1731 — Connecticut/New York Boundary History

In 1614 Adriaen Block discovered and for some distance explored the Freshwater (Connecticut) River. Later a trading post was established near the later site of Hartford. Governor Van Twiller extinguished the Indian title, in 1633, to "an extensive tract of land called the Connittelsock, lying on the west bank of the river and sixty miles from its mouth." The Dutch clashed with the English during Van Twiller's time and later, as to jurisdiction of the territory. The Plymouth Company claimed the land, by right of grant made to them by King James of England in 1620.

The Governor of Massachusetts Bay also protested, in 1633, against the establishment of the Dutch "House of Good Hope," and an English settlement was made about a mile above the trading post. The later Governors of New Netherland persisted in endeavors to assert the Dutch right to the territory, but in 1650 Governor Stuyvesant entered into a provisional treaty with the Connecticut authorities whereby it was agreed that the boundary line should "begin at the west side of Greenwich Bay, being about four miles from Stamford, and so run a northerly line twenty miles up into the country until it shall be notified by the two governments of the Dutch and of England, provided the said line shall not come within ten miles of the Hudson River." The home governments never confirmed this treaty.

By the King Charles II charter oI April 23, 1662, the territory of the colony of Connecticut was bounded "on the south by the sea," and from the Massachusetts line "to the south sea on the west part." By letters patent granted to the Duke of York and Albany on March 24, 1664, the line between the province of New York and the colony of Connecticut was recognized approximately as following the Connecticut River. After the surrender of New Netherland to the British expedition under Colonel Richard Nicolls, in September, 1664, the Connecticut authorities sought to negotiate the matter of boundaries. Commissioners were appointed, and they defined the boundaries on the mainland so erroneously and so palpably in Connecticut's favor that the territory left to New York on the mainland would reach no farther up the Hudson River than 50 miles on its eastern bank. The commissioners had been authorized to settle upon a line 20 miles east of the Hudson River, the line agreed upon starting at tidewater on the Mamaroneck Creek and running thence north-northwestward to the southern boundary of Massachusetts. The mouth of Mamaroneck Creek is, however, much less than twenty miles from the Hudson. The cartographic error raised a controversy which continued for more than two centuries. In 1683 other commissioners were appointed, and it was finally agreed to allow Connecticut to extend her boundaries westward along the Sound, New York receiving a compensation in the north. It was agreed that the line should be run, as originally intended, 20 miles east of the Hudson River. When, however, it was discovered that such a line would deprive Connecticut of several towns which she had already established, an irregular boundary line was set in the southern end. To offset this advantage Connecticut ceded to New York an equivalent tract in the north, a tract known as "The Oblong," two miles in width and 50 in length, or 61,440 acres, extending from Ridgefield to the Massachusetts line, being given to New York. The agreement was not, however, confirmed by the two colonies.

In 1700, however, King William the Third approved and confirmed the agreements of 1683 and 1684, but this did not dispose of the matter. Other commissioners were appointed in 1718, but failed to agree. In 1719 New York proposed to run the boundary lines in accordance with the agreement and survey of 1683–84 whether Connecticut appointed commissioners or not. In October, 1723, Connecticut appointed commissioners with full powers. These, with other commissioners from New York, met at Rye in April, 1725. The survey of 1684 had begun at the mouth of the Byram River, at a point 30 miles from New York, had followed that stream as far as the head of tidewater, or about a mile and a half from the Sound, to a certain "wading-place," where the common road crossed the stream at a rock known and described as "The Great Stone at the Wading-Place." At this point the commissioners of 1725 took up their work. They surveyed along the line to the "Duke's trees," three white oaks which had been marked in 1684, at the northwestern angle of the town of Greenwich. Here the work was suspended for lack of funds; and it was not until 1731 that the survey was resumed and pursued to completion, along the line of 1684, which, from the "Great Stone at the Wading-Place" was to run "northwest till it should reach a point eight miles from the Sound; thence a line running eastward parallel to the general course of the Sound, and 12 miles in length" . . . from which point another line eight miles in length was to be run in a north-northwesterly direction. From the end of that line the boundary was to extend north to the Massachusetts line with the "equivalent tract" included. The line, in 1731, was designated by monuments, and remained unquestioned as to the "Oblong" until 1855, when Connecticut questioned the line because certain markers had disappeared. Ranges of marked trees had fallen, heaps of stones had been scattered, and the uncertainty as to the line made it advisable to resurvey, inasmuch as the authority of neither State could be satisfactorily enforced along the border.

Commissioners were appointed by both States and the survey began in January, 1856, at the "wading-stone" and was carried without difficulty to the Ridgefield angle. From thence to the Massachusetts line, however, there was considerable difference between the commissioners. Connecticut commissioners wished to draw a straight line between the two points, but the representatives of New York considered that they were only authorized to ascertain the boundary "as originally defined." As the differences could not be composed, other commissioners were appointed in 1859. These met in conference at Port Chester in September, but were unable to agree. Therefore, in April, 1860, by legislative act, New York State empowered its commissioners to survey and mark with suitable monuments the "line between the two States as fixed by the survey of 1731." Acting upon this authority, the New York commissioners placed monuments along the line, at intervals of one mile, from the Massachusetts line to the mouth of the Byram River. The work was completed in 1860.

Connecticut, however, still pursued her claim with dogged persistence. In 1878 and 1879 both States appointed commissioners to again go into the matter, and, if possible, to finally dispose of the controversy. On December 5, 1879, an agreement was made whereby the western boundary of Connecticut was fixed as the ex parse line surveyed by New York in 1860, the same as that which had been settled in 1731. The agreement was ratified by both State Legislatures and confirmed by the National Congress during the session of 1880–81.