The Morris Reserve was a 500,000 acre (2,000 km²) tract of land owned by Robert Morris in western New York in the late 18th Century. It was originally part of the 6,000,000 acre (24,000 km²) purchase in April 1788 of the pre-emptive right to all of Massachusetts' lands in western New York by Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham (the "Phelps and Gorham Purchase"). The sale of the pre-emptive right to Phelps and Gorham only gave them the right to obtain title when they had extinguished the Indian title to such lands. For this pre-emptive right, they were to pay Massachusetts $1,000,000, or 16 and 2/3 cents an acre (41.18 $/km²). In July 1788 Phelps and Gorham obtained Indian title to about 2,250,000 acres (9,105 km²) east of the Genesee River at the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, for $5000 plus an annuity. They did not obtain Indian title to the lands west of the Genesee, except for the 185,000 acre (749 km²) Mill Yard Tract. They defaulted on the payment for the lands in 1790. The 3,750,000 acre (15,200 km²) portion of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase west of the Genesee then reverted back to Massachusetts on March 10, 1791.
Map of Western New York
Showing Phelps & Gorham's Purchase
(including the Mill Yard Tract),
The Holland Purchase, and the Morris Reserve.
Massachusetts then re-sold all of its lands west of the Genesee (except the Mill Yard Tract) to Robert Morris in May 1791 for $333,333,33. He then who re-sold most of these lands in December 1792 and February and July 1793 to the Holland Land Company, on condition that Morris extinguish the Indian title. Morris did not obtain Indian title to these lands until September, 1797 by the Treaty of Big Tree (Geneseo), at a cost of $100,000, plus reservations for the Indians of 200,000 acres (800 km²).
Morris, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, financier of the Revolution and the richest man in the United States, also reserved for himself about 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) in a twelve mile (19 km) wide strip along the east side of the Holland Purchase, from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario, known as The Morris Reserve. At the north end of the Morris Reserve, a 87,000 acre (352 km²) triangular shaped tract (the "The Triangle Tract") was sold by Morris to Herman Leroy, William Bayard and John McEvers, while a 100,000 tract due west of the Triangle Tract was sold to the State of Connecticut. Other Phelps and Gorham lands east of the Genesee River eventually were purchased by Morris, who re-sold them to the The Pulteney Association.
The Morris Reserve was quickly subdivided and settled. The Morris Reserve lands comprise portions of Allegany, Genesee, Monroe, Orleans, and Wyoming counties. The Town and Village of Mt. Morris, in Livingston County, New York, is named after Robert Morris' son, Thomas.