Chapter 12, Section 3



The rest or major part of the territory within the present limits of this township was covered by warrants to The Holland Land Company, and because so much of the area of this township was thus covered (as well as portions of other townships), a sketch of that company is here given.

It was organized at the city of Amsterdam, in the Kingdom of Holland, in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Its original members were Wilhelm Willink, Nicholas Van Staphorst, Pieter Stadnitski, Christian Van Eghen, Hendrick Vollenhoven and Rutgert Jan Schimmelpenninck, of that city; at least those are the names mentioned in a prevention patent for a tract called "Normandy," dated October 7, 1799. They were joint tenants, subject to the right of survivorship, except, perhaps, for about sixteen years. The act of assembly of Pennsylvania, March 24, 1828, provided that the act of March 31, 1812, abolishing survivorship in joint tenancy, should not apply to the lands held by that company in this state and sold under either the former act or the act of March 31, 1823, which were acts enabling them and their vendees, though, aliens, to sell and purchase their lands, as though they were not aliens. Stadnitski, Van Eghen and Van Staphorst died prior to April, 1805, and subsequently Willink, Vollenhoven, Van Henkelom and Schimmelpenninck.

The original members, it is said, had loaned large amounts of money, either directly to the United States, or, indirectly, to Robert Morris, to aid in achieving American independence. As they preferred to invest the amount which they received, after the close of the revolutionary war, in this country, they purchased from Morris, in 1792, an immense quantity of land west of the Genesee river, in the State of New York, on which they, as one of their agents stated, lost $3,000,000. They acquired, about the same time, inchoate titles to numerous tracts of land in Pennsylvania, on both sides of the Allegheny river, in the territory included in the purchases from the Six Nations, at Fort Stanwix, October 23, 1784, and from the Delawares and Wyandots at Fort McIntosh in January, 1785. The boundaries of these purchases began "at the south side of the Ohio river, where the western boundary of the State of Pennsylvania crosses the said river, near Shinglo�s old town, at the mouth of Beaver creek, and thence by a due north line to the end of the forty-second and beginning of the forty-third degrees of north latitude, to the east side of the east branch of the river Susquehanna, and thence by the bounds of the purchase line of 1768 to the place of beginning," which included all the northwestern part of this state, except the triangle bordering on Lake Erie, which, having been purchased from the Indians by the United States, January 9, 1789, by the treaty at Fort Harmon, for 1,200, was conveyed by the latter to Pennsylvania, March 3, 1792, for $150,640.25. "The Holland Company," said Judge Yeates, at March term, 1800, in the Commonwealth vs. Tench Coxe, "have paid to the state the considerable money of 1,162 warrants, and the surveying fees on 1,048 tracts of land, besides making very considerable expenditures by their exertions, honorable to themselves and useful to the community, in order to effect settlements. Computing the sums advanced, the lost tracts, by prior improvements and interferences, and the quantity of 100 acres granted to each individual for making a settlement on their lands," i. e., west of the Allegheny river, " it is said, that, averaging the whole, between $230 and $240 have been expended by the company on each tract of land they now claim."

Forty of those tracts, within the original limits of Armstrong county, that is, between Toby�s creek, now Clarion river, and the purchase line, were covered by warrants to Herman Le Roy and John Linklain, of the State of New York. William Bayard, of the same state, appears to have succeeded to Linklain�s interest in these tracts prior to April, 1805, for he and Le Roy were then two of the complainants in the bill of interpleader in the circuit court of the United State for the district of Pennsylvania, in which Jesse Waln, Isaac Wharton, in his lifetime, David Lewis, Samuel M. Fox, in his lifetime, and John Adlum,7 citizens of the United State, were defendants. That proceeding was instituted for the purpose of ascertaining to whom and in what proportion belonged the title, estate, and interest to 145 tracts of land and unsatisfied warrants in this state, which had been sold for taxes due the United States, and conveyed by John Smith, United States marshal for the district of Pennsylvania, by his deed dated May 23, 1805, to Paul Burti, who purchased for the company. These tracts were, of course, claimed by both complainants and defendants. After hearing the bill and answer, October 31, 1807, it was ordered and decreed by the court that a conveyance be made to the defendants Waln, Wharton�s heirs and Lewis, in proportion to their claims, and in favor of Fox�s heirs and Adlum for the residue. In obedience to that decree Burti, in whom, as agent of the complainants, was the legal title, conveyed to the defendants their respective portions of these tracts, February 25, 1812, of which partition was made among such of the defendants as were living and the heirs of such as were dead, by virtue of the act of March 28, 1814, and its supplement of February 6, 1815.

