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, February 06, 2007

October 14, 1772 Quaker "Marriage Contract" of Bersheba Pell of the Manor of Pelham and Moses Quinby

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During the 1920s, a resident of the Village of North Pelham named Adolph Fassler purchased a fascinating document from an unidentified "New York City Collector" at a sale of historical documents. It was a Quaker "Marriage Contract" dated October 14, 1772 between Bersheba Pell of the Manor of Pelham and Moses Quinby of Westchester.

Mr. Fassler donated the Marriage Contract to the Town of Pelham. It was displayed to residents of the Town during the 1954 Tercentennial celebration of the signing of the Pell-Siwanoy Treaty. An article about the document appeared in the January 21, 1954 issue of The Pelham Sun. The text of that article is transcribed below.

"Quinby-Pell Marriage Contract

Among the interesting historical relics to be featured in the observance of the Tercentennial Anniversary of the signing of the Thomas Pell Treaty with the Indians, is a marriage contract, made in 1772 by Bersheba Pell, a descendant of Thomas Pell [sic], first proprietor of the Manor of Pelham, and Moses Quinby, of Westchester. The certificate, which is remarkably preserved, although it is 182 years old, was recently presented to the Town of Pelham by Adolph Fassler purchased it from a New York City Collector at a sale of historical documents about thirty years ago. The handsomely engrossed scroll is the Quaker marriage contract entered into prior to the Revolutionary War, by the granddaughter of Thomas Pell, Third Lord of the Manor, and her Quaker swain, son of Aron and Elizabeth Quinby of Westchester Village. Miss Pell was the daughter of Caleb and Mary Pell, who, at the time of the wedding, 'late of the Manor of Pelham, deceased'. The marriage took place at the old Quaker meeting house in Purchase Oct. 14, 1772.

The certificate reads as follows: 'Whereas Moses Quinby of Westchester County and Province of New York, son of Aron and Elizabeth Quinby of Westchester, and Bersheba Pell, daughter of Caleb and Mary Pell, late of the Manor of Pelham, deceased, in the County and Province aforesaid, having signified their intention of Marriage with each other, before several monthly meetings of the people called Quaker, held at Purchase in the province of New York, according to the good order amongst them, and having consent of parents, their said proposals of marriage were allowed by the said meetings.

Marriage Vows

'Now these are to certify whom it may concern that for the full accomplishment of their said intensions, this Fourteenth Day of the Tenth Month called October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand and seven hundred and seventy-two, they, the said Moses Quinby and Bersheba Pell appeared in a Public Meeting of the said people at Westchester, and said Moses Quinby taking the said Bersheba Pell by the hand, did in solemn manner, openly declare that he took her, the same Bersheba Pell to be his wife, promising through the Lord's assistance to be unto her a loving and faithful husband until death do separate them, and then and there to the same assembly, the said Bersheba Pell did in right manner declare that she took him, the same Moses Quinby to be her husband, promising through the Lord's assistance to be unto him a loving and faithful wife, until death should separate them, or in words to that propose, and Moreover, the said Moses Quinby and Bersheba Pell, (she according to custom assuming the name of her husband) as further confirmation thereof did then and there to these presents set their hands, and we whose names are hereunto also subscribed, being present at the solemnization of the said marriage and subscription, have as witnesses hereunto set out [sic] hands, the day and year above written.'

Appended are the signatures of the 38 witnesses, including a Caleb Pell, and a Phila Pell. The bride signed her name 'Bersheba Quinby.'

Pelham Manor Village historian Lockwood Barr's Investigation into the family history of the early Pells, failed to show any record of the wedding. Bolton's history of Westchester, states that the daughter of Caleb and Mary Ferris Pell was christened Julia, but it might be assumed that the name 'Bersheba' could have been prompted by the name of her aunt Bathesheba Pell, daughter of Thomas Third Lord of the Manor, who married Theopholis Bartow. Their son John was the builder of the famous Bartow Mansion, situated close to the site of the original Pell home, in what is now Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The Bartow mansion on the Shore Road is now the home of the International Garden Club, and during the administration of the late Fiorello La Guardia, as Mayor of the City of New York, it was used as the summer city 'White House'.

Thomas Pell Third Lord of the Manor, married an Indian Princess, daughter of the reigning Indian Chief of Westchester, according to Bolton. They had ten children, Ann, John, Joshua, Philip, Caleb, Joseph, Mary, Sarah, Bathsheba and Thomas.

Caleb and Mary Ferris Pell had six children: Caleb, Elija, Julia, (believed to be the Bersheba of the marriage contract) Ann, Mary and Euphemia.

The late Stephen H. P. Pell, of Ticonderoga, N. Y. who was the historian of the modern Pell family, the breaking up of the Manor of Pelham, was done by Thomas, third Lord, who, instead of leaving the Manor intact to his eldest son, and giving the other sons a few hundred dollars, divided it among them all, with the result that none of them had enough to be of any importance. In 'Ancient Town of Pelham, N. Y.,' Lockwood Barr states 'Tradition in the Pell family relates that during the Revolution, members of the family being Loyalist, fled to New York City [f]or British protection, and that the original Manor House, erected close to the site of the present Bartow mansion, being empty was burned to the ground, as were so many mansions in the 'Neutral Ground'."

Source: Quinby-Pell Marriage Contract, Pelham Sun, Jan. 21, 1954, p. 3.

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