Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Dutch Acquired Lands Including Pelham From Local Native Americans in 1640

On June 27, 2004, the Town of Pelham celebrated the 350th anniversary of Thomas Pell's acquisition of lands that included Pelham from local Native Americans. The events of that day were the highlight of a celebration that lasted the entire year. Interestingly, however, Thomas Pell's treaty with local Native Americans signed on June 27, 1654 likely was not the initial effort to acquire lands that included Pelham from local Native Americans. The historical record suggests that the first such effort occurred on April 19, 1640. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting will provide a little background regarding the events of that day.

In 1640, officials of New Amsterdam were engaged in efforts to acquire from local Native Americans lands near what we know today as the Island of Manhattan. Though the circumstances surrounding such acquisitions were quite complex, one reason for the purchases was to slow the westward expansion of English settlements that was inching inexorably from the northeast toward Manhattan.

According to E. B. O'Callaghan, a 19th century scholar of the Dutch history of New York and, particularly, the history of New Amsterdam:

"Cornelis van Tienhoven, secretary of the province, was dispatched early in the spring [of 1640] to the 'Archipelago,' to purchase that group of islands, which lay at the mouth of the Norwalk River, 'and all the adjoining lands, and to erect thereon the standard and arms of the High and Mighty Lords the States General; to take the savages under our protection, and to prevent effectually any other nation encroaching on our limits, or making incursions on our land and territory.'"

Source: O'Callaghan, E.B., History of New Netherland; or, New York Under the Dutch, Vol. I, pp. 214-15 (2d Ed., D. Appleton & Co. 1855).

O'Callaghan further indicates that this land acquisition took place on April 19, 1640. Id.

The area encompassed by this acquisition is generally believed to have extended from today's Hell Gate to Norwalk and to have included today's Town of Pelham. There long has been dispute over whether the Dutch actually -- or adequately -- compensated the Native Americans for the purchase. Many historians have suggested that among the many complex causes that may have played a role in the Native American massacre of Anne Hutchinson and members of her family was a failure by the Dutch to compensate the Native Americans for the lands on which Hutchinson settled.

Though Pelham commemorated the 350th anniversary of the Pell purchase in 2004, the 350th anniversary of the initial acquisition of the lands from local Native Americans may actually have occurred in 1990. . . . . . .

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