II. Bill for Settling Titles to Unpatented Lands
[14 January 1778]
Whereas the various and vague claims to unpattented Lands under the former Government,1 covering the greater part of the Country on the Western Waters, may produce tedious and infinite Litigation and disputes, and in the mean time Purchasers would be discouraged from taking up Lands upon the Terms lately prescribed by Law, whereby the Fund to be raised in Aid of the Taxes for discharging the Public Debt would be in a great measure, frustrated; And it is just and necessary, as well for the peace of Individuals, as for the Public Weal, that some certain Rules should be Established for setling and determining the Rights to such Lands, and fixing the Principles upon which such Claimers shall be entitled to Patents;2 to the End that subsequent Purchasers and Adventurers may be enabled to Act3 with greater Certainty and Safety. Be it enacted by the General Assembly that all Surveys heretofore made by any sworn surveyor, acting under Commission from the Masters of William and Mary College,4 and founded either upon Charter Importation Rights duly proved and certified according to ancient Usuage,5 upon Treasury Rights for Money paid the late Receiver General, upon Entry’s made6 with the Surveyor of any7 County for Tracts of Land not exceeding four hundred Acres, according to Act of Assembly upon any Order of Council or regular Entry8 in the Council Books, or upon any Warrant from the Governor for the time being, for Military Service in Virtue of any Proclamation either from the King of Great Britain9 or any former Governor of Virginia, shall be good and valid; but that all Surveys for Waste and unpatented Lands made by any other person, or upon any other pretence whatsoever, shall be, and are hereby declared null and Void;10 And that all and every person or persons, his her or their heirs or Assigns, claiming Lands upon any of the before recited Rights and under Surveys made as herein before mentioned,11 shall upon the Plats and Certificates of such Surveys being returned into the Land Office, together with the Rights, Entry, Order or Warrant12 upon which they were respectively founded, be entitled to a Patent or Patents13 for the same; Provided that such Surveys and Rights14 be returned to the said Office within Months15 next after the end of this present Session of Assembly:16 and where two or more persons shall claim the same Land under different Surveys, the person claiming under that Survey which was first actually made shall have the Preference.17 That all persons their heirs or Assigns claiming Lands under the Charter and ancient Custom of Virginia, upon Importation Rights18 duly proved and Certified in any Court of Record before the Passing of this Act, as also those claiming under Treasury Rights for Money paid the Receiver General19 or under Proclamation-Warrants for Military service, and not having located or fixed such Lands by actual Surveys as herein before mentioned, shall be admitted to new Warrants and Entries20 for the same in the manner directed by the Act intitled an Act for Establishing a Land Office and ascertaining the Terms and manner of granting waste unappropriated Lands upon Producing to the Register of the said Office21 the proper Certificates, proofs or Warrants, as the case is, for their respective Rights, within Months22 after the End of this present Session of Assembly.23
And be it enacted that all Orders of Council or Entries for Land in the Council Books upon the Western Waters24 except so far as such Orders or entries respectively have been carried into execution by Actual Surveys in manner herein before mentioned, shall be, and they are hereby declared void and of no Effect.25 And that no claim to Land within this Commonwealth for Military service, founded upon the King of Great Britain’s Proclamation in the Year One thousand seven hundred and sixty three,26 shall hereafter be allowed; except a Warrant for the same shall have been obtained from the Governor of Virginia, during the former Government,27 or where such service was performed28 in one of the Virginia Regiments; in which case such Claimant making due Proof thereof in any Court of Record29 shall be admitted to a Warrant and Entry30 for the same in the manner herein before mentioned.31
And whereas great numbers of People have settled in the Country upon the said Western Waters, upon waste and unappropriated Lands, for which they have hitherto been prevented from sueing out Patents or obtaining legal Titles by the King of Great Britain’s Proclamations or Instructions to his Governors, or by the late change of Government; and the present War having delayed, until now, the opening a Land Office, and the Establishment of any certain Terms for Granting Lands, and it is just that those settling under such Circumstances, and Guilty of no neglect or omission on their part,32 should have some reasonable allowance for the charge and Risque they have incurred, and that the property, so acquired should be secured to them; Be it therefore enacted that all persons, who at any time before the passing of this Act33 have really and bonafide settled themselves,34 or at his her or their charge have settled others, upon any waste or unappropriated Lands,35 to which no other person hath any legal Right or Claim, shall be allowed for36 every such Family or Settlement the Quantity of four hundred Acres of Land to include such settlement, and to every such Family as for their greater safety have settled themselves in Villages or Townships these shall be allowed their respective Improvements in such Village or Township, together with as much adjacent Land as will make up the like Quantity of four hundred Acres, each Family