21 February 2016

Anatomy of the 1920 Deed from Reginald Ferguson to Frederick Brandes

Today we take a detailed look at the June 4, 1920 property deed which conveyed the land on which my home was later built, from Reginald T. Ferguson to Frederick A. Brandes. If you'll recall from some of my previous posts, Reginald Ferguson was a jeweler by trade in North Philadelphia, and had purchased a sizable tract of land in Abington from a Mrs. Emma Spear a few years prior. He then hired a surveyor to subdivide the land into individual home-building lots, a subdivision recorded with the name "Ferguson's North Glenside". Rather than hire a builder to construct new homes in the subdivision, Ferguson instead profited by selling off the individual lots in order for owners to build their own homes.

I do not know the exact circumstances of how Frederick Brandes came to acquire this particular land parcel from Ferguson. However, in piecing together a biographical sketch on Brandes, I do know that he had an older brother in the jewel trade and perhaps came upon Ferguson's development through that connection.


What follows here is the transcribed text of the actual property deed which gave Brandes ownership of two lots of Ferguson's North Glenside. Sometime within the next several years, my house was erected on the property, although not by Brandes. I find this particular deed more interesting than many of the others in my property's title chain. As it is the first deed in the chain conveying the parcel out of subdivider Ferguson's possession, it specifies all of the restrictive covenants on the property which are only alluded to in future deeds (such as restricting how close houses are built to the streets, prohibiting manufacturing and tavern uses, and even specifying fences and/or trees which must be built around any outdoor latrines). Here, I will also demonstrate the various clauses and important portions of a typical deed. Thank you to Laws for filling in gaps of my own knowledge about the specific parts of a property deed.

June 4, 1920 Deed from Reginald T. Ferguson to Frederick A. Brandes

Here follows the transcription (in italics, including typos in the recorded document) of this particular deed, along with anything in particular I've learned from the deed as it relates to my property (in bold):



The beginning of the deed is called the "premises", and it is here where the Grantors and Grantees are specified, as well as the date of execution. In this particular case, I learn that both Ferguson and Brandes were residents of Philadelphia and not of Abington or Glenside, where the land is. Ferguson's occupation as "jeweler" is also listed:

THIS INDENTURE MADE THE fourth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty (1920)
BETWEEN Reginald T. Ferguson, of the City of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania, Jeweler, and katherine E., his wife, (hereinafter called the Grantors), of the one part, and Frederick A. Brandes and Bertha C., his wife, of the said City and State (hereinafter called the Grantees), of the other part:

Next is the "granting clause". Here, it is made clear that a specific parcel of land is being conveyed from one party to the other. The amount of consideration (if specified in the deed) is included in this section, followed by a legal description of the property being transferred. In this deed, we learn that the consideration is merely a nominal amount ($1) but that "other good and valuable consideration" is a part of the transaction. It is not clear what profit Ferguson gained here, as it is not specified. Further, no corresponding mortgage document was found in Brandes' name. I would imagine that unless the two men knew each other previously and that Ferguson was using the land to pay some debt owed to Brandes (a possibility), that in actuality Brandes gave Ferguson some considerable value, which was not documented here, in exchange for the building lot:

WITNESSETH, That the said grantors for and in consideration of the sum of ONE DOLLAR and other good and valuable consideration lawful money of the United States of America, unto them well and truly paid by the said Grantees at and before the sealing and delivery of these presents, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, have granted, bargained, sold, aliened, enfeoffed, released and confirmed, and by these presents do grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release and confirm unto the said Grantees, their heirs and assigns as tenants by entireties

Part of the granting clause is the legal description of the propety being conveyed. The description can be performed in a number of ways but must make clear specifically what land is being conveyed. In this deed, Brandes is buying two of the lots that Ferguson's surveyor laid out. If I compare this description to the one in the 2014 deed conveying the land to me, it is identical. Note that one "mystery" I need to investigate further is that I've been told that my current neighbor's lot was originally owned by the Cantlins, the long-time owners of my house. I will be investigating the assumption that this neighboring lot came to be owned separately from the two lots described here, since the legal description of my current property is the same two lots described in this 1920 deed. Note that in the first paragraph here, the survey information (as well as where it can be found in the Deed books) is included, having been recorded at the County the previous year in 1919:

