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Massachusetts/New York Boundary History
- The charter granted to the Massachusetts Bay Colony embraced all the territory between 44 degrees and 48 degrees north latitude, "throughout the Maine lands from sea to sea." But the grants made under this authority conflicted with those of New York. The resultant controversies during the colonial period reached even to violence and bloodshed. However, on May 18, 1773, agreement was entered into between John Watts, William Smith, Robert R. Livingston and William Nicoll, commissioners on the part of New York, and William Brattle, Joseph Hawley and John Hancock, commissioners on that of Massachusetts; but the Revolution came before the line could be surveyed and the boundary determined.
Soon after the conclusion of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States other commissioners were appointed by Massachusetts and New York. Conferences were held in 1783, but differences arose. Two years later, in December, 1785, the Continental Congress, with the consent of both States, appointed Thomas Hutchins, John Ewing and David Rittenhouse as commissioners, empowered to run the line and end the controversy. Commissioners of New York and Massachusetts met at Hartford, Connecticut, on December 16, 1786, to consider the claims of Massachusetts to the western territory. Representing New York State were James Duane, Robert R. Livingston, Robert Yates, John Haring, Melancthon Smith and Egbert Benson. Those who represented Massachusetts were John Lowell, James Sullivan, Theophilus Parsons and RuIus King. It was finally agreed that Massachusetts should relinquish to New York their sovereignty of the whole of the disputed territory, but in return should receive the right of soil and preemptive right of Indian purchase west of a meridian passing through the eighty-second milestone of the Pennsylvania line, excepting certain reservations upon the Niagara River. The title to the tract known as the "Boston Ten Towns," lying eastward of this meridian, previously granted to Massachusetts, was also confirmed.
Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and the adjacent islands were purchased from the Earl of Sterling by the Duke of York, and civil jurisdiction was exercised over them, under the name of Duke's County, by the Governors of New York until the county was annexed to Massachusetts by the provincial charter of 1692. "Pemaquid and its dependencies," comprising a considerable part of the coast of Maine, was also bought from the Earl of Sterling and governed by New York, as Cornwall County, until 1686, when it was transferred to Massachusetts. Boston Corner, a small arable tract in the town of Mount Washington, was separated by a rugged mountain from the convenient jurisdiction oI Massachusetts. It was therefore surrendered by that State and accepted by New York in 1853, the transfer being confirmed by Congress in 1855. Russell Dorr was appointed on the part of New York, and John Z. Goodrich by Massachusetts, to establish the boundary.
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