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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Abstract of 1768 Will of Caleb Pell of the Manor of Pelham

What follows is a transcription of an abstract of an early Pelham will. The abstract was prepared by William S. Pelletreau and was published in 1898. A citation to the source appears immediately following the transcription of the abstract.

"495. Caleb Pell, Pelham.

'Farmer.' Leaves to son Caleb all my farm plantation and salt medow in Eastchester, formerly to my brother Thomas Pell deceased, and whereon my son Caleb now lives. Reserving the land west of the fence and running across the farm from the Boston road to the land of Jonathan Archer, 'of which I give the use for I year to my son James, and then to my son Caleb.' Leaves to son James 'all the farm plantation and meadow, in the Manor of Pelham where I now live.' Also all Improvements and right in a farm in Phillips Upper Patent. Legacies to wife Mary, and to daughters Ann Lawrence, Fila, Mary Rodman, Bathsheba and Euphemia. Also to son Elijah. Makes 'my brothers in law John Ferris and James Ferris executors.
Dated March 24, 1768.
Proved April 9, 1768."

Source: Pelletreau, William S., Early wills of Westchester County, New York : from 1664 to 1784 : a careful abstract of all wills (nearly 800) recorded in New York Surrogate's Office and at White Plains, N.Y. from 1664 to 1784 : also the genealogy of "the Havilands" of Westchester County and descendants of Hon. James Graham (Watkinson and Ackerley families) : with genealogical and historical notes, p. 267 (NY, NY: F. P. Harper 1898).

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Abstract of 1752 Will of Joseph Pell of the Manor of Pelham

Yesterday I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Abstract of 1752 Will of Thomas Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham". Today I am providing a transcription of an abstract of the 1752 will of Joseph Pell of the Manor of Pelham. Joseph Pell [Sr.] was the eldest son of Thomas Pell [II] who, in turn, was the eldest son of John Pell, nephew of Thomas Pell, First Lord of the Manor of Pelham. Thus, Joseph Pell [Sr.] has been referenced by Pell Family genealogists as "Fourth Lord of the Manor of Pelham".

"221. Joseph Pell Esq, Pelham.

Leaves to son Joseph all my neck of land with half my meadow in the Manor of Pelham, commonly called the upper neck, joining to the west side of Ann Hooks neck, now belonging to Samuel Rodman. Leaves to son Thomas all the Tract or Plantation whereon I now live, and the other half of meadows. Provides for wife Phebe, and daughters Susannah, Sarah and Ann. Makes 'my trusty friends John Bartow of Westchester, Samuel Sneden of Eastchester, and Jacobus Bleecker of New Rochelle,' executors.



Aug. 31, 1752.
Proved Sept. 28, 1752."

Source: Pelletreau, William S., Early Wills of Westchester County, New York : From 1664 to 1784 : A Careful Abstract of All Wills (Nearly 800) Recorded in New York Surrogate's Office and at White Plains, N.Y. From 1664 to 1784 : Also the Genealogy of "the Havilands" of Westchester County and Descendants of Hon. James Graham (Watkinson and Ackerley Families) : with Genealogical and Historical Notes, p. 122 (NY, NY: F. P. Harper 1898).

In his book on the history of Pelham published in 1946, Lockwood Barr traced the "line of descent of the title of Lord of the Manor of Pelham", though he indicated that he had been unable to establish a date of death for Joseph Pell [Sr] born in 1715. See Barr, pp. 35-36. Barr further suggested that Joseph Pell [Sr.] died before his father, Thomas Pell II who died in 1752. According to Barr, Thomas Pell II's will was filed August 18, 1752. See Barr, pp. 35-36 (citing Surrogate Office, New York Record of Wills, Vol. X, ong. pp. 155-156, dated 1751-54").

The abstract of the will quoted above seems to establish that Barr was incorrect. If Thomas Pell II's will was filed August 18, 1752 he must have died on or before that date. The will of his eldest son, Joseph Pell I, is dated August 31, 1752 and was proved September 28, 1752, indicating that Joseph Pell I, died some time between those two dates, apparently only weeks after his father's death. To make matters even more interesting, 1752 was the year that England and its colonies including America adopted the Gregorian Calendar. September 2, 1752 was the last day of the Julian Calendar. The following day, due to the change over to the Gregorian Calendar, was September 14, 1752. There was no September 3 - September 13 that year. Thus, it would appear that Thomas Pell II and his son, Joseph Pell I, died even closer in time to one another -- within about a one month period.

The fact that the two died so close in time suggests, but does not establish, that the two died of a related sickness.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Abstract of 1752 Will of Thomas Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham

On February 22, 1752, an ailing Thomas Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham executed his will. By March 12, 1755, Pell was dead, the will being proved on that date.

The will provides an interesting glimpse of an 18th century Pelham family that had quite an impact on the little community. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an abstract of the will published in 1897.

"Page 226. -- In the name of God, Amen. I THOMAS PELL, JR., of the manor of Pelham, in Westchester County, being sick and weak. I leave to my father a silver-headed cane and a pair of gloves. To my mother a suit of mourning clothes. To my brother, Roger Pell, £200. To my brother in law, John Ward, Jr., £150. To my sister, Sarah Dodge, £20. To my sister, Keziah Lawrence, £25. To my brother, John Pell, my riding horse and saddle and £10, and 1/2 my wearing apparell. To my brother, David Pell, £25 and 1/2 my wearing apparell. All the rest of my estate I leave to my youngest brothers and sisters, viz., Samuel, James, Dorothy, and Rachel. 'My Surveying instruments are to be sold and the money paid to my sister, Mary Ward, or any of my executors may keep them and pay her the value.' I leave to my brother, David Pell, all my reckoning and ciphering books, and a case of bottles, a hanger, a broad axe, and my violin. I make my brother Roger and my brother in law, John Ward, Jr., executors.

Dated February 22, 1752. Witnesses, Amos Dodge, Joshua Gravis Grib, John Quin. Proved, March 12, 1755. John Ward, Jr., was then dead."

Source: Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate's Office, City of New York in Collections of the New-York Historical Society For the Year 1896, pp. 1, 57 (NY, NY: New-York Historical Society, 1897) (citing Liber 19, p. 226).

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The 19th Century Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island

In the late 19th Century, land values in and around City Island were soaring. One consequence was a multi-year litigation by Elizabeth Delancey and John Hunter (children of Des Brosses Hunter) to "eject" City Island's largest shipyard owner from the use of land beneath the waters surrounding City Island. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes an article about the initial court decision arising from the dispute and then summarizes a number of additional court decisions dealing with the same dispute.




A suit of more than usual interest was decided in the Supreme Court for Westchester County, at White Plains, last week, by Mr. Justice Barnard. The action was for ejectment to recover possession of 145 acres of land under water, surrounding City Island, in the East River, and constituting a strip of land under water nearly three miles long by 400 feet wide. Land values in City Island are increasing so rapidly that the property in question has, of late years, become quite valuable.