to have the Preferrance in such Land as they have actually occupied, so far as the same can be done; for which Quantity’s, to be adjusted ascertained and certified by the Commissioners to be appointed by this Act in manner herein after directed,37 they shall be respectively entitled to Warrants, and Entries with the38 Surveyor of the County,39 and upon the due return40 of the plat and Certificate of Survey,41 grants may and shall Issue to them and their Heirs42 according to the Rules and Regulations of the said office. And if any such Setlers shall desire to take up a greater Quantity of Land than is herein allowed them, they shall,43 on payment of the consideration money required from other purchasers, be entitled to the Preemption, of any greater Quantity of Land, adjoining to such Settlements, not exceeding one thousand Acres, and to which no other person hath any legal right or Claim.44
All persons, who before the passing of this Act, have made regular Entries with the Surveyor of any County, for Lands on the said Western waters to which no other Person hath a legal Right or Claim, and have not surveyed the same in Manner herein before mentioned, shall be entitled to the Pre-emption, at the State Price, of the Land so entered for; and those who have45 marked out46 for themselves any Waste or unappropriated Lands,47 and made any Improvements thereon, shall also be entitled to the pre-emption, upon the like Terms, of any Quantity of Land not exceeding two thousand48 Acres, to include such Improvements, or so much thereof to which no other person hath any legal Right or Claim:49 Provided they respectively demand and prove their Claim to50 such pre-emption51 and take out their Warrants of Survey within Months next after the end of this present session of Assembly, and thereafter duly comply with the Rules and Regulations of the Land Office.
And be it further enacted that all persons claiming Lands on the said Western waters52 and sueing out Patents53 upon Surveys heretofore made, either under Entries54 with the Surveyor of any County, or under any Order of Council or Entry in the Council Books55 and those claiming Tracts of Land not exceeding four hundred Acres hereinallowed56 them in Consideration of their Settlements,57 shall be subject to the payment of the usual Composition Money, under the former Government, at the rate of ten shillings Sterling for every hundred Acres, to be discharged in Current Money at thirty three and one third percentum Exchange,58 and to no other Charge or Imposition whatsoever, save the common office fees.59 And Whereas it is represented to this present General Assembly60 that upon the Lands surveyed for sundry Company’s by Virtue of Orders of Council, many people have settled,61 under the faith of the Terms of Sale Publickly offered by the said Company’s or their Agents at the Time of such Settlements, who have made Valuable Improvements thereon, and are now refused Titles to the Lands so Surveyed and Settled, or a much higher price demanded from them: For Remedy whereof,62 Be it declared and enacted that all persons so settled upon any Lands,63 except only such Lands as before the Settlement of the same were notoriously reserved by the64 Company for whom they were respectively surveyed for their own use, shall have their Titles confirmed to them by the Members of such Company’s or their Agents, upon Payment of the price at which such Lands were offered for Sale,65 together with Interest thereon from the time of the respective Settlements.66
And67 whereas the Claims of various Persons to the Lands herein allowed to the Inhabitants in Consideration of their Settlements, as well as of those who by this Act are entitled to Pre-emption at the State-Price,68 may occasion many Disputes, the Determination of which, depending upon Evidence which can not without great Charge and Trouble be collected but in the Neighbourhood of such Lands, will be most speedily and properly made by Commissioners in the respective Counties, Be it enacted that the Governor with the Advice of the privy Council may and He is hereby empowered to appoint by Commission under his Hand and Seal four of the most able and discreet Men in each and every County upon the western Waters (any three of whom may act) to continue in office six months from the End of this present Session of Assembly for the Purpose of collecting adjusting and determining such Claims. Every such Commissioner, before He enters on the Dutys of his Office,69 shall take the Oath of Fidelity to the Commonwealth, and the70 following Oath of Office “You shall swear that You will well and truly serve this Commonwealth in the Office of a Commissioner for the County of for collecting and adjusting and setling the Claims and determining the Titles of such Persons as claim Lands in the said County in Consideration of having setled thereon, or of such as claim Pre-emption to any Lands therein,71 under an Act of General Assembly intitled an Act for adjusting and setling the Titles of Claimers to unpatented Lands under the former72 Government; and that You will do equal Right to all Manner of People, without Respect of Persons; You shall not take by Yourself, nor by any other Person, any Gift Fee or Reward for any Matter done or to be done by Virtue of Your Office, except such Fees or Sallery as the Law shall allow You; and finally in all things belonging to Your said Office, You shall faithfully justly and truly, according to the best of Your Skill and Judgement, do equal and impartial Justice, without Fraud Favour Affection or Partiality” which Oath shall be administered by any of the said Commissioners to the first of them in nomination who shall be present, and then by him to the others.
