Briefs of Title in Sundry Tracts, Pieces and Parcels of Land Situate, Lying and Being in Northumberland and Montour Counties in the State of Pennsylvania, Belonging to "The Shamokin Coal Company." 1867.

Folio, contemporary ½ leather, and cloth boards,  red morocco label on front board, which reads: Briefs of Title of the Lands of The Shamokin Coal Co., front board nearly detached, as is front fly-leaf, spine chipped, corners worn through, includes 4 hand-colored property maps and 83 hand written pages, in a very fine calligraphic style. The present volume constitutes a documentary history of the area which included the lands occupied by Robert Morris' Asylum Company, and of the Shamokin Coal Company.

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The volume includes the following Brief of Titles:

1. Brief of Title to the Tract of Land Known as the William Lambert Tract. Warrant granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to William Lambert four hundred acres of land adjoining land surveyed for Robert Martin and Lawrence Lambertson to include some of waters of Shamoken Creek in the County of Northumberland. 2 maps, 10 pages

2.  Brief of Title to 67 Acres and 81 Perches neat measure part of the land William Lane Tract. Warrant granted to William Lane for four hundred acres of land on Coal Run about one mile north of the road leading from Reading to Sunbury in Catawissa Township in the County of Northumberland. 1 map, 42 pages.

3. Brief of Title of "The Shamokin Coal Company," being a Tax Title in and to the full undivided interest or share of eight hundred acres of an in all those seven tracts of land in the warrantee names of Daniel Rees, Charlotte Ruston, Mary Myers, John Reynolds, Mary Ruston, Thomas Ruston and Mary Ruston, Jun'r.... Situate contiguous to each other, formally wholly in Northumberland County afterwards partly in Northumberland and partly in Columbia Counties, but partly in Coal Township, Northumberland County, and partly in Roaring Creek Township, Montour County, Pennsylvania. 1 map, 20 pages

There is also a 4-page section titled "Searches" which contain Certificates of Judgments & Mortgage Searches against the late and former owners of the foregoing...Tracts of Land in the Counties in which said tracts lie.... In addition there is an appendix of 7 pages, which contains the Articles of Agreement that is referred to in "Note No. 2" of this volume [Articles of Agreement and Association for the Asylum Company].

            The William Lane tract passed from Lane to Dr. Thomas Ruston to John Nicholson. Nicholson was partners with Robert Morris in the "Asylum Company," a company which purchased thousands of acres of land in Pennsylvania in the hopes of profits in resettling the French exiles and refugees during the French Revolution. A history of the Asylum Company follows:

A Brief History of the Asylum Company

               Azilum, or Asylum, was appropriately named, for it provided a natural setting of undisturbed calm and pastoral serenity for a group of French exiles who settled here in the autumn of 1793.


These refugees, who had come up the Susquehanna from Catawissa and Wilkes-Barre in Durham boats and dugout canoes furnished by the trader Matthias Hollenback, were citizens of France and of her West Indies colony of Santo Domingo (Haiti). Those from France had fled to Philadelphia to escape the certain imprisonment and probable death for which their loyalty to Louis XVI marked them. A few were of the courtier circle close to the king; some were of the minor nobility, officeholders, army officers, professional men, clergymen, merchants, and a few artisans. Politically, the leaders were men of liberal inclinations who had worked to reform the government of France of its worst abuses but to retain the king as a constitutional monarch. Their moderate program had recently been thrust aside by fanatical revolutionaries, who followed a policy of exterminating all who were suspected of the slightest sympathy or attachment to the hapless Bourbon rulers. Emigrés by the thousands streamed across the borders of France seeking sanctuary in other countries.

