Elizabeth Gets a Patent

Recall Penn’s five-step land process – apply, warrant, survey, return, patent.

Elizabeth’s land in Middletown was warranted and surveyed in 1684. But she didn’t have the patent.

The settler had to apply and pay for the patent, so many didn’t bother.

With just a survey, or just a warrant, the settler had the right to live on the land or to rent it or sell it by simply assigning the warrant or survey to another.

But there were constant disputes over boundaries, ownership, etc. It was legally ironclad if you got the final patent.

When Penn originally warranted a parcel of land, say 150 acres, the survey was ordered as “150 acres plus allowances”. The allowance was a 6% overage, which Penn allowed for future roads and easements etc.

As you might guess, the settler might offer the surveyor a gratuity to increase his allowance.

Penn suspected this too, because in 1700 he issued warrants to re-survey all large tracts of land.

Here’s a list of some of the Middletown parcels re-surveyed.

Elizabeth’s land re-surveyed

In 1703, Jacob Taylor re-surveyed Elizabeth’s land.

Perhaps this re-survey motivated Elizabeth to apply for her patent. Or maybe she was concerned since her son Joseph already had several land disputes.

The Patent

Whatever the motivation, she applied for the patent. Twenty-three years after her original warrant, she received her patent on June 10, 1707.

…Whereas by my warrant under my hand & seal in the year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty Three there was surveyed & laid out on the fourth day of the twelfth month in the said year by Charles Ashcom the then surveyor of the County of Chester in the said province to Elizabeth Jarvais widow now called Cookson by means of a second marriage a certain tract of land in Middletown in the said County…

Griffith Owen, Thomas Story, James Logan, Recorded the 4th. 5th month 1707

This patent was recorded on July 4, 1707 in Patent Book A4. It’s at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

A patent holder is the first person in America to be titled with a parcel of land. From that time until today, the title search begins with the first patent holder. There’s no earlier recorded owner. (The Native Americans had earlier general claims to land, but that’s for another story).

Elizabeth received her copy of the patent to keep. I’ll bet she valued this document.

Elizabeth was about 55 years old. She had acquired this land and maintained it for twenty-three years. What an achievement for someone who had once accepted charity subsistence from Quakers for several years.

A Missed Opportunity

While searching online for Elizabeth Jervis, we came across this amazing coincidence. The original patent, probably Elizabeth’s copy, had been sold at auction in 2009 for $125.

Wow! What would it be like to possess this document?

I called Bunch Auctions, but they wouldn’t reveal the buyer’s identity. Correctly so.

I begged them to contact the buyer and let them know we would buy it. They agreed to forward my offer.

I waited and waited, but never got a response.

Oh what might have been.


Sources

  • Image – A youthful George Washington surveying at Pope’s Creek, Virginia – Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveying_in_early_America#/media/File:Young_George_Washington.jpg
  • List of re-surveyed lands – Chester County – 1703 – Taylor Papers – Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Re-Survey – Elizabeth Cookson – Middletown 150a – 1703 – Book D-36 Page 168 – State Archives of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA
  • Patent – Elizabeth Jarvis Cookson – Middletown 150a – 1707 – Patent Book A4 Page 15 – Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA
  • Auction Advertisement – William H. Bunch Auctions – Chadds Ford, PA
  • Letter – Offer to Buy Elizabeth Cookson Patent – Mark Jarvis – July 2017
  • Clipart – Waiting – GoGraph.com

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