RWG Vail Western New York Land Speculation Papers

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RWG Vail Western New York land speculation papers
Creator: Vail, R. W. G. (Robert William Glenroie), 1890-1966
Call Number: D.386
Dates: 1778-1959 ; 1916-1959 [bulk]
Physical Description: 0.74 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Table of Contents:

Biographical/Historical Note
Scope and Content
Processing Information
Related Materials
Content List
Series I: Vail's manuscript, undated
Series II: George S. Conover research materials, 1884-1898
Series III: Vail's research, 1916-1959
Series IV: People of the Seneca Nation and Haudenosaunee, 1793-1959
Series V: Purchase and sale of old books, 1900-1954
Collection Overview
Title: RWG Vail Western New York land speculation papers
Creator: Vail, R. W. G. (Robert William Glenroie), 1890-1966
Call Number: D.386
Dates: 1778-1959 ; 1916-1959 [bulk]
Physical Description: 0.74 Cubic feet
Language(s): Materials are in English
Repository: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester

Biographical/Historical Note
Robert William Glenroie Vail (1890-1966) was born in Victor, N Y and was a 1914 graduate of Cornell University. He attended the Library School of the New York Public Library that same year and was a lifelong bibliophile and bibliographer. After serving in WWI he worked as a librarian at the Minnesota Historical Society (1919-1921), the Roosevelt Memorial Association (1921-1930), the American Antiquarian Society in Worcestor, Massachusetts (1930-1939), and finally as the State Librarian of New York in Albany (1939-1944). In 1944, he became the director of the New York Historical Society, a position he held until his retirement in 1960. He was a former president of the Bibliographical Society of America, and completed Joseph Sabin's bibliographic encyclopedia Bibliotheca Americana, A Dictionary of Books relating to America. Vail was also the recipient of two honorary degrees, a Doctorate of Letters from Dickerson College, and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Clark University. After retiring he moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he died in 1966. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in historical land speculation in Western New York State, which included a long interest in the history and descendants of the Seneca Nation and other members of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) confederacy.

George S. Conover (1824-1898), also known as Hy-we-saus, was a white American-born historian whose ethnographic research focused on the people and history of the Seneca Nation and other Haudenosaunee tribes. He was adopted into the Seneca Nation in 1885 at the Cattaraugus reservation, the details of which he wrote about in The Naming Ceremonies and Rites of Adoption by the Seneca Indians. This work was published in a compilation of works along with The Last Rite of Adoption into the Confederacy of the Iroquois, under which the entire book is sometimes known, a poem written by a fellow Seneca adoptee. It is probable that he was a member of the group of highly-educated young white men who regularly met at the home of Ely S. Parker (Do-ne-ho-gâ-wâ, a Seneca), the noted attorney, engineer, and diplomat who was Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Grant, which also included noted anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan; in any case, Conover maintained a close and friendly relationship with many members of the Seneca Nation, who regarded him and his work fondly.

Sayenqueraghta (c.1707-1786), or Sa-kay-en-qua-ra-doh, was the Mohawk name of the Seneca war chief Kaieñãkwaahtoñ (meaning "the disappearing smoke or mist"). He belonged to the Turtle clan of the Seneca Nation, and lived most of his life at Ganundasaga, near what is today called Geneva, New York. While he tried to keep the Haudenosaunee neutral during the American Revolution, the Seneca eventually sided with the British, and he and Kaiiontwa'kon (Cornplanter) were named war chiefs of the Haudenosaunee confederacy. After the destruction of Ganundasaga during the Sullivan Campaign in 1779 he relocated to Buffalo Creek. He died in Smoke Creek (which is named after him) in Lackawanna, NY, in 1786.

Other prominent figures represented by primary sources and research notes in Vail's collection include William Cooper, Henry O'Reilly, Charles Williamson, Nathaniel Gorham, and Robert Morris. William Cooper, father of historical novelist James Fenimore Cooper, was an American merchant, land speculator and developer. Henry O'Reilly was an Irish-American businessman and telegraphy pioneer who was one of the first authors to write a survey of Rochester and its immediate surroundings. Charles Williamson surveyed the Genesee Lands in 1792 and became the holder of the title of the purchased lands. Williamson also invested in the great road west from the Mohawk River to Canandaigua. Nathaniel Gorham formed, with Oliver Phelps, the land company which in 1788 purchased six million acres of land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They later negotiated with the Seneca Nation and other Haudenosaunee tribes to acquire the title for two million more acres east of the Genesee River, among other properties. They were later forced to sell much of the land known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase at a loss to Robert Morris, a senator and financier of the American Revolution from Philadelphia.

