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.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thomas Pell Was Feared Drowned or Lost at Sea in 1656

A paper delivered by the Director-General, Peter Stuyvesant, to the Council at a meeting in Fort Amsterdam, New Netherland on January 26, 1656 contained indications that the man most hated by the Dutch -- Thomas Pell -- had drowned or was presumed lost at sea. The Dutch were unhappy that Pell had established a small village of Enlgish settlers in an area known as VreedLandt. VreedLandt was among the lands claimed by the Dutch under purchase from local Native Americans. The text of the entire paper is transcribed immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.


26th January.

To-day the following letter was read by the Noble Hon ble Director-General to the Council at the meeting in Fort Amsterdam.

I informed your honors partly by word of mouth, that on the 22d inst. I had a visit from a Mr. Weyls, formerly a resident of Stamford, now schoolmaster at Onckeway, who among other reports of news from Europe told me in presence of Do Drisisus and Willem Harcke, that he had had in his house lately an Indian from Wiequasskeck, who was a good friend of Vander Donck and had tended his cows for a time; he thought, his name was Joseph and he spoke pretty good English, anyway so much that he could understand him. He had talked with this Indian about the late troubles between his and our nations and these were the details:

First, why they had killed and captured so many Dutchmen?

Second, why they do not return the captured Dutchmen and whether they are not afraid, that the Dutch will again attack them?

Third, what they and their neighbors intended to do with the captives?

He answered to the first that they had not been the first cause or that they did not bgin and that they were afraid, the Dutch would not forget it, and they comprehend, why the Dutch kept so quiet.

As to the captives, they were a burden to them, for they had to feed them, but they retained them, as they knew well and expected, that, as long as the prisoners were with them, the Dutch would not trouble them and they were resolved, to have the prisoners ransomed in the spring or [Page 59 / Page 60] to offer them to the Dutch. To the question, whether they would then make peace with the Dutch, the Indian answered the Dutch would not keep the peace and that therefore they did not intend to ask for peace nor to make it. Asked, what they would do against the Dutch, who were so strong and it being impossible to kill all or drive them out of their strong positions, he said, they knew that well, therefore they would not visit them in their castles nor make war upon them, but they would hide in small parties in the underwood, to surprise any one, who came out, hinder them in planting and kill their cattle, when it came into the woods, until they finally would have no more food and so forth; the aforesaid Wyles thought it his duty as neighbor, to inform us hereof.

He stated in regard to the massacre and unlucky engagement, that the matter had been received by the Commissioners and other principal persons of New-England with great and heart-felt [regret] and that it was their opinion, they were, considering their neighborhood, close union and the congruity of the divine service of the two nations in duty bound, to assist us against the barbarous tribes, if they were requested and many were astonished, that we thus passed over the affair, disregarding the Christian nations.

He said also, he had heard to his regret, that many here believed, the people of New-England had had something to do with it, with the intention to get under that retext possession of Long-Island or the new plantation at Westchester : he affirmed with great confidence, that to favor such belief was unneighborly and unchristianlike, that they were so far from it, that they did not want more of Long-Island, than what was agreed to in the treaty made at Hartford and they themselves did not approve of the action of Mr. Pel [sic] in establishing a village upon somebody else's territory. He thought, this was now broken up, because Mr. Pel was drowned or as is supposed shipwrecked with his vessel and property. This is the substance of his statement to me, made in the presence of the aforesaid Do Drisius and William Harck, which I have thought necessary to communicate to your Honors and to have inserted, with your knowledge, into the minutes, also to recommend it to your Honors' further consideration, to which I must add, that, as your Honors know, some savages, about 30 in number, have [plundered] the yacht 'Endracht', stranded on the Sandpoint, and robbed the sailors under threats, although they did not hurth them, of their property, which has caused me, to prevent further mischief and bloodshed, to take away the sailors and the things, easiest to transport, from the stranded yacht and to abandon the yacht, until better times and opportunity. I stop here and impress it upon your Honors' mind, whether it would not be well, to remove also the small garrison on Staten-Island, which has no more protection, but much less than the sailors on the yacht, before something like, what I spoke of before, if not worse may happen to them and to order Captain Post, to proceed with his cattle and the few soldiers with him to Nayeeck and join the troops of Mr. Werckhoven, where a suitable refuge of stockades has been made, sufficient to defend it with soldiers against an attack by the Indians. Date as above. (26th January 1656)."

Source: Fernow, Berthold, Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Vol. XIII, pp. 59-60 (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Company 1881).

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