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 05, 2006

Where is Evidence of the 1640 Dutch Purchase from Native Americans of the Lands That Became Pelham?

In the late 1630s, Dutch authorities in control of New Netherland observed encroachment by English settlers from the northeast moving southwest along the shores of the Long Island Sound. In alarm, the Dutch decided to purchase from local Native Americans a wider swath of land north of New Amsterdam. They apparently hoped to create a sort of buffer to block further encroachment by the English. That purchase seems to have taken place in 1640.

For years, however, I have tried to locate the text of any documentation reflecting that land acquisition. My efforts have included communications with a large number of professional and non-professional historians considered experts on the subject, review of English translations of relevant Dutch papers published in more than twenty books and more. Still, I have not yet located the text of any documentation reflecting the acquisition in 1640. So far I have only located secondary sources that describe the acquisition. Immediately below are a few of my research notes regarding my efforts.

Immediately below is a transcription of an early reference to the purchase published in 1853.

"1640. 19 April. Kieft purchases the lands between Norwalk and the North River. The progress of English encroachment along the shores of the Sound naturally awakened the anxiety of the New Netherland government. Excepting the Bronck and his lessess, there were as yet scarcely any Dutch colonists east of the Haerlem River. In order to 'maintain the charter and privileges' of the West India Company, Kieft dispatched Secretary Van Tienhoven, early in the spring of 1640, with instructions to purchase the 'Archipelago,' or group of islands at the mouth of the Norwalk River, together with all the adjoining territory on the main land, 'and to erect thereon the standard and arms of the High and Mighty Lords States General; to take the savages under our protection; and to prevent effectually any other nation encroaching on our limits.' These directions were executed; and the West India Company thus obtained the Indian title to all the lands between Norwalk and the North River, comprehending much of the present county of West Chester.† . . . . .

† Alb. Rec., ii., 78, 147; De Laet, viii.; Hazard, ii., 213; O'Call., i., 215; Bolton's West Chester, i, 129, 283; ii., 16, 145."

Source: Brodhead, John Romeyn, History of the State of New York First Period 1609-1664, p. 296 (NY, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers 1853).

The footnote detailing the sources on which Brodhead relied as the basis for his reference to the Dutch acquisition of lands in 1640 seemed to offer promise of finding the text of the original document reflecting that acquisition. What follows are my efforts to parse a few of the references contained in that footnote.

The footnote references "O'Call., i., 215". This seems to be a reference to Volume I of "The Documentary History of the State of New-York Arranged Under Direction of the Hon. Christopher Morgan, Secretary of State" by Edmund B. O'Callaghan (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Co., Public Printers 1849). However, page 215 seems to have no bearing on the topic. Thinking that typographical or printer's errors might be involved, I have looked at pages 214, 216 and other iterations might be involved. I either have misapprehended the book involved or the reference is erroneous.

The reference to "Bolton's West Chester, i, 120, 283; ii., 16, 145" is a reference to pages in Volumes I and II of Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History of the County of Westchester From Its First Settlement to the Present Time (New York: Alexander S. Gould 1848). A review of that source, however, provides little assistance. Bolton's references are as follows:

"The lands of East Chester, were formerly included in the Indian grant of 1640, whereby the Indians conveyed to the Dutch, all the territory situated between the town of Greenwich and the North River." (Vol. I, p. 120). No source is cited for this assertion.

"The River Sachems, at this early period, paid tribute to Sassacus, grand sachem of the Mohegans, whose broad territory extended from Narragansett to Hudson River, and over all Long Island. In 1644, there was an Indian Chief by the name of Mamaranack, living at Kitchawanc, c (Croton.) This individual may have been one of the grantors of these lands to the Dutch West India Company, in 1640, when the latter purchased a large tract of country extending as far east as Greenwich. . . . .

c O'Callaghan's Hist. N. N. 302." (Bolton, Vol. I, p. 283) (Bolton's footnote reference to Edmund B. O'Callaghan's History of New Netherland; or, New York Under the Dutch, Vol. I (NY, NY: D. Appleton & Company 2d ed. 1855 only references the fact that "In 1644, there was an Indian Chief by the name of Mamaranack, living at Kitchawanc").

"Poningoe, the Indian name of Rye, is apparently derived from Ponus, the title of the aboriginal proprietor of this territory, A. D. 1640. The final termination may be oe or ong, denoting locality.

Thus the whole word may emphatically express the place or locality of that Sachem's residence. Nothing however remains at this late period, to establish the connection with any degree of certainty. Ponus himself, was one of the ruling Sagamores of Rippowams, (Stamford) in 1640. This individual left issue, three sons, Owenoke, Taphance and Onox; the latter had one son, Powhag." (Bolton, Vol. II, p. 16).

"Like the adjoining lands, Westchester was originally purchased by the Dutch West India Company, of the Mohegan sachems and other Indians, who claimed it in 1640. a . . . .

a Alb. Rec. vol. ii. 147." (Bolton, Vol. II, p. 145) (Note that this footnote reference to "Alb. Rec. vol. ii. 147" matches in part the above-quoted Brodhead's footnote reference "Alb. Rec., ii., 78, 147").

One reference that certainly seemed promising was contained in a wonderful book by Professor Lloyd Ultan (who is also Bronx Historian) entitled "The Bronx in the Frontier Era From the Beginning to 1696" published in 1993. According to that book:

"On October 2, 1642, Throckmorton received permission from the Dutch to settle on a neck of land thrusting into Long Island Sound. This site was part of a larger area called Vreedlant, which the Dutch had purchased from the Indians in 1640. 49"

When I saw the footnote reference, my hopes brightened. That footnote reads:

"49. Van Laer, ed., New York Historical Manuscripts: Dutch, IV, 164-165; another translation in O'Callaghan and Fernow, eds., Documents, XIII, 10."

The two references in footnote 49 quoted above are shortened references to the following sources:

Van Laer, Arnold J. F., translator and editor, New York Historical Manuscripts, Dutch, Vol. IV, pp. 164-65 (Baltimore, 1974).

O'Callaghan, Edmund B. & Fernow, B., editors, Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Vol. XIII, p. 10 (Albany, NY: Series Published Between 1856 and 1883).

The two translations contained in Van Laer and O'Callaghan / Fernow, however, are translations of the permission received by Throckmorton to settle on today's Throgg's Neck -- not the record of the purchase by the Dutch of the area called Vreedlant in 1640.

Though I likely have not exhausted all possible resources, I have begun to fear that if the original Dutch record of the 1640 acquisition of Vreedlant and surrounding areas existed in modern times, it may have been destroyed in the New York State Library fire of 1911 without there being a published, complete translation. I would be most appreciative to hear from anyone who might have any information regarding evidence of the text of the original acquisition documentation.

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