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, November 06, 2007

Is This Another Dead End in the Search for the Text of an Indian Deed to Lands That Included Today's Pelham Sold to the Dutch?

I warmly invite comment -- by email or by comment link below -- to this posting as it addresses an issue on which I have worked for a number of years.

Those who follow the Historic Pelham Blog, including a number of experts on early Dutch settlement of New Netherland and surrounding areas, know that I have worked for quite some time to locate the text of early deeds by which the Dutch purportedly acquired lands from local Native Americans including the area known today as Pelham. For example, see Tuesday, December 5, 2006: Where is Evidence of the 1640 Dutch Purchase from Native Americans of the Lands That Became Pelham?

In that December 5, 2006 posting, I outlined many of the references in secondary sources suggesting that on April 19, 1640 the Dutch acquired a large swath of land north of Manhattan Island that may have included today's Pelham. However, despite following up on the citations contained in the sources I studied, I found only dead ends -- never the text of any such "Indian Deed" as some sources described it.

I recently located the text of a 1649 deed by which Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of New Netherland, acquired lands north of the Island of Manhattan. The heading added to the translation of the deed published in 1881 reads: "INDIAN DEED FOR WESTCHESTER COUNTY, EASTERN HALF." If that heading were accurate, then the area likely would include today's Town of Pelham.

It seems to me, however, that the heading added by the editor is inaccurate. Indeed, if I am correct, the land encompassed by the deed covers an area between today's New York / Connecticut border extending northward to Greenwich. I still have work to do to establish this. I invite comment as to whether those who review the text of the deed below agree. Assuming the accuracy of the two footnotes in the reference that identify the rivers listed in the deed by their Native American names, the deed would seem to encompass an area bordered: (1) on the south by "Byram's river"; (2) on the north by the "Maharnes river, Conn."; (3) on the west by a north/south line separating the mainland between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound into a westerly half and an easterly half; and (4) on the east by a north/south line extending southward from Greenwich.

If I am reading the text of the deed correctly, it does not encompass today's Pelham and does not even encompass the eastern half of Westchester as the heading indicates. This seems to depend, of course, on whether "Byram's river" was north or south of today's Pelham and Westchester County. My initial work tentatively indicates that Byram's river has marked the southern border of the Connecticut - New York boundary.

If my tentative conclusions are correct, this would seem to be yet another dead end that will require me to continue my search for the text of the April 19, 1640 deed. I hope those of you who read this can help by providing me with your comments! Am I reading the deed correctly?

The text of the deed appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.


This day, date as below, appeared before the Hon ble Director-General and Council Megtegickhama, Oteyockque and Wegtakachkey, stretching in breadth through a wood to a kil called Seweyruc, * [Footnote * reads: "*Byrams river."] dividing it at the East river by a North and South line from Greenwich on a kil called Kechkawes. † [Footnote † reads: "†Maharnes river, Conn."] This land between the two kils runs to the middle of the woods between the North and East rivers, so that the westerly half remains to the abovesaid proprietors and the other easterly half is divided from it by a line drawn North and South through the centre of the wood. The aforesaid owners acknowledge in the presence of the chief Seyseychhimus and all their other friends and blood relations to have sold the said parcel of land to the Nobel Petrus Stuyvesant, Director-General of New-Netherland, in consideration of a certain lot of merchandise, which they acknowledge to have received and accepted before the passing of this act, namely 6 fathoms of duffels, 6 strings of wampum, 6 kettles, 6 axes, 6 addices, 10 knives, some iron, corals, one gun, 9 staves of lead, 2 lbs of powder, 1 coat of duffels.

Therefore the aforesaid owners of the said land transfer, cede and convey it to the said Director-General and his successors as a true and lawful property, renouncing for themselves and their descendants now and forever all claims thereupon and resigning herewith all rights and jurisdiction, delivering it to the said Hon ble General and his successors, who may do with it as they please, without being molested by them, the sellers or any one of them. It is further agreed, that the Western half may be bought for the same amount as above, when the Director-General desires to pay for it, and they, the sellers, promise to sell the part still in their possession on the North river for that price and not to sell to anybody without informing the Director-General. They further promise to maintain and uphold this contract firmly and invioably and sign it in presence of their chief the 14th of July 1649 at New-Amsterdam in New-Netherland.

This is the mark [symbol] of MEGTEGICKHAMA
This is the mark [symbol] of POMIPAHAN.
This is the mark [symbol] of WEGTAKACHKEY
This is the mark [symbol] made by the chief SEGSEYCHKIMUS as witness."

Source: Fernow, Berthold, Documents Relating to the Colonial History of the State of New York, Vol. XIII, p. 24 (Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons and Company 1881).

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com/.
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home