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 03, 2006

Where Is Thomas Pell's Handwritten Copy of the Treaty Signed With Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654?

For many years local historians have known that there once existed a copy of the land grant dated June 27, 1654 by which Thomas Pell acquired from local Native Americans lands that we know today as Pelham, New Rochelle, Eastchester, portions of the Bronx and much of the land east of the Hutchinson River northward to Mamaroneck. The copy has long been said to be in Thomas Pell's handwriting.

The collections of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham include large facsimiles of the copy of the so-called "Treaty". In addition, images of the "Treaty" have been published in Pelliana: Pell of Pelham, Vol. I, No. 6 (May 1941); Barr, Lockwood, A Brief, But Most Complete & True Account of the Settlement of the Ancient Town of Pelham Westchester County, State of New York Known One Time Well & Favourably as the Lordshipp & Mannour of Pelham Also the Story of the Three Modern Villages Called The Pelhams, Plate I opp. p. 13 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946); Saunders, James B., editor, The Pelham Manor Story 1891-1991, p. 24 (NY: Village of Pelham Manor 1991) and in other publications.

Presumably Thomas Pell's copy of the treaty was the copy referred to by Pell in his letter to John Winthrop, Jr., Governor of Connecticut in 1666 when he wrote: “HONOURED SIR, - Once more I doo humbly present my request to you yt you would be pleased to visit Generall Niccols in my behalfe wth a few lines. Ye coppy of ye purchase I sent to your worship when you liued in New London in 1655 p my sonne Scott, wch you judged to be good : since it is confirmed p oath before Captayne Talcot.” Winthrop Papers, Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. I:410-12 (1871). An image of the document appears immediately below.

For the last few decades the whereabouts of Pell's copy of the treaty were unknown. About two years before Pelham celebrated the 350th anniversary of the signing of the land grant in 2004, representatives of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham began trying to locate the document. They contacted virtually every nearby archive, museum and historical site that might have the document. They communicated with members of the Pell family who no longer knew of the location of the document. They communicated with the curator of collections at Fort Ticonderoga where many of the Pell family papers are maintained. No one knew where the document might be located. For a time, it seemed as if Thomas Pell's copy of the "Treaty" had been lost.

Ironically, less than a month after Pelham celebrated the 350th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty, Thomas Pell's copy of the document was located. During a survey of the Pell family papers maintained in the collections of Fort Ticonderoga in Ticonderoga, New York, Mr. Christopher D. Fox, The Anthony D. Pell Curator of Collections, located the document. The family's papers have been in storage for nearly a generation, but the Treaty was found among the papers and is "in a fine state of preservation".

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