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, July 24, 2006

A Statute Enacted in 1666 Seems to Have Prompted Thomas Pell to Seek a Royal Grant Confirming His June 27, 1654 Land Acquisition

On October 8, 1666, the first English Governor of colonial New York, Richard Nicolls (often spelled "Nicholls"), confirmed Thomas Pell's 1654 acquisition of lands from Native Americans by issuing a royal patent. Research now suggests that Pell applied for that royal patent as a result amendments to the Code enacted during a session of the Assizes held between September 27, 1666 and October 2, 1666. The time between the session and the issuance of the royal grant to Pell is so short as to suggest that Pell may have been aware in advance that the amendments would be considered during that session of the Assizes. These conclusions are based upon the following entry in a work published in 1871 (full citation below).

"Several amendments of the code were made at this session of the Assizes. Public rates were required to be paid every year in wheat and other produce, at certain fixed prices, 'and no other payment shall be allowed of.' . . . Perhaps the most important decree related to land patents. 'The Court having taken notice of the defects and failings of both towns and persons in particular of not bringing in their grants or patents to receive a confirmation of them, or not coming to take out new grants where they are defective, or where there are none at all, according to former directions in the Law, As also taking it into their serious considerations that several towns and persons within this Government, as well English as Dutch, do hold their lands and houses upon the conditions of being subjects to the States of the United Belgic Provinces, which is contrary to the allegiance due to his Majesty, They do therefore Order that all grants or patents whatsoever formerly made, shall be brought in, to be confirmed or renewed by authority of his Royal Highness the Duke of York, and all such as have not patents shall likewise be supplied therewith by the first day of April next after the date hereof; after which time neither town nor private person, whether English or Dutch, shall have liberty to plead any such old grants, patents, or deeds of purchase in law, but they shall be looked upon as invalid to all intents and purposes.'* [Footnote cites the following: "*Court of Assizes II, 80, Col. MSS., xxii., 107; N.Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., i, 414-419; Hoffman's Treatise, 1, 97."]

This stringent ordinance made great commotion. It was vigorously enforced, because the quit-rents and fees on renewals were necessary for the support of the government. In the course of the next few months, Neperhaem, Pelham, Westchester, Eastchester, Huntington, Flushing, Brookhaven, Easthampton, New Utrecht, Gravesend, Jamaica, Hempstead, Newtown, Flatlands, Bushwick, Flatbush, and Brooklyn, paid new fees and obtained new charters which generally confirmed to each of them their old boundaries, and 'all the rights and privileges belonging to a town within this government.'"

Source: Brodhead, John Romeyn, History of the State of New York, Vol. II, pp. 109-10 (NY, NY: Harper & Brothers, Publishers 1871).

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