The said Commissioners shall have Power to hear and determine all Titles to Lands claimed in Consideration of Settlements73 made thereon, as also the Rights of all Persons claiming Pre-emption to any Lands within their respective Countys,74 either for Entries made with the County Surveyor, or for the other Considerations mentioned in this Act, and shall imediatly upon Receipt of their Commissions, give at least twenty Days previous Notice by Advertisements at the75 Churches and Meeting Houses76 in their County, of the time and Place at which they intend to meet, for the Purpose of collecting hearing and determining the said Claims and Titles, requiring all Persons interested therein to attend, and put in their Claims; and may adjourn from place to place, and time to time, as their Business may require; but if they should fail to meet at any time to which they shall have adjourn’d, neither their Commission, nor any matter depending before them shall be thereby discontinued, but they shall proceed to Business when they do meet, as if no such Failure had happened: they shall appoint and administer an Oath of Office to their Clerk, be attended by the Sherif, or one of the Under Sherifs of the County, be empowered to administer all Oaths to witnesses or others necessary for the Discharge of their Office, to punish Contempts in the same Manner as the County Court, and enforce good Behaviour in their Presence;77 they shall have free Access to the County Surveyor’s Books, and may order the same to be laid before them at any time or place of their sitting.78
In all Cases of Dispute, upon Claims for Settlement, the person who made the first actual Settlement, his or her Heirs or Assigns, shall have the Preference; and in all Disputes for the Right of Preemption on Entries made with the County Surveyor, the Person, his or her Heirs or Assigns, who made the first Entry.79
The Clerk shall keep exact minutes of all the proceedings of the Commissioners, and enter the names of all the Persons to whom either Lands for Settlement, or the right of Pre-emption, as the Case is, shall be adjudged, with their respective Quantitys and Locations.80 Upon application of any Person claiming a right to any such Lands, and complaining that another pretends a Right in Opposition thereto, the said Clerk shall issue a Summons, stating the nature of the Plaintiff’s Claim, and calling on the Party opposing the same to appear at a time and place certain, therein to be named, and shew Cause why a Grant of the said Lands may not issue81 to the said plaintiff: the said Summons shall be served on the Party by the Sherif of the County,82 and such Service being return’d thereon, and the Party appearing, or failing to appear, the Commissioners may proceed to Trial, or for good Cause shewn, may refer such Trial to a further Day. The Clerk shall also have Power, at the Request of either Party, to issue Subpœnas for witnesses, to appear at the time and place of trial; which shall be had in a summary way, without pleadings in writing; and the Court in conducting the said Trial, in all matters of Evidence relative thereto, and in giving Judgement, shall govern themselves by such Rules and Principles of Law or Equity as are applicable to the Case, or wou’d be the Rule of Trial, of Evidence, or of Decision, were the same before the ordinary Courts of Law or Equity; save only so far as this Act shall otherwise have specially directed. Judgement, when rendered, shall be final,83 and shall give to the Party, in whose favour it is, a Title against all others who were Partys to the Trial; and if after such Judgement rendered, the Party against whom it is, shall enter the said Lands forcibly, or forcibly detain the same, it shall be lawful for the said Commissioners, or any one of them, or any Justice of the Peace for the County, to remove such Force, in like manner as if it were committed on Lands holden by Grant actually issued.