Scope and Content
The materials in this collection were collected and produced by Glen Vail in his research on settler land speculation and acquisition in Western New York, in preparation for his unpublished book entitled Land Speculation in New York State, 1791-1847. The materials consist largely of handwritten notes, as well as original source materials in the form of correspondence, maps, land survey diagrams, anthropological studies, scrapbooks, and bound volumes. Vail approached his research as a bibliographer- indeed, he subtitled the introduction to his manuscript "A Bibliographical Study of Certain New York Real Estate Rarities"- and many of the materials and his notes concern the purchase and citations of old books, through which he was conducting his research. The date range of this finding aid describes the date range of the original materials in the collection, some of which are notes on or photocopies of earlier primary sources; the date ranges on the folders reflect the dates of the sources, and so in some instances the enclosed material may be Vail's (usually undated) notes on a much earlier document. Although Vail continued to return to his research on land tenure and speculation throughout the course of his several decades in the library profession, his focus shifted over time to care more about the people of the Seneca Nation who had originally held tenure of the land before the arrival of the white settlers- a focus which may have been inspired by the depth of the notes in George S. Conover's papers, which contain descriptions of many historical Seneca individuals, rites, rituals, and traditions.

The first series contains an outline of Vail's book and his introduction to his manuscript.

The second series encompasses a collection of materials and original research conducted by George S. Conover, which Vail bought from Conover's widow. Conover pasted his own published pamphlets into bound books with additional articles, and thereafter added in his own handwritten notes. Conover's research focuses on the leadership, history, and traditions of the Seneca Nation, and the history around the acquisition of the land from the Seneca by white settlers. His materials include his published writing on the Seneca chief Sa-kay-en-qua-ra-doh (which he anglicized as Sayenqueraghta) and on initiation ceremonies for being adopted into the tribe; research notes made from the papers of Phelps & Gorham Company land survey agent William Walker; a series of scrapbooks collecting his writings, correspondence, newspaper articles, and notes; and correspondence with various historians, librarians, and members of the Seneca Nation about his work. Among these are correspondence with William C. Bryant, who describes Sa-kay-en-qua-ra-doh's funeral, and Ely S. Parker (Do-ne-ho-gâ-wâ). Of particular note are the letters included in the "Rites of Adoption" scrapbook, many of which are from members of the Seneca Nation living on the Cattaraugus Reservation. There are numerous notes tipped into the volume with correspondence lists of English and Haudenosaunee* names for various figures, with translated meanings. Vail also made some additional notes in some of Conover's scrapbooks detailing how he obtained the materials and other details of interest to his research.

The third series is comprised of materials Vail himself researched, and his notes. It should be noted that his research was primarily bibliographic in nature, and while there are some original documents throughout the series, often the item represented is only represented by photocopies, citations, or an entry in a book seller's catalogue. Materials include bibliographic citations with notes, notes and correspondence on maps and resources, advertisements for land sale, documents for land sales and transfers, photocopies and translations of early articles about land in western New York, letters discussing payment and use of land, early land surveys and maps, descriptions of settler interaction with the Haudenosaunee and of the land itself, drawings of artifacts, photographs of landmarks, a transcription of a speech given at a joint meeting between the settler and Seneca leadership, an autograph sentiment from Seneca chief Hou-nou-deh (also called Henry G. Strong), and notes made from other pertinent collections of papers. While some of the original materials are in French, German, or Dutch, Vail's notes are in English. Notable early maps include several undated maps of the Genesee River, and the villages Oswego (with illustrations) and Charlotte (hand-colored) on Lake Ontario. A Photostat negative of a full issue of The Victor Monitor, dated 1874, is also a rarity.

The fourth series are materials gathered by Vail which focus more on the Seneca people, traditions, and culture, rather than the land and its tenure. The highlight of this series is the folder containing newspaper articles featuring members of the Seneca Nation through the 1900s, contemporary with Vail's own time. Other materials in the series include an autograph sentiment from Hon-non-de-uh, or Nathaniel Thayer Strong, a Seneca chief, illustrations of several notable historical figures and events, and a sketch of an array of Haudenosaunee artifacts from Honeoye Falls, dated 1899.

The fifth series is a single folder containing material related to the production or purchase of old books in Rochester, NY, and elsewhere.

*It is somewhat unclear whether the names are in the Mohawk or Seneca language, especially given the confusion over Sayenqueraghta/Sa-kay-en-qua-ra-doh/Kaieñãkwaahtoñ perpetuated through Conover's writings.

