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From:
Subject: Re: [LDR] Where's West? Watercourses in Deeds/patents
Date: Mon, 3 May 2004 15:33:36 EDT


Hello Everyone,

I just want to mention a couple of caveats in interpreting the mention of
watercourses in deeds and patents, or other court documents (ie, chancery court),
dividing up land by description of the land boundaries.

Hello John and all,

My experience is based primarily on the other side of the Chesapeake, but I
suspect that perhaps some of the larger "rivers" on the Eastern Shore might be
used in legal land descriptions also. I have tried to read most of the posts
the last couple of days, and I'm not sure that anyone mentioned either of
these two things.

First, in many Virginia patents (including LDR's Northampton & Accomac
Counties), there are descriptions that say, "south of the James" or "the south side
of the James River," etc. In most of these cases, this is to orient more
broadly the land being purchased, and not to imply that the James River is
actually a border. For example, most of what is now Chesterfield Co. VA was
between the James River and the Appomattox Rivers. Generally, though by no means
always, patents and deeds mention these rivers as though there is some imaginary
line bisecting the county equidistant from the two rivers. In practice, and
there has been a lot of land plotting there, I'd say the county was divided
into three wormlike areas. One near the James, one near the Appomattox, and the
third in the middle, which could be described either "south of the James" or
"north of the Appomattox." Sometimes these expressions are interpreted,
especially when used in abstracts without the full patent/deed, etc. to mean the
land is actually bordering the watercourse in question. I don't know if the
same holds true for land records in the vicinity of the Pocomoke, but I just
mention the truism that you've got to see the whole deed, etc. before
pinpointing a piece of land (of course, we've got John Lyon to do this for many of our
LDR locations, but I'd be curious to know if somebody working back from deeds
in the 1890s, must have to still study the deed details to get back to John's
work, but I can't remember if how far forward he/you went).

Second, the names of smaller watercourses (creeks, streams, etc.), sometimes
changed depending upon who lived there at the time, and a lot of other
factors. In practice, they probably never actually had an official name. And there
can be further complications. For example, the Appomattox River has had a
couple of rather long skinny "islands" in the middle of it. Usually land
transactions on both sides of them were referred to as "on the Appomattox," but at
one end a creek empties into the Appomattox on one side of one of these
"islands," and for a while that part of what was usually known as the Appomattox, is
referred to as the creek in deeds. Only if you go over surrounding land
records on the creek and the river back and forth can you sort this out though.

Well, those are my two cents worth. Regarding Neil's comments on his
father-in-law, I'm sure that was true from time beginning, and continues now. When
I first went to where my parents were born/lived in the Ozarks, even though we
are talking legal definitions of land in terms of Range/Township/Sections of
our patchwork midlands, my Aunt Eunice gave me the tour of the area, and
described the history of each of the farms surrounding my mother's, all the sales
since probably 1910, and the markers for a new 40/80/120, etc. acre owner --
"Willard Prater insists on keeping his land surrounded by 200 feet of trees, so
that's where his starts, then ends at Lewis' land [my first cousin]"

Best Regards,
Janet Hunter




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