Releases upon commutation for farm bridges over canals, with related correspondence and documents

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Canal commissioners were required to construct and maintain road and street bridges over the enlarged Erie Canal and to construct farm bridges to accommodate landowner(s). This series consists of releases, vouchers, receipts, title searches, parcel maps, and resolutions authorizing commutations to claimants and owners for rights to bridges built over the Erie and other branch canals. Information may include name and residence of landowner; parcel description; sum paid by the state; and landowner signature. A few maps are included.
0.5 cu. ft. (including 16 maps) :manuscript, some col. ink ;70 x 86 cm or smaller.
Inclusive Dates:
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Administrative History

Chapter 207 of the Laws of 1839 authorized and required the canal commissioners to construct and maintain, at public expense and for the public convenience, road and street bridges over the enlarged Erie Canal. The commissioners were also authorized to construct farm bridges over the canal in all places where such bridges were reasonably required to accommodate the landowner(s) and with "due regard to economy, to the state and the convenience of navigation."

When a farm bridge was constructed in lieu of one maintained by the landowner and damages were claimed by the landowner for the appropriation of lands and other injury done in the enlargement, the benefit derived by the landowner (from being relieved of maintenance costs) would be offset against any damages claimed. The commissioners were authorized to deal with owners and claimants of bridges over the canal by paying them a sum in lieu of a bridge as agreed upon between the claimant and the commissioners. When the bridge over the canal was not built and the commutation was not agreed on, the damages sustained by owners deprived of the bridge were appraised by the canal appraisers and paid by the commissioners. In cases where damages were claimed because of deprivation of a bridge previously built or maintained by a claimant, the claimant was bound to contribute proportionally toward the cost of an enlarged bridge, according to the size of the original canal. This sum was taken into consideration by the appraisers and a proper amount on that account was set off against any damages to which the claimant was entitled.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of releases, vouchers, receipts, title searches, parcel maps, and resolutions of the canal commissioners acting under their authority to authorize commutations to claimants and owners for rights to bridges built over the Erie and other branch canals. Damage appraisal and appeals were procedurally handled in the same way as those for damages to lands, streams, or waters appropriated by the canal commissioners for public use.

Commutation releases for farm bridges over the Erie Canal and branch canals give: name and residence of landowner; description of parcel; sum paid by state for commutation of right to farm bridge; release of said right; date; and signature of landowner.

The few maps included in the series are varied, but all are present to document land ownership and to locate farm bridges over a canal, thus qualifying the claimant for commutation. Descriptions of land parcels prepared as part of the commutation releases often refer to a separate map attached to the release. Some maps are drawn in colored inks and in greater detail. Most often represented are solid blue lines to distinguish areas of state owned land, and the solid red line of the towpath with dashed red inset lines marking distances along the canal. A few maps show dashed blue lines apparently representing canal enlargements and yellow lines distinguishing land parcels. Larger maps also show rivers, highways, roads, railroads, and outlines of significant area structures (houses, barns). Other maps are simply small sketches of land parcels giving simple boundaries and acreage, usually as part of a copy of a warranty deed. The maps range in size from 5 x 9 cm to 70 x 86 cm.

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