The exodus from Santo Domingo in 1793 was a flight from the carnage of the slave and mulatto uprising which followed the declaration of equality by the radical French Assembly. Plantations were laid waste, estates were burned, whites were slain by the rebellious Negroes. Some who secured passage to the mainland arrived destitute of all material goods. About 2,000 distraught Santo Domingans landed at Philadelphia in the summer of that year. They were aided by sympathetic Philadelphians and by such leading Franco-Americans as Stephen Girard and Peter Duponceau, who organized the French Benevolent Society of Philadelphia in the summer and fall of 1793, some suspected that the Santo Domingans had brought it with them.

An American who was close to several of the principal French exiles responsible for the founding of the colony was Pennsylvania's Senator Robert Morris, financier of the Revolution, merchant, and land speculator. Through him and his partner John Nicholson, Pennsylvania's comptroller general, a large tract of land in the northern wilderness of the State was to be purchased and transformed into a woodland Arcadia. The settlement of this region would increase the value of other lands owned by Morris. The exiles, their families, and, according to a story so far unverified, even the Queen of France herself, the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, and her two children would here at last find peace and security.

              In time, several small shops, a schoolhouse, a chapel, and a theatre appeared around the market square; dairying and sheep raising were begun; orchards and gardens were planted; a gristmill, blacksmith shop and a distillery were erected; and the manufacture of potash and pearlash was established.

             Despite the attempt to build a colony suitable for the luxurious tastes of French nobles, Asylum did not keep the colonists' interest. They often traveled to Philadelphia and Niagara, only to come back to their little settlement even more aware of what it was lacking. Within a few years, the French were tired of working the land and hired Americans to do their labor. The Americans took advantage of this opportunity, and significantly overcharged the French colonists. "As time went on [the French] grew to hate the work, the monotony, and the sordid hopelessness of their life at Asylum... Nostalgia had the colony in its grip." During Asylum's decade-long existence, one colonist committed suicide and many died of accidents or sickness. The colonists longed for an opportunity to return to their homeland in peace, with their prosperous lifestyles restored.

             In 1795, Robert Morris went into debt and was forced to give presidency of the Asylum Company over to John Nicholson. Three years later, Morris landed in debtor's prison. The holdings of the company were at a quarter of a million acres. Although Asylum was a thriving colony, the other lands of the company to the west were inaccessible and found no purchasers. Morris and Nicholson combined were $10 million in debt. Costs became higher to live in Asylum and the colonists' incomes from France were cut off. Financial difficulty was prevalent for both the colonists and the colonies' financiers

              In 1802, the colonists' wish came true. The postman from Wilkes-Barre arrived delivering important news-Napoleon Bonaparte assumed power in France and invited all French emigrants to return home, promising restoration of their estates. First hand accounts claim that colonists were laughing, dancing, singing, crying, and hugging after hearing the news of their ability to return. "Men hugged and kissed each other to the profound astonishment of American beholders. Some days were spent in feasting and then most of them commenced making preparations to leave Pennsylvania woods for their beloved France."

            Only a few French families stayed including the Homets, Laportes, LeFevres, Keatings, Brevosts, and D'Autremonts. All of these families remained well-known names in the region. Laporte and Homet bought most of the town properties and were prosperous farmers there. Some sources claim Laporte lived in la grande maison until 1846 when it was torn down. He still owned the property at this point and continued to sell it piece by piece. Others claim that on March 4, 1843, the remaining unsold lands were sold to William Jessup of Susquehanna County who then sold the lands to Michael Meylert of Laporte.

             The Asylum Company itself was a failure. In 1819, a catalogue of the lands and stocks of the Asylum Company was published. According to the twenty-first article of the "Plan of Association" the Company would be dissolved in fifteen years and all remaining shares would be sold at auction after being advertised in a prominent Pennsylvania newspaper for six months. The catalogue details immense amounts of land that were never sold. This explains the difficult debt both Robert Morris and John Nicholson encountered after their investment in the company.

            Of the more than fifty structures erected by the refugees, not one remains. The four hundred-odd half-acre house and garden plots, so carefully planned and then abandoned, were absorbed into larger tracts of farmland and tilled for generations by later occupants