The plaintiff in the action was Mrs. Elizabeth D. De Lancey, now resident in Virginia, as owner of three-fourths interest in the land. The defendant was Henry Piepgras, owning the largest shipyard on the island, and the claimant for the remaining one-fourth interest was Mr. John Hunter of Westchester. The origin of the title to these lands dates back to a patent from the Crown, through Governor General Monckton, to Benjamin Palmer, dated 1763. The original Palmer obtained this grant for the purpose of developing City Island into a rival, if not the successor to the commerce of the city of New-York, expecting thereby to avoid the then serious dangers of navigation at Hell Gate. His speculation proved disastrous, and the only trace of it left on the island is the name, 'City' Island, adopted in place of Minneford's, the original Indian name.

The island soon reverted to its original agricultural condition, and the quit rents, on which the Crown patent was conditioned, were never paid. In 1819 the Legislature of this State provided for the sale of all lands for non-paymens [sic] of quit rents. The property in question wat [sic] sold pursuant to the act then passed, and the title of the Palmer heirs was thus extinguished, and the property was conveyed by the Controller of this State, in 1836, to Des Brosses Hunter, the father of the present claimants, who thereupon leased the lands to Capt. Joshua Leviness, who used them for oystering and other purposes for over thirty years. The Hunter title, though acceded to at first, was finally resisted by the islanders, but it has always remained a matter of common knowledge on the island. It was attacked by the islanders in 1887 by a proceeding before the Commissioners of the Land Office for the cancellation of the deed to Elias D. Hunter. The City Islanders in this case were defeated. Shortly afterward the present suit against Mr. Piepgras was instituted as a test case, and it has resulted in a verdict sustaining the De Lancey and Hunter claims in all respects. The case, however, will undoubtedly be appealed and contested in the highest courts.

Numerous novel and interesting questions of law were raised in the case. The case is the first one ever instituted in this State on a title arising from a quit-rent sale. The principal defenses urged on the trial of the present case were prior conveyances of the lands in question by the Pell Manor grant: tenure of the lands in trust by Benjamin Palmer for the benefit of the City Islanders; non-performance by the State officers of all requirements of the quit-rent sales, as per the act of 1819, &c.

As to this, plaintiff contended successfully that the lands having forfeited to the State for non-payment of the quit rents, exact compliance with the requirements of the statute in the matter of sale was immaterial. The court also held that claimants' title had been perfected by adverse possession.

The counsel in the case were: For the claimants, Mr. Walter D. Edmonds and Mr. John Hunter, Jr., of Temple Court; for the defendant, Mr. James R. Steers, Jr., of Bryant Building."

Source: A Very Interesting Suit. - It Was Brought To Recover Possession of Land Under Water., N. Y. Times, Jun. 7, 1891, p. 6, col. 3.

What follows are summaries of reported judicial decisions released in later years in connection with the same dispute.

De Lancey v. Peipgras, et al., 63 Hun 169, 45 N. Y. St. Rep. 41, 17 N.Y.S. 681 (Sup. Ct., Gen. Term, 2d Dep’t 1892). In the initial decision (see description above), Plaintiff and John Hunter recovered from the appellant in an ejectment action a strip of land under water adjacent to City Island. The Court granted judgment for them and denied a request for a new trial. Piepgras appealed and the intermediate appellate court affirmed the decision.

De Lancey v. Peipgras, 93 Sickels 26, 138 N.Y. 26, 33 N.E. 822 (N.Y. 1893). In action where the Plaintiff and John Hunter recovered from the appellant in an ejectment action a strip of land under water adjacent to City Island, the appellant sought to overturn the lower court’s decision. The New York Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment though it modified it by inserting a proviso and reservation contained in the original City Island patent issued to Benjamin Palmer.

Piepgras v. Edmunds, 23 N. Y. Civ. Proc. R. 241, 5 Misc. 314, 31 Abb. N. Cas. 39, 25 N.Y.S. 961 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1893). The plaintiff had a shipyard on City Island and was “ejected” from lands under the waters surrounding City Island where he had a dock and rails used to haul ships out of the water following a lawsuit filed by Elizabeth De Lancey, John Hunter, Jr. and others. On appeal of that ejectment action, the New York Court of Appeals modified the judgment of the court below saying that it should have recognized certain easements provided in the English Crown’s original land grant to Benjamin Palmer in 1763. The plaintiff filed this action against the lawyer for John Hunter, Jr., Walter D. Edmunds, and John Hunter, Jr. He claimed that because they had the Sheriff “eject” him from using the land under the water using process that did not adequately reflect the modification made to the judgment by the New York Court of Appeals, his business had been shut down unnecessarily and he was entitled to $15,000 in damages. The court rejected his claims and dismissed his complaint.

De Lancey v. Piepgras, 73 Hun 608, 56 N. Y. St. Rep. 181, 56 N. Y. St. Rep. 736, 26 N.Y.S. 807 (Sup. Ct., Gen. Term 2d Dep’t 1893). Following lengthy litigation to have Henry Piepgras “ejected” from land beneath the waters surrounding City Island that he used for a dock and ship rails to support his shipwright business, the Courts finally held that he could be excluded from such land beneath the water. Elizabeth De Lancey erected a structure to shelter employees to guard against use of the land beneath the water. Piepgras made violent threats, then removed De Lancey’s structure, throwing it into Long Island Sound. De Lancey brought this action against Piepgras and the court below entered an order directing Piepgras to restore possession of the land beneath the water to De Lancey and to cease and desist from interfering with her enforcement of the execution of the judgment in the earlier action allowing her to take possession of the land beneath the water. The appellate court affirmed the decision.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

1788 Advertisement by Jemima Pell Offering 8 Acres on City Island for Sale

In 1788, Jemima Pell (widow of Joseph Pell of Pelham Manor) placed an advertisement in a New York City newspaper offering for sale eight acres of land located on City Island. The property had been given to her by Mr. Gilead Hunt. The advertisement describes the property and the "small tenement" that stood on it. The text of the notice appears immediately below.


SITUATE on City Island, Westchester county, about 20 miles up the East River from New-York.

The above Lot contains eight acres of land, and is well situated for a garden spot, for the supply of this city with vegetables, or tavern for the watermen.

On this lot is a small tenement, with one chimney only, and a never failing spring of fresh water. The excellence of this spot is too universally known, to require any particular description.

It was formerly the property of Mr. Gilead Hunt, who, by a deed of gift, conveyed it to Mrs. JEMIMA PELL (widow of the late Joseph Pell, of the Manor of Pelham) by whom a good title will be given. -- Enquire at No. 25 Water-street."

Source: To Be Sold, At Private Sale, A Lot of Land, The New-York Journal, and Daily Patriotic Register, Apr. 9, 1788, p. 4, col. 3.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

New York Implements the New U.S. Constitution in 1788 by, Among Other Things, Electing a Pelham Manor Resident to the Continental Congress

Philip Pell of the Manor of Pelham was among New York's first set of delegates to the Continental Congress in 1789. In a two-volume work published in 1842 entitled "The History of Political Parties in the State of New-York From the Ratification of the Federal Constitution to December, 1840 in Two Volumes", Jabez D. Hammond described the 1788 election of Philip Pell and a group of others to serve as New York's delegates to the Continental Congress. The pertinent excerpt appears immediately below:

"On the 13th Oct., 1788, the governor issued a proclamation requiring the legislature to meet at Albany on the eighthy day of December, alleging that events had occurred since their last meeting, which rendered it necessary that they should convene at an earlier day than that fixed by law for their annual meeting. On the day appointed, the legislature met, and John Lansing, Jr., was unanimously elected speaker of the assembly.

