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, October 16, 2006

17th Century Papers Relating To Westchester County Published in 1849 Contain References Important to Pelham

During the 19th century, Edward B. O'Callaghan worked feverishly to translate many mid-17th century manuscripts written in Dutch. The manuscripts related to the early history of New Netherland and the settlement of New Amsterdam. Portions of those materials related to the history of what later became lower Westchester County and portions of the lands acquired by Thomas Pell on June 27, 1654. His groundbreaking work was fortunate because, early on March 29, 1911, the unthinkable happened.

A fire decimated the New York State Library, engulfing one of the nation's most precious collections of early American paper records. The fire destroyed nearly a half a million books, more than a quarter million manuscripts and the entire catalog of nearly one million cards. Rumors spread that a careless cigar smoker caused the fire, but evidence suggested that electrical wiring actually caused the disaster.

In any event, the disaster meant that much of the 19th century work by O'Callaghan was all the more important because it preserved history that, otherwise, was lost or seriously damaged due to fire. Some of that history is important in the documentation of the development of Pelham. With that important point in mind, today's Historic Pelham Blog Postings will transcribe materials related to Westchester County from one of O'Callaghan's translations published in 1849. Take care to notice the references to "Thomas Pel" and "Pel" -- references to the man considered by many to be the founder of Pelham, New York. (A full citation to the source appears at the end of the transcription reflected below.)

"[Vol. III, Page 919]


[Vol. III, Page 919 / Vol. III, Page 920]


[Vol. III, Page 920 / Vol. III, Page 921]


Of BRIAN NUTON, Captn Lieutenant; CORNELIS VAN RUYVEN Secretary and CAREL van BRUGGE Commissary, appointed by the Heer Director General STUYVESANT to go in a boat a second time to Oost-dorp.

[Translated from the Dutch.]

Anno 1656, 29th Decembr Having received our instructions from the Heer General we rowed out with the boat of the Honble Company's ship from before Fort Amsterdam on the 30 ditto. about 7 O'Clock in the morning to proceed on our journey to Oostdorp, accompanied by Claes Bordingh as pilot, as the Companys Skipper was never through Hell-gate, and the Skipper of the Company's bark and a Sailor to row us thither

Manhattan Island being passed, our sailors said the tide was ebb; that they could perceive it in the rowing. Hell-gate being neared in the meanwhile, we found indeed by the strong current which ran through it that the tide was ebbing and that our people had not well calculated the tide. We were, therefore, obliged if we would prosecute our journey, to await the Tide on this side Hell-gate; for we still hoped to arrive betimes in the evening at Oostdorp and to accomplish our Mission, and to row back with the return tide in the night from there to the Manhatans so as to be home on Sunday, but we found ourselves sorely deceived in our expectation, as appears by the sequel --

Having gone ashore during the ebbing of the tide, on this side of Hell-gate where William Hallet's house & plantation formerly stood, which were laid waste by the Indians about September of the year 1655; we made a fire there by aid of spunk which we had; found in the shallow water on the strand some Oysters which we fried and ate, whilst thus engaged, a fine herd of Cattle came right by us feeding along the beach; there were about sixteen cows both old & young, and 5 @ 6 horses [Vol. III, Page 921 / Vol. III, Page 922]

Having viewed these as well as the land which is there quite flat and apparently of good soil; and having eaten of what we had brought with us, it became low water. We embarked again in our boat, and passed through Hell-gate and by the fast anchored Brothers 1 [Footnote 1] to the Kill in front of Oostdorp into which we pulled and hugged to our sorrow close on the west bank of said Kill, when after rowing up a short way, we ran ourselves aground. Our people looked for deep water but found none. As our pilot calculated that there would be still an hour and a half of ebb, we were obliged to row ashore as we were not willing to remain with the boat in the Kill in such cold weather; we went ashore on the west bank and built a fire there, the land being apparently barren and stoney. Standing here together around the fire, we heard an Indian call. Some of us going out, on hearing the noise, found two Indians lying in a canoe, fishing, in front of the kill; as soon as the Indians saw us they paddled away in their skiff.

