The Oblong

It is fascinating when you come across something–in this case a place–that you had never heard of before. In a death notice, the father’s birthplace was listed as “Oblong,” Mass. — just like that, in quotation marks. And whether it was added at the same time or at some point down the line, it was clarified as the S.W. corner of state.


What the heck?

At first, Google was unhelpful as I searched for an Oblong, Massachusetts. But I started to massage my query, looking at a modern map and seeing Mount Washington as being the town in that corner of Massachusetts. Eventually, I came upon this link that was finally referencing something called the “Oblong.” Love how the blogger starts the post:

I love a good border dispute. (Not a fan of the bad ones of course.) And I really love when the combination of a 200+ year Connecticut border dispute, a great hike, some perambulation fun, multiple geographic extremes, absurdity, a great word like “oblong”, found money, blueberries and upsetting those weirdo genealogy freaks all come together in one CTMQ page…

A page about a 4 foot pillar in the woods.

The pillar he refers to was set in August 28, 1899, in the same location as a stone heap made by the New York-Connecticut Commission of 1731 to mark the northwest corner of the “Oblong.” It all comes down to a border war between New York and Connecticut that ended with Connecticut getting its panhandle, and New York getting the so-called “Oblong.” More from CTMQ and the Connecticut State Library:

So in 1683 the boundary between Connecticut and New York was generally recognized as a line parallel to and twenty miles from the Hudson River north to the Massachusetts line. However, New York, acknowledging most of Connecticut’s settlements in (now) Fairfield County, gave up a claims to a 61,660 acre rectangle east of the Byram River, which became the area sometimes referred to as Connecticut’s “panhandle” or the “handle of the cleaver”. In return, (This would be the Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan bit.)

Connecticut gave up its claims to Rye (no loss there) and ceded to New York a strip of land 580 rods (1.81 miles) wide “equivalent” to the area of the panhandle that extended north from Ridgefield along Dutchess, Putnam, and Westchester Counties, New York, to the Massachusetts line. This territory came to be known as “The Oblong”.

As you can imagine, genealogical research for this area is difficult to say the least. Some information may be in Connecticut records, other information may be in New York town or county records, and there are some people and families that either were simply missed or chose to be uncounted. “Lost to the Oblong,” so they say.

As far as Silvanus Jones being from the “Oblong,” that research continues, because I have always been under the assumption he was from the Cape or southeastern Massachusetts.

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