A Summary History of The Military Tract Of Central NY
For The Cayuga County NYGenWeb Project

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1875 Map
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Tompkins Co.
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'The Military Tract of Central New York' was about 1.75 million acres of bounty land and extended roughly from Lake Ontario southward to the south end of Seneca Lake and from the east line of present Onondaga County westward to Seneca Lake.  The present NY counties of Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, and Seneca were included, as were portions of Oswego, Schuyler, Tompkins, Yates and Wayne.  The 1st Sheet of DeWitt's State Map of New York is dated circa 1792 or 1793 and displays the military tract area, minus the township of Sterling (A.K.A. Stirling).

The law of the United States Congress, passed on the 16th day of September, 1776, pursuant to a report of the Board of War, provided for the enlistment of 88 battalions of men to carry on the lately declared war for independence.  New York's quota, based on population, was 4 regiments, but as late as March 1781 only two regiments had been activated. The state needed some way to induce soldiers to enlist. On March 20, 1781 the legislature authorized that the remaining 2 regiments be raised. These troops became known as the New York Line and were enlisted for 3 years.

The laws passed by the U.S. Congress stated that all officers and soldiers who should remain in the service till the close of the  Revolutionary War or till discharged by Congress, and the representatives of such as should be slain by the enemy, should be entitled to receive from the U.S. government, upon the ratification of the treaty of peace, a grant of the United States' land in Ohio, or a bounty.  Consequently, the Continental Congress guaranteed every fighting man in the Revolution a bounty of 100 acres in the public domain and officers in proportion to their rank.  

There was little faith in the currency at the time, but NY did have a vast surplus of land and a need to persuade NY soldiers to enlist. So, it was decided to offer 500 more acres to the prior 100 acres offered. Thus, the state decided to survey and divide central NY into Townships (not to be confused with current Towns) of 100 lots, being 600 acres per lot. The relationship between a  Military Tract Township & a Town is illustrated by the fact that Cayuga County, NY now has 23 Towns, that were comprised of what was originally all or part of 8 Military Tract Townships and part of the Cayuga Indian Nation Reservation area.  Deeds in Central NY commonly still refer to these "Military Tract Lots" today as "Great Lots" or "Farm Lots"

Originally there were 25 Military Tract Townships, but they added 3 more to make a total of 28, because they needed more land to satisfy claims. At first the Townships were only given numbers, but later they were named. The names of the Military Tract Townships are: Aurelius, Brutus, Camillus, Cato, Cicero, Cincinnatus, Dryden, Fabius, Galen, Hannibal, Hector, Homer, Junius, Locke, Lysander, Manlius, Marcellus, Milton, Ovid, Pompey, Romulus, Scipio, Sempronius, Solon, Sterling, Tully, Ulysses, and Virgil.  Some history books credit these early Greek / Roman names to the State Surveyor General of the time, "Simeon DeWitt".  Most historians today, believe that the names for these Townships may have come from a clerk in the office of Simeon DeWitt who was a student of the classics, named "Robert Harpur".  To view a website titled: 'Names of Townships in the Military Tract' Compiled By D G Rossiter, click HERE

After they balloted off 94 lots in each Township, the remaining 6 lots would be reserved for the development of gospel and schools, certain commercial offices and to compensate for water-covered land.  

The BIG problem that delayed the whole military tract plan, was the need to negotiate a treaty with the Cayuga & Onondaga Indian Tribes to release their claims to the main portion of this land. The final result was to establish smaller reservation areas for the Indian Nations and have them give up their claim to the rest of central NY.  Negotiating with the Indians took a long time.

Notice the time frame here.  The 2nd two NY regiments were established in March 1781. Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown seven months later, on October 19.  The treaty of Paris which ended the Revolution was signed September 3, 1783. The boundaries of the area that would become the "Military Tract Of Central NY" were established on July 25, 1782, but it was not until 1789 before the division of the land was agreed with the Indian Nations.  It took another year to survey the area into lots.  It was not until the middle of 1790 that the names of the eligible soldiers (or their heirs & assignees) were put in one barrell and matched with Township Lots from a list of numbers placed in the 'Township Box'.