Twenty-five of the tracts covered by warrants to H. LeRoy & Co. contained, respectively 990 acres, and some of the other fifteen of them contained more and others less that that number. They aggregated 38,872 acres. Twenty-eight tracts were covered by warrants to Wilhelm Willink & Co., of which one contained 880 acres, and each of the rest 990 acres, aggregating 27,610 acres. Those tracts appear to have been taken up both by Le Roy & Co. and Willink & Co. under the act of April 8, 1785, according to which the secretary for lands in the above-mentioned late purchases, except north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers and the Conewango creek, not exceeding 1,000 acres in one application, after the price had been reduced by the first section of the act of April 3, 1792, to �5 per 100 acres of the land in those purchases east of the Allegheny river and Conewango creek, which were not subject to the rigid conditions of settlement of those on the other side of those streams.

The Holland Company soon after its organization appointed Paul Burti, an Italian gentleman, of Bloekley�s Retreat, Philadelphia � whose house, now stands on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, is occupied by Dr. Thomas S. Kirkbride8 � Harm Jan Huidekoper, a Holland gentleman, of Meadville, their agents and attorneys-in-fact, the latter being designated in one of the former�s letters of attorney to David Lawson, "the general superintending agent." They not only sold lands belonging to the company, but in some instances acquired and held in themselves the legal title to some of the latter�s tracts, and as grantors conveyed tracts and parcels of tracts to purchasers. Patent for various tracts were granted to them in trust for the company. For instance, John Smith, United States Marshal for Pennsylvania, conveyed to them October 16, 1804, the interest of James Wilson, who was a prominent member of the convention of this state for the ratification of the Federal Constitution, in thirty tracts, partly in Brodhead�s former district No. 6 Huidekoper released his part to Burti March 16, 1811, more or less of which the latter conveyed to the company�s vendees. The records of this conty show incidentally that Robert Beatty was their sub-agent for the sale of Holland lands east of the Allegheny and south of Toby�s creek prior to 1811. Burti executed two letters of Attorney to David Lawson August 19, 1811, one authorizing him to sell lands warranted to Willink & Co. and to Le Roy & Co., to receive moneys on contracts of sale, and such as were due on contracts made by Beatty, and to be subject to the instructions that he might from time to time receive from either Burti or Huidekoper. He continued to act as such until 1817-18.

Some of the company�s extensive sales in the fifth and sixth, or Brady�s and Brodhead�s, districts were: By Burti, as attorney-in-fact, by article of agreement, May 2, 1816, to sell to Benjamin B. Cooper, of Coopersport, New Jersey, 253 tracts, some of which were in this county, or such person or persons as the latter should appoint, provided that title should not be made to any of them until all the purchase money should be paid. Proceeding not in chronological order, Burti conveyed to Cooper the legal title in him to 47 tracts, covered by warrants to Le Roy & Co., dated December 13, 1792, some of the patents for which were granted to him, and others to him and Huidekoper, in 1812 and 1813; and the same day Burti, as attorney-in-fact for the company, conveyed 25 other tracts, covered by warrants to Willink et al., dated December 13, 1792, for which patents were granted to them August 26, September 6, October 14, November 4, 5, 6, 1802. The consideration expressed in each of these conveyances was $1, whence it is inferrible that the full consideration was paid at some other time, and perhaps in some other way than by cash. Cooper executed his letter of attorney to David Lawson November 18, 1816. Cooper and Charles C. Gaskill entered into an agreement April 1, 1818, authorizing the latter to sell the lands which the former had agreed to purchase from the company, May 3, 1816, in farms of not less than 50 or more than 500 acres each. Under that agreement it was made optional with Gaskill to take about 100,000 acres of those 253 tracts, at any time in three years after the date of the agreement, at $2 per acre, with interest from January 1, 1819, in ten annual payments, or at an annual ground-rent of 14 cents per acre, redeemable at any time before January 1, 1830, at $2 per acre and arrearages of ground-rent; or to take 5 per cent on all sales of those lands that he might make. He must have accepted the last-mentioned condition, as Mrs. Cooper, February 8, 1819, executed a release of her dower to every person that had purchased, and that might thereafter purchase, any of those lands from Gaskill by virtue of the above mentioned agreement between him and her husband. Gaskill, as Cooper�s executor, conveyed some parcels after Cooper�s death.