Being on the strand we found the kill entirely dry except a Channel which we descried on the east or left side of the mouth of the Kill, which appeared to us to be so deep and so wide, that a boat could be rowed up through it at low water. Having remained there about two hours we found the water increasing.

We entered our boat and rowed toward Oostdorp where arriving we went to Mr Newman's house. We were met, on the way, by John Lord one of those elected as Magistrate, who went with us to Mr Newman's, where on our arrival we found all abed. Thereupon John Lord invited us to his house whither we proceeded because Newman was abed, and we did not wish to trouble him, being a man of 72 years.

On arriving at John Lords we communicated to him the object of our journey, and requested him to have the Inhabitants summoned in the morning at day light by an Indian. He answered us -- 'Tis our Sabbath morning; the Inhabitants will not come. We asked him to learn the opinions of the principal settlers at once, as we could explain our business in half an hour, without hindering their service. Which he proceeded to do.

[Footnote 1] 1 The 'Brothers' are two small islands in the Sound, situate near the South Easternmost extremity of Westchester County. ED

[Vol. III, Page 922 / Vol. III, Page 923]

But brought us for answer, No -- that they were in no way so inclined. Although we would fain reach home by Sunday noon, we were obliged to remain there until Monday, as they would not be prevailed on to assemble on Sunday.

31st ditto. Sunday. Went to examine the Village somewhat. It is a very stoney place, thickly covered with trees. At noon were invited to dine at Mr Newmans. After dinner Cornelis van Ruyven went to the house where they assemble on Sundays, to observe their mode of worship, as they have not as yet any clergyman. There I found a gathering of about 15 men and 10 to 12 women. Mr Baly made a prayer, which being concluded, one Robbert Basset read a Sermon from a printed Book composed & published by an English Minister in England. After the reading Mr Baly made another prayer and they sung a Psalm and seperated. In the evening we were invited to supper to Robbert Basset's, and having taken our leave we went to sleep at John Lords house: neither he nor any of the members of his family came home this night, which much surprised us.

A o 1657. 1st January. He came home an hour after daybreak. He said he remained abroad in order that we may have more room. We requested him to have the drum beaten forthwith to get the people together; to which he said, he had given orders to beat the drum, and the majority of the Inhabitants being assembled we communicated to them the object of our mission, and that the Hr Director general of N. Netherland had from the six persons named by them elected three as Magistrates for Oostdorp viz. Mr Newman, Mr Lord, & John Smith, and exhibited and read to them the commission granted to the Magistrates. After the reading was concluded, one Robert Basset requested to speak a word, which being allowed, he said there was one among the Magistrates who was unfit to fill the place; that notwithstanding he should respect him as a Magistrate so long as he resided there, as he was selected by the Director General. Thereupon we should have demanded of him who that was and wherein his unfitness consisted; but in order not to make any trouble about him nor to separate leaving the business unfinished and other considerations, we merely answered that he had the nomination of the whole town and was elect- [Vol. III, Page 923 / Vol. III, Page 924] ed with the others by the Heer General; consequently they were bound to acknowledge the whole three as Magistrates, and turning to the Magistrates we requested them to take the oath, which they presently did, one by one, without any objection. This done, we wished them luck and prosperity in their office, and further pursuant to our Instructions requested the actual Inhabitants to take the Oath of Allegiance according to the formulary which we read to them. Whereupon many of them made answer that they had all taken the oath at the Manhattas when they had been carried prisoners thither. Among the rest, Robbert Basset abovementioned said, that he should not subscribe that form, but he should promise to obey as long as he remained in our province, the Director General and his appointed Magistrates and laws so far as these harmonized with the laws of God. Whereupon we asked him if he would subscribe on these words being added. He replied yes. Thereupon as we saw no other chance we determined to write his words; this he said he should do himself. He therefore drew up the writing hereunto annexed, being the sense as before stated in which he signed. This all the Inhabitants then present offered to subscribe, and it was signed, as appears therefrom, by 15 persons, and the oath we read to them was taken by the 3 Magistrates and signed by one of the Inhabitants named George Reith. One of the settlers present named Anthony Gill would not sign either the one or the other. We told him, therefore, in the name of the Director General & Council of N. Netherland, pursuant to our Instructions that he should depart within three days from Oostdorp and within 3 weeks from the Province of N. Netherland, which he said, he should do. Six persons were gone from home to other places, viz. Edward Waeters, Richard Pointom, Samuel Barret, Jonathan Writh, Tomas Stieven, Rochier Wyls, and one was sick, Robbert Roos. These are all the present Inhabitants of Oostdorp, but they told us that 3 @ 4 families more would soon come.

