Soldier, Squatter, Con Artist?

The strange case of Moses Lent.

I saw the anecdote from Storke first and since he technically fits my area of research I started digging a bit more. I am satisfied that he fits my conditions for “Veteran Who Settled His Own Patent in CNY Military Grant,” but oh, what an asterisk.

Starting with the pension file of Moses Lent, we see he was married to Phebe (which helps identify him). His pension specifies five years’ service under Capt. Johnson in Col. Gansevort’s regiment commencing in 1778. Phebe applied for her widow’s pension based on Moses’ death in April 1844. Her deposition reports a 1785 marriage in Saratoga County. Phebe herself died in December 1844. Moses is reported here as having died in Savannah, Wayne County, while Phebe was a resident in Brutus, Cayuga County at her death. Their son (purported, probably nephew), Reuben Lent attempts to revive the pension in 1847 and 1848 from Jordan, Onondaga County. Clearly, the Lents had taken residence in the area, and indeed, the Balloting Book shows Moses Lent as having drawn Brutus Lot 62. However, the Book further shows delivery of the patent to a William Cockburn.

The matter becomes interesting, with Elliot Storke, in History of Cayuga County, New York 1789–1879, writing that “Peter Ransier and Moses Lent, from Owego, settled on lot 62 in 1800.” A few paragraphs later he has this:

“Other early settlers were Martin and James Harker, from New Jersey, who located on the site of the village; Reuben Lent and family, from Washington county, who located on lot 62, a little west of Traphagen’s grist-mill, about 1806. Lent claimed to have served in the Revolution for that lot, which he twice sold previous to his settlement on it. After his settlement he sold portions of it to other settlers, and was finally ejected with his victims by Jacob Tremper, to whom he first sold it and by whom the title was held. Tremper, who lived in Kingston, Ulster county, never settled here, but his widow came in 1823 or `4, and located where John T. Smith now lives, in the village.”

The Cayuga County land records have Moses Lent in the Grantee Index, selling to a Robert Dill of Ulster County, NY; and also to a Thomas Tillotson in 1793. The first deed transfers to Robert Dill, for the sum of 40 pounds, Lot 62 situated in the Military Township of Brutus in what was then still Herkimer County. This deed specifies the exchange of a “Letter Patent” from the People of the State of New York, and was registered 30 April 1795. The second notation, involving Thomas Tillotson appears to be a mistake, as he is not listed on the deed or on nearby pages. So, given the fact that William Cockburn was delivered Lent’s patent, and a deed is registered showing its transfer to Robert Dill, we may surmise that Cockburn acted as a middleman of some sort (and is listed as receiving multiple patent deliveries, including that of Moses’ brother Hercules). Storke seems to be confused, as Moses Lent is noted in Saratoga County in the deed, and though he may well conflate Moses and his relative (pension says “son” but genealogical sources provide no verification) Reuben in the squatting paragraph, the origin in Washington County makes more sense than the “Owego” reference.

Looking at the land records, Jacob Tremper appears repeatedly, and by 1826, a “Jacob Trumpbour” and William Cockburn purchase 17 acres of Lot 62 on Owasco Creek from John Baker for $260. There is a subsequent conveyance of the water rights to John Tremper, and an 1830 foreclosure and sheriff action against John Baker in favor of John Tremper. Without further documents, it will prove impossible to untangle this mess, but it does seem that the second part of Storke’s account contains some sort of truth.
Returning to the Lents, the records better match the account, as Moses and Phebe Lent are listed as Grantors five times in 1807 and 1808, selling about 300 acres for just over $1200. If the original patent was sold by 1794 as seems to be the case, these subsequent sales were certainly fraudulent. Regardless, Lent and his wife continued to live in the area until their deaths.