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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An Article Published in 1910 About the Life of Anne Hutchinson in New York

For many years local historians have placed the location of the home built by Anne Hutchinson before her murder by local Native Americans in 1643 in various places around Pelham including Rodman's Neck (also known as Pell's Point) and Split Rock. Scholarly research performed in the 1920s, however, seems to establish with near certainty that Anne Hutchinson settled in an area near today's Coop City between the Hutchinson River and Hutchinson River Parkway.

In 1910, however, most people erroneously believed that Anne Hutchinson and her family lived near Split Rock. That myth is occasionally perpetuated even in more recent studies of her life such as the otherwise excellent book entitled "American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans" published in 2004 (see pages 231, 236 and 239).

In 1910, an article by Mrs. Robert McVicker appeared in Volume IX of the "Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association. Eleventh Annual Meeting, With Constitution, By-Laws and List of Members". The article was entitled Anne Hutchinson, Her Life in New York, A Character Sketch". I have transcribed the text of that article immediately below.

A Character Sketch
By Mrs. Robert McVicker.

In order to understand the character of Anne Hutchinson and the part she played in the development of New England; and, in order to obtain a dispassionate view of the events which led to her banishment from Massachusetts, and her subsequent life in Rhode Island and New York, it is necessary to take a hasty survey of the scene upon which she entered, when, in company with her husband, she crossed the seas and landed in Boston in 1634.

The little Puritan Colony she found there had braved the storms and dangers of an unknown coast to found a state wherein its members could worship God in their own way without let or hindrance. Their sturdy independence of thought and action was not a thing of recent growth. According to John Fiske, it was the development of the Teutonic idea of political life, overthrowing and supplanting the Roman idea. This Teutonic idea, which carried with it freedom of thought in religion and representative government in politics, had been germinating for many years in the minds of the English people; Wickliffe had been spokesman for them three centuries before. 'The spirit of Puritanism was no creation of the 16th. century, but is as old as the truth and manliness of England,' says Fiske. The revolt against the authority of Rome was aided by the desire to become acquainted with, and be directed by the sincere truth of the gospel; and the Puritan cherished a scheme of looking to the word of God as his sole and universal directory. His recent acquaintance with it and his inadequate preparation for interpreting it, led him into many errors and was the cause of the many schisms that immediately arose. He searched the scripture, not only for principles and rules, but [p. 256 / p. 257] for mandates, and when he could find none of these, for analogies, to guide him in the smallest points of personal conduct and of public administration.

At the darkest hour of the struggle for constitutional and religious liberty the emigration to the New World began. The various political changes of centuries had tended to strengthen national feeling in England. The Norman nobility grafted upon its society had transformed the Old English thanes into the finest class of rural gentry and yeomanry that has ever existed, and it was from this class that the New England emigrants were drawn. Those left behind were engaged in overcoming perils which threatened the very existence of modern civilization.

The political future of mankind hung upon the questions at issue in England, and that most potent of forces, religious sentiment played a large part in the conflict, so that when Henry 8th, defied the Papal authority, half of England was Protestant already. Although this step was political rather than religious, the Puritan sentiment of revolt against hierarchy in general co-operated with the sentiment of national independence. Everywhere else Rome seemed to have conquered or to be conquering while they seemed to be left, the forlorn hope of the human race.*

In coming to the New World, the colonists, harried and persecuted at home, hoped to find a haven where they could logically carry out their theory of a theocratic commonwealth undisturbed by their environment, and in this they were not disappointed, as they found a practically uninhabited wilderness; but the system itself carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. Its perils politically were from within. It was not the machinations of Laud nor of royalty which proved its undoing, but the bursting into blossom and fruit of its own tenets.

x* Vide Fiske's Beginnings of New England.

