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.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dutch Authorities Demand That Thomas Pell Halt His "Intrusion" at Westchester in 1656

The Dutch meant business when they arrested most of the Englishmen who, in November 1654, settled in Westchester on lands acquired a few months earlier by Thomas Pell from local Native Americans. They removed the men to a prison ship near Fort Amsterdam. Eventually the settlers were released and pledged allegiance to the Dutch to avoid further altercations. In March, 1656, however, the Dutch Fiscal presented a statement to the Director-General and the Council of New Netherland summarizing Thomas Pell's "intrusion" at Westchester and asking that he be ordered, once again, to quit the area. The text of the statement is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.


March 15th, 1656.

To the Noble Hon ble Director-General and Council of New-Netherland.

Not only your Honors but everybody else living in this Province know, that many years ago the land called Vreedland has been settled by several persons under patents from your Honors' predecessor and peacefully occupied under this Government until the war of 1643. Now one Mr. Pell, a resident of Onckeway in New-England, has against Christian law and custom dared lately to repurchase these lands from the same natives, from whom years ago they were bought and paid for through your Honors, as the Book of Deeds shows, and to enter upon them in his own name and live there contrary to the settlement of the boundaries agreed upon with the United Colonies of New-England in 1650 and without your Honors' knowledge or consent. Against this usurpation the Fiscal has protested ex officio in the name and on behalf of his superiors, but notwithstanding this protest duly served, Lieutenant Wheller, who commands there as chief officer, remains there with the rest of his associates and continues to build and plant, receiving and sheltering several fugitives, vagabonds and thieves, who on account of their bad behavior had to fly. Thereupon your Honorable Worships, following the instructions and orders of the Lords-Directors and in order to maintain the agreement of Hartford, have resolved, to dislodge the said Wheller and his people by a troop of soldiers. These persons met, according to your Honors' declaration of the 14th March, the Hon ble General, there present with the rest of the soldiers, they had drawn up in line under arms and showed themselves unwilling to remove, saying the land belonged to them. [Page 64 / Page 65] Thereupon the said Englishmen were deprived of their arms and 23 of them were brought as prisoners on board of the ship 'de Waagh' on the same day, while a few with the women and children were left behind, to take care of their goods.

The Fiscal therefore requests, that your Honors will please to send the Courtmessenger with one or two of the oldest men to Vreedlandt, who are to warn the remaining Englishmen, that they must remove and take away everything brought there by them, at the risk of being proceeded against according to law, if they do not obey; also that the aforesaid Lieut. Wheller and his companions pay, before being released, the expenses incurred by your Honors through their acts and disobedience in coming hither in boats and with armed men and further that they sign an act promising never again to come and live, build, plant, sow or mow without your Honors' consent and special order upon our Lords' land, situate at Vreedlandt, which they have lately called Westchester, or upon any other land within the boundaries, agreed upon at Hartford, under penalty of suffering corporal punishment according to the exigencies of the case, if found to have disobeyed.

The above written application and motion of the Fiscal, as plaintiff and attorney, against the imprisoned Englishmen, arrested lately at Vreedland, by them called Westchester, having been read and considered together with the humble remonstrance of their wives here annexed and taking into consideration the dangerous situation and the inclemency of the winter, We, the Director-General and Council of New-Netherland, have resolved for these and other weighty reasons, to release the English prisoners, after they have promised under oath and by their signatures, to remove from the lands of Vreedland and out of this Province with their property and cattle within six weeks and not to come back in to this jurisdiction, without our special consent. After having sworn to and subscribed this, the Fiscal is authorized and directed to release these Englishmen, against whom he, as public prosecutor, has no other charge than that of usurpation, as soon as they have satisfied him for the expenses incurred, to be estimated by impartial men, and this shall be his sufficient warrant. As to the fugitives or other criminals, also those who refuse to sign the aforesaid promise, they must be apprehended according to the resolution of yesterday and be proceeded against according to law.

Thus done in Council held at Fort Amsterdam in New-Netherland date as above.


Source: Source: Fernow, Berthold, Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Vol. XIII, pp. 64-65 (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Company 1881).

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