The governor in his speech, stated to the two houses, that he had convened them at that early day, that he might seasonably lay before them the proceedings of the convention at Poughkeepsie, and the ordinance of congress for putting in operation the constitution for the United States, which had been adopted by that convention. He invited the attention of the legislature to the amendments proposed by the New-York convention, and to the declaration of rights which accompanied the ratification, and he alleged that the act of ratification was assented to 'on the express confidence, that the exercise of different powers, would be suspended until it should undergo a revision by a general convention of the states.' He therefore urged them to use their best endeavors for effecting a measure (a general convention,) so earnestly recommended by the convention, and anxiously desired by their constituents.'

I cannot persuade myself that so sagacious a politician as Gov. Clinton, seriously anticipated that another national convention would or could be called. It seems more probable that this recommendation, and the early call of the legislature, were intended to afford evidence of the sincerity of his past opposition to the federal constitution, and as a maneuver to keep his party together in the state of New-York. Eleven states had adopted the constitution in the form reported by the national convention, and most of them, I believe, without suggesting any material alterations. Was it to be expected that these states would consent to give up all they had done, suffer the great questions which had been settled by a majority of the states to be again agitated, and put every thing afloat by the call of a new convention?

On the 15th of December, the two houses proceeded to elect five delegates to represent the state in the continental congress. In the election of these delegates, the party lines were distinctly developed. The delegates supported by the anti-federal party in the assembly were, Abraham Yates, Jun., David Gelston, Philip Pell, John Hathorn, and Samuel Jones; those supported by the federalists were Ezra L'Hommedieu, Egbert Benson, Leonard Gansevoort, Alexander Hamilton, and John Lawrence. The anti-federal candidates were nominated by the assembly by an average majority of about ten votes, but the senate nominated Mr. L'Hommedieu and the other federal candidates. Upon a joint ballot the anti-federalists were elected. This vote shows that the federalists had gained considerably in the assembly since the session of 1787, and had actually obtained a majority in the senate. . . ."

Source: Hammond, Jabez D., Political Parties in the State of New-York From the Ratification of the Federal Constitution to December, 1840 in Two Volumes, pp. 34-36 (Albany, NY: C. van Benthuysen 1842).

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Young Thomas Pell Unjustly Accused of "Extortion or Sinfull Unrightousness"

Early 17th century records of the New Haven Colony contain a number of references to Thomas Pell, often referred to as the First Lord of the Manor of Pelham. Two of those references suggests that Pell was unjustly accused by a man named John Meggs of extortion or sinful unrighteousness. The dispute arose from a business deal in which Thomas Pell and two men named "Captaine Turner" and Thomas Robinson sold leather to a man named John Meggs. Meggs claimed that the men overcharged him for the leather. However, he failed to appear before the Court to prove his charges on one occasion. The next time he appeared before the Court, he acknowledged that his allegations were in "error". Consequently, the Court fined Meggs one shilling and ordered him to pay the costs of the three defendants who were required to appear in Court to defend themselves on three occasions.

The references at issue are within the records of "A Court Held Att Newhaven the 8th of Aprill 1645" and "A Court Held the 3d of June 1645" in the "New Haven Colony Records". Below is a transcription of the pertinent portions of the records.


. . . John Meggs accused Captaine Turner, Tho: Pell and Tho: Robinson of extortio or vnrighteousness in the prices of leather wch they sould to him, butt being nott prepared to make proofe of whatt he had charged them wth, the proceeding was respited vntill the next court."

Source: Records of the Colony and Plantation of New Haven, From 1638 to 1649, p. 161 (Case, Tiffany and Company 1857).


The difference betwixt Captaine Turner and John Hill concerning a Bull wch the Captaine conceived did dye by the default of the said John Hill in working him contrary to his ma rs express comaund, was referred by consent of both ptyes to John Wakeman and Mr. Robert Newma [Newman?] to arbitrate and determine if it may be, or else to report to the Court how they finde itt.

John Meggs having form r ly charged Captaine Turner, Thomas Pell and Tho: Robinson w t h extortio or sinfull vnrightousnes, and nott being able to make good the said charge agst them, did now acknowledg his erro r, w c h acknowledgmt was accepted as satisfacio, onely he was sentensed to pay 1 s fine for nott appearing att the last court, and to pay the charges of those who had attended 3 courts together by his meanes."

Source: Id., p. 163.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

John Hunter Loses a Debate in the State Senate During the Winter of 1841

John Hunter, owner of Hunter's Island, was one of the most illustrious residents of the Town of Pelham during the 19th Century. I have published to the Historic Pelham Blog a number of postings detailing aspects of John Hunter's life including:

Friday, December 2, 2005: John Hunter of Hunter's Island in Pelham, New York

Wednesday, December 14, 2005: New Information About John Hunter's Acquisition of Hunter's Island in the Manor of Pelham

Thursday, April 27, 2006: Burial Place of John Hunter (1778 - 1852) of Hunter's Island

Monday, August 14, 2006: An Early Account of a Visit to Hunter's Island and John Hunter's Mansion in Pelham

Monday, August 28, 2006: John Hunter of Hunter's Island in Pelham Obtained Special Tax Relief in 1826

John Hunter served in the New York State Senate for a period of time in the 19th century. He was a highly educated man and was a classical scholar. He cited the classics in one debate in the New York Senate during the winter of 1841, only to be bested in the argument by an illiterate, rough-hewn member of the Senate from Steuben known as "Bray Dickinson". The exchange was recounted in a book of reminiscences published in 1886. The account is transcribed immediately below.

"I must first tell of whom I am speaking. In the winter of 1841, I was an onlooker at a debate, in the Senate at Albany, on the causes of Mr. Van Buren's defeat in 1840. John Hunter, a Democrat, of Westchester, a refined gentleman and a classical scholar, declared that Van Buren's courage in placing himself in the chasm between a corrupt bank and a patriotic people had its fitting historic parallel in the in the Roman Forum when Marcus Curtius leaped into the abyss to save the republic. Andrew B. Dickinson, familiarly called Bray Dickinson, a Whig, of Steuben, illiterate and rough-hewn, who doubtless never till then had heard of Marcus Curtius, replied to Hunter. When he came to the classical portion of the speech, he said that the difference between that Roman 'feller,' Curtis, and Van Buren was, that Curtis jumped into the gap of his own accord, but the people throw'd Van Buren in."

Source: Stanton, Henry B., Randon Recollections by Henry B. Stanton, p. 111 (NY, NY: 2d ed., MacGowan & Slipper, Printers 1886).

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Monday, November 20, 2006

A Biography of John Pell, Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham, Published in 1861

Much is known about John Pell, Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham. He was the nephew of Thomas Pell (First Lord). Thomas Pell died in late September, 1669. His nephew arrived in the Manor of Pelham in 1670.

The following is a biography of John Pell, Second Lord, published in 1861. I have transcribed it in its entirety and have provided a citation to the source immediately following the transcription. Much of the entry, frankly, does not make sense based on the research I have done for the last few years. Yet, I continue to believe that documenting each and every research effort makes sense since it may be possible to connect the dots at an appropriate time using appropriate tools that may, we all know, not even yet exist.