The collection is broken into five series:

Series I: Vail's manuscript, undated

Series II: George S. Conover research materials, 1884-1898

Series III: Vail's research, 1916-1959

Series IV: People of the Seneca Nation and Haudenosaunee, 1793-1959

Series V: Purchase and sale of old books, 1900-1954

Western New York (State)
Seneca Indians
Iroquois Indians
Land speculation
Phelps and Gorham Purchase
Iroquois Indians--Land tenure
Vail, R. W. G. (Robert William Glenroie), 1890-1966
Processing Information
The first series is organized as if it were the beginning of Vail's manuscript, with the introduction following the table of contents.The materials in the second series have been ordered alphabetically by the title Conover pasted on the cover of each scrapbook, as definite chronology could not be otherwise established. It should be noted that the scrapbooks are usually titled by the principal pamphlet Conover pasted into them, but contain additional articles and notes besides. Some materials which were folded into the "Sayenqueraghta" scrapbook have been removed and flattened for preservation, and are included in the folders immediately following the scrapbook, in the order in which they were inserted. The third series is ordered chronologically by date of publication of the original source, as Vail's accompanying notes are usually undated. . Undated maps have been placed at the beginning of the series. Collections of notes which reference multiple dates or documents have been placed at the end of the series, in closer proximity to the notes on maps and correspondence which also references several documents and date ranges. The materials in the fourth series have been organized in reverse-chronological order, as the bulk focus of the materials in the series is from the later dates. The materials in the fifth series, comprising a single folder, have been ordered chronologically. Access
The RWG Vail Western New York land speculation papers is open for research use. Researchers are advised to contact Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation prior to visiting. Upon arrival, researchers will also be asked to fill out a registration form and provide photo identification.Use
Reproductions are made upon request but can be subject to restrictions. Permission to publish materials from the collection must currently be requested. Please note that some materials may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information contact rarebks@library.rochester.eduCitation
[Item title, item date], RWG Vail Western New York land speculation papers, D.386, Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of RochesterRelated Materials
The Ely Samuel Parker papers

Dr. Ruth W. Schwartz and Dr. Seymour I. Schwartz collection

Vail, R.W.G. "The Lure of the Land Promoter: A Bibliographical Study of Certain New York Real Estate Rarities." The University of Rochester Library Bulletin. Vol. XXIV, No. 2-3, Winter-Spring 1969.

Vail, R.W.G. "A Western New York Land Prospectus." New York Public Library, New York, 1943. 15p.

Administrative Information
Author: Lev Earle
Publisher: Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester
Rush Rhees Library
Second Floor, Room 225
Rochester, NY 14627-0055

Finding aid publication date: 2019-10-16
Content List
Series I: Vail's manuscript, undated
Box 1, Folder 1Manuscript outline - Land Speculation in New York State, 1791-1841
Box 1, Folder 2Introduction - Land Speculation in New York State, 1791-1841
Series II: George S. Conover research materials, 1884-1898
Box 1, Folder 3"Copies and Memoranda from Papers of Judge William Walker" notebook
Box 1, Folder 4"Early History of Geneva etc." scrapbook
Box 2, Folder 1"Rites of Adoption by the Seneca Indians on the Cattaragus Reservation" scrapbook
Box 2, Folder 2"Seneca Indian Villiage" scrapbook
Box 2, Folder 3"Sayenqueraghta, King of the Senecas" scrapbook
Box 2, Folder 4-5Letters removed from "Sayenqueraghta" scrapbook
These materials were removed from the copy of Sayenqueraghta, King of the Senecas, which Vail had pasted additional materials into.

