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.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Evidence Sheds Light on Location of An Early Home of John Pell, 2d Lord of the Manor of Pelham

John Pell, often referenced as the "Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham", was the nephew and principal legatee of Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham. Born in England in 1643, John Pell traveled to America in 1670 following his uncle's death to claim his inheritance that included the lands that formed the Manor of Pelham.

Pell lived in the Manor of Pelham. It is believed that he built a Manor Home worthy of his vast land holdings. Its location has long been lost in the mists of time. Some authorities have suggested two possible locations for Pell's Manor House: (1) near today's Bartow-Pell Mansion; and (2) on Rodman's Neck, also known as Pell's Point and Anhooke's Neck. See, e.g., City History Club of New York, Historical Guide to the City of New York, p. 210 (NY, NY: 1909) ("Not far away [from the Bartow-Pell Mansion] is the site of the original Pell Manor House, though some say that it was on the extreme end of Pelham Neck.").

Although it cannot be known with certainty, an analysis of the available evidence suggests that John Pell may have lived in two homes in the area. He may have lived for a time in the early 1670s in a home built by his uncle, Thomas Pell (First Lord) located on Rodman's Neck. It seems possible that John Pell later built a Manor House near today's Bartow Pell Mansion.

Some Evidence John Pell Lived in a Manor House Near Today's Bartow-Pell Mansion

There is at least some evidence that John Pell built a manor house within the boundaries of today’s Bartow-Pell Estate. Its precise location, however, has never been established with certainty.

The area certainly would have been suitable for such a manor house. As Lockwood Barr noted in his History of the Ancient Town of Pelham published in 1946:

“[a]ccess to the water was essential in those days, since the principal mode of travel was by boat, there being no roads through the virgin forests – only Indian trails. When he selected this site, Sir John must also have been influenced by the magnificent view of the Sound – an unbroken sweep of water between Hunter’s Island to the north, and Ann Hook’s Neck on the south. Nearby his mansion Sir John built a small family burying ground, where still rest many of the Pells.” 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, p. 38 (Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946) (hereinafter “Barr”).

Robert Bolton’s History of the County of Westchester, first published in 1848, is one of the few published works to record a location for the manor house. Bolton wrote that it “stood south-west of the present residence” known today as the Bartow-Pell Mansion. See Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History of the County of Westchester From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. I, p. 552 (NY: Alexander S. Gould 1848) (hereinafter "Bolton, 1848").

Based on information including Bolton’s reference, a later author concluded “the old manor house is believed to have stood closer to the shore near the site of the Bartow-Pell Mansion.” See Kestenbaum, Joy, The Bartow-Pell Expanded Landmark Site: A Historic Landscape Report, pp. 4-5 (1991) (copy in the collections of The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham; hereinafter “Kestenbaum”). The same author noted that a “map of . . . 1708 which shows land in Eastchester granted to a William Peartree and associates by Queen Anne includes the area of Pelham Manor, New Rochelle, Eastchester; a mark which would seem to connote the general location of the Pell Manor house is roughly in this vicinity.” Id., p. 5.

It turns out that at least two early maps seem to show one or more structures located in essentially the same place – a location only a few yards to the southwest of the location of today’s Bartow-Pell Mansion. The earliest map, created in 1708, is entitled “A Draft of the Lands In Controversy between the Inhabitants of East Chester joined with William Pear Tree & Surveyed & Laid Downe 7th August Graham Pell”. The map shows a structure located in an area that would be slightly southwest of today’s Bartow-Pell Mansion. (A copy of the map transcribed by hand may be found in Hufeland, Otto, Anne Hutchinson’s Refuge in the Wilderness – The Second Settler in Westchester County – Where She Settled in 1642 and Died in the Following Year in Publications of the Westchester County Historical Society, Vol. VII, pp. 18-19 (1929) (one of two maps between pp. 18 and 19; it has the caption “Copy of map of land in Eastchester granted to William Peartree and Associates by Queen Anne in 1708. Original in Secretary of State’s Office, Albany, N.Y.”)).