The said Commissioners shall deliver to every Person to whom they shall adjudge Lands for Settlement, a Certificate thereof under their Hands, and attested by their Clerk, mentioning84 the Quantity, and describing as near as may be, the particular Location; noting also therein the Quantity of adjacent Land to which such Person shall have the Right of Pre-emption: and to every other Person to whom they shall adjudge the Right of Pre-emption to any Lands, they shall in like Manner deliver a Certificate specifying the Quantity and Location of such Land, with the Cause for Pre-emption;85 for every86 of which Certificates, the Party receiving the same shall pay down to the Commissioners the Sum of ten Shillings, besides a fee of two Shillings and six Pence87 to the Clerk; And the said Certificates88 shall entitle the Persons respectively receiving them to an Entry and Survey, or warrant for the said Lands in such way and on such Terms as herein before prescribed upon producing the same to the Surveyor of the County, or to the Register of the Land Office, or to the Treasurer, or County Court Clerk, as the Case may require. The said Commissioners89 shall transmit to the Register of the Land Office, under their Hands and attested by their Clerk, an exact List or Schedule, in alphabetical order, of all such Certificates by them granted, and a Duplicate, so signd and attested, to the County Surveyor, for their Information;90 and in order the more effectually to preserve to such Persons the priority and preferrence of Location, and the Benefit of Pre-emption, for and during the before mentioned Space of Months from and after the passing of this Act.
The said Commissioners for every Day they shall be actually employed in discharge of their Office shall be allowed the Sum of Shillings91 each; they shall be accountable for all the money they shall have received upon issueing Certificates as aforesaid, except the Fee to the Clerk, and shall settle a fair Account92 with the Treasurer; who is hereby empowered to pay them whatever Ballance may appear due to them thereon, and to receive from them any Ballance which shall be by them due to the Commonwealth.
The Clerk and Sherif shall receive, for their Services, the fees heretofore allowed by Law for the same Services in the County Court,93 to be paid by the Party, and collected in like manner as is directed in the ordinary Cases of the same nature;94 provided that the Clerk shall not be allowed any further or other fee for entering and issueing a Certificate than is herein before mentioned.95
When the Register of the Land-Office shall make out a Grant or Patent to any Person96 or Persons for Lands due to him her or them in Virtue of this Act, He shall recite therein97 the Rights or Cause for which the same became due “according to an Act of General Assembly passed in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy seven98 entitled an Act for adjusting and setling the Titles of Claimers to unpatented Lands under the former Government”99 and if any Part thereof is due in Consideration of100 purchase money paid to the Commonwealth the same shall be101 distinguished. And whereas at the time of the late Change of Government many Caveats against Patents for Lands which had been entered in the Council Office were depending and undetermined, Be it enacted that all such Caveats, together with the Documents and Papers relating thereto,102 shall be removed into the Clerk’s Office of the General Court, there to be proceeded on, tryed and determined103 in the manner directed by Law for future Caveats.104
MS (Vi); 13 pages; in hand of the same clerk who copied MS of Bill for Establishing a Land Office; with erasures, additions, interlineations, &c., by TJ and by George Mason as indicated in notes below. Endorsed on p. , in hand of John Tazewell: “A Bill for adjusting & settling the Titles of Claimers to unpatented Lands under the former Government. 1778. Jan: 14. Read the first Time.” Endorsed, p. , in hand of George Mason, with same title as that on p.  and docketed by John Tazewell: “1778. Jan: 14 Read the first Time.” Just beneath this was another line partially erased: “[Jany … & Committed].” Text of the Act as adopted at session of May 1779 is in Hening, description begins William W. Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia description ends x, 35–50, where the title is: “An Act for adjusting and settling the titles of claimers to unpatented lands under the present and former government, previous to the establishment of the commonwealth’s land office.”
1. Act reads: “the former and present government, previous to the establishment of the commonwealth’s land office”; the words “covering the greater part of the Country on the Western Waters” are not in the Act.
2. Act reads: “upon which legal and just claimers shall be entitled to sue out grants.”
3. Act reads: “proceed.”
4. Act, following the enacting clause, reads: “That all surveys of waste and unappropriated land made upon any of the western waters before the first day of January, in the year 1778, and upon any of the eastern waters at any time before the end of this present session of assembly, by any county surveyor commissioned by the masters of William and Mary college, acting in conformity to the laws and rules of government then in force, and founded‥‥”
5. Act adds: “as far as relates to indented servants, and other persons not being convicts.”
6. Act reads: “… paid the receiver general duly authenticated upon entries on the western waters, regularly made before the 26th day of October, in the year 1763, or on the eastern waters at any time before the end of this present session of assembly, with the surveyor‥‥”
7. Act reads “the” instead of “any.”
8. Act reads: “or entry in the council books, and made during the time in which it shall appear either from the original or any subsequent order, entry, or proceedings in the council books, that such order or entry remained in force the terms of which have been complied with, or the time for performing the same unexpired, or upon any warrant‥‥”
10. Act includes at this point the proviso that all officers or soldiers, or their heirs or assigns, claiming under Governor Dinwiddie’s proclamation of 1754 offering a bounty in lands to the officers and soldiers of the first Virginia regiment, if they had returned to the secretary’s office surveys “made by virtue of a special commission of the president and masters of William and Mary college,” could have their claims validated by taking out warrants on their proclamation rights, resurveying the lands, and then proceeding according to the Land Office regulations.
