James Steuart Denham papers  1775-1778
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Ogden family papers consist of three fairly discrete groups relating to members of the Ogden family of New York State:

  • Papers of David A. Ogden (19 items, 1811-1819)
  • Ogden Family Papers (ca. 5000 items, 1790-1850)
  • Papers of Gouverneur Ogden (28 items; 1791-1810)

The David A. Ogden group records Ogden's efforts between 1811 and 1819 to persuade the Monroe administration to remove the Seneca Indians from the 200,000 acres in western New York that he and his associates had purchased from the Holland Land Company. Included are the sales agreement, the articles forming the Ogden Land Company, and a long memorial to President Monroe. The David A. Ogden manuscripts include three letters from Lewis Cass and two to John C. Calhoun.

The bulk of the Ogden family series consists of the legal papers of the brothers, David A. and Thomas L. Ogden. Approximately 9 linear feet of materials relate to cases tried by David Ogden in upstate New York, or by his brother Thomas L. Ogden in the vicinity of New York City. The legal records include a complete index of litigants, and a vast quantity of material relating to Indian reservation lands in western New York and other property transactions, as well as the dealings of the Ogden Land Company, the Holland Land Company, and the St. Lawrence Turnpike Company. Personal and family correspondence is made up primarily of letters addressed to David A. and Thomas L. Ogden.

The Holland Land Company (HLC) materials include extensive correspondence between the Ogdens and Paul Busti, general agent for the HLC, as well as legal files from cases in which the company's disputes were adjudicated. Once the HLC decided to sell its three million acres west of the Genesee River to individual landholders rather than to proprietors, the HLC became involved in a wide variety of other pursuits. In order to attract settlers to western New York, the company financed the construction of mills and other crucial commercial ventures; it promoted the construction of the Erie Canal, employing David A. Ogden's political influence in Albany and donating 100,000 acres of land to help pay for the canal's construction; and it tried to facilitate the availability of credit to prospective land owners.

Because he was one of the most prominent lawyers in New York City, Thomas L. Ogden represented some of the city's most powerful merchants and land owners in a variety of court cases that illuminate both the economic arrangements that permitted the rise of commercial capitalism and the legal instruments through which those arrangements were made. Finally, the documents from Thomas L. Ogden's law practice also reveal much about the law's effect on more ordinary matters, from the settlement of estates to the pursuit of actions for defamation of character.

The Gouverneur Ogden manuscripts consist mostly of outgoing correspondence relating to business concerns in western New York and land transactions.

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