"PELL, JOHN, Fairfield, s. of Rev. Dr. John of London, came in 1670, to rec. the est. wh. his uncle Thomas left him at F. but no more is kn. of him. A letter of introd. for him to Gov. Winth. by his friend William, Lord Bereton, from London, 23 June 1670, is in my possess. JOSEPH, Lynn, freem. 14 Mar. 1639, of wh. it seems strange that we kn. no more, exc. from our Prob. rec. where his inv. 25 Apr. 1650, make him butcher of Boston, leav. small prop. with wid. and childr. to divide it. See Geneal. Reg. VII. 234. *THOMAS, New Haven, came from London in the Hopewell, capt. Bundock, 1635, aged 22, call. in the custom ho. paper, a tailor, he of course, sat down somewhere in Mass. but the town is unkn. Perhaps he went early to Saybrook; in the Pequot war, 1637, serv. under Mason; and prob. in 3 or 4 yrs. he foll. the attract. of Gov. Eaton, after 1646 m. the wid. of Francis Brewster, in June or July 1650 rem. to Fairfield, was made freem. 1662, rep. 1665, d. soon after the date of his will, 21 Sept. 1669. It gave most of his est. to his neph. John, s. of his only br. Rev. John of London, D. D. WILLIAM, Boston 1634, tallow chandler, freem. 6 May 1635, disarm. for his dangerous opinions, 1637, had Mary, b. 30 June bapt. 14 Sept. 1634, wh. m. 1 Nov. 1655, Richard George of B.; Nathaniel, bapt. 29 Apr. 1638, d. in few mos.; Hannah, 7 days old, 20 Dec. 1640; Deborah, 2 June 1644; and perhaps more. He may have taken, as sec. w. Eliz. wid. of Nathaniel Heaton. If so, she had third h. John Maynard, and outliv. him."

Source: Savage, James, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Showing Three Generations of Those Who Came Before May, 1692 on the Basis of Farmer's Register, Vol. III, p. 386 (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company 1861).

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Images Reflecting the History of Pelham

In September, 1962, The League of Women Voters in Pelham published a wonderful booklet entitled "Let's Look at Pelham". The booklet contained numerous drawings of scenes in and around Pelham of historic significance. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting includes nine of these images (including the cover of the booklet) and a little information about each.

The cover of the booklet and the first image that appeared on page 5 of the booklet both depict the home located at 45 Iden Avenue known as Pelhamdale. Built before the Revolutionary War, the home once belonged to Col. David Pell. Both images appear immediately below.

The next image appeared on page 7 of the booklet. It depicts the "Pelham Coach" (also known as the "Tally-Ho") that once belonged to Col. Delancey Kane. In the 1870s the coach ran between the Hotel Brunswick in Manhattan and Pelham Bridge.

For many years New Yorkers rode the Tally Ho to picnic in the lovely setting of the countryside in Pelham. Pelham became the playground of the rich and famous during those years due, in large measure, to the Pelham Coach.

The next image appeared on page 15 of the booklet. It shows Pelham's Town Hall as it appeared in 1962. It looks essentially the same today.

On page 17 of the booklet there appeared an image of the crest of John Pell Crest who is often described as the "Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham". The caption beneath the crest states: "Crest of Sir John Pell, Esq. (1643-1702) . Now the Seal of Pelham Manor." It has been established, however, that contrary to Pell family tradition, John Pell was never knighted and did not carry the title "Sir". Moreover, it seems certain that John Pell signed deeds dated after 1702 and, thus, could not have died in that year.

The image immediately below is taken from page 23 of the booklet. It depicts the original parish house of Christ Church. The structure was used as a small neighborhood school until 1866.

The image below appeared on page 36 of the booklet. It depicts the offices of Pelham Visiting Nurse and Pelham Family Service as they appeared in 1962. The offices were located at 425 Fifth Avenue.

Below is an image that appeared on page 40 of the booklet. It shows the hook and ladder "truck" acquired by the new Fire Department that served Pelhamville in 1893.

The final image appeared on page 43 of the booklet. It shows Pelham's first Town Hall building that once stood on today's Shore Road near the location of today's Pelham Bit Stables. The structure was razed in the 1950s.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Robert Bolton, Jr.'s Inscription to His Father Inside Book He Authored That Was Published in 1855

Robert Bolton, Jr., son of the founder of Christ Church in Pelham Manor, lived with his parents and family for many years in Bolton Priory. In 1855, Bolton published an extensive book entitled "History of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the County of Westchester From its Foundation, A. D. 1693, To A. D. 1853". The book includes a chapter on Christ Church in Pelham Manor and contains one of the earliest known images of the church.

Several years ago I saw a copy of the book offered for sale online. It was advertised as in "very poor" condition with extensive foxing and missing its front cover. I nevertheless bought it. Immediately below is an image of the title page. It gives a good idea of the poor quality of the book I bought.

To my surprise, however, upon arrival of the book I discovered that only a few pages after the marbleized front endpaper there was a blank page with an inscription written by the author to his father, the Reverend Robert Bolton. The inscription, written in black ink, reads as follows:

"To the Rev Robt Bolton
from his affectionate son
the author
Pelham July 30. 1855."

An image of the inscription page appears immediately below.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another Letter by Fontaine Fox Describing How the Pelham Manor Trolley Inspired Him to Create the Toonerville Trolley

Though a number of communities purport to lay claim to having inspired Fontaine Fox to create the Toonerville Trolley that Met All the Trains, there is indisputable evidence that the trolley that ran through Pelham Manor was the principal inspiration. I recently have located references to yet another letter written by Fontaine Fox in which he described what inspired him to create the Toonerville Trolley. That letter is transcribed below, as it appeared in The Pelham Sun within an article entitled "What Was Pelham's Contribution To The Naming of Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Trolley Cartoons?".

The letter is particularly interesting because it notes that the comical trolley was nearly named the "Chiggerbug Trolley" before Fox changed the name to "Toonerville Trolley".

"Toonerville Electric Railroad Company

Operating the New Electric Horseless Street Car that meets all the trains (in Pelham); Hon. Silas Tooner, Owner; Dr. Sawyer Fully, Surgeon; Capt. Ezra Tully, Chief Advisor & Critic; Father McGuire Chaplain Dan (Skipper) Withers, Conductor & Operating Electrical Engineer.

Vero Beach, Florida

Dear Mr. Lewis:

I must thank you for the nice compliment you paid my work in your letter of November 28th. When you have your drawings out of the newspapers for six years, as mine have been, a complimentary reference to them is doubly appreciated.

You wish to know how the 'Toonerville Trolley' got its name - 'Toonerville'. The way I happened to hit on this name might possibly be of interest.

Shortly after coming to New York I went out to visit my friend Charley Voight in Pelham and took a funny little Trolley Car at the R. R. Station to go to his house. The motorman was quite a character and seemed to know all his passengers personally. I asked him if he knew where a Mr. Charles Voight lived and he said he'd show me the house. He stopped the car and got off and beckoned to me. I followed him to a rise in the ground in a vacant lot. He pointed out 'that bright yellow house-that's it'.