At the time of Mrs. Hutchinson's arrival the settlers had had four years of struggle in the wilderness, beset by cold, hunger and disease, exposed to the attacks of hostile savages and encountering hardships which made them old at forty. Cut off from all the refinements of life with few books and with none of the distract- [p. 257 / p. 258] ions which tend to preserve a normal mental balance, it were not strange if their noble traits of firmness, resolution and courage had already begun to harden into intolerance, asperity and selfishness. The sweet uses of adversity seldom tend toward an easy and genial liberality either of thought or of deed. It is said that emigrants, coming over on later ships, could scarcely recognize their relatives so gaunt and haggard had they become. If the new life had wrought such change in their physical appearance much might be said of its psychological effects, culminating a few years later in the persecution of the Quakers, the strange delusions regarding witchcraft, and the many acts of fanaticism by all sects.

Holding their land under a private company and not from the crown, they had felt themselves justified in deporting any and all comers not of their faith, as deemed likely to cause disturbance. But this precaution could not prevent dissension in their own ranks. Church membership had been made the condition for exercising the franchise, in order, no doubt, to keep out the emissaries of Wentworth and Laud. But while they were thus enabled to keep out the vicious as well, they could not exclude the common workings of selfishness and passion, to say nothing of the logical consequences of independent thought. As early as 1631 religious disputes had arisen among them, not to mention differences between the officials themselves. The long service of Winthrop as Governor had aroused the fears of the more democratic and he had just been succeeded by his former associate Dudley. Then too, that 'conscientiously contentious man,' Roger Williams had been in the country several years and had already crossed swords with Colton and other divines, on points of doctrine, which showed him tolerant to a degree one hundred years in advance of his time. Although the fine traits of his character could not fail to have made him friends among his opponents, and he had not yet brought about his own banishment, the latter occurring about a twelve month later, yet even then he was causing much anxiety among the conservatives.

Such was the arena into which Anne Hutchinson and her party stepped when they left the ship Griffen in Boston Harbor. Instead of a peaceful, God-fearing community quietly worshipping [p. 258 / p. 259] according its own set formulas, it was a veritable tinder box to which she herself was destined to provide the spark. The vessel itself also carried another source of anxiety for the much tried colonists, in a copy of the Commission lately granted to the two archbishops and ten of the privy council as a commission to regulate all foreign plantations and to call in patents and charters. It was only the adroitness of the court in evading this demand that saved a surrender of the charter, an event which would have put an end to the very existence of the theocracy. Beset by foes within and without, it was a time to try the fiber of those in authority.

The Reverend John Cotton, the talented minister of St. Botolph's church had preceded Mrs. Hutchinson about a year and was installed as a colleague of the pastor, Wilson, in the Boston church. It was to sit under his teachings that she, with her family, left their home in Lincolnshire; for, as she herself quaintly says, 'when our teacher came to New England, it was a great trouble unto me, my brother Wheelwright, being put by also.' Herself the daughter of a minister, a Mr. Marbury, who had preached in Lincolnshire and afterwards in London, she was greatly interested in religious matters.

She had as a companion on the voyage a preacher by the name of Symmes, with whom she discused [sic] various points of doctrine and aroused in him doubts of her orthodoxy, all of which were duly made known to the authorities by the reverend gentleman upon his arrival. This warning for a time delayed her admission to the church, but at last she was received and soon began to make her presence felt.

Her husband's house stood in the best quarter of the town, nearly opposite the home of Governor Winthrop. Here she soon became a leader in society, fast friend of Sir Henry Vane and many of the leading men and women of the colony. Born in 1600, at this time she was in the prime of life. A capable, energetic and amiable woman of good birth, being of the same family as the poet Dryden, having a vigorous intellect and dauntless courage; her failings, it is said, were vanity and a bitter tongue toward those whom she disliked. The latter trait not being confined either [p. 259 / p. 260] to Mrs. Hutchinson, or the laity at that period. If she were able to surpass in invective, some of her reverend opponents, then, indeed, her ability and ready wit have not been over-rated.