11. Act reads: “… mentioned, against which no caveat shall have been legally entered.”
12. Act adds: “or authentick copy thereof.”
13. Instead of “Patent or Patents” the Act reads: “grant or grants for the same in manner and form herein after directed.”
14. The words “and Rights” are interlined in George Mason’s hand.
15. Act reads: “twelve months.”
16. Act adds at this point: “otherwise they shall be, and are hereby declared forfeited and void.”
17. Act omits the clause: “and where two or more … shall have the preference.”
18. Act adds: “as before limited.”
19. Act adds: “duly authenticated”; one and one half lines erased in MS following this point.
20. Act reads: “admitted to warrants, entries, and grants for the same.”
21. One and a half lines erased in MS following this point.
22. Act reads: “the like space of twelve months.”
23. Four lines have been erased in MS at this point. In the Act the following additional provisions were inserted: “and not afterwards. All certificates of importation rights proved before any court of record according to the ancient custom, and before the end of this present session of assembly, are hereby declared good and valid: And all other claims for importation rights not so proved, shall be null and void; and where any person before the end of this present session of assembly, hath made a regular entry according to act of assembly, with the county surveyor for any tract of land not exceeding four hundred acres, upon any of the eastern waters, which hath not been surveyed or forfeited, according to the laws and rules of government in force at the time of making such entry, the surveyor of the county where such land lies, shall after advertising legal notice thereof, proceed to survey the same accordingly, and shall deliver to the proprietor a plat and certificate of survey thereof within three months; and if such person shall fail to attend at the time and place so appointed for making such survey, with chain carriers and a person to mark the lines, or shall fail to deliver such plat and certificate into the land office, according to the rules and regulations of the same, together with the auditors certificate of the treasurers receipt for the composition money herein after mentioned, and pay the office fees, he or she shall forfeit his or her right and title; but upon performance of these requisitions, shall be entitled to a grant for such tract of land as in other cases.”
24. The words “upon the Western Waters” are not in the Act.
25. The Act has the following additional terms at this point: “and except also a certain order of council for a tract of sunken grounds, commonly called the Dismal Swamp, in the south eastern part of this commonwealth, contiguous to the North Carolina line, which said order of council with the proceedings thereon and the claim derived from it, shall hereafter be laid before the general assembly for their further order therein.”
26. The date is omitted in the Act.
27. Act adds: “as before mentioned.”
28. Act reads: “by an inhabitant of Virginia or in some regiment or corps actually raised in the same.”
29. The Act adds: “and producing a certificate thereof to the register of the land office within the said time of twelve months, shall be‥‥”
30. Act reads: “warrant, entry, and grant.”
31. Act adds the following at this point: “but nothing herein contained shall be construed or extend to give any person a title to land for service performed in any company or detachment of militia.”
32. Act omits the words “and guilty … their part.”
33. Act reads: “before the first day of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight.”
34. Act adds: “or their families.”
35. Act adds: “on the said western waters.”
36. Act reads: “for every family so settled, four hundred acres of land, or such smaller quantity as the party chooses, to include such settlement.” In addition, the Act provided that where any settler had had a survey made under any order of the colonial government, since 26 Oct. 1763, for less than 400 acres, he could take up as much additional unappropriated land as, with the amount surveyed, would amount to 400 acres.
37. The terms of the Act differ concerning these settlements “in Villages or Townships”: “And whereas several families for their greater safety have settled themselves in villages or townships, under some agreement between the inhabitants of laying off the same into town lots, to be divided among them, and have, from present necessity, cultivated a piece of ground adjoining thereto in common: Be it enacted, That six hundred and forty acres of land whereon such villages and towns are situate, and to which no other person hath a previous legal claim, shall not be entered for or surveyed, but shall be reserved for the use and benefit of the said inhabitants until a true representation of their case can be made to the general assembly, that right and justice may be done therein; and in the mean time there shall be allowed to every such family, in consideration of their settlement, the like quantity of land as is herein allowed to other settlers adjacent, or convenient to their respective village or town, and to which no other person hath, by this act, the right of preemption, for which said quantities to be adjusted, ascertained, and certified by the commissioners to be appointed by virtue of this act, in manner herein after directed.”
