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, December 12, 2006

Did Thomas Pell Avoid Taxes by Maintaining a Medical Practice?

Thomas Pell, often referred to as "First Lord of the Manor of Pelham" was successful and wealthy at the time of his death. During his life, he seemed to have dabbled in everything. He served as a surgeon (i.e., physician). He traded by barque in Delaware and Virginia. He bought and sold land. He may have acted as an attorney. He served as an administrator and executor for a number of estates. He acted as agent by power of attorney for other merchants. He maintained livestock in Westchester. The list could go on and on.

Interestingly, it seems that Pell may have benefited in one important way from maintaining his practice as "a surgeon" for many years. It seems that he may have been exempted from certain taxes, described as "rates and assessments", for many years.

The evidence in this regard arises from testimony provided during a General Court session held at New Haven on May 7, 1662. During the session regarding an entirely unrelated matter, a physician named Jonathan Rossiter provided testimony to the effect that he had refused to pay "rates for his person". In a footnote, the author of the book in which the testimony was recounted included the following footnote, quoted in pertinent part:

"Mr. Rossiter had refused to pay rates for his person and horse, on the ground of his being an allowed physician, pleading that the laws of nations exempted such from personal services and their estates from rates and assessments -- that they were not required in the Bay, nor in New Haven of the French doctor and Mr. Pell, nor had been demanded of him while he lived in Connecticut. A letter of his, concerning his difficulties with N. H. Colony, to Gov. Winthrop, is in 3d Mass. Hist. Coll. x. 73."

Source: Hoadly, Charles J., ed., Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, From May, 1653, to the Union Together with the New Haven Code of 1656. Transcribed and Edited in Accordance with a Resolution of the General Assembly of Connecticut, pp. 429, 437-38 & n.* (Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood and Company 1858).

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