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March 1999


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Ian McGiver <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 9 Mar 1999 13:46:32 -0600
TEXT/PLAIN (34 lines)
I have a question about the legality/common acceptance of "Squatters'
Rights" in the post-Revolutionary period.

I am tracking a large group of migrants. some of these were squatters.
In the situtation which I am examining, the squatters  were in a
position to bargain for their land because the title to the
land patent they were settled on was in dispute; they seemed to have
played rival speculators against each other to get the
best deal for
themselves. The speculators wanted the support of the squatters as they
fought the title dispute in the local county courty. (This was Schoharie
county in the mid to late 1790s. The squatters began to settle in the late

My question is: what rights could a squatter on a parcel count on in the
1780s and 1790s? I am familiar with the idea that says that squatters
could claim
ownership of the "improvements" they made to the property (although not
the land itself), but was this law? accepted practice?

What I am trying to figure out is what the squatter-migrants whom I am
tracking intended by squatting on the property they did settle. that is,
if they could count on ownership of their improvements then they could
think of it as an opportunity to build up capital. if they could not have
sure of controlling those improvements, then they would only have been
able to see that settlement as a chance to feed themselves and get
whatever capital they could immediately wrest from the land (through
timber, potash, wheat).

Ian McGiver
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