1786 Map of New York State from Rochester Historical Society

The Treaty of Hartford has long been considered the event that created Greater Western New York and its signature date, December 16, 1786, is celebrated as the birthday of our region. Now, the rest of the country knows this.

On December 15th, Congressman Joseph Sempolinski representing New York’s 23rd district, read the following into the official record of the United States House of Representatives:
“Madam Speaker, this week marks the anniversary of the Treaty of Hartford. Prior to 1786, the States of Massachusetts and New York had a territorial dispute regarding whether the territory of what is now Greater Western New York would be part of Massachusetts or New York.

On December 16, 1786, the Treaty of Hartford resolved this dispute. As part of the treaty, land in Greater Western New York became part of New York State. However, Massachusetts retained the right of preemption, that is, the right to negotiate any land purchase from the Iroquois Confederacy members or Haudenosaunee, especially the Seneca people who then resided and continue to reside on it to this day. Later in 1788, Massachusetts sold this right of preemption to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham.

Early agreements such as the Treaty of Hartford and the still-binding Treaty of Canandaigua shaped the future of Greater Western New York. The beginning of this region’s association with New York State started this week, in 1786. The region continues to be a vital and unique part of the northeastern United States and the Seneca Nation, with a unique economy, culture, and character.”

©2023 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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