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.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Information About Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak Published in 1922

In 1922, Frye Publishing Company released a book by Katharine Stanley Nicholson entitled Historic American Trees. The book included a passage about Thomas Pell's Treaty Oak that once stood on the grounds of the Bartow-Pell Estate. Beneath that tree, according to tradition, Thomas Pell signed a "treaty" with local Native Americans on June 27, 1654 by which he acquired the lands that became known as the Manor of Pelham. Below is the passage from the book.


In 1654, Thomas Pell, of Fairfield, Conn., bought property north of the Harlem River, 'embracing all that tract of land called Westchester,' in what is now New York State. Beneath the shade of a large white oak, which has ever since been called by his name, the deed was signed by the Indian Chiefs Manninepol, Annhook, and five other Sachems [sic] from whom he purchased the land for 'two guns, two kettles, two coats, two adzes, 2 shirts, one barrel of cider and 6 bits of money' [sic]; the value of the payment is estimated to have amounted to eight pounds, four shillings and six pence [sic].

Nine days before the transaction [sic], a meeting of the Director General and Council of New Netherlands had taken place, and it had been resolved to forbid the English settling on any soil which, the Government claimed had been 'long before bought and paid for,' and to order them 'to proceed no farther, but to abandon that spot.'

Pell, being one of the chief offenders, it was reported by the attorney of the New Netherlands, that he had 'dared against the rights and usages of Christian countries to pretend that he bought these lands of the natives,' and that he was making a settlement there. He continued to hold the land, however, ignoring all objections, and when at length the Dutch surrendered, in 1664, became its undisputed owner. In 1666, Governor Nicholls, of New York, confirmed a large part of Pell's grant, and 'erected a township or manor; the propietor rendering and paying in fealty therefor yearly, unto his Royal Highness, James, Duke of York, or to such governor as should, from time to time be by him appointed, as an acknowledgment, one lamb upon the first day of May, (the feast of S. S. Philip and James).'

For more than two hundred and fifty years, the old oak had been famed as the landmark where the beginnings of historic Pelham Manor were made. It is said to have stood on the Post Road, between Pelham Bridge and the entrance to the Bartow place. About one hundred and seventy-five feet south of the bridge, is an oak stump, surrounded by an iron railing, believed by many to be the remains of the treaty tree. According to the report of the American Scienic [sic] [Page 12 / Page 13] and Historic Preservation Society, however, this is incorrect, and nothing now is left of the fine old oak but the record of its fame."

Source: Nicholson, Katharine Stanley, Historic American Trees, pp. 13-14 (NY, NY: Frye Publishing Co. 1922).

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