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Virginia Claims to Land in Western Pennsylvania Published with an Account of the Donation Lands of Pennsylvania Excerpted from "Pennsylvania Archives"
In 1754, the colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania entered into a dispute over the ownership of what is today the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. At the time, Virginia’s claim, which was encompassed within the boundaries of Augusta County, embraced all of Pennsylvania west of Laurel Hill and included the present-day counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and parts of Allegheny and Beaver. The dispute raged over the course of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War–during which time frontier forts were constructed, rights for land were ceded by Virginia, and settlement waxed and waned–until commissioners for the two states of Virginia and Pennsylvania were appointed in 1780 to draw proper boundaries. Eventually, in 1784, new meridian lines were run confirming the present-day boundaries of the two states.
The first of the two excerpts from the Pennsylvania Archives reprinted here, Virginia Claims to Land in Western Pennsylvania, is a complete list of Virginia land entries in the aforementioned Pennsylvania counties between 1779 and 1780. For each of the 1,300 entries we are given the date of the entry, the name(s) of the parties to the transaction, and occasional references to subsequent transfers of grants, the amount of acreage, and a landmark indicating where the land was situated. Preceding the land records is a fascinating history of the thirty-year dispute between the two colonies/states.
The second excerpt, An Account of the Donation Lands of Pennsylvania, concerns the March 1780 statute enacted by the state legislature granting land in western Pennsylvania to the soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line who served in the Continental Army. The list of eligible soldiers is preceded by an introductory sketch informing us that the donation area comprised parts of the contemporary counties of Lawrence, Butler, Armstrong, Venango, Forest, Warren, Erie, and all of Mercer and Crawford. Here we learn the story of how the lands were surveyed, the terms under which the land could be claimed, contact with Indians in that region, and so forth. The 3,000 members of the Pennsylvania Line entitled to a donation are identified by name, rank, regiment, acreage awarded, and, sometimes, whether the individual claimed the land, was killed in action, relinquished his right to the land, etc.