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]
SAMUEL BARRET, his B mark
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.Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com/.
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