In addition, a very famous map created by an English engineer and cartographer named Charles Blaskowitz in 1776 also contains an interesting reference. The map is entitled “A Survey of Frog’s Neck and the Rout [sic] of the British Army to the 24th of October 1776, under the Command of His Excellency The Honorable William Howe, General and Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Forces”. The map is maintained in the Map Division of the Library of Congress although a very high resolution image of the map is available via the American Memory Collection of the Library of Congress. Go to http://memory.loc.gov/ and search for Frog’s Neck to access the bibliographic data about, and images of, the map. It was intended to show troop movements leading up to the Battle of White Plains and is considered by historians to be a particularly accurate map of the area for the time. The Blaskowitz Map seems to show a structure with at least two additional outbuildings located in the same place – southwest of the area where today’s Bartow-Pell Mansion is located.

Even without considering the Blaskowitz Map, historian Joy Kestenbaum concluded in 1991 in a report she prepared for the City of New York Parks & Recreation as follows:

“Thus, the old manor house is believed to have stood closer to the shore near the site of the Bartow-Pell Mansion and within the boundaries of the Expanded Landmark Site.” Kestenbaum, pp. 4-5.

Some Evidence that John Pell Lived on Rodman's Neck

The evidence cited above seems compelling. There is interesting evidence, however, that shortly after his arrival in the Manor of Pelham John Pell, 2d Lord of the Manor of Pelham lived on what is known today as Rodman's Neck -- an area long called "Pell's Point", a description quite revealing.

The Records of the Town of Eastchester contain a document dated May 17, 1671 that references "Mr John Pell of ye manor of Annhocks neck". The document reads, in its entirety

"Whereas there is a new road laid out for the common highway into New England neare Eastchester the which is sayd to be much more conveniant than ye former as well for strangers and travelers as ye inhabitants But yet by some persons hath been objected against and a right understanding may be had hereupon in having ye sayd wayes viewed by knowing and indifferent persons Mr John Pell of ye manor of Annhocks neck and Mr. John Richbell of Momoroneck are hereby appointed and desired either by themselves or some understanding persons in such affairs who they shall employe to take a view of ye said roads or highways within three weeks after ye date hereof and to make reports unto me which of them they shall judge most conveniant to be maintained the which thereupon shall be confirmed and allowed of accordingly Given thereupon shall be confirmed and allowed of accordingly Given nder [sic] my hand at Forte Jeames in New York this 17th Day of May 1671

Fran Lovelace

This presenc testifieth Moses Hoit Snr have several parcels of upland as herein certified which their butts and bounds one pec [piece] of land by the second meado"

Source: Records of the Town of Eastchester, Book Two, p. 24 1/2 (Typewritten manuscript of records transcribed by Eastchester Historical Society 1964) (copy in author's collection).

There seems little doubt that Anhooke's Neck (referenced as "Annhock's neck" in the document quoted above) encompassed the area now known as Rodman's Neck. The area around today's Bartow-Pell has never been recorded as part of Annhooke's neck. Rather, that label has long been applied to what is known today as Rodman's Neck but has also been called Pell's Point.

Interesting, there is evidence that Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham, built a house on Annhooke's Neck before his death in the fall of 1669. On October 13, 1669, the Court of Assize issued an order appointing John Richbell, William Leyden and Samuel Drake to take an inventory of the estate of Thomas Pell. The order referenced Thomas Pell as being of "Ann Hook's Neck". It contained the following reference: "Whereas, Mr. Thomas Pell of Ann Hook's Neck, is lately deceased, and left a considerable estate in this government, of which no inventory is as yet returned." See Bolton 1848, Vol. I, p. 524 (citing Assize Rec. Albany, vol. ii. 78).

The reference to Thomas Pell as being "of Ann Hook's Neck" seems to take on more significance upon review of the inventory of the Pell's estate at the time of his death. That inventory includes a reference to Pell's "House and land in Westchester". Id., p. 527.

Considered in its entirety, this evidence suggests that Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor, built a home that stood on Annhooke's Neck at the time of his death in the fall of 1669. John Pell, his nephew, is referenced in the records of the Town of Eastchester as being "of ye manor of Annhocks neck" less than two years later. This suggests that when he arrived in the Manor of Pelham to claim his inheritance after his uncle's death, he lived -- at least briefly -- in the house his uncle had built.

Yet, tradition says that John Pell had a manor house near today's Bartow-Pell Mansion. Moreover, there is some evidence to support that a structure stood in that area on lands owned by John Pell near the turn of the eighteenth century. A reasonable conclusion, it seems, would be that John Pell lived in his uncle's home on Annhooke's Neck until he built his manor house near today's Bartow-Pell Mansion.

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