The passengers waiting in the car didn't seem to think the proceedings anything out of the ordinary and nothing was said when he walked back to the car and started again.

I worked that night, after I got back to New York, to turn in six drawings. The sixth I made was a Trolley Car drawing. The original funny trolley car was in my home town Louisville, (Ky). I had made many drawings of the Brook St. trolley car before I left there. But I was in New York City now - my drawings were syndicated - widely sold - and could not be local in their appeal. But I said to myself here's another funny trolley car -- there may be enough of them around the country, so that I could use a trolley car cartoon. I called the first one 'The Chiggerbug Trolley'.

I rolled up the drawings and started down to the engravers at the lower end of Manhattan. I got back to my apartment at 57th Street about one a.m.

But I was very much displeased with the name I had given the trolley car. 'Chiggerbug' - too ordinary. Too corny. I was undressed but I put on my clothes and started down once more again to the engravers.

All the way down in the subway I kept thinking of names, name, names for that doggone trolley. I don't know how it finally came -- 'Toonerville.'

The Pelham car had met the train so when I got hold of the drawing at the engravers I scraped out 'Chiggerbug' and wrote in the new title 'The Toonerville Trolley that Meets All The Trains'. This new title would be part of the zinc etching and part of the mats that were sent out to the newspapers.

When I got back to 57th Street the sun was about to come up. Grantland Rice once told me that the Trolley Car title was a particularly good one 'It has alliteration' he said 'and it scans.' If I remember correctly he said it was iambic pentameter.

I was telling Irving Cobb one time about my midnight title changing trip and he said there was no way of estimating how many thousands of dollars that trip to change the name had made for me down through the years.

Well, Mr. Lewis, you asked for it -- and that's it! Please let me thank you once again for complimenting my work and believe me.

Very truly yours,

Fontaine Fox"

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Early Photographs of Loutrel Briggs Garden at Home Located at 180 Pelhamdale Avenue

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As I have written before, the renowned landscape architect Loutrel Winslow Briggs (1893 – 1977) is widely noted as among the “Pioneers of American Landscape Design” who literally shaped our history. See Birnbaum, Charles A. & Karson, Robin, eds., Pioneers of American Landscape Design, pp. 35-37 (The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2000). An expert on his work and the work of many of his contemporaries has described him saying “Briggs, above all others, is credited with establishing what is generally known today as ‘Charleston’s garden style.’” Cochran, James, Preserving Charleston’s Landscape Legacy, Historic Preservation, Vol. XV, No. 1, p. 2 (American Society of Landscape Architects, Spring 2005).

In the last few years, heightened awareness of the importance of his work has led to surveys intended to identify remaining gardens that he designed, preservation workshops dedicated to teaching the owners of Briggs gardens how to preserve, document and maintain his original work, as well as lectures, tours and a weekend charrette all dedicated to Loutrel W. Briggs and his landscape architecture. See id., p. 3.

Research has revealed that the lovely home located at 180 Pelhamdale Avenue near the intersection of Irving Place includes much of an original Loutrel Briggs Garden designed and created in about 1928. Photographs of the Garden and the plans for the garden prepared by Mr. Briggs appeared in the following article: A Community Prize Winner - Garden of Mrs. W. W. Warner At Pelham, N. Y. - L. W. Briggs, Landscape Architect, Garden & Home Builder, pp. 526-27 (Feb. 1928). I previously have written about this garden. See Monday, December 19, 2005: Second Loutrel Briggs Garden "Discovered" in Pelham.

Recently while scanning glass negatives from the William R. Montgomery Glass Negative Collection maintained by The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham I ran across negatives containing images of the garden designed by Loutrel Briggs for the W. W. Warner home located at 180 Pelhamdale Avenue. The pictures appear below. They are significant because they show the garden shortly after it was first created.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Isaac Roosevelt Stone Carved in 1833

Along the Long Island Sound shore, only a few feet south of today's boundary between the the Town of Pelham and Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx is a large boulder that contains the following inscription in letters nearly one foot high:

Isaac Roosevelt

A photograph of the stone taken on Saturday, November 11, 2006, appears immediately below. The image shows a carving rendered faint by the ravages of time and tides. Thus, immediately below I have included a duplicate copy of the image on which I have outlined the carving.

Isaac Roosevelt was one of the organizers of Christ Church, in which a memorial tablet dedicated to his memory still exists. The boulder is believed to have been a boundary marker for a portion of the large acreage purchased in the area by Robert Roosevelt. According to Lockwood Barr in his popular history of The Ancient Town of Pelham:

“Another interesting [property] mark is ‘Isaac Roosevelt 1833,’ carved on a boulder at the edge of the Sound, just south of the Pelham Manor Line. As already related, the Roosevelt family, around 1800, purchased the great tract bounded by the Shore Road, Pelhamdale Avenue and what is now the Branch Line. On an eminence on the edge of the Sound, now in New York City, just south of the Pelham Manor line, Elbert Roosevelt built his home. In Christ Church, Pelham, there is a memorial tablet to Isaac Roosevelt (son of Elbert), who died in Pelham, September 30th, 1856, aged 43 years (born 1813). So, when Isaac Roosevelt carved his name on the boulder in 1833 he was just 20 years old. Records of the Church show that Isaac Roosevelt was one of the organizers of Christ Church, serving as Vestryman and as Treasurer from its formation, until his death. The site of the old Roosevelt home on the Shore Road is now included in Pelham Bay Park.”

Source: 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 pp. 125-26 (Richmond, VA The Dietz Press, Inc. 1946).

The Isaac Roosevelt stone is not difficult to locate. As you leave Pelham on Shore Road you will pass Shore Park on the left and a number of homes on the east side of Shore Road. Shortly after you leave Pelham and enter Pelham Bay Park, there is a small parking area on the left (east side) of the roadway. Its entrance usually is blocked with boulders. Several footpaths are accessible from that parking area. They lead down to the shoreline.

At low tide it is easy to walk along the shore line back toward the Pelham Town Boundary (northward). You will reach the "end" of the shore line where a fence blocks your continued progress along portions of the shore owned by private home owners. The last large boulder lying on the shore at that spot contains the carving, although it is difficult to see.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Location of Another Early Baseball Field in Pelham

Periodically I have posted to the Historic Pelham Blog research regarding early organized baseball in Pelham. I have written extensively on the topic and have proposed the presentation of an academic paper on the subject at next year's New York State History Conference to be held in Cooperstown, New York next summer. Among the material I have prepared on the topic are the following:

Monday, October 9, 2006: Reminiscences of Val Miller Shed Light on Late 19th Century Baseball in Pelham and the Early Development of the Village of North Pelham

Thursday, March 23, 2006: Baseball Fields Opened on the Grounds of the Westchester Country Club in Pelham on April 4, 1884

Tuesday, January 31, 2006: Another Account of Baseball Played in Pelham in the 1880s Is Uncovered

Thursday, October 6, 2005: Does This Photograph Show Members of the "Pelham Manor Junior Base Ball Team"?

Thursday, September 15, 2005: Newspaper Item Published in 1942 Sheds Light on Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Thursday, February 10, 2005: New Discoveries Regarding Baseball in 19th Century Pelham

Bell, Blake A., Baseball in Late 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 17, Apr. 23, 2004, p. 8, col. 2.