The preceding being, divers of the Inhabitants made the complaints which they requested us to present to the Hr General & Council, in order that a timely remedy may be applied: --

[Vol. III, Page 924 / Vol. III, Page 925]

Firstly, regarding the insolence of the Indians; that they daily threaten to destroy them if they repair under the Dutch which some told us proceeded from Mr. Pel who purchased that piece of land from the Indians on this condition, as they said, that the Indians should deliver it to him unembarassed, and maintain him in it against all who may have claims to it, and that the said Pel now daily importuned the Indians to return his money, or otherwise that the Indians according to Deed of Sale, should free him from the Dutch nation who claim it as their property.

Secondly, That the Heer General had promised them when his Honour had them removed thence, that each should have his arms restored. This, they said, was not done, but that many among them yet missed their arms -- one a snaphammer and the other a pistol, and some a musket whereby they were deprived of arms; Request that the said promise may be fulfilled.

Thirdly, That they were never well supplied with arms and were stripped, as aforesaid, of the few which they had; therefore, should the Indians make any attack on them, they musdt immediately surrender; they, consequently, request that the Village be provided with some muskets, powder, lead & match which they would preserve in a Magazine for the Town.

We promised to Communicate the whole of this Remonstrance to the Hr Director General & Council.

The business being completed and leave taken, we went to Mr Ferris' who invited us to breakfast. This done, the tide being favorable after breakfast, we resolved to depart though it rained hard. We, accordingly took our leave both of the inducted Magistrates and Inhabitants generally, and rowed according to our Calculation about 12 o'Clock out of the Kill; passed Hell-gate with a favourable tide and landed about 3 o'clock at the Manhatans; reported our return and delivered these in Amsterdam in N : Netherland the 1. January, 1657.


[Vol. III, Page 925 / Vol. III, Page 926]

The first Jannuary [sic] Ao 1657 : In east towne in the N. Netherlands.

Wee hose hands are vnder writen do promes to oune the gouernor of the manatas as our gouernor and obay all his magastrates and lawes that ar mad acordin to god so long as we liue in his Juridiction.

[Column 1]

Robbert Bassett
X George Reith his mark
John Finch
John Wilson
Richard Horton
Thomas Taylor
X Hendrick Cornelyssen his mark
Thamis Martin

[Colum 2]

Nick Lookerly
John Quimbie
Josiah Gilber
Jonathan Llockwood
X Robert Meacker his mark
X Jeffery Fferris his mark


Wee humbly Desr and request that you wold be plesed to send vs a Court Booke and those 12 Mvskets which you spak of with the rest of the ammunition for the use and safard of ovr plantation with the orders and Laws which we are to walk by that wee may know how to akt


from Este towne the 1 of Jenuary [sic] 1656 [sic?? 1657?]."

Source: O'Callaghan, E.B., ed., The Documentary History of the State of New-York; Arranged Under Direction of the Hon. Christopher Morgan, Secretary of State, Vol. III, Ch. XIII, pp. 919-26, "Papers Relating to Westchester County" (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co. 1849).

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