38. The words “Warrants, and Entries with the” are in the hand of George Mason; the Act reads “to entries with.”
39. Act adds: “wherein the land lies, upon producing to him certificates of their rights from the said commissioners of the county, duly attested, within twelve months next after the end of this present session of assembly, and not afterwards; which certificate the said surveyor shall record in his books, and then return them to the parties, and shall proceed to survey the lands so entered, according to law.”
40. Act adds: “to the land office.”
41. Act adds: “together with the certificates from the said commissioners of the rights, by settlement upon which the entries were founded.”
42. The words “or Assigns” are deleted in MS but the Act reads: “heirs or assigns, in manner before directed.”
43. TJ deleted the first and last seven words of the following in MS: “be entitled to the Preemption, at the State price to other purchasers,” and interlined the words “on payment of the … other purchasers.”
44. At this point the Act includes the following: “And to prevent doubts concerning settlements, It is hereby declared, That no family shall be entitled to the allowance granted to settlers by this act, unless they have made a crop of corn in that country, or resided there at least one year since the time of their settlement.”
45. The words “have made regular entries … and those who” are written in the margin of MS in hand of George Mason and the words “on the said western waters” within this marginal clause are interlined in the hand of TJ. The Act reads: “All persons who, since the said first day of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight, have actually settled on any waste or unappropriated lands on the said western waters, to which no other person hath a just or legal right or claim, shall be entitled to the preemption of any quantity of land, not exceeding four hundred acres, to include such settlement at the state price to other purchasers. And all those who, before the said first day of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy eight have” (italics supplied by the editor).
46. Act adds: “or chosen.”
47. Act reads: “and built any house or hut or made other improvements thereon.”
48. Act reads: “one thousand.”
49. Act adds: “but no person shall have the right of preemption for more than one such improvement.”
50. The words “and prove their Claim to” are interlined in the hand of George Mason; Act reads “and prove their right to.”
51. The corresponding passage in the Act differs from this: “before the commissioners for the county, to be appointed by virtue of this act within eight months, pay the consideration money, produce the auditor’s certificate for the treasurer’s receipt for the same, take out their warrants from the register of the land office within ten months, and enter the same with the surveyor of the county, within twelve months next‥‥” The Act also has the following section not in MS: “All locations made by officers and soldiers upon the lands of actual settlers, shall be void, but the said officers, soldiers, or their assignees, may obtain warrants on producing the commissioners certificate of their several rights, and locate their claims on other waste and unappropriated lands. To prevent the locations of those claiming under warrants for preemption, from interfering with such as claim under certificates for settlements, and to give due preference to the latter, so far as respects their rights to tracts of land not exceeding four hundred acres; the register of the land office shall particularly distinguish all preemption warrants by him issued, and no county surveyor shall admit any such warrant to be entered or located in his books, before the expiration of ten months as aforesaid. And where any such warrant shall not be entered and located with the county surveyor, within the before mentioned space of twelve months, the right of preemption shall be forfeited, and the lands therein mentioned may be entered for by any other person holding another land warrant; but such preemption warrant may, nevertheless, be located upon any other waste or unappropriated lands, or upon the same lands where they have not in the mean time been entered for by some other.”
52. Preceding five words are interlined in TJ’s hand; they are not in the Act.
53. Act reads: “grants.”
54. Preceding seven words are in hand of George Mason, written over an erasure.
55. Act reads: “… books, for which rights have not formerly been lodged in the secretary’s office, and also those suing out grants for tracts of lands upon the western waters‥‥”
56. Preceding twelve words are in Mason’s hand.
57. Act adds: “or under former entries with the county surveyor, for lands upon the eastern waters.”
58. Act adds: “before the grant issues.”
59. The following additional section is in the Act at this point: “And to all such persons, their heirs or assigns, who having title to land under the former government, had not only surveyed the same, but had lodged their certificates of survey, together with their rights, in the secretary’s office; and although no caveat hath been entered, have not obtained patents, grants shall issue in consideration thereof, upon the payment of the office fees only.”