That she was impulsive is certain, but that she was indiscreet depends upon the point of view. If she were anxious to retain her popularity and ride smoothly over the troubled waters of society then she was most indiscreet, but, if she were animated by the desire to break through the crust of formalism fast hardening over the religion of the hour, and to allow the springs of natural and heartfelt piety to well u to the surface and refresh the arid theology of the time, then, indeed, her indiscretion became discretion of an heroic type. To the disinterested student it would seem that the latter were true. She had left the refinements of her home in England, where her own and her husband's family enjoyed distinction, to follow to the new world, a preacher who was more broad minded and tolerant than his colleagues. Associated with her was Sir Henry Vane, one of the greatest Puritan statesmen of that great age. A man whom Fiske says, was spiritually akin to Jefferson and Samuel Adams. A man whose admirable qualities so won the hearts of the people that within a few months after his arrival in Boston, he was chosen Governor, at the very time when Mrs. Hutchinson was at the height of her power. The character of the other men of lesser note, who surrounded her and were destined to suffer with her, makes it apparent that there was a general revolt against the mental tyrrany beginning to be exercised by the clergy. From his dream of reproducing the institutions of God's chosen people as set forth in the Bible, says one writer, the New England Puritan awoke to find that he had surrendered his new commonwealth to his priests.

Mrs. Hutchinson, very soon won the hearts of the women by her kindly ministrations in time of illness and her faithful exhortations toward a deeper and more heartfelt piety. It is curious that amid the conflicting and partisan accounts of her which have come down in history, the best proofs of her goodness of heart and noble intent are found in the recital of her daily life. It is a strange irony that she should be judged by her work, when her whole life was spent in protesting against such evidence of santifi- [p. 260 / p. 261] cation. Her skill in nursing, her cheerful neighborliness, her intelligence and magnetic personality gathered about her a group of friends among the women, who soon began to assemble at her home at regular meetings to discuss the sermons delivered on Sunday and Lecture Day by John Cotton. The men held meetings for religious discourse from which women were excluded and Mrs. Hutchinson thought she was supplying a deficiency when she instituted a meeting for her own sex. At first the enterprise met with great favor and from 50 to 100 women came to listen to her expositions. Mr. Cotton's sermons met with her full approval, as did those of her brother-in-law the Reverend John Wheelwright, former Rector of Bilsby, who had followed the Hutchinsons to Boston.

However, the step from discussion to criticism was short, and it soon began to be said that she cast reproaches upon the ministers, saying that none of them did preach the covenant of grace except Mr. Cotton. The two points of her doctrine which occasioned the greatest disturbance and gave rise to the far famed Antinomian controversy were, 1st. That the actual being of the Holy Ghost was present in the body of a sanctified person, and 2nd. That no sanctification can help to witness to us our justification.

Stripped of all theological verbiage, her accusations against the other ministers as being under a covenant of works rather than a covenant of Grace, simply amounted to accusing them of being teachers of forms, and that Cotton and Wheelwright appealed to the animating spirit like Luther and St. Paul. Referring to the ministers she said 'A company of legall professors lie poring on the law which Christ hath abolished.'

Her teaching of the actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit carried with it the doctrine of individual inspiration, an anarchical doctrine subversive of all church authority; and the second touched the very head and front of her offending for 'the ministers of New England were formalists to the core and the society over which they dominated was organized upon the avowed basis of the manifestations of the outward man.' Such freedom of speech was, of course, intolerable, and so, after an upheaval which [p. 261 - p. 262] threatened to rend the very foundations of the commonwealth, she and her supporters were driven forth with a harshness and cruelty and disregard of law, which will remain forever as a blot upon the history of Massachusetts.

In expressing her sentiments she had only voiced a wide spread feelign of discontent, Chas. Francis Adams says, 'The co-called [sic] Antinomian Controversy was in reality not a religious dispute, which was but the form it took. In its essence it was a great deal more than a religious dispute; it was the first of the many New England quickenings in the direction of social, intellectual and political development. New England's earliest protest against formalism.'

