Township 40 - Raquette Lake, NY

Raquette Lake

Raquette Lake NY 13436

History of Township 40

Raquette Lake and The Township 40 Title Problem

There are approximately 216 parcels of land in Township 40, in the hamlet of Raquette Lake, Hamilton County which are claimed by both the State and private parties, including individuals, the fire department, a utility company and the school district. Individuals have constructed primary residences, second homes on most of these parcels.

The State publicly recognized the title problem 100 years ago in the "Eleventh Annual Report of the New York State Forest, Fish and Game Commission," 1904-05-06, p. 61, 62
"During the last year a part of the office force has been engaged in compiling a list of the different lots and parcels of land in the Forest Preserve, as taken from the official records on file in the Land Department of the Comptroller’s office.....The list contains, also, some lands acquired through tax sales, the title to which may be doubtful, owing to errors on the part of the assessors or tax collectors. These errors had not been discovered at the time of the tax sale, and so the title to the lands passed nominally to the State. As these lots are entered upon the books of the Comptroller as State land, it becomes necessary to include them here as part of the Forest Preserve. In fact, these lands with their disputed titles cannot be stricken off the schedule except by order of the courts or action by the Legislature."

This happened in Township 40 and the resulting problems continue to this day.

1848 - New York State sold 24,000 acres, essentially all of Township 40, to Farrand Benedict and David Read. Read sold his half to Farrand and numerous conveyances were made.
The Township, unlike others, was never surveyed into lots so deeds were often unclear as to exactly what lands were being conveyed.
1865 - New York State sold 15,484 acres in Township 40 to William Mead thereby placing again all of the lands in Township 40 in private hands
1875, 1881 and 1884 - the State held "tax sales" after which the state claimed to have purchased almost all of Township 40.
1924 - the Court of Appeals ruled that the tax sales of 1875, 1881 and 1884 were illegal and therefore void.
Over a span of 49 years, 1875-1924, the following events occurred:
1882 - the State sold North Point to James Ten Eyck.
1883 - the State sold 160 acres on Long Point to Heloise Durant.
1884 - the State was involved in the Waldo Partition action in Township 40. Claiming they already owned half of the 7,000 acre tract, the State purchased the other half. None of the other "rightful" owners; Benedict, Durant or Mead were a party to the partition action
1892 - The Adirondack Park was established. 1894 - a constitutional amendment was passed requiring that the State lands within the Park "shall be kept as wild forest lands"
1897 Seward Webb gave the State 2,000 undivided, unsurveyed acres. There is a question as to the validity of this deed but even if it is valid there is no way to locate what land was included.
1899 - Webb sold whatever he owned in the Township to the State. Again there is no definition of what he may have owned or more importantly where it was located
1901-1904 the State, using the tax deeds of 1875, 1881 and 1884 as a basis for their ownership, brought ejectment actions against the people owning property in the township. (Ejectment actions allow the recovery of land but they do not settle title.) Of the cases brought, only ONE was actually heard. In all the other cases the court’s referee stipulated that the evidence was the same as in the first case and then he ruledfor the State. There is no evidence that any lawyers appeared at these hearings although many of the people had retained counsel.
1907 - People v Golding the Supreme Court held that the three tax sales: 1875, 1881 and 1884 were illegal and the Court of Appeals ruled Ladew was entitled to a new trial with the right to include arguments against the validity of the tax sales.
1909 - Officially recognizing the legitimate Benedict title at last, the State spent $35,000 and purchased 14,524 undivided and unsurveyed acres in the Township from the Benedict heirs. At the same time the State attempted to force landowners to sign statements that the State owned their land. People were told that if they signed the State would not force them to leave until everyone was removed. If they did not sign, the State said their buildings would be torn down immediately. In addition there was the threat of a $1,000 fine. Some of the wealthy owners pursued their cases through the courts and in each instance the State lost.(People v Golding, People v Hasbrouck, People v Inman)
1915 - The State again filed actions in ejectment. These actions did not mention the previous judgments of 1904. Once again a case involving Ladew’s property worked its way through the courts while the other cases were left in limbo.

1924 - the Court of Appeals ruled that the tax sales of 1875, 1881 and 1884 were illegal and therefore void. Ladew’s title was finally cleared.

1945 - The State requested, and got, a discontinuance on many of the cases. The same year St. William’s Church sued the state over a small lot in the village. St. William’s lost. They were not able to prove continuous adverse possession of the undeveloped lot.
1950’s - the State again issued subpoenas to those on "contested" property. The Blanchard Case went to trial and the State lost. The other cases were again left to languish.
1994 - Shirey’s sued the State and in 1998 so did Gregory. Both properties were part of the original Payne parcel which was an integral part of the Blanchard case. Both won.
2002 - People v Moore finally went to court and the State won. Moore had not been able to prove continuous adverse possession of their undeveloped lot.
2010 - The Payne/York case cleared over 240 acres on Green Point adjacent to the Blanchard property that was cleared in 1950, as the Blanchard property came out of Payne’s land in the 1800’s.
1953 - the State again admitted their claim to the parcels was not clear. Attorney General Nathaniel Goldstein wrote to William Foss, the head of Lands and Forests. "Your request for actions to be brought against certain trespassers, the last two under date of May 28, 1953, has led me to review the entire situation with respect to the condition of the State’s title to Raquette Lake Township in Hamilton County, and to reconsider the method of enforcing same. As you know, ejectment actions have not provided satisfactory results.The tax deeds running to the State have been held unenforceable. While our paper title to all Township 40 has been held to be good as to the portions conveyed, the courts have recognized the title of those occupants who were in possession prior to the date of the deed into the State’s grantor. This was the basis of Joseph Ladew’s successful defense against the State. This same defense, where the facts so warrant, is available to every present occupant of the Township. It may very well be that it exists in favor of all or some of the persons whose actions you call to my attention. Therefore we must consider that, as to any lands presently occupied, we have merely a claim of title until such time as a court rules either for or against us."

It is important to note that no title search now or ever shows any claim to any title in Twp 40 by the State of NY. Taxes have been paid, lands have been bought and sold and deeds have been recorded but mortgages are difficult to get and you have no equity in your home on these Raquette Lake properties. The question of "contested" titles needs to be resolved so that the rightful owners, whose families have lived with this injustice for over 100 years, can have the quiet enjoyment of their property, a freedom guaranteed by this great country of ours.

Thank you for your interest!

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