60. Act reads: “whereas it hath been represented to the general assembly.”
61. Act reads: “settled without specifick agreement, but yet under‥‥”
62. The clause “and are now refused … For Remedy whereof” is not in the Act.
63. Act reads: “… upon any unpatented lands, surveyed as before mentioned‥‥”
64. Act reads: “respective companies for their own use‥‥”
65. Act adds: “when they were settled.”
66. Act adds the following provisos at this point: “provided they compromise their claims with the said companies, or lay them before the commissioners for their respective counties, to be appointed by virtue of this act, and have the same tried and determined by them, in manner herein after directed: And provided also, that where any such survey contains more than four hundred acres, no one settler shall be entitled to a greater quantity than three hundred acres, unless he takes the whole survey, to include his settlement, and leave the remainder in one entire and convenient piece where the same is practicable.”
67. From this point (the concluding five pages) the MS is entirely in the hand of George Mason.
68. Act adds: “as well as of the settlers on the lands surveyed for sundry companies by orders of council as aforesaid.”
69. Instead of commissioners in each county, the Act provides a district system, as follows: “That the counties on the western waters shall be allotted into districts, to wit: The counties of Monongalia; Yohogania, and Ohio, into one district; the counties of Augusta, Botetourt, and Greenbrier, into one district; the counties of Washington and Montgomery, into one other district; and the county of Kentucky, shall be another district; for each of which districts, the governour, with the advice of the council, shall appoint four commissioners under the seal of the commonwealth, not being inhabitants of such district (any three of whom may act) to continue in office eight months from the end of this present session of assembly, for the purpose of collecting, adjusting, and determining such claims, and four months thereafter for the purpose of adjusting the claims of settlers on lands surveyed for the aforesaid companies.”
70. The preceding eight words are not in the Act; the oath of office in the Act is in the first person, and the word “district” is substituted for “county.”
71. Act adds: “and also of such settlers as claim any lands surveyed by order of council, for sundry companies.”
72. Act reads: “and present government, previous to the establishment of the commonwealth’s land office.”
73. Act reads: “… of Settlements to lands, to which no person hath any other legal title, and the rights‥‥”
74. Act reads: “… respective districts, as also the rights of all persons claiming any unpatented lands, surveyed by order of council for sundry companies, by having settled thereon under the faith of the terms of sale publickly offered by such companies or their agents.” The words “either for Entries … in this Act” are not in the Act.
75. Act adds: “forts.”
76. Act adds: “and other publick places in their district.”
77. Act adds: “and award costs.”
78. The Act adds at this point a clause giving commissioners authority to pay, out of fees received for certificates, £3 to the county surveyor and £2 to the county sheriff for each day’s attendance.
79. This paragraph is written over an erasure of six and a half lines; concerning the second category of disputes, the Act substitutes the following: “In all disputes for the right of preemptions for improvements made on the land, the persons, their heirs or assigns respectively, who made the first improvement, and the persons to whom any right of preemption on account of settlement or improvements shall be adjudged, shall fix the quantity at their own option at the time of the judgment, so as not to exceed the number of acres respectively allowed by this act, or to interfere with the just rights of others.”
80. Act adds: “and also the names of all such persons to whom titles shall be adjudged for lands within the surveys made by order of council for any company with the quantity of acres adjudged, and in what survey; and if the same is only part of such survey, in what manner it shall be located therein, the name or style of the company, and the price to be paid them, with the time from which the same is to bear interest.”
81. Act adds: “or a title be made.”
82. Act adds: “where he resides, or wherein he may be found.”
83. Act adds: “except as herein after excepted.”
84. Act reads: “… the number of acres, and the time of settlement, and describing‥‥”
85. Act adds: “with a memorandum for the information of the party in each certificate of the last day on which the lands therein respectively mentioned can be entered with the county surveyor.”
86. Act reads: “every hundred acres of land contained within the said certificates.”
87. Act reads: “ten shillings to the clerk for each certificate so granted.”
88. Act adds: “produced within the times herein before respectively limited to the surveyor of the county, or to the register of the land office, with the auditor’s certificate of the treasurer’s receipt for the payment due on the preemption, as the nature of the case may require.”
89. Act reads: “And to prevent frauds or mistakes, the said commissioners immediately upon having completed the business in their district, shall transmit.”
90. The remainder of this paragraph is not included in the Act. The Act, however, has the following not in MS: “They shall in like manner, and upon payment of the same fees, deliver to every person to whom they shall adjudge, a title to any unpatented land, surveyed for any company by order of council, a certificate mentioning the number of acres to which they have adjudged the title, what particular survey the same is in, and for what company made, the price to be paid such company, and the date from which the same is to bear interest, and where there is a greater quantity of land contained in the survey, describe as near as may be, the manner the land to which they have adjudged title, shall be laid off and bounded; and shall also immediately upon having completed the business in their district, transmit to the clerk of the general court, under their hands, and attested by their clerk, a list or schedule in alphabetical order, containing exact copies of all such certificates by them granted, to remain in the said clerk’s office for the information of the said companies, and as evidence and proof of the respective titles.
