During the early nineteenth-century, two million acres of New
York's farmland were controlled by a handful of great families.
Along the Hudson Valley and across the Catskills lay the great
estates of the Van Rensselaers, the Livingstons, and a dozen lesser
landlords. Some two hundred and sixty thousand men, women, and
children-a twelfth of the population of New York, the nation's most
populous state-worked this land as tenants. Beginning in 1839,