A very brief reference in an article published in The Pelham Sun about the history of the Pelham Country Club reveals the former location of an early baseball field in the Village of Pelham Manor. The article, by Town Historian Ed Browne, appeared in the April 14, 1960 issue of the newspaper. In it Browne wrote in pertinent part:

"In the year 1908 the members decided to expand their club quarters. They chose the present site of the clubhouse which at the time was a baseball field. The road leading to the club was known as Oneida Avenue. It extended from where the bicycle rack now stands, out to Boston Post Road. The section of the roadway in front of the golf shop and first tee, still remains on the town maps as Oneida Avenue."

Thus, it would appear that in at least the early years of the twentieth century there was a baseball field located where the clubhouse of today's Pelham Country Club stands.

This field may well have been the location where the "Pelham Manor Junior Base Ball team" played in the late 19th century although, for now, this is only speculation.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Accounts of Two Witnesses to Skirmish That Occurred Off the Shores of New Rochelle and Pelham in the War of 1812

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Last June I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting about a minor naval skirmish that occurred in the waters off the shores of New Rochelle and Pelham during the War of 1812 in the late summer of 1813. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes pages from a history of Pelham published in 1886 that describes what it says are the accounts of two eyewitnesses to a minor naval skirmish off the shores of New Rochelle and Pelham that, according to the account occurred in August, 1814. The transcription appears immediately below.

"There are two persons still living, one in Pelham who witnessed and the other in New Rochelle 1 who [Footnote 1 states on page 705 "The Sound opposite New Rochelle and Pelham is a ticklish place, even" and on page 706 continues "for navigators well acquainted with the obstructions above and below the surface. It is related that some years ago one of the Le Counts, who lived upon the shore in New Rochelle, near the Pelham line, and had been familiar with the navigation of the Sound in that vicinity from his youth, took a party of friends out for a sail. The day was fine, the wind fair, and the passengers were delighted until the boat, under full sail, ran plump upon a large flat rock about a foot under water, near the mouth of Echo Bay. As the tide was falling, it became evident that their sail for the day was over. 'Captain,' was the indignant remonstrance of the party, 'I thought you knew every rock in this Sound.' 'I do,' relied Captain L. C., 'and this here is one of the worst.' [Paragraph within the footnote.] One of the Schuylers a'so, residing at Pelham, is said to have been thus upset while sailing in his boat near City Island. But, more lucky than the Pell who was drowned in the same manner, he was picked up by a passing vessel while calmly floating, seated upon the bottom of his boat, and smoking his pipe, which he had managed in some way to keep lighted. Incredible as this may seem, it is nevertheless a fact, as I have been assured, and old General Schuyler himself never did a cooler thing.] [Page 705 / Page 708] heard the sound of the cannonade between the British men-of-war and the American gun-boats, which took place off New Rochelle and Pelham in the month of August, 1814. After the British had bombarded Stonington (August 9th), two of their vessels, a frigate and a sloop-of war, made their appearance near Mamaroneck. The government, or perhaps the people of New York, had prepared a fleet of thirteen gun-boats, each armed with a thirty-two pounder gun, for the protection of the harbors along the Sound. One sultry morning in August the ships of war moved down the Sound and attacked these gunboats, which had been ordered to rendezvous near Huckleberry Island and along the shores of Long Island. The action continued at long range for about an hour, and was very exciting to the inhabitants in the vicinity. The militia of two or three of the towns had been ordered out, and every height and headland was thronged with spectators. It soon became evident that the gun-boats were no match for the men-of war. Probably all that saved them from being sunk or captured was the superior familiarity of the Americans with the navigation of the Sound. Among so many rocks and reefs, the heavy war-vessels of the British were afraid to venture, and after a sharp but distant cannonade, in which but little damage was inflicted, the gun-boats withdrew in the direction of NewYork, and the ships of war returned to New London. It was in connection with this bloodless naval engagement that the panic broke out among the militia on Davenport's Neck, an account of which is given in the history of New Rochelle. The Rev. Lewis J. Coutant, 1 [Footnote 1 states "Mr. Coutant has died since the above was written."] then a boy of ten or twelve years, distinctly remembered to have heard the echoes of the cannonade upon that sultry August morning, rolling and reverberating among the hills back of the town of New Rochelle. Mr. Peter Roosevelt, of Pelham, now in his ninety-second year, is understood to have witnessed the engagement from some convenient hill near the shore."

Source: Lindsley, Charles E., Pelham [Chapter XVII] in History of Westchester County, New York, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, and West Farms, Which Have Been Annexed to New York City, Vol I, pp. 705-06 (Scharf, Thomas, ed., Philadelphia: L.E. Preston & Co. 1886).

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Time Capsule in the Cornerstone of the Church of the Redeemer in the Village of North Pelham

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For many years a beautiful church building stood in the Village of North Pelham. It was the house of worship of the Church of the Redeemer. The church congregation laid the cornerstone for the structure on June 23, 1892. It stood for many years on Second Avenue in today's Village of Pelham.

The church congregation later built what became its combined Parish Hall and Church located at 20 Fifth Avenue. Today that structure is the Daronco Town House that serves as the Town of Pelham's community center.

In 1969, the Church of the Redeemer was vacant and suffered a terrible fire. Authorities made a decision to raze the structure. Within a short time (1974), the Church of the Redeemer combined with Christ Church in the Village of Pelham Manor to create the Parish of Christ the Redemer. Three years later the Church deeded the Parish Hall and Church at 20 Fifth Avenue to the Town of Pelham for use as a community center.

There stands in front of the Daronco Town House a memorial to the church building of the Church of the Redeemer that once stood on Second Avenue. The cornerstone laid on June 23, 1892 sits at the base of the memorial. It has "1892" carved into it. The church bell rests atop the memorial. There is a wonderful story about the 1892 cornerstone that sits in front of the Town House. A photograph showing the cornerstone and the bell appears immediately below.

On December 18, 1969, a demolition crew worked to demolish the Church of the Redeemer. According to papers in the collection of The Office of The Historian of The Town of Pelham, "as the steeple roof and large stone chimney fell . . . North Pelham Police Chief Adolph V. Rusillo stopped by." Chief Rusillo asked whether anyone had thought to remove the cornerstone of the building so it could be kept by the congregation at the congregation's new location in the combined Parish Hall and Church at 20 Fifth Avenue. To his surprise, no such arrangements had been made.

Chief Rusillo thoughtfully asked that the cornerstone be removed and saved. As the stone was lifted, a heavy copper box appeared benath -- an 1892 time capsule placed by the congregation 77 years earlier! What follows is a list of the items contained in the time capsule.

