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Pennsylvania Land Office land patent to Benjamin Rush

Identifier: MSS 1/004

Scope and Contents

Document from Pennsylvania Land Office, 1809 June 30, conveying Guildhall property in Luzerne Co., Pa., to Benjamin Rush; includes 1793 survey of property. Signed by John Cochran, secretary of Land Office.

1 item (1 leaf): parchment ; 28 x 44.5 cm.


  • 1809-06-30


Pennsylvania Land Office agency history

The origins of the Proprietary Land Office may be traced to 1682 when William Penn appointed Thomas Holme Surveyor General. Under a constantly evolving set of procedures and relationships, the Surveyor General cooperated with the Secretary of Proprietary Affairs, a Master of Rolls, a Receiver General, and Commissioners of Property in conducting the sale of Pennsylvania lands. Acting collectively, the various officers who comprised the Land Office were responsible for accepting applications, issuing warrants, surveying tracts, verifying returns of survey and granting patents for tracts of land in Pennsylvania. By 1699 the Land Office was operating from Samuel Carpenter's Philadelphia residence, sometimes called the Slate Roof House, where William Penn and Secretary of Proprietary Affairs James Logan then resided. The Land Office was moved to Clark's Hall when Deputy Governor John Evans arrived in Philadelphia in 1704. When William Penn's heirs, Thomas and John Penn, acted as Commissioners of Property from 1733-1741 they conducted Land Office business from their home. Upon their return to England, the Penn brothers abolished the positions of Commissioners of Property and delegated responsibility for signing warrants and patents to the Deputy Governor. The Secretary of Provincial Affairs began conducting land office business from rooms in the west wing of the new State House, the present day Independence Hall, during the early 1740s.

After the outbreak of the Revolutionary War the proprietary Land Office ceased to function. The Divesting Act of 1779 transferred ownership of most of the remaining 22 million acres of proprietary lands to the Commonwealth. In 1781 the Revolutionary Era State Assembly created a new State Land Office consisting of a Secretary, a Receiver General, and a Surveyor General who were assigned the records and responsibilities of their proprietary predecessors of the same titles. A Board of Property, similar to Commissioners of Property under the Penn government, was also created in 1782 to hear and determine cases of disputes arising from the transaction of Land Office business. The Board initially consisted of either the president or vice-president of the Supreme Executive Council, an additional member of the Council, and the appointed officers of the Land Office.

In 1809, the offices of Receiver General and Master of Rolls were abolished and the responsibilities of collecting purchase money and enrolling state laws were assigned to the Secretary of the Land Office and the Secretary of the Commonwealth respectively. In that year, the patent books and land-title papers of the Master of Rolls were transferred to the Secretary of the Land Office. In 1843, the functions of the Secretary of the Land Office were inherited by the Surveyor General. The Constitution of 1873 transferred the duties of the Surveyor General and the Land Office to the Secretary of Internal Affairs. The Land Office Bureau, or as it was later designated, the Bureau of Land Records, remained in the Department of Internal Affairs until 1968, when it was assigned to the Department of Community Affairs. In 1981, the Bureau of Land Records and its functions were transferred to the Historical and Museum Commission where it became the Division of Land Records in 1986. In 1989 the Division of Land Records was merged into the Division of Archives and Manuscripts within the Bureau of Archives and History and no longer existed as an independent entity. In the year 2000, the patenting functions of the Land Office were placed into the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Division of Archives and Manuscripts in the Bureau of Archives and History of the Historical and Museum Commission remains the depository of original titles and conveyances and the custodian of deeds and instruments relating to real estate owned by the Commonwealth.

The Land Office was also custodian of the records of the Pennsylvania Board of Canal Commissioners which was authorized in 1826 to construct and operate a state canal system. In 1857 and 1858 the waterways and adjunct railroads of the Pennsylvania Canal were sold by the Commonwealth. When the Board of Canal Commissioners was abolished in 1859 its records were transferred first to the Department of Auditor General, and then in 1885 to the Department of Internal Affairs. With the transfer of the Land Office to the Historical and Museum Commission in 1981, these records came to reside with the other Land Office records in the Division of Archives and Manuscripts.

***This note was taken directly from the Pennsylvania State Archives RG-17 Records of the Land Office agency history. Researchers can find more information about the Land Office at:

Benjamin Rush biography

Benjamin Rush, Philadelphia physician, was born on 24 Dec. 1745 o.s. in Byberry Township. He married Julia Stockton in 1776; they had thirteen children. Rush died on 19 Apr. 1813.

Rush received his B.A. from Princeton College in 1760, then served a six-year apprenticeship with John Redman. He was one of the first to attend William Shippen’s anatomy lectures. In 1768, he received his M.D. from the University of Edinburgh.

In 1769, Rush became Professor of Chemistry at the College of Philadelphia; in 1789 he became Professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine. When the College formed the University of Pennsylvania in 1791, Rush became Professor of the Institutes of Medicine and Clinical Medicine. He also taught students privately. In 1786, he helped to establish the Philadelphia Dispensary and was a physician there until his death.

Rush also was a member of the Provincial Congress in 1776, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and in 1777, became Surgeon-General of the Continental Army. In 1799, he became Treasurer of the U.S. Mint.

Rush was known for advocating bleeding and purging to treat yellow fever.

From 1787 to 1793 he was a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


1 item

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Flat file no. 1, drawer 1

Custodial History

This document was donated to the Historical Medical Library by Fred Rogers.
Pennsylvania Land Office land patent to Benjamin Rush
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States