Series III: Vail's research, 1916-1959
Box 5, Folder 1Map of the Genesee River – Holland Land Company, undated
Box 5, Folder 2Handpainted map of the Genesee River and Village of Charlotte, undated
Box 5, Folder 3Map of Hitchcock's Townships, Penobscot, undated
Box 3, Folder 1Provisions de Gouverneur et Lieu. en Canada pour le 8me Marquis de Denonville, 1685
Box 5, Folder 4Map of Oswego on Lake Ontario, 1767
Box 3, Folder 2Broadside advertisement for land sale in New York State, 1772
Box 3, Folder 3Letter of payment for use of land- Nathaniel Norton to Benjamin Hale, 1778
Box 5, Folder 5"Map of Township No. 12 in the 21st range of Townships in the County of Ontario, NY.", 1789 Sept 16
Box 3, Folder 4Wadsworth family land sales, 1790-1809
Box 3, Folder 5Robert Morris – land speculation and "An Account of the Soil", 1791
Box 3, Folder 6Castorland – Description topographique, 1792
Box 3, Folder 7"Observations on the Present Situation", 1792
Box 3, Folder 8Papers Relating to Western New York, 1792-1804 – Doc. Hist. NY, vol. 2, 1849
Box 3, Folder 9"Voorafgaand Bericht, wegens eene Negotiatie, op landen in America," Pieter Stadnitski, with translation
Box 3, Folder 10Holland Land Company, various articles, 1792 and later
Box 3, Folder 11"Réflections offertes aux capitalistes de l'Europe…," Benedict Van Pradelles, with translation., 1792
Box 5, Folder 6Map of the State of New York, compiled by Samuel Lewis, 1795
Box 3, Folder 12Commission of a road through Onondaga County and Herkimer to Niagara, 1797
Box 3, Folder 13Promise and receipt of payment from Nathaniel Gorham to Josiah Bartlett, 1798
Box 3, Folder 14William Cooper letters, land management, 1798-99
Box 5, Folder 7Scioto Land Co. fraud caricature, c. 1798
Charles Williamson
Box 3, Folder 15Genesee County and Albany, 1798
Box 3, Folder 16Genesee County, 1799
Box 3, Folder 17Proposed state road from the Hudson River to Lake Erie, 1800
Box 5, Folder 8Indenture contract for sale of land by Oliver Phelps to Augustus Peter and Peter Z. Porter. Witnessed, James Hitchcock, 5 June 1800
Box 5, Folder 9"Outline of the probable increase in value[s]… [of American land], 1794-1802."
Box 3, Folder 18Description of a land survey map of land on the Genesee River owned by I. B. Church, 1803
Box 3, Folder 19"Le pour et contre, ou avis à ceux…," Rev. Jean-Louis Bridel, 1803
Box 3, Folder 20"Wie's halt ist, mit dem Reisen…", Rev. Jean-Louis Bridel, 1804
Box 3, Folder 21"A view of the present situation" at Frederick Town, Charles Williamson, 1804
Box 3, Folder 22;
Box 3, Folder 23
"A Description of Genesee Country," Charles Williamson, 1804
Box 3, Folder 24"Cap't Charles Williamson: His Settlements with [his principals]," George S. Conover, 1804
Box 3, Folder 25William Cooper, "A guide in the wilderness, or, the history of the first settlements in the western counties of New York…", 1810
Box 3, Folder 26"Public Speeches Delivered at the Village of Buffalo… by Hon. Erastus Granger, Indian Agent, and Red Jacket, One of the Principal Chiefs and Speakers of the Seneca Nation…", 1812
Box 4, Folder 1"Map of a Piese of Land bot of John Harwitt March 31st 1823."
Box 4, Folder 2Genesee and Livingston County land sales, notes, 1824
Box 4, Folder 3A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, 1824
Box 4, Folder 4Rochester city aqueduct, c. 1830
Box 4, Folder 5"A Study-Journey… with Special Consideration of the Erie Canal," A. Duttenhofer, 1835
Box 4, Folder 6Notes on the writings of Vincent Le Ray de Chaumont, 1837, 1848
Box 4, Folder 7Historic map of Yates County 1756-1838
Box 4, Folder 8Calendar of the Henry O'Reilly papers, 1832-1873
Box 4, Folder 9Genesee Falls, 1851 and undated
Box 4, Folder 10"Ancient Monuments in the United States," E. G. Squier, 1860
Box 4, Folder 11Notes from Mueller's catalogs, 1872
Box 5, Folder 10The Victor Monitor, Saturday Feb. 28th, 1874
Box 4, Folder 12Land speculation in Geneva, 1893
Box 4, Folder 13Boyd and Parker's Mound, Cuylerville – photographs, 1906
Box 4, Folder 14Correspondence regarding research materials, 1920, 1942, 1957
Box 4, Folder 15Notes on resources, undated
Box 4, Folder 16Notes on maps with various dates (1793-1901), undated
Series IV: People of the Seneca Nation and Haudenosaunee, 1793-1959
Box 4, Folder 17Newspaper articles about contemporary Seneca, 1894-1959
Box 4, Folder 18Illustrations, 1793-1954
Box 4, Folder 19NY State Museum – Exhibits on the Iroquois postcards, undated
Box 4, Folder 20Bibliographic list of materials on the Archaeology and Ethnology of the Iroquois, NY State Museum, 1847-1915
Box 4, Folder 21Drawings of Haudenosaunee artifacts, Honeoye Falls, 1899
Box 4, Folder 22Autograph sentiment, Hon-non-de-uh, or Nathaniel T. Strong, a Seneca Chief, undated
Series V: Purchase and sale of old books, 1900-1954
Box 4, Folder 23Bibliographic notes, lists, and articles about books, 1900-1920, 1954

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