Birds Eye View of the Past: Historic Area Maps from the Fraser Hall Library Wadsworth Family Papers Collection

Fraser Hall Library is pleased to announce a new poster exhibit based on the Library’s collection of 300+ hand-drawn, mainly 19th-century, maps created for the Geneseo Wadsworth family’s extensive land ownership/management business. The maps were selected to show the Geneseo campus community how Geneseo (and, to a lesser extent, the surrounding towns) looked at various points in time before the College was established in 1871, originally as the Geneseo Normal School. They also illustrate many of the conventions used in 19th-century land surveying and property map making.

Exhibit location: Fraser Hall, First Floor Lobby Cases

Jeremiah Wadsworth (1743-1804) of Hartford CT was a financier of the American Revolution who, after the war, bought land in western New York as an investment. His holdings lay mainly along the east bank of the Genesee River, between Geneseo and Rochester, in what was known as Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase. Instead of moving here himself, he persuaded his nephews, James (1768-1844) and William (1761-1833) Wadsworth, to leave their comfortable life in Durham CT to settle in this wilderness by offering them the chance to buy some of the choicest land at cost. In return, the brothers agreed to oversee the sale of the rest of Jeremiah’s holdings and arrived in Geneseo in 1790. Members of the family live here still.

The thousands of documents and maps that make up the Wadsworth Family Papers collection, spanning the years 1790 to the early twentieth century, are the record of one of the longest unbroken land tenures by an American family.