  • A Bible
  • A Prayer Book
  • A copy of the General Convention
  • A copy of the last Journal of the Diocese of New York
  • A digest of the Canons
  • A copy of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of New York, 1888
  • A copy of the 83rd Report of the New York Bible and Common Prary Book Society, 1891
  • The Church Almanac for 1892
  • Whitaker's Churchman's Almanac for 1892
  • A copy of the New York Churchman, June 18, 1892
  • A copy of the Parish Visitor for June, 1892
  • A "History of the Parish" as read by the First Record of the Church, Cornelius Winter Bolton, when the cornerstone was laid
  • Silver coins for 1892
  • A copy of the New York Tribune for June 21, 1892
  • A copy of the Mount Vernon Chronicle
  • A list of the then-current church officers, Sunday School teachers and choir

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tour of City Island and Portions of Pelham Published in 1909

City Island once was part of the Manor of Pelham and, later, the Town of Pelham. New York City annexed the island in the mid-1890s. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the text of a "tour" of City Island and surrounding areas published not long after New York City annexed the area. The transcription appears immediately below.


(Figures refer to Plate XLI).

(Latter part of trip recommended as a carriage or bicycle trip, as it involves between 4 and 5 miles walking.)

At One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Street station of the Third Avenue Elevated take Harlem Rver Branch of the New Haven R. R. to Bartow (trains leave 15 minutes before every hour). At Bartow take horse car for City Island, passing

100. Glover's Rock. Read the tablet -- (erected by the Mt. Vernon Chapter of the D. A. R. in 1901), describing the Battle of Pell's Point (Oct. 18, 1776), which began near this rock, when 750 men under Colonel Glover detained Howe long enough for Washington to reach White Plains in safety. Cannon-balls were found here when the railroad track was being constructed, and a distinctly marked Indian pot-hole was discovered.

101. Site of Indian burying-ground, where Indian remains have been found. There were two Indian villages on this neck, one near the Eastern Boulevard and one on the very extremity of Pelham (Rodman's) Neck. Before crossing the bridge see the

102. Marshall Mansion, or Colonial Inn. While crossing the new bridge, see just north of the present structure the approaches of the

103. Old City Island Bridge, originally spanning the Harlem at Harlem Village, some of the timbers having been taken from the old frigate man-of-war 'North Carolina.' Previous to its erection here, City Island was reached by ferry.

City Island, 'the Pearl of the Sound,' or 'Gem of the Ocean,' received its present name because a city was planned here to outstrip New York. It is said that the oyster culture started here. Note the rural appearance of streets and houses.

From the end of the car line, walk on to the end of the island, passing on the left the

104. Horton Homestead, the oldest house on the island. Most of City Island was once comprised in the Horton Farm. Close by is the Belden Mansion, with extensive grounds, at Belden's Point. To the shipyard here some of America's Cup Defenders are sent to be broken up into scrap iron.

From the dock see about one mile south

105. Stepping Stones Light, so called from its location on one of the 'Devil's Stepping Stones,' an irregular line of rocks jutting into the Sound. According to an old legend the Evil One made retreat over these stones from Westchester County to Long Island to escape the vengeance of his Indian foes. Heaping up all the stones he could find in Long Island at cold Spring, he hurled them at his enemies in Westchester and the freedom from them in Long Island. I a boulder southeast of Eastchester may be seen the likenewss of a foot said to be the Devil's imprint.

Returning go to the right at Ditmar's Street to see the

106. Macedonia Hotel, on the eastern shore. Read the inscription which states that the wing is part of an English frigate 'Macedonia' captured by Decatur during the War of 1812. Visit the old cabin and see the mast-hole, hammock hooks and iron ring to fasten the guns, also the officers' staterooms.

Wee from here Hart's Island, the 'Potter's Field' of New York City.

Take the car back to Barton [sic], and follow the Eastern Boulevard about half a mile north to the

107. Bartow Mansion, the summer home of the Crippled Children's Association.

Not far away is the site of the original Pell Manor House, though some say that it was on the extreme end of Pelham Neck. Many tales are told of this house, under the title of 'Mysteries of a Pelham Farm House.' In the center of a large field in front are the remains of the

108. Pell Treaty Oak, the famous tree where Thomas Pell in 1654 signed the treaty with the Sewanoe Indians, purchasing about 10,000 acres from them (see Comfort's History of the Bronx, p. 53).

Between the Bartow Mansion and the Sound is the

109. Pell Family Burial-ground. Note the four (modern) stone corner-posts, with the emblem off the Pell family, A Pelican Gorged, and each bearing a different inscription. Read the inscription on the large centre-stone.

Return to the Boulevard and continue to the white stone gate-posts leading to

110. Hunter's Island, where see [sic] the Hunter-Iselin Manion, former home of 'The Little Mothers.' On the southeast side of the island are said to be the great Indian rock Mishow and the graves of two Indian sachems. The Indian name for this region was Laaphawchking (the place of stringing beads).

Take the right-hand road over to Hunter's Island leading to the

111. Twin Island, on the second of which stands the Ogden Mansion. From this point a fine marine view may be enjoyed.

Return on the Boulevard to Prospect Hill Avenue (Split Rock Road). along [sic] which Glover's gallant men so stubbornly resisted the advancing British.

Follow Split Rock Road to the

112. Collins House, or John Joshua Pell Mansion, one of the Pell homes.

113. Split Rock is a gigantic boulder, cleft squarely in twain, a good sized tree growing in the crevice. Tradition states that the early home of Ann Hutchinson (for whom the Hutchinson River is named) was near this spot. She came here in 1642 with her younger children and her son-in-law, and in the same year her cabin was burned by the Indians, and all but one of her family were killed, her eight-year-old daughter escaping, only to be captured. Some say she perished on the crest of Split Rock.

Cross the City Line and continue to Boston Road; then follow Wolf's Lane line of the American retreat.

At the corner of this lane and Boston Road is another

114. Pell House, remodeled and modernized. At the foot of the hill is

115. The stately stone Pell Mansion, perhaps the finest of all, with its splendid columns and iron lattice-work, and the family coat of-arms. In the woods near by is the

116. Lord Howe Chestnut, where Howe and his generals lunched on Oct. 18, 1776, while resting during their pursuit of the Americans. Some say that they lunched at the Pell House (114), taking the old lady's last turkey.

117. Hutchinson River Bridge, where the battle of Pell's Point ended and the day was saved for Washington. This bridge is on the line of the original Boston Road, opened in 1672.

Take trolley to Mt. Vernon."

Source: City History Club of New York, Historical Guide to the City of New York, pp. 209-12 (NY, NY: 1909).

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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Source of Confusion Over the Date Thomas Pell Acquired the Lands That Became the Manor of Pelham

For generations many authors and historians have mistakenly asserted that Thomas Pell acquired the lands that became the Manor of Pelham from local Native Americans on November 14, 1654. As indicated below, the mistake seems to have first been made by Robert Bolton, Jr. in his History of Westchester County first published in 1848. It has been replicated many times since, even in recent publications. That assertion is wrong. As Thomas Pell's copy of the treaty makes clear, he acquired the lands on June 27, 1654 (old style; Julian Calendar).

It is clear that at the time the first edition of Bolton's History of Westchester County was published in 1848 and even by the time of the second edition of the publication in 1881, Robert Bolton, Jr. had never seen a copy of Thomas Pell's Treaty. Both editions of his book provide erroneous information about the contents of the treaty and state the following:

"This grant was seen some years since by Mr. John Soulice of New Rochelle, To his kindness we are indebted for the above particulars. The original is supposed to be in the possession of the Pell family."