The company, by their attorney-in-fact, conveyed 65 tracts, partly in this county, July 27, 1816, to Sommers Baldwin, then of Troy, Jefferson county, Pennsylvania, but formerly of Fairfield county, Connecticut, for $75,284.06, for which he gave his obligations, for securing which he gave his mortgage on those tracts, May 28, 1819, to Burti and Vanderkemp. The latter became the sole mortgagee on the death of the former, which occurred some time after March 19, 1823. Baldwin sold or agreed to sell 38 parcels of these tracts, varying in quantity from four acres to a thousand, to Hewlett Smith, of New Haven county, Conn., and thirty-five others. Baldwin died intestate, without having satisfied that mortgage. Henry Jack, of Jefferson county, was appointed administrator of his estate, against whom judgment was obtained for the above-mentioned amount, on which writs of levari facias were issued to the sheriffs of Armstrong and Indiana counties, on which Jacob Mechling, sheriff of the former county, sold 13 tracts covered by warrants to Le Roy & Co., and the same number, covered by warrants to Willink & Co., to Vanderkemp, for $500; and Clemence McGarra, sheriff of Indiana county, sold 33 LeRoy & Co. tracts and 13 Willink & Co., tracts to Vanderkemp for $1000. Both of these sales were in December, 1826. The name of Vanderkemp was used in those proceedings in trust for the company. He executed a letter of attorney to Gaskill, June 16, 1825, authorizing him to sell those lands, and he continued in charge of those Holland lands in this, Indiana and Jefferson counties until the spring of 1849.

On August 14, 1816, Burti, as holder of the legal title, conveyed 21 LeRoy & Co. tracts, partly in this county, for $15,120, and, as attorney-in-fact, 27 Willink & Co. tracts, for $19,000, August 14, 1816, to Oliver W. Ogden, of New Germantown, New Jersey, for the aggregate amount of which he gave his mortgage thereon to Burti and Vanderkemp, and appointed David Lawson his attorney-in-fact to sell those tracts, which, however, he re-conveyed to Burti and Vanderkemp May 3, 1819, for $34,682, and they executed their letter of attorney August 9 to Eben S. Kelly, authorizing him to satisfy mortgage, which he did September 15.

Several of the company�s tracts in this county were sold for taxes. Thomas Hamilton, county treasurer, sold one of them to the county commissioners, October 10, 1818; Samuel Matthews, county treasurer, one, October 25, 1820, and eleven others, October 1, 1822, which the commissioners conveyed to Vanderkemp, March 24, and he to Willink & Co., November 7, 1826.

The act of March 31, 1823, authorized the company to sell their lands and their vendees to purchase them, though they or any of them were aliens, notwithstanding any previous law to the contrary.

In 1849 the surviving members of the company were Walrave Van Henkelom, Wilhelm Willink, Jr., and Gerret Schimmelpenninck, Rutgert Jan�s son. On April 26 they, by their attorney-in-fact, John Jacob Vanderkemp, whom the company had appointed as such and as the successor to Paul Burti, deceased, September 5, 1824, conveyed all their lands, tracts, pieces and parcels of land, tenements and hereditaments that had not been previously conveyed, including all outstanding contracts for the sale and purchase of their lands in Armstrong, Indiana and Jefferson counties, to Alexander Colwell, Dr. John Gilpin, Horatio N. Lee, of the borough of Kittanning, Alexander Reynolds and David Richey, then of Madison township, in this county, embracing 23,083 acres and 45 perches of unsold land, and about 55,000 acres subject to executory contracts, for $50,000 � the vendors not to be liable for the payment of money due or to become due on these contracts, or for any judgments, mortgages or other evidences of debt arising from any of these contracts. Reynolds entered into a conditional agreement with his co-purchasers, August 11, 1835, to purchase their several interests in about 21,000 acres of these lands for $26,130. By divers transfers that agreement was consummated, and these interests became vested in him and P. Jenks Smith, of Philadelphia. All the lands which were included in the purchase from the Holland Company, except about 1,000 acres, have been sold at such an advance that the last purchasers have realized handsomely from their ventures, besides a considerable amount still due them on executory contracts. Some of those lands have since become so valuable that they cannot now be purchased for less than twenty-six times the price for which Reynolds and his co-purchasers sold them.