ALL THAT CERTAIN lot or piece of ground situate in the Township of Abington, County of Montgomery and State of Pennsylvania. Described according to a survey thereof made by William T. Muldrew, Surveyor and Regulator, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and recorded at Norristown, Pennsylvania, on July 12th, 1919, in Deed Book 732, page 600, as follows:-
BEGINNING at a point in the center line of Avenue "C" at the distance of four hundred and fifty-five and thirteen one-hundredths feet Southwest of the intersection of the center lines of Avenue "C" (as laid out forty feet wide) and Jenkintown Road (as laid out fifty feet wide); thence along the center line of said Avenue "C" on a curve to the left radius one hundred and twenty-three and sixty-six one-hundredths feet, arc twenty-one and fifty-eight one-hundredths feet; thence by lot numbered2224 North forty-three degrees twenty-five minutes, West one hundred and eighty and thirty-three one-hundredths feet to a corner; thence by lot numbered 2206 North eighty degrees fifty-five minutes, East twenty-four and twenty-two one-hundredths feet to a corner; thence by lot numbered 2222 South forty-three degrees twenty-five minutes East one hundred and seventy-four and seventy one-hundredths feet to the place of beginning. being lot numbered 2223 on the said survey.
AND ALSO ALL THAT CERTAIN lot or piece of ground situate in the Township, County and State aforesaid, and described according to the said survey as follows:-
BEGINNING at a point in the center line of Avenue "C" at the distance of four hundred and seventy-six and seventy-one one-hundredths feet Southwest of the intersection of the center lines of Avenue "C" (as laid out forty feet wide) and jenkintown Road (as laid out fifty feet wide); thence along the center line of said Avenue "C" on a curve to the left, radius one hundred and twenty-three and sixty-six one-hundredths feet, arc thirty-five and seventy one-hundredths feet; thence by land of the North Glenside Land Company North forty-two degrees twenty-three minutes, West one hundred and and seventy-five feet to a corner; thence by lot numbered 2207, North forty-six degrees thirty-five minutes, East thirty-two and one one-hundredths feet to a corner; thence by lot numbered 2223 South forty-three degrees twenty-five minutes, East one hundred and eighty and thirty-three one-hundredths feet to the place of beginning. Being lot numbered 2224 on the said survey.

As with most deeds in my county, the granting clause includes reference to the last recorded conveyance of this land (including the Deed Book and Page information). In this case, here it is described that the land is part of the larger tract of land Ferguson purchased from Emma Spear three years prior:

BEING a part of the same premises which Emma L. Spear, by identurebearing date the fifth day of October, A.D. 1917, and recorded at Norristown, Pennsylvania, in Deed Book No. 763, page 82, &c., granted and conveyed unto the said reginald T. Ferguson in fee.
TOGETHER with all and singular the improvements, ways, streets, alleys, passages, waters, water-courses, rights, liberties, privileges, hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging, or in any wise appertaining, and the reversions and remainders, rents, issues and profits thereof, and all the estate, right, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever of the said Grantors, in law, equity, or otherwise howsoever, of, in, and to the same, and every part thereof.

Next is the "habendum clause" which usually begins with the term "to have and to hold". Here it is stated the duration of the conveyance as well as any further clarification of the new owner's rights to the land. In some cases, the new owner may only be receiving rights to the land "during his/her natural life", and this clause should go on further to declare what is to happen after this point. The most straightforward and least restrictive conveyance is in "fee simple", which gives the new owner all rights to the land indefinitely. This is what has occurred here in this 1920 deed, as exhibited by the reference to "heirs and assigns" of the Grantees, as well as use of the term "forever" at the end. "Heirs and assigns" allows the Grantee to give all or some claim to whomever he wishes in the future, and allows for inheritance of these land rights in the event of the new owner's death. Of course, in many cases, this new owner will at some point transfer and relinquish the claim to the land to yet a new owner. Thus, the "forever" means forever until that person gives up the claim to someone else:

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD the said lots or pieces of ground above described hereditaments and premises hereby granted, or mentioned and intended so to be, with the appurtenances, unto the said Grantees, their heirs and assigns to and for the only proper use and behoof of the said grantees, their heirs and assigns as tenants by entireties forever.

Here begins the clause which spells out any restrictive covenants on new development for the land being conveyed. This is the most interesting portion of this particular deed to me. Reginald Ferguson has now successfully subdivided the Emma Spear land tract into individual building lots, and with these deed restrictions he is laying out a standard for new development which will protect the value of the entire development at large (including lots which Ferguson has not yet sold). Several references to other pieces of land not involved in this particular conveyance, but part of the North Glenside subdivision, are included, as this entire section of restrictive covenants would have been included verbatim in all deeds involving Ferguson's North Glenside lots. The first paragraph restricts certain uses on the property-- no cemeteries, manufacturing, taverns, or any "other building for offensive occupations or business, shall be erected". Again, Ferguson is protecting the value of the entirety of his holdings as a desirable residential community. Thus, no bone-boiling and no piggeries!

UNDER AND SUBJECT to the express conditions and restrictions: That said premisesshall not be used for cemetery or burial purposes. That no bone-boiling or fat rendering establishment, soap, glue, candle, varnishing factroy, brick manufactory, or any manufacturing business, slaughter house, piggery, tannery, tavern/drinking saloon or any building for the manufacture or sale of spirituous or malt liquors or wine of any kind or description whatever, or other building for offensive occupations or business, shall be erected on any part thereof, and that sidewalks shall be eight feet wide. That all lots are conveyed to the center of the road or avenue, and that all roads or avenues are forty feet wide, except Jenkintown Road and Susquehanna Road.

The next restrictive covenant essentially amounts to an easement allowing for the creation of Township-managed roads fronting the property:

That the grantee will without consideration dedicate such portion of the above premises as now forms the bed of any road or avenue, whenver said road or avenue shall be taken by the Township or County.

