Equivalent Lands

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Map of New England showing much of the affected areas, circa 1755

The Equivalent Lands were several large tracts of land that the Province of Massachusetts Bay made available to settlers from the Connecticut Colony after April 1716. This was done as compensation for an equivalent area of territory that was under Connecticut's jurisdiction but had been inadvertently settled by citizens of Massachusetts.[1][2]:137 The problem had arisen due to errors and imprecise surveys made earlier in the seventeenth century. The Equivalent Lands were never mapped.[3]


Settlers in Springfield, Massachusetts had several disagreements with settlers from Hartford, Connecticut during the late 1630s when Connecticut Colony was just getting established, and the Springfield settlers decided to align themselves with the Massachusetts Bay Colony instead of Connecticut.[4] As a result, Massachusetts Bay surveyed the border between Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1642, and took control of land as far south as Warehouse Point at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, the northernmost point on the Connecticut River controlled by the tides.

In the 1690s, Connecticut Colony officials performed their own survey and discovered errors that were made in Massachusetts's 1642 survey, but it was not until 1713 that the two colonies cooperated together to survey correct boundaries. At that time, the surveyors found that Massachusetts Bay had offered Springfield settlers the right to 107,793 acres (436.22 km2) that actually belonged to Connecticut; they had established themselves in and around the towns of Springfield, Westfield, Suffield, and other areas west of the Connecticut River, believing themselves to be in lands belonging to Massachusetts Bay.[5] Most of those inhabiting the area did not want to change jurisdiction from Massachusetts to Connecticut, so they agreed that Massachusetts would retain administration over the settled lands and grant property to Connecticut in return of an equal number of acres, "as an equivalent to the said colony".:137–138

Creation and further development[edit]

The surveys laying out the new tracts were concluded on November 10, 1715. One tract was in the area around Pelham and Hadley, Massachusetts, another in the area encompassing Putney, Brattleboro, and Dummerston, Vermont, and another along the east side of the Connecticut River. The commissioners appointed to locate these lands were Massachusetts Governor Joseph Dudley, Connecticut Governor Gurdon Saltonstall, Massachusetts residents Elisha Hutchinson and Isaac Addington, and Connecticut residents William Pitkin and William Whiting. The Equivalent Lands were then made available for purchase at Hartford on April 24–25, 1716, with the proceeds going to establish Yale College.[2]:137–138 The lands were grouped in at least three parcels; no maps are extant of the Equivalent Lands, so there might have been additional areas.[6]

A group of speculators purchasing a 44,000-acre (180 km2) parcel included William Brattle, Jr. for whom Brattleboro, Vermont was named.[3] Other initial purchasers of the lands included Paul Dudley, Thomas Fitch III, and Jonathan Belcher.[7]

Founding of Brattleboro[edit]

The Massachusetts General Court voted on December 27, 1723 to build a blockhouse and stockade north of its Northfield settlement in order to defend the Province of Massachusetts Bay against Chief Gray Lock and others during Dummer's War. Lieutenant-governor William Dummer signed the measure, and construction of Fort Dummer began on February 3, 1724. It was completed before summer, and the French attacked it on October 11.[8]

The fort was converted into a trading post in 1728 for commerce with friendly Indians. It was once again manned by soldiers during King George's War from 1744 to 1748. A small body of troops remained at the fort until 1750, after which it was considered unnecessary. The settlement surrounding the fort was called "Brattleborough" and was only scarcely populated until after the Treaty of Paris (1763), when France abandoned its attempts to colonize North America.[8]


Richard Hazzen was sent to survey the area again in the winter of 1740–41 to determine the boundary line between the New Hampshire Grants and Massachusetts Bay Colony.[3] In 1752, a large section of the grant fell under the dominion of the Province of New Hampshire but now belongs to Vermont.[2]:252 The Equivalent Lands now encompass parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.[2]:278–80


  1. ^ Records held in office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut; "Colonial Boundaries, Vol. III; Massachusetts, 1670–1827".
  2. ^ a b c d Crockett, Walter Hill (1921). Vermont: The Green Mountain State. 1. New York: The Century History Company, Inc.
  3. ^ a b c "The Equivalent Lands and Fort Dummer". Brattleboro History. Valley Historians. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
  4. ^ Barrows, Charles Henry (1911). The History of Springfield in Massachusetts for the Young: Being also in some part the history of other towns and cities in the county of Hampden. Connecticut Valley Historical Society. pp. 46–48.
  5. ^ Connecticut Boundary Survey; part 1 of 2 Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ There is a written description of the Equivalent Lands in the Connecticut Archives.
  7. ^ Hyde, William (1847). An Address, Delivered at the Opening of the New Town-Hall, Ware, Mass., March 31, 1847, Containing Sketches of the Early History of That Town, and Its First Settlers. Brookfield, Mass: Merriam and Cooke, Printers.
  8. ^ a b Coolidge, A. J.; Mansfield, J. B. (1859). A History and Description of New England, General & Local. 1. Boston, Massachusetts: Austin J. Coolidge.