Source: Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History of the County of Westchester From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. I, p. 516 & n.a (NY, NY: Alexander S. Gould 1848) (hereinafter "Bolton 1848"). See also Bolton, Jr., Robert, The History of the Several Towns, Manors and Patents of the County of Westchester, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time Carefully Revised by Its Author Vol. II, p. 35 & n.a (C.W. Bolton, ed., NY, NY: Chas. F. Roper pub. 1881) (hereinafter "Bolton 1881").

Despite not having the treaty before him, Bolton repeatedly asserts that Thomas Pell acquired the lands on November 14, 1654. See, e.g., Bolton 1848, Vol. I, p. 515; Bolton 1881, Vol. II, p. 34.

For a number of years I have wondered "where did Bolton get that date?" It seems I may have come up with an answer.

Bolton located two interesting items in the 17th century records of the Town of Westchester. He seems to have misinterpreted the first record as suggesting that Pell acquired the lands from local Native Americans on November 14, 1654. The record, however, seems to indicate that on June 15, 1664, the parties to the agreement (all inhabitants Westchester) confirmed in writing that they (not Native Americans as Bolton erroneously assumed) had reached an agreement with Thomas Pell nearly ten years earlier on November 14, 1654.

I have transcribed the two records below and provide additional commentary on the matter following the transcriptions. Bolton wrote in 1881:

"Upon the 16th of June, 1664, we find the inhabitants of Westchester surrendering all their rights to Thomas Pell, in the following manner: --

'Know all men by these presents, that whereas there was an agreement made on the fourteenth of November, 1654, between Thomas Pell and divers persons, about a tract of land called Westchester, which was and is Thomas Pell's, bounded as appears by an instrument bearing date as above expressed, wherein the undertakers engaged the payment of a certaine summe of money, present pay, for the said land expressed in the covenant, by reason of some troubles which hindered the underwriters possession, the agreement was not attended, the present inhabitants considering the justnesse and right of the above said title of Thomas Pell, doe surrender all their rights, titles, and claimes, to all the tract of land aforesaid, to bee at the disposal of the said Thomas Pell, as being the true and proper owner thereof.

Witness our hande, this 15th day of June in the yeere of Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty four.

RICHARD PONTON, his [sideways "X"] mark. [Page 286 / Page 287]
THOMAS VAILLE, his [sideways "X"] mark.
WILLIAM JONES, his [sideways "V"] mark.
JOHN WILLIAMS, his [sideways "Y"] mark.
SAMUEL PITCHER, his [sideways "T"] mark.

The same day Thomas Pell issued the following order to the inhabitants of Westchester: --

'The major part of the inhabitants of West Chester having surrendered up all their rightes, titles and claimes, of ye land, wch they pr tended, to possesse, to Thomas Pell, the owner thereof (as appeareth by writing under their hande, in the foregoing page), That the inhabitants might enjoy the present improvements of Their labors, Their home Lotts, and planting grounds with what meadowes were in times past laid out to each man's particular to mow for this yeere I have desired Mr. Jessop, with the Townsmen and freemen, That it may bee orderly attended. And in case men want meadow to supply their pr esent necessity, they make Their addresses to the aforesaid persons, for Their order, where to mow, to supply Their present occasions.

Witness my hande This sixteenth day of June, in the yeer of our Lord one thousand, six hundred, sixty-four."

p. me, THOMAS PELL."

Source: Bolton 1881, Vol. II, pp. 286-87 (citing "Westchester Town Court Rec. Conn., A.D. 1665, p. 17." for the first record and "Westchester Town Court Rec. Commg. A.D. 1665, p. 12." for the second record).

These two records suggest that on November 14, 1654 (old style; Julian calendar), Thomas Pell entered into some form of agreement selling the portion of his lands that became the little settlement of West Chester to English settlers. Before the settlers paid (or completed payment) for the lands, there arose "some troubles which hindered the underwriters possession". That trouble, of course, was the intervention of Dutch authorities who arrested and imprisoned many of the settlers claiming that they had settled on land owned by the Dutch.

Ten years later, Pell seems to have "settled" this longstanding matter by obtaining written confirmation from the inhabitants of the Town of West Chester that he remained the owner of the land because they (or their predecessors) had not paid Pell for the land. At the same time, Pell affirmed in writing that the inhabitants could continue to "enjoy the present improvements of Their labors, Their home Lotts, and planting grounds with what meadowes were in times past laid out to each man's particular". In short, he affirmed that he would not evict them from the land.

Bolton seems to have confused the following reference in the first record: "Know all men by these presents, that whereas there was an agreement made on the fourteenth of November, 1654, between Thomas Pell and divers persons, about a tract of land called Westchester, which was and is Thomas Pell's, bounded as appears by an instrument bearing date as above expressed". He seems to have assumed, erroneously, that the November 14, 1654 agreement "between Thomas Pell and divers persons" was an agreement between Thomas Pell and Native Americans. It seems plain from consideration of both records that the reference is actually to an agreement among Thomas Pell and the original settlers of the area that became the Town of West Chester.

Such an error must explain how Bolton reached the mistaken conclusion that Thomas Pell acquired his lands from local Native Americans on November 14, 1654 -- an error perpetuated by many, many authors and local historians even up to this day.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

More About Richard Crabb, the "Magistrate" Who Witnessed the Signing of Thomas Pell's "Indian Deed" with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654

On June 27, 1654, Thomas Pell signed a so-called "Indian Deed" with local Native Americans acquiring the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas. A copy of that deed and agreement, said to be in Thomas Pell's handwriting, exists. It is among the Pell family papers maintained by the Fort Ticonderoga Museum.

That document offers some of the best evidence we have of those who knew Thomas Pell. I have been working to shed light on the lives of those Englishmen who witnessed the agreement on June 27, 1654. An image of that agreement and a transcription of its text is available on the archive of the Historic Pelham Web site by clicking here

Among those whose signatures or marks appear on the document as witnesses are "Richard Crabb", "Henry Accorly", "John Ffinch", "William Newman" and others. Inquiry into the backgrounds of these men, hopefully, may shed additional light on Thomas Pell and his purchase.

Recently I posted my research notes regarding one of these men: the magistrate who witnessed the treaty signing named Richard Crabb. See Thursday, May 18, 2006: Richard Crabb, the "Magistrate" Who Witnessed the Signing of Thomas Pell's Treaty with Local Native Americans on June 27, 1654. Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes the text of a brief biography of Richard Crabb included in a two-volume publication published in 1902 entitled "History of The Colony of New Haven To Its Absorption Into Connecticut". The transcription appears immediately below, followed by a citation to the source.

"PERSONNEL OF STAMFORD (Rippowams). . . .

RICHARD CRABB (16__-16__) was a Representative from Wethersfield 1639-41. In 1643 he sold his land in that town and went to Stamford; in 1654 he was in Greenwich. He had a leaning towards the Quakers, harbored them and possessed Quaker books, and was disciplined and fined £30 by the church and town authorities."

Source: Atwater, Edward E., History of The Colony of New Haven To Its Absorption Into Connecticut with Supplementary History and Personnel of the Towns of Branford, Guilford, Milford, Stratford, Norwalk, Southold, Etc., Vol. 2, p. 685 (Meriden, CT: The Journal Publishing Company 1902).

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.