The sketch of the Holland Company has thus far been confined to its operations east of the Allegheny river and Conewango creek. It remains to be stated what obstacles they had to meet and overcome in their purchases on the other side of those streams, in the presentation of which it is necessary to keep in mind the provisions of the act of assembly of April 3, 1792, entitled "An act for the sale of vacant lands within this Commonwealth." The first section relates to the price and sale of lands within the purchase of 1768, east of the Allegheny river and the Conewango creek. The other sections relate chiefly to the sale and purchase of the lands north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, and west of the Conewango creek, and, among other things, fixed the price of those lands at 7 10s. per 100 acres to such persons as would settle, cultivate and improve them or cause them to be settled, cultivated and improved; required each tract not to contain more than 400 acres, its shape to be oblong, the full quantity of each warrant to be surveyed in one entire tract, and not to contain in front on any navigable river or lake more than one-half its length or depth, and ten per cent surplus to be allowed and paid for when the patent should be granted. The phraseology of the ninth section, and especially of its proviso, occasioned much difference of opinion as to the intent of the legislature, and, consequently, a great deal of litigation.

That section required that a warrant should not be issued or a survey made in that part of the state to vest any title in the lands there unless the grantee had, before the date of his warrant, made or caused to be made an actual settlement thereon by clearing, fencing and cultivating at least two acres for every 100 acres contained in one survey, erecting thereon a messuage for the habitation of man, and residing or causing a family to reside thereon for the space of five years next following his or her first settling of the same, if he or she should so long live; and in default of such settlement it should be lawful for the Commonwealth to issue new warrants, reciting the original ones, and that actual settlements and residence had not been made in pursuance thereof, and so often as default in those respects should be made, and that new grants should be made subject to all the regulations in the act. "Provided always, nevertheless, that if any such actual settler, or any grantee in any such original or succeeding warrant shall, by force of arms of the enemies of the United States, be prevented from making such actual settlement, or be driven therefrom, and shall persist in his endeavors to make such actual settlement as aforesaid, then, in either case, he and his heirs shall be entitled to have and to hold the said lands in the same manner as if the actual settlement had been made and continued."

Along with the requirements of that act should also be kept in mind the specially perilous condition of that part of the state, resulting from the then pending Indian war. The perils to settlers, or those who attempted to settle there, were fearfully enhanced by the disastrous defeat of Gen. Harmar in October, 1790, and that of Gen. St. Clair, in November, 1791. It is a well established fact that settlements by the whites in that region were unsafe until 1796. There was, nevertheless, a great contrariety of opinion on the bench, at the bar, and among the people as to the requirements of that section and its proviso respecting the settlement to be made, and the persistent endeavors required to effect a settlement under these perilous circumstances, on those lands.

One portion insisted that the conditions of actual settlement and residence, required by the act, were dispensed with, on account of the prevention for two years after the date of a warrant by Indian hostilities, and that the warrant-holder was not bound to do anything further, but was entitled to a patent. Another portion insisted that the right under the warrant was forfeited at the expiration of two years, without a settlement, and that actual settlers might then enter on such tracts and hold them by making a settlement.

A great deal of litigation resulted from the contrariety of construction of that act, which for nearly a quarter of a century, was suffered to dishearten many people from settling that particular region, even after the perils from the Indian hostilities had ceased. It seems strange that the legislature, when it became apparent how great a difference there was in the construction of the act, did not so amend or supplement it as to relieve it from that difference and check the resultant evils. Chief Justice Tighlman intimated in Hazard�s lessee vs. Lowery,9 that the ninth section was "expressed with such obscurity as to have occasioned great diversity of opinion among men of the first abilities." And Justice Yeates in the hereinafter-mentioned motion for a mandamus on the secretary of the land office said in reference to that act, he had hoped "that the difficulties attendant on the present motion would have been brought before the justice and equity of the legislature for solution, who are compelled to deliver the law as they find it written, for decision." And further on in the same case, he continued: "Though such great disagreement has obtained as to the true meaning of this ninth section, both sides agree in this, that it is worded very inaccurately, inartificially and obscurely." It is passing strange that the legislature did not, after those severe judicial criticisms, correct the faulty phraseology of that section and its proviso. Because legislative wisdom and acumen were not thus exercised, the Holland Company, as well as numerous individuals, were involved in expensive litigation.

Source: Page(s) 259-285, History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania by Robert Walker Smith, Esq. Chicago: Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1883.
Transcribed December 1998 by Jeffrey Bish for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Jeffrey Bish for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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