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By Lisa Loomis
Ownership of 40 to 90 acres of land on Scrag Mountain is unknown and the Waitsfield Conservation Commission is investigating the chain of title for that land.
Conservation commission member Leo Laferriere discovered the anomaly as he was researching boundaries of several parcels of land on top of Scrag Mountain. The town owns land up there and has received donations of several parcels of land up there as well.
"We were researching boundaries and knew that the tax map for that area was incorrect, and the listers had acknowledged that it was wrong. We knew that the ownership was unknown and we were also wondering if there was deeded access to that land from the Northfield side," Laferriere said.
RECEIVED THE RESEARCH
The select board has received the research and must decide what to do next. The town could petition the court to re-open the estate of the last recorded owner to name an executor and then convey or deed title to someone. The select board has not yet taken action.
The parcel of land, known as Lot 42 in the first division of land in Waitsfield, was one of many 100- to 150-acre lots shown on the original land maps for Waitsfield. Some deeds refer to 100-acre parcels and others to the south indicated 150 acres, Laferriere said.
Lot 42 consists of primarily high-elevation bedrock and woodland just south and east of the top of Scrag mountain.
"For many years now, full ownership of this lot has been unknown. Of the 100 to 150 acres, 60 acres off the south end were recently deeded to the town by the Tucker family," Laferriere wrote in his report on the parcel.
Ownership of the remaining 40 to 90 acres is unknown. Laferriere spent 10 hours researching land records in Waitsfield and Northfield, tracing titles to this lot. He found records dating back to March 3, 1859, when the entirety of Lot 42 was conveyed from Redfield to Fisk and Rice.
In 1866 Fisk sold his share to Rice and in 1870 Rice sold 60 acres to Steele and then subdivided 6 acres off and sold them to Culvert in 1872. In 1886 land records show that Rice conveyed 94 acres (all of the 100-acre parcel minus Culvert's six acres) to Andrews. The land changed hands several times, coming in March 1912 to A. E. Covell and passing to his spouse, Clemmis Covell, on his death in 1914.
40 to 90 ACRES DISAPPEAR
In 1916 his widow conveyed 60 acres to Plastridge (which is the former Tucker parcel now owned by the town) and the other 40 to 90 acres disappear from the land records and the tax maps.
"Between 1914 and 1941, those acres went somewhere," Laferriere said and added that
Clemmis Covell's name last appears in the Northfield land records and cites her residence (and that of her sons) as Kalamazoo, Michigan.
A Google search of the name Covell and Kalamazoo, Michigan turns up several listings, including a landscaping business and a hardware store, as well as the names of two men named Covell.