In the center portion of the book, The Balloting Book and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands, In The State Of New York-Pub. Albany, Printed By Packard & Van Benthuysen in 1825,  is a list of Townships, numbered lots from 1 thru 100 with the name of the soldier who was balloted to receive the lot.  In the last portion of the book is a list of names that were entitled to lots and who actually was issued the patent (deed).  Because it took so long for the soldiers to actually get their land, they were only given script ( an "I Owe You") prior to 1790.  Many got tired of waiting years for the land they were promised and resorted to selling their claims.  

In the end, Non-Commissioned Officers would get the 600 acre lots, but Officers would get larger areas depending on the rank they achieved.  If the soldier decided to take the 100 acres offered by the Continental Congress in another state, the 100 acres in the south-east corner of the 600 acre lot, had to be given back to NY State. These became known as "The State's 100 acres". Another term that is in deeds still today, is "Survey 50 Acres of a Great Lot". This was because each soldier who was balloted to receive this land had to pay 48 shillings (to the state) to cover the cost of having the lots surveyed. If they didn't pay 48 shillings, they had to give up 50 acres.

The original Military Tract Townships that are within the present boundaries of Cayuga County , NY are #8 Aurelius, #4 Brutus, #3 Cato, #18 Locke, #17 Milton, #12 Scipio, #13 Sempronius, and #28 Sterling.  The east portion of the Cayuga Indian Reservation is also currently within the boundaries of Cayuga County, NY.  The former Cayuga Indian Reservation area included all of the current Town of Springport, (including the Village of Union Springs), and portions of the current Towns of Aurelius, Ledyard (including the northern portion of the Village of Aurora), and part of the Town of Montezuma.

This summary history of the Military Tract of Central NY, was compiled by Bernie Corcoran for the Cayuga County NYGenWeb Project.  The following sources were utilized and are highly recommended for those who wish to study this subject further: The Balloting Book and Other Documents Relating to Military Bounty Lands, In The State Of New York-Pub. Albany: (Printed By Packard & Van Benthuysen- 1825)  History of Cayuga County, New York 1789 - 1879; by Elliot Storke (Pub. 1879 by D. Mason & Co.), Auburn, N.Y. Its Facilities and Resources; By D. Morris Kurtz (Pub. 1884 by Kurtz Publishing Co.), The Military Tract Of Central NY; by Robert S. Rose (A thesis composed in 1932 for a Master's Degree in history from Syracuse University), and Weedsport - Brutus A Brief History; by Howard J. Finley (Pub. for the Bicentennial in 1976).  

Surnames
"A" - "C"

Surnames
"D" - "G"

Surnames
"H" - "L"
Surnames
"M" - "Q"

Surnames
"R" - "T"

Surnames
"U" - "Z"
1875 Map
Image

Tompkins Co.
Name List

CopyrightCopyright 1998-2010 Bernie Corcoran, all rights reserved

For a timeline chart showing the chronological dates when towns in Cayuga County NY were formed, see website: The Town Formation Timeline.
To view a website titled: Names of Townships in the Military Tract Compiled By D G Rossiter, click HERE.
To view the names of people who were balloted to receive bounty land within the Military Tract area that is now in Tompkins County, click HERE.  Additional websites with information about 'The Military Tract' can be found among sites provided by the Seneca County NYGenWeb Project by clicking HERE and on the  Cortland County NYGenWeb Project by clicking HERE.
A website titled: New York in the Revolution as colony and state resides on the Internet at: http://www.americanwars.org/american-revolution-new-york.htm

Go To The Cayuga County NYGenWeb Project History Page
Go To The Cayuga County NYGenWeb Project Veteran Records Page
Go To The Cayuga County NYGenWeb Project Home Page


Bernie Corcoran, Cayuga County Coordinator
NYGenWeb Project