The Dryden Historical Society will hold a presentation on Oct. 24 that will give the opportunity for residents to learn what their property looked like about 230 years ago.
Resident David Waterman will be presenting a copy of John Konkle’s field book of Dryden at 7 p.m. at the Dryden Village Hall. Konkle was a local land surveyor who measured and marked every lot line in 1790 to 1791, and recorded the data in a 117-page field book. Waterman will be presenting the findings from a copy of the actual field book, which is located at the Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University Libraries.
Waterman said the research center has a collection of Moses Dewitt – the cousin of Simeon Dewitt, the founder of Ithaca—family papers. Moses was Konkle’s boss.
“He walks every mile of the lot lines for Dryden,” Waterman said of Konkle’s field book. “He stops at various places along each mile and describes the trees and water brooks…as part of his proper writing in the field book in his survey.”
Waterman said the field book was hand-written and was meant to be sent to Moses Dewitt for further evaluation.
“He’s plotting the town, the whole area of the town, and describing these things,” he said. “It’s significant for people who are interested in seeing at what their own property looked like…back in that time before early Europeans started to come to Dryden.”
He said he has read through the book a couple of times, trying his best to decipher the handwriting back then.
“It was kind of tough to understand it,” he said. “I’m getting used to reading the old-fashioned handwriting… I was surprised that the first 10 pages of the book were reporting that Moses was testing Konkle to make sure that he was able to do this accurately and correctly. He must’ve had to submit the first few pages for approval before he actually got down to the actual subdividing.”
The presentation will also include a description of the land surveying used back in the 18th century. Waterman said the surveying process took a team of people who used a “Gunter’s chain,” which was a chain divided into 100 links, marked off by 10 brass rings or tags, to measure out the land.“It would probably take two men to move the chain, and the surveyor would be looking through the compass that’s mounted on a tripod and there’s a [sight] on it so that they can look through the slit to make sure that they keep the chain going in the proper direction,” he said. “There has to be some men that are axemen, who are clearing the brush and stuff so that they keep moving straight.”
Individuals interested in attending the presentation are invited to bring their own land surveys to give to Waterman to attempt to locate one’s property lines as mapped out in Konkle’s field book. Waterman will also be reading Konkle’s descriptions of North, South, East and West Main Streets in Dryden and will take requests from members of the audience to read the descriptions of other locations.