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Castorland Journal

An Account of the Exploration and Settlement of New York State by French Émigrés in the Years 1793 to 1797

Edited by John A. Gallucci

Publication Year: 2010

The Castorland Journal is a diary, a travel narrative about early New York, a work of autobiography, and a narrative of a dramatic and complex period in American history. In 1792 Parisian businessmen and speculators established the New York Company, one of the most promising French attempts to speculate for American land following the American Revolution. The company's goal was to purchase and settle fertile land in northwestern New York and then resell it to European investors. In 1793, two of the company's representatives, Simon Desjardins and Pierre Pharoux, arrived in New York to begin settlement of a large tract of undeveloped land. The tract, which was named Castorland for its abundant beaver population ("castor" is the French word for beaver), was located in northwestern New York State, along the Black River and in present-day Lewis and Jefferson counties.

John A. Gallucci's edition is the first modern scholarly translation of the account Desjardins and Pharoux wrote of their efforts in Castorland from 1793 to 1797. While the journal can be read as tragedy, it also has many pages of satire and irony. Its descriptions of nature and references to the romantic and the sublime belong to the spirit of eighteenth-century literature. The journal details encounters with Native Americans, the authors' process of surveying the Black River, their contacts with Philip Schuyler and Baron Steuben, their excursions to Philadelphia to confer with Thomas Jefferson, Desjardins' trip to New York City to engage the legal services of Alexander Hamilton or Aaron Burr, the planting of crops, and the frustrations of disease and natural obstacles.

The Castorland Journal is historically significant because it is an especially rich account of land speculation in early America, the displacement of Native Americans, frontier life, and politics and diplomacy in the 1790s. The Cornell edition of the journal features Gallucci's introduction and explanatory footnotes, several appendixes, maps, and illustrations.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-vii


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pp. viii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

The Castorland Journal was originally intended as a business report. In 1793, a French concern, the Compagnie de New York, sent its two agents, Pierre Pharoux and Simon Desjardins, to the United States to develop its newly ac-quired landholdings in today?s Lewis and Jefferson counties in upstate New York. As required by the Company?s by- laws, Pharoux and Desjardins docu-...

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pp. xvii-xxxii

The story of Castorland is a story both regional and international. The Jour-nal?s main subject is the progress of the New York Company?s American com-missioners, Pierre Pharoux and Simon Desjardins, as they work, write, and travel in New York City and Philadelphia, along the Hudson and Mohawk riv-ers, and on the shores of the Black River in northwestern New York State. At ...

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Castorland Journal 1793

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pp. 1-74

...1 July 1793 Are named as the Company?s American commissioners To M. Chassanis, Director,1 Pharoux gives his receipt for the property titles and receives the sum of one thousand livres in assignats for travel expenses.2Desjardins receives his instructions, and, as the shares were not yet printed, he entrusts M. Chassanis, on his recognizance, with M. Lambot?s receipts for ...

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Castorland Journal 1794

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pp. 75-165

...10 April 1794 Pharoux arrives in Albany. Upon consulting my letters, and after examining and weighing our situation from every possible angle, we 13 April 1794 Left on Captain Moore?s sloop with Mr. Pers house, a young En glish traveler who had spent the winter with Pharoux and had re-turned with him out of curiosity of seeing the great fall on the Mohawk six ...

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Castorland Journal 1795

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pp. 166-233

Thursday, 1st of January 1795 Saw Mr. Cockran: he informed me that Baron de Steuben had chosen as heirs Col o nel Walker and Major North, two of his aides- de- camp in the Revolution. I accordingly went to Col o nel Walk-er?s to recover the 22 pounds which the Baron owed us: I was told that he Friday, 2 January 1795 Saw Mr. Cockburn about our boundaries and ...

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Castorland Journal 1796–1797

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pp. 234-308

Friday, First of January 1796 Saw Messrs. Seton, Constable and our Saturday, 2 January Saw Mr. Scriba on the subject of our road. Saw Mr. Green, who also promised me recommendations in support of our petition.Sunday, 3 inst Saw Col o nel Walker about Baron de Steuben?s debt, which he promised to acquit as soon as the sale was completed. Saw M. Le Guain. ...

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Appendix A Prospectus of the New York Company

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pp. 309-318

Topographical Description of six two hundred thousand acres (1) of lands in North America put on sale by Shares, according to theTopographical description of six two hundred thousand acres (1) in North America, put on sale by Shares, according to the Plan of Association herein The Association, the Plan for which we will present, will no doubt draw the ...

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Appendix B Constitution Of the New York Company

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pp. 319-340

The year one thousand seven hundred ninety- three, the second of the French Republic, the twenty- eighth day of June, at fi ve in the afternoon, appeared in the residence of Citizen Pierre Chassanis, located in Paris, rue de la Jussienne, section du Mail, the undersigned, current bearers of temporary receipts con-vertible into shares of the Company which is going to be established by the ...

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Appendix C Letter to Nicolas Olive

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pp. 341-342

...from a letter by Messrs. Pharoux & Desjardins, commissioners of the New We have fi nally arrived after many diffi culties. We have identifi ed our bound-ary lines, and this is what leads us to write you, in order that you bring our observations to the attention of Mr. James Constable, whom these concern as The line that M. Cockburn, surveyor, has just run to establish the boundary ...

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Appendix D Synopsis of Travel

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pp. 343-343

Pharoux and Desjardins generally travel by water and their routes can be eas-ily traced. But their travel overland from the Mohawk River to their fi rst base settlement requires an overland route over lesser known territory. The follow-ing is a general synopsis of how Pharoux and Desjardins travel between the Mohawk River and their base settlement at the Great Fall on the Black River. ...

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Appendix E Overview of Castorland Workers

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pp. 344-345

Over the course of several years, Pharoux and Desjardins hire numerous work-ers. The following synopsis is meant to give a general idea of these individuals and their functions and relationship to Castorland. Through these people, we gain an idea of Castorland?s progress and its relation to the region and its 1793. Upon arriving in America, Pharoux and Desjardins (with Brunel) ...

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Appendix F Currency and Measures

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pp. 346-347

Several types of currency are used in the Castorland Journal to reckon costs and purchases. The dollar, or piastre, is the primary medium of exchange. Mention too is frequently made of pounds (divided into shillings and pence). One pound = 20 shillings, and 1 shilling = 12 pence. In eighteenth- century America, the value of the pound varies from state to state, and differs in value ...

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Appendix G Place-Names in the Castorland Journal

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pp. 348-350

As the Castorland commissioners begin their exploration of the Black River and its lands, they also begin to name specifi c sites. In this translation, I have respected the commissioner?s original nomenclature. This nomenclature differs slightly from the familiar place- names of today, yet it allows the reader to fol-The fi rst commonly used names are the great fall (la grande chute) and the ...


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pp. 351-382


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pp. 383-398


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pp. 399-410

E-ISBN-13: 9780801460159
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801446269

Page Count: 480
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 726824247
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Castorland Journal

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Castorland Region (N.Y.) -- Description and travel -- Early works to 1800.
  • New York (State) -- Description and travel -- Early works to 1800.
  • New York (State) -- History -- 1775-1865.
  • Compagnie de New York -- History.
  • Desjardins, Simon -- Diaries.
  • Pharoux, Pierre -- Diaries.
  • Explorers -- New York (State) -- Diaries.
  • Explorers -- France -- Diaries.
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