What’s a Pre-Emption Line?

Staff reports

Much historical research is inspired by a mystery – “what happened and why?”  The Pre-Emption Line that shaped the development of Yates County and western New York is one such mystery.

We always hope to find the one document that “solves the case,” but often there are no clear answers. John Marks, curator of the Geneva Historical Society, will discuss the Pre-Emption Line and share research about documents in the Geneva Historical Society’s collection at the Dundee Area Historical Society’s Spring Dinner on Tuesday May 15.

All are welcome to attend the roast beef buffet dinner at “Millerland” on Miller’s Lane off Welker Road, east of Route 14A in Barrington. In addition, Hickory Hollow Wine Cellars and Highland Cellars will offer their wines for tasting.

In 1786, Massachusetts claimed it owned western New York State, based on its original land grant from King Charles I of England stating that the colony’s north and south borders ran across the country.  

Rather than fighting, New York reached a compromise with Massachusetts. A north-south line would be drawn beginning at the 82nd milestone west of the Delaware River along the New York—Pennsylvania state line and going north to Lake Ontario.  

Massachusetts had the pre-emptive (before anyone else) right to sell the land west of the Pre-Emption Line to investors, but all that land would become part of New York.

What happened next is the topic of John’s talk. Come hear the rest of the story as John shares with us maps, photos, documents such as Col. Maxwell’s original field notes from surveying the line.

The cost of the May 15 dinner program for Society members is $15 and for non-members $16. Social time begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at 6:15 p.m. To make reservations or obtain more information, please call 607-243-7047 no later than May 11.