by focusing on the question if he was a contractor of the State or employee of Hutchinson, and if he had the right to be paid for the work he had done. All the other issues were swept under the legal rug. In 1837, the Legislature passed a law, Chapter 451, declared that the maps; “…are hereby declared to be presumptive evidence that the lands indicated on said maps as belonging to the state, have been taken and appropriated by the state as and for the canals…” which basically reaffirms the 1828 Statute. (32) The timing of this ruling seems odd as well, with the maps becoming Law in 1837 and Trumpbour receiving his ruling in 1838.

There are many ways to look at this affair. In 1854, the Court of Appeals in Rexford V Knight ruled that landowners who lost land to the building of the canal had one year after the 1828 Statute to make claims to the State.(33) The Court reasoned that the 1828 Statutes that ordered the making of the maps also gave landowners a year to ask for damages from the loss of land during the building of the canal. But the maps that might help the landowners were not even begun until 1829, and not finished until 1834.

The Hutchinson maps continue to emerge as legal evidence of State ownership, even after the State repealed a number of canal acts in 1894 and 1909. In the case of People’s Gas and Electric Company v. The State of New York (1918), the State asserts that even though the State had appealed the use of the 1834 maps as evidence of State ownership, it really didn’t mean to and that the State should be allowed to use the 1834 blue-line. The State lost the case, but not on this technicality.

I have attempted to discover if the Jacob Trumpbour maps or field notes are still in existence or have been lost to history. The NYS Archives do not have them. I have also reached out to the Trumpbour family, but so far, no one knows much about Jacob.

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