Next, further regulation on outhouses: 

Any privy wall used or maintained upon the premises above described or any part thereof shall be subject to the inspection and approval of the Board of health. Any outside water closet erected on said lot or lots shall be enclosed by an arbor or fence built at least three feet distant from the said water closet on all sides, and at least the full height of same.

The following covenants amount to the equivalent of zoning setbacks and density restrictions, despite the fact that Abington Township would not have its own formalized zoning code until later in the decade. Note the reference to Ferguson's lots numbered 2062 to 2094, despite their being located elsewhere in the subdivision:

That the house or building line on all roads or avenue shall be always at least twenty feet from the front road or avenue line and no part of any building such as porches, verandas, bay-windows or property area, exclusive of steps, shall be erected more than twelve feet beyond the said building line.
That the building line of all stables, garages or our-buildings of any kind hereafter erected upon any lot, shall recede from the front road or avenue line, so that the building line of such stable, garage or out-building shall not be nearer than sevnety-five feet from the said front road or avenue line, except that stables, garages or out-buildings of any kind hereafter erected on lots 2062 to 2094 inclusive shall only be built on the rear twenty feet of said lots.
That no more than one house shall be erected on each lot of ground until the year A.D. 1930.

And finally, Ferguson places actual minimums on the construction cost of houses to be built in his subdivision, even those not being conveyed in this deed. My house is located in the area described as "on any other avenue to the Southwest of... Jenkintown Road", which is a considerably small percentage of the subdivision, bearing a minimum cost of $2,500. Thus, if this deed restriction was adhered to (and it would be difficult to prove that it was), then I have a pretty good idea that it cost at least $2,500 to construct the house a few years later. I will be interested to search deeds for properties east of Jenkintown Road, in what is more traditionally known as the Ardsley neighborhood. As described in my post exploring the larger development of Ardsley, most of those houses were built in the 1950's or later, decades after these restrictions were written. In addition to investigating what happened to all of Ferguson's unsold land upon his death in 1924, I'll be curious to see if these restrictions differed in the later phases of development:

That any house erected on lots fronting on either side of Jenkintown Road on Avenues "E" and "F" to the Southwest of Jenkintown Road shall cost not less than Three Thousand Dollars; that any house erected on lots fronting on any other avenue to the Southwest of lots fronting on Jenkintown Road shall cost not less than Twenty-five hundred dollars; and that any house erected on any other lots shown on the said plan shall cost not less than Eighteen Hundred Dollars.

This next clause is among the most important in the entire document from a legal perspective, and it is called the "warranty clause". The Grantor, Reginald Ferguson, is essentially giving Brandes, the new owner, a guarantee that this land is free of any other claims. He further agrees to defend against any other third-party claims on the property which may arise. This is the most protective form of warranty for the new owner and involves the least risk for him. Not all deeds are general warranty deeds as this one is; some warrant to a lesser degree than implied here (i.e. "special warranty" deeds). "Quitclaim deeds" carry even more risk for the buyer, as they do not carry any warranty against third-party claims on the property-- they might be more often used in conveyances within a family:

AND the said Reginald T. ferguson, for himself and his heirs, executors and administrators, doth by these presents covenant, grant and agree, to andwith the said Grantees, their heirs and assigns that he, the said Reginald T. Ferguson, and his heirs, all and singular the hereditaments and premises herein described and granted or mentioned and intended so to be, with the appurtenances, unto the said Grantees, their heirs and assigns against him the said Reginald T. Ferguson and his heirs, and against all and every other person and persons whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same or any part thereof, by, fromm or under him, them, or any of them, shall and will subject as aforesaid, warrant and forever defend.

Finally is the testimonial section or "execution clause". Appropriate signatures of the Grantors are included, including those of witnesses and the notary public:

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the said parties to these presents have hereunto interchangeably set their hands and seals. Dated the day and year first above written.
Reginald T. Ferguson (SEAL)
Katherine E. Ferguson (SEAL)
in the presence of us:
N.H. Ritter
Chas. F. Myers (.50 cancelled stamp)

RECEIVED on the day of the date of the above indenture of the above-named Grantees the full consideration therein mentioned.
A.F. Ritter Reginald T. Ferguson
Chas. F. Myers
On the fourth day of June Anno Domini 1920, before me, the subscriber, a Notary Public for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, residing in the City of Philadelphia, personally appeared the above-named Reginald T. Ferguson and katherine E., his wife, and in due form of law acknowledged the above indenture to be their and each of their act and deed, and desired the same might be recorded as such.
WITNESS my hand and official seal the day and year aforesaid.
Chas. F. Myers (N.P.)
Notary Public (SEAL)
My commission expires Jan. 21, 1923.

Recorded June 30, 1920. H.L.N.

The deed was recorded at Norristown, the county seat, on June 30, less than a month after the actual conveyance took place on June 4. I've not yet been able to locate a list of previous Recorders of Deeds for the County, but I presume that "H.L.N." were the initials of the current Recorder of Deeds in 1920.

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