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, December 28, 2006

Description of Pelham Contained in "Gazetteer of the State of New York" Published in 1860

During the 19th century a publication entitled "Gazetteer of the State of New York" was published periodically. It purported to provide a comprehensive summary of the geography, geology and general history of communities throughout the state.

In 1860, John Homer French released one such Gazetteer. It included an entry for the Town of Pelham. That entry includes a number of errors about the history of the Town. Nevertheless, I have transcribed the entry below and have noted with "[sic]" errors in the data. I have quoted the footnotes, as well. They appear immediately after the body of the text.


PELHAM 12 - was formed March 7, 1788. It lies on Long Island Sound, in the S. part of the col., on the E. border, and it embraces several islands in Long Island Sound. 13 Pelham Neck 14 is a peninsula extending into the Sound; upon it are seveal elegant country seats. Its survace is undulating, the valleys randing N. and S. Hutchinsons Creek 15 forms the W. boundary [sic -- only a portion of the western boundary]. The soil is mostly of an excellent quality of sandy and gravelly loam. Pelhamville, near the N. angle of the town, is a newly surveyed village and station on the N.Y.&N.H.R.R. Pelham is a p. o. on the E. border. Prospect Hill is a locality near the center. Pelham Priory 1 is the seat of a young ladies' seminary, established by the late Rev. Robert Bolton and conducted by his daughters. A settlement was made in this town [sic -- actually, within the Manor of Pelham, but outside the boundaries of what became the Town of Pelham], 2 by Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, who was drived from Massachusetts on account of her religious belief. There is 1 church (Prot. E.) in town.

12 Named from Thos. Pell of Fairfield, Conn [sic -- unclear; may have been named after Pell's tutor and childhood father figure, Pelham Burton]. A purchase was made of the Indians by Mr. Pell, Nov. 14, 1654 [sic -- June 27, 1654]; and most of this was confirmed to him by Gov. Nicoll, Oct. 6, 1666. The quitrent reserved in this grant was a lamb annually. Pelham Manor originally embraced 9,166 acres [sic -- it actually encompassed a much larger area], and was confirmed by Gov. Dongan, Oct. 25, 1687, to John Pell, nephew of the first purchaser. This town is mostly owned by a few wealthy proprietors and, except Scarsdale, is the least populous in the co. Several acres of berries are cultivated for the city market. Pelham Bridge connects the town with East Chester.

13 The principal of these is 'City Island' -- formerly 'Minneford Island,' or 'Mulberry Island.' Its present name is derived from commercial establishments projected at an early colonial period and renewed subsequent to the Revolution. It was supposed that the India trade could be carried on from the place with peculiar advantage. It is now principally occupied by oystermen.

Hart's Island, or 'Spectacle Island,' has an area of 85 acres. Hunters Island, belonging to the estate of E. Desbrosses Hunter, has an area of 250 acres, and was formerly connected with the mainland by a stone causeway and bridge. High Island lies near the S. point of Pelham Neck.

14 Formerly 'Anne Hooks Neck,' from an Indian owner; and afterward 'Rodman's Neck.' It was a favorite place for Indian sepulture; and traces of graves are still seen. A ferry was established to Hempstead Harbor and to Matagarisons Bay in 1755, by Samuel Rodgman.

15 Named from Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, the first settler [sic -- she never settled within the boundaries of the Town of Pelham and was not the first settler within the original Manor of Pelham]. The Indian name was Acqueahounck, from a term descriptive of the red cedar tree. - Bolton's Westchester, I, p. 542.

1 Upon these premises is a rocking stone weighing about 20 tons.

2 This settlement was soon after broken up by the Indians who killed 18 persons [sic -- this number would include more than the Hutchinson family, some of whom survived], including the founder."

Source: French, J.H., Gazetteer of the State of New York: Embracing a Comprehensive View of the Geography, Geology, and General History of the State, and A Complete History and Description of Every County, City, Town, Village, and Locality. With Full Tables of Statistics., pp. 704-05 (Syracuse, NY: R. Pearsall Smith, 1860).

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