Before winter her adherents had become an organized political party of which Vane was the leader. It is not within the scope of this paper to follow our heroine through the foggy mazes of her court and church trials; nor in her subsequent imprisonment and final banishment from the colony. It is enough to say that through ordeals such as had brought tears of nervousness to the eyes of Sir Henry Vane, and through scenes with which her physical strenght [sic] was in every way inadequate to cope, she preserved the demeanor of a lady and displayed rare tact and judgment; conducting her case with the ability of a trained advocate. Throughout both trials her 'nimble wit and voluble tongue' did not desert her in the supreme hour when the combined efforts of Governor and Deputy Governor and half a dozen divies failed to convict her of wrong doing.

Her claims to inspiration, which men and women of her temperament are prone to consider direct revelations from above, were the immediate means of her undoing.

Her life in Rhode Island, in the midst of the friends and supporters with whom she went into banishment, was a gradual development of the democratic spirit, which is the logical outcome of their tenets. The results to Rhode Island, thanks to these devoted lovers of liberty, and to Roger Williams, the noble champion of toleration, were a complete separation of church and state and the establishment of a true democracy. [p. 262 / p. 263]

Consistently following the logic of her early opinions, Anne Hutchinson herself came to hold very much the same belief as the Quakers, who were soon to follow. She did not believe in magistracy among Christians, nor ordained pastors, and did not believe in bearing arms, persuading her husband to resign from the high office he held on account of these opinions.

Driven out from this new home, after the death of her husband in 1642, by fear that the jurisdiction of Massachusetts might be extended to their settlements, and only too well aware of the sentiments with which she was regarded in her former home, she once more set her face toward the wilderness, accompanied, or followed soon, by several families of her old friends and neighbors.

An incident in her life in Rhode Island had been a solemn visitation from the mother church in Boston, in the persons of three gentlemen 'of a lovely and winning spirit,' who endeavored to bring her back to the fold. But to whom she replied with all her old time spirit.

The author of Chandler's Criminal Trials says that the whole family of the Hutchinson's removed from beyond New Haven to Eastchester in the territory of the Dutch. Another authority, the Puritan Welde, I believe, says they settled in the neighborhood of a place called by seamen Hellgate, which doubtless he considered a most appropriate neighborhood. It was in the summer of 1642 that she came with her son Francis and her son-in-law Collins, 'a young scholar full of zeal' and commenced a plantation at Annie's Hoeck. The settlement was made on what is now known as Pelham Neck, but was long called the 'Manor of Anne Hoock's Neck,' and was close to the Dutch district of Vredeland, which in its turn was only a few miles west of Greenwich, Conn. where doughty Captain Underhill, one of her professed followers, had settled two years before. Here, before the sale of the land was completed, the whole family, with one exception, was murdered by the Indians.

When Roger Williams went to England, a few months previous to their arrival, to represent the affairs of Rhode Island, he was obliged to come to 'Manhattoes' to embark, not being [p. 263 / p. 264] allowed to sail from Boston. Here he found 'hot wars' between the Dutch and the Indians made 'terrible by the flights of men, women and children' and the removal of all that could go to Holland. True to his nature he attempted to make peace between the settlers and the savages who lived on Long Island.

Bolton, in his History of Westchester County, quotes from the records of an old trial which says, 'several testimony's were read to prove that ye Indians questioned Mr. Cornell's and other plantations there about not paying for these lands, which was the occasion of cutting them off and driving away the inhabitants.' Members of the Throgmorton and Cornell families having met death at the same time as the Hutchinsons, all refugees from the hatred of Massachusetts on account of their opinions. Captain John Underhill blames the Dutch authorities for the massacres. He says, 'We have transplanted ourselves hither at our own cost, and many of us as have purchased our land from the Indians, the right owners thereof. But a great portion of the lands which we now occupy, being as yet unpaid for, the Indians come daily and complain that they have been deceived by th Dutch Secretary, called Cornelius, whom they have characterized even in the presence of Stuyvesant as a rogue, a nave and a liar; asserting that he himself had put their names down in a book, and saying that this was not a just and lawful payment, but a pretence and fraud similar to this which occasioned the destruction of Joes. Hutchinson and Mr. Collins to the number of nine persons.'

