Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2009


Pierson v. Post, 3 Caines 175 (N.Y. 1805), one of the most commonly assigned cases in the first-year Property course, was a dispute over the ownership of a fox discovered at large “upon a certain wild and uninhabited, unpossessed and waste land, called the beach.” For a very long time, all that was known about the case, other than the report itself, was a vivid but antiquarian account published in the Sag Harbor Express of October 24, 1895, by the judge and local historian Henry Parsons Hedges (1817-1911). Hedges claimed to have met Jesse Pierson (1780-1840) and Lodowick Post (1777-1842). He judged them “specimens of physical power and high resolve that would have made them as champions formidable in modern or ancient times,” as well as “rich, resolute, [and] wilful.” According to Hedges, Jesse was walking home from his job as a schoolteacher “when he saw the fox fleeing from his pursuers and run into the hiding place,” which Hedges identified as “an old shoal well.” “In a moment, with a broken rail, he was at the well’s mouth and killed the fox, threw it over his shoulder, and was taking it home when Lodowick, with his hounds and partisans, met him and demanded the fox.” Jesse demurred. “It may be you was going to kill him, but you did not kill him,” he retorted. “I was going to kill him and did kill him.”

Readers have never known just how far to credit Hedges’s account. Our knowledge of the case improved significantly with the appearance of a spate of articles between 2002 and 2009. Here is a summary of “the new learning.”

Publication Citation

Green Bag 2d, Vol. 13, No. 1, 31-42.