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, January 31, 2014

The Earliest Years of The Pelham Picture House

The Pelham Picture house is a movie theater located at 175 Wolfs Lane in Pelham.  It opened in 1921 and has been claimed to be the oldest continuously-operating movie theater in Westchester County (although it has been closed temporarily for renovations and for other reasons over the decades).  The Pelham Picture House was named to the National Register of Historic Places on May 28, 2010.    

In the application for inclusion of the structure in the National Register of Historic Places, the Picture House is described as follows:

"The Pelham Picture House is significant in the area of architecture as an intact-representative example of an early-20th century movie theater in Westchester County.  The building typifies early-20th century commercial architecture of New York City commuter suburbs with its eclectic styling reflective of the Mission style.  Its stuccoed facade has angled end bays, a distinctive round-arched entrance, tiled hoods over the large windows on the end bays, and a wood open truss ceiling in the auditorium.  The theater is also significant in the area of entertainment as an important social and cultural resource for residents of the suburban village and town of Pelham.  The Pelham Picture House was built in 1921 by the Pelham Theater Corporation and has been in almost continuous operation since then as a movie theater.  Despite the remodeling of the lobby and minor changes to the auditorium, the theater retains a high level of integrity of location, setting, design, materials, craftsmanship, feeling, and association."

Source:  National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Pelham Picture House, 175 Wolf's Lane, Pelham, New York, Westchester, Code 119, 10803, Section 8, Page 1 ("Narrative Statement of Significance").  

The Picture House held its grand opening on September 10, 1921, featuring the silent film "Passing Thru," a comedy-drama starring Douglas MacLean and Madge Bellamy.  In the film:

"Bank teller Billy Barton shoulders the blame for a cash shortage for which Fred Kingston, a fellow employee, is responsible and is sentenced to prison.  On his way there, the train is wrecked and he escapes.  In the town of Culterton, he meets and falls in love with Mary Spivins, the bank president's daughter, and charms the populace by playing the mouth organ.  He obtains work as a farmhand with Silas Harkins, taking the farm mule as wages.  When Spivins orders Harkins arrested for assault, Billy learns it was a kick from the mule that laid out Spivins.  At the bank he finds Spivins bound while Fred and the clerk are robbing the safe; Billy is locked in the safe, and all efforts to save him prove futile until the wall is kicked out by the mule.  Through the efforts of Willie Spivins, the bank is dynamited, but all ends happily."

Source:  Munden, Kenneth White, ed., The American Film Institute of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States, Part 1, "Passing Thru," p. 592 (Berkeley, CA:  Univ. of California Press, 1997).  

When it first opened, the Picture House was billed as "Pelham's Newest Place of Amusement, Up to Date, Airy and Comfortable."  Only two days after it opened, the first paid advertisement for the Pelham Picture House appeared in the September 23, 1921 issue of the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun.  The theater showed silent films until August, 1929 when it showed "Nothing But the Truth" with Richard Dix and Helen Kane, its first "talkie."  For more about that event (and for information about an earlier movie theater that was the first to serve Pelham even before the Pelham Picture House), see:  Early Films in Pelham at "Happy Land," Then Talkies at Pelham Picture House, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 10, Mar. 5, 2004, p. 12, col. 3.

When the Pelham Picture House faced possible demolition in 2001, it was acquired by Pelham Picture House Restoration, a not-for-profit whose goal is to restore the theater and expand its uses.  After the theater was acquired in 2005, it became The Picture House Regional Film Center and, over time, began to operate as a second-run theater for independent films while also showcasing classic and family films.  The Picture House Regional Film Center since has embraced the mission of providing Westchester residents not only with the opportunity to see such films, but also the opportunity to learn about the filmmaking process.  Additionally, it offers educational courses on such subjects as filmmaking, editing, animation, acting, directing, and screenwriting.

The Picture House in 2004, Shortly Before Restoration Began.

The role of the Picture House has, in effect, come full circle.  Few realize that in its first few years, the Picture House played a role in the education of Westchester residents in addition to its role as a cultural, social and entertainment center.  Indeed, the Picture House received attention less than two years after it opened when it began to show what were considered ground-breaking and awe-inspiring films by a local scientist who used time-lapse techniques and a cutting-edge "microscope camera" to reveal the growth of cells, the growth of chicken embryos inside their eggs, and the like.  That scientist used the Picture House to show his films to other scientists interested in his techniques.

The local scientist was Dr. Charles F. Herm who lived in the Village of North Pelham.  He developed what became known as the Herm Microscope that permitted the creation of time-lapse films that depicted microscopic growth in cell colonies and the like.  Dr. Herm used thd Picture House on occasion to screen his films for other scientists interested in his techniques.  Dr. Herm served for a time as the curator of physiology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. See, generally, First Movies of Nature's Actual Process in Creation of Life, Springfield Missouri Republican, Oct. 21, 1923, p. 23, cols. 1-6.  Herm had been working on his technology since at least 1919.  See Biological Pictures, N.Y. Times, Nov. 23, 1919. 