“Provided nevertheless, That if the parties, their heirs or assigns, to whom such titles shall have been adjudged, shall not within six months at farthest, from the time of their respective judgments in their favour, pay or tender to the company to whom the same is due, or their agent, the price and interest so fixed by the said commissioners, the title of every person so failing, shall be forfeited, and shall be from thence forward, to all intents and purposes, null and void; any thing herein to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.”
91. Act reads: “eight pounds each.”
92. Act adds: “upon oath” and also states the substance of this clause differently.
93. Act adds: “and the witnesses the same allowance for their attendance.”
94. Act adds: “and the clerk shall have the same power of issuing executions as the clerks of the county courts.”
95. The following paragraphs, not in the MS, are in the Act: “But as by this summary mode of proceeding, some persons at a great distance may not have timely notice, and may be unable to appear in support of their claims, for remedy whereof, Be it enacted, That no grant shall issue upon any of the claims determined by the said commissioners, until the first day of December, 1780, and in the mean time, any such person injured by their determination, his or her heirs or assigns, may enter a caveat against a grant thereupon, until the matter shall be heard before the general court, and may petition the said general court to have his or her claim considered; and upon its being proved to the court that he or she laboured under such a disability at the time of the meeting of the commissioners thereupon, the court shall grant him or her a hearing in a summary way, and if it shall appear upon trial, that the petitioners claim is just, such court may reverse the former determination, and order a grant to issue for such land or any part thereof, on the terms herein before mentioned, to the person to whom they shall adjudge the same.
“And be it farther enacted, That all claims for lands upon surveys under any order of council or entry in the council books, shall by the respective claimers be laid before the court of appeals; which shall meet for that purpose on the sixteenth day of December next, and shall adjourn from day to day until the business be finished; or if it be proved to the court that any such claimer is unable to attend and prosecute his claim, or for other just cause to them shewn, they may order such claim to be tried before them on some future day. All such claims shall be heard and determined in a summary way, without pleadings in writing, upon such evidence as in the opinion of the court, the nature of the case may require; and no such claim shall be valid, but such only as shall be so heard and established by the said court of appeals, and on their certificate that any such claim hath been by them established, the register is hereby required to issue a warrant or grant thereupon, according to the nature of the case, and the rules and regulations of the land office; and the attorney general is hereby required to attend the said court on behalf of the commonwealth.
“Provided always, That nothing herein contained shall extend to officers, soldiers, or their assignees, claiming lands for military service. The register of the land office shall regularly record all land warrants issued by virtue of this act; they may be executed in one or more surveys, and may be exchanged or divided so as best to suit the purposes of the party, and shall remain in force until lands shall have been actually obtained for them, in the same manner with the warrants to be issued by virtue of the before recited act for establishing a land office.”
96. Act reads: “a grant to any person.”
97. Act adds: “as the consideration.”
98. Act reads: “nine”; the 1777 date in MS proves that this MS, and therefore that of the Bill for Establishing a Land Office, were written at least as early as the Oct. 1777 session, perhaps being drawn before the session was convened.
99. The title in the Act is the same as that given above in the descriptive note.
100. Act adds: “the ancient composition money, or the new.”
101. Act reads: “shall be properly distinguished, and in every other respect the grant shall be drawn and pass in the form and manner prescribed by law for the future grants of lands from the commonwealth.”
102. Act reads: “… Caveats, with the papers relating thereto.”
103. Act reads: “proceeded on and tried in the manner directed‥‥”
104. The following passage, not in MS, is included in the Act: “but the same shall be determined according to the laws in force at the time they were entered; and upon the determination of any such caveat, a grant shall issue in the name of the person to whom such land shall be adjudged, his or her heirs or assigns, upon producing to the register of the land office, within three months at farthest from the time of such judgment, an authentick copy thereof, together with the auditor’s certificate of the treasurer’s receipt for the antient composition money due thereon, at the rate of exchange herein before mentioned; but where the person recovering had before paid rights into the secretary’s office, a grant shall issue in consideration thereof upon payment of the office fees only.”