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Drinker's development of the 'Beech Lands'

Copy of Survey made by General Clinton, Persine & Topper on their rout to explore a passage for a Road to Stockport.
PRESTON, Samuel, after CLINTON, Sir Henry
Publication place
[Stockport, N.Y.
Publication date
June, 1790]
740 by 235mm. (29.25 by 9.25 inches).


Pen and black ink manuscript map on laid paper, watermarked 'J G & Co BRANDYWINE', with countermark of a posthorn (dating to 1789).


Preston's manuscript survey, based on Clinton's original of about June, 1778, for a potential road following the banks of the Delaware River, from Old Basket Creek, New York, at 'Post 39' northwest, to Shehocking Point, where the Delware divides. Centred on the towns of Equinunck Creek and Stockport, conveniently situated for their proximity to the extensive 'Beech Lands' owned by Henry Drinker (1734-1809), for whom Samuel Preston was land agent, and partner in the acquisition and development of land on the upper Delaware River, "particularly at a place call'd Stockport and at Equinunk Manor otherwise call'd Safe Harbour" (Articles of Agreement, March 13, 1807).

Henry Drinker was a Philadelphia merchant and Quaker, partners with Abel James in the firm of James and Drinker, which traded extensively with London, England, Dublin, Ireland, and other American cities. The partnership appears to have dissolved in 1786 although both partners remained involved in the operation of the Atsion Iron Works and the Union Saw Mill in New Jersey, and speculated jointly and separately in lands in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. An influential member of Pennsylvania's internal improvement lobby, Drinker served as commissioner for two publicly funded roads that totaled 130 miles. Using both public and personal funds, Drinker also cut a portage road between Harmony and Stockport, and he hired two men to clear the upper reaches of the Delaware of rocks, logs and other obstructions.

Drinker's 'Beech Lands', which he valued at seven thousand pounds at the time of this map, was a fifty-thousand-acre estate, situated about 140 miles north of Philadelphia, in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, just south of the New York border. "Drinker was understandably optimistic that the land would rapidly attract settlers. Though somewhat rough and thickly forested, the land was fertile, its location excellent. It lay on the western side of the Delaware River within 20 miles of the the river, and it was also near the eastern branch of the Susquehanna River, which drained south-central New York State. Many prominent speculators had purchased land in the region, and further up the Susquehanna lay the prosperous new settlement at Cooperstown. Drinker imagined that his land would attract settlers because they could easily ship produce down the Delaware to market. Moreover, settlers in the Susquehanna Valley could send produce downriver to a post called Harmony on the Great Bend of the Susquehanna, transport the goods 15 miles overland to the town of Stockport on the Delaware, and send it downriver to Philadelphia. Drinker owned both Harmony and Stockport and hoped that they would become thriving commercial centers. The entire plan had a logical coherence absent from most real estate projects. The missing ingredient was good transportation facilities, and with his usual industry Drinker set about creating them" (Doeflinger, 'A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise', 2012, pages 322).

The map also includes a profile of the route from 'Post 11' situated at 'Navasink [sic] Falls', probably Navesink Falls, now Tinton Falls in New Jersey. It crossed 'Mirgaup River', ie the Mongaup River, Callacoon [sic] River, placing posts at fine Hemlock, Beech and Pine trees along the way.

Samuel Preston was a prominent Quaker, a Buckingham Township conveyancer and surveyor, who undertook many expeditions throughout Delaware, Maryland, and through Pennsylvania as a business agent for Philadelphia merchants John Field, John Thompson, Henry Drinker, James Abel, Mordecai Lewis, and others. As a land agent for Drinker, Preston arrived in Stockport in 1787 to survey the lands, and he eventually settled there.

Sir Henry Clinton (1730-1795), was made Commander-in-Chief of the British forces during the Revolutionary War in the winter of 1777-1778. In June of 1778 he evacuated Philadelphia, marched and fought his way through New Jersey, engaging the continental army at Monmouth. It is probably at about this time that Clinton commissioned the original survey on which Preston has based his map. In 1781, with Cornwallis' surrender, he lost his command.

The largest holding of Clinton's maps is at the Clements Library in Michigan, and we cannot find the original map upon which Preston based the current map there, or any in other archive.


Provenance: 1. Samuel Preston (1756-1834), with a note on the verso of the map, in Preston's hand, 'Survey of the N. York Commissioners rout to explore a Road to Stockport. June, 1790'. by descent to Ann Preston Vail.