Mr. Bolton finds that a few years later Pell claimed that he bought Pelham and Westchester of the natives and paid for the tract and that as an English subject he had a right to purchase from Connecticut, it being in His majesty's dominions. This denial, supported by the New England authorities, of the rights of the Dutch to lands they had discovered and had purchased from the Indians in 1640, taken together with the knowledge that the Indians, who murdered the little colony of heretics, belonged to a tribe of Mohegan Indians which owned the supreme authority of the Uncas Chief Sachem 'who had always been the unscrupulous ally of England,' leads the historian to suspect collusion between [p. 264 / p. 265] the New England authorities and the Indians in ridding themselves of the worry of that troublesome woman's presence.

However this maybe [sic], the fact remains that the home of Mrs. Hutchinson and her children (a family of 16 persons) which they had built for themselves on a lovely spot, southwest of the Split Rock, was burned during the terrible raid of the Indians bent on destroying the Dutch settlers and all connected with them. An Indian visited the house in the morning professing friendship, and finding the family defenceless, returned at night with his comrades, killing every member of the family, except one daughter whom they took captive; and burning the houses, barns and cattle of their neighbors also. All that saved the entire number from death was the timely arrival of a boat, which, at the cost of the lives of two of the crew, saved several women and children.

An Indian proprietor of this territory afterwards assumed her name, probably because he was an active party to the massacre, and subsequently signed deeds as Ann Hoock. His grave is also near the same spot and a rock said to be his favorite fishing place, not far away, bears his name.

Her family was not all exterminated however. The daughter Susannah, who was taken by the Indians, was recovered after four years of captivity, by the Dutch on December 30, 1657, married John Cole of Kingston, Rhode Island, where a large number of her descendants still live. Thos. Hutchinson, the historian, and last Royal Governor of Massachusetts was a lineal descendant of her son Edward Hutchinson, who was a captain in King Phillip's war and had remained in Boston along with his sister Faith, the wife of Thos. Savage.

Thus perished the woman whose consistent struggle for liberty of conscience made her hated and dreaded by the authorities of Massachusetts, but whose husband believed to be 'a dear saint and servant of God.' A testimony of no small weight in determining her true character. That a man such as Wm. Hutchinson, himself described as a very honest and peaceable man of good estate, who had followed his wife's fortunes through their stormy course for so many years and yet, after all they had endured to- [p. 265 / p. 266] gether, should be able to say he thought her a dear saint and servant of God, and that he was more nearly tied to her than to the church, is sufficient proof to the average married man or woman that she was all he believed her to be.

Nothing remains to tell of her life in Eastchester but the creek which bears her name, although the spring which furnished water to the family can still be found by careful search, but the blessings of free speech for which she and many like her suffered are the fruits of their labor.

When the Non-Conformists revolted from ecclesiastical authority and established separate churces they republicanized the church. When the individual church members revolted from the teachings of the ministers and insisted upon thinking for themselves, they established democracy in religion. With this great work the names of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson are inseparably connected; and whether her work were done wittingly or unwittingly, the tribute of our gratitude is hers.



Mount Vernon, N. Y.
Authorities drawn upon.

Fiskes Beginnings of New England.
Palfrey's History of New England.
C. F. Adams, Three Episodes of Massachusetts History.
C. F. Adams, Antinomian Controversey.
Sparks Life of Ann Hutchinson.
Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, Vol. 14, 1887-1889.
Bolton's History of Westchester Co.
Richman's Rhode Island."

Source: McVickar, Estelle R., Anne Hutchinson. Her Life in New York, A Character Sketch in Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association. The Eleventh Annual Meeting, With Constitution, By-Laws and List of Members, Vol. IX, pp. 256-66 (New York State Historical Association 1910).

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.


Post a Comment

<< Home