Author Gloria Waldron Hukle

New York Historical Book Series by Gloria Waldron Hukle

Harlem Heirs -Are you one?

The Harlem Commons Syndicate involving a land claim for over l,000 acres of prime Manhattan lands, creeks, woods, pastures, waters, fishings, huntings, and fowlings and all other profits, commodities, emoluments and hereditaryments to said land and premises in anywise etc...  was a company founded back in l883 by a group of "Trustees".  The object of the syndicate was to build about fourteen miles of stone walls along the Harlem River shoreline and build inland wharves and basins utilizing the expertese of the Cole Dredging Company. The plan was to deepen the river bed to a uniform depth of 30 feet. 

The land claim roots date back to the year l666 when English Governor Nichols granted all the lands covered by water from Seventy-fourth to One Hundred and Twenty-eighth strrets which included the Morrisania Flats as well as all the man made land between those streets and the entire river bed of the Harlem River from one limit of the grant to the other.The land was granted to Resolved Waldron (who built a house on the High ground) Thomas Delavall, Daniel Turner , John Sorvelen and John Obleene. We don't know much about what Delavall, Turner, Sorvelen or Obleene did with their lands, but Waldron built a house and operated a farm and Samuel Waldron lived on the place during his lifetime.

The l883 group, ie Samuel J. Waldron, Walter H. Shupe, Thomas H. Wyatt, Horace E. Brown, Joseph Hastings, William H. Keek and V.S. Miller proposed that ownership of the lands which the group sought to improve did not rest as claimed by the City of New York.  Instead they claimed that said lands belonged to about 20,000 heirs- heirs to Harlem, New York. Today that number could have easily tripled. Some of you are probably reading this post.

The Harlem land claim is especially interesting to this author because Samuel J. Waldron (mentioned above) was a key player among the Harlem Heirs - the story which was reported in the New York Times November l7, 1883, the result of an interview with Walter Shupe at his Broadway office in Manhattan. According to Shupe, Samuel was 5th in the direct line of New Amsterdam's Resolved Waldron (who readers have met in my novel, Manhattan Seeds of the Big Apple) was to be used as a test case because he had lived on the Waldron property as his ancestors had before him since the year l666 when Resolved and his family resided there. Twenty-two years later Gov. Dongan confirmed their title to the lands and the waters in question. Attorney Shupe figured if they could prove Waldron's right to the land granted to Resolved Waldron, all would be golden.

Many prominent figures of the day were involved in the claim.  Chancellor James Kent pronounced it perfect as did Judge Jere S. Black.

Every heir who entered the syndicate signed his share in the property to the company. His cost was $10.00. He received a certificate (some that are still to be found floating around in 2011) The certificate gave the holder 2/3rds of his share when the division would be made.

Recently I read something interesting about mineral rights vs. property.

".. In Pennsylvania, property owners can sell surface property but retain control of minerals. That includes natural gas trapped in the mile-deep Marcellus shale formation that was out of reach until the technology behind hydraulic fracturing evolved enough to extract it. Mineral rights stick to the branches of a family tree no matter how many times the surface property sells. The rush to make money from the lucrative gas reserve includes a cadre of genealogists, title experts and landmen the energy companies hire to hunt down living heirs of last century's business-savvy relatives. .." [more] . http://www.chron.com/news/article/Mineral-rights-driving-force-to-find-land-heirs-2147443.php"

I wonder if the above holds up in New York and/or how it pertains to the "Harlem Heirs"

So what happened?  PBS's History Detectives is on the case. Watch for it!

"Manhattan Seeds of the Big Apple"  available via www.amazon.com  for Kindle