Below are transcriptions of two articles that appeared in The Pelham Sun describing the films that were shown at the Picture House by local scientist, Dr. C.F. Herm.  The second article has been particularly difficult to transcribe because the very top of the headline and much of the left edge of the article are missing and the quality of the image being transcribed is exceedingly poor.  Every effort has been made to determine what can be determined, however.

"Great Progress of Microscope Camera
Many Close Studies of Nature Revealed in Films Shown to Private Audience Saturday

A small but interested group of scientists and newspaper men attended a private showing of wonders revealed by the Herms' microscopc [sic] camera at Pelham Picture House on Satuorday [sic] afternoon.  Plant life and growth which first taken a single picture every ten minutes and then speeded up to a movie film showed the many phases of development and will be of great aid to botanists.

A film story entitled 'The Life of Robin Hood' showed the nest of a pair of robins with three eggs, from one of which Mr. Robin was industriously picking its way out out [sic] of the shell.  Its growth to a fledgling and final development to maturity was interesting.

A study of the blood circulation, and a closeup of the heart action and its method of blood pumping was weird and uncanny, but its aid to medical research is aparent [sic].

'Life on the Seashore' showed many forms of life invisible to the naked eye but in which a single drop of sea water when enlarged one million times by the microscopic camera became an arena of battle of an army of animalculae which showed amazing rapacity and agility.  

Dr. Herms the North Pelham scientist has been offered a lecture tour of the United States in whcih [sic] to present his microscopic camera revelations, but is understood to be somewhat reluctant to relinquish the scientific studies which he is pursuing."

Source:  Great Progress of Microscope Camera, The Pelham Sun, Nov. 2, 1923, p. 13, col. 2.

"[Illegible] Movies Produced by Dr. C.F. Herm
Pelham Man Gives Exhibition to Group of Scientists at Pelham Picture House Last Saturday--Incubation of Fish Eggs Shown in All Stages--Window in Egg Shell Enables Taking of Picture of Chick Until First Heart Beat Is Shown.

[An inspiring] exhibition of movie films [made] in Pelham at the studio of Dr. Charles F. Herm was given last Saturday afternoon before a group of noted scientists at the Pelham Picture House.  The exhibition was private being principally a demonstration of the marvelous [view] which can be afforded to science now that the new microscopic movie camera which Dr. Herm has perfected at his [?]th Street studios.  Dr. Herm was formerly connected with the American Museum of Natural History but of late [years] has devoted his time to the development of the microscopial movies which have created amazement wherever shown.  The New York Herald contained an interesting account of the exhibition, [a] remarkable film portraying the changes in the contents of an egg during the period of incubation from the start to the first heart beat of the live chicken.  This is accomplished with the use of a time clock which causes the camera to flash a strong light through a glass window inserted in the side of the egg.  The glass window is three quarters of an inch square, sealed in place by paraffin.  A picture is taken every time the light flashes and the [illegible] process of incubation is going on for thirty-three hours, a picture being taken every ten minutes

Taking microscopic pictures automatically, every ten seconds, every two minutes, or at any interval desired, this machine can also record the details of clinical reaction, the action of white corpuscles and the growth of new tissue in the healing of wounds, the building up of fine crystals from solutions, or the gradual changes inside the egg of a fish from the original clear fluid to the fully formed baby fish.  

Operated in an observation night and day for two and even three weeks, this camera has made records of scores of biological and chemical processes hitherto incompletely observed.  

To Film Cancer Action

One of the experiments soon to be tried is that of placing a group of healthy cells and a group of cancer cells together in a solution to show the attack by the malignant bodies.  The camera is a development from an earlier type used by Dr. Herm to assist Dr. Alexis Garrel in studying the protecting and healing action of white corpuscles in wounded tissue.  It is planned to use the instrument for the diagnosis of many obscure plant diseases.

One of the most interesting of these films was a microscopial study of the life cycle of the oyster.  This film is expected to have a practical bearing on the problem of rearing oysters artificially and using their eggs for seed to stock beds from which the oysters have disappeared.  The film was made under the direction of Dr. Wells, who has worked out a system of making oysters lay billions of eggs for the State as a means of restoring the breed in part of the Long Island coast and other places where spells of bad weather, parasites or other enemies have temporarily wiped out the shellfish.

Baby Oyster's Life Perilous

The oyster lays eggs by the thousands and scatters them in an unfertilized condition in the water.  The male oyster [sic - omitted] tion by the microscope.  The chance meeting of the two varieties of cells fertilizes the eggs and starts the young oyster on its career which is ended ninety-nine times out of a hundred by predatory minnows.  Those which escape, however, are still numerous enough to keep the oyster industry flourishing.

Dr. Wells improved on nature by opening the female oyster during the egg season and scooping out the eggs by the million and raising the eggs in water which has been intensively fertilized by the male.  The film showed the process from the beginning.  The floating sperm met the floating egg, attached itself to the egg membrane and finally pierced through to the interior and awakened the vital processes.  

Celia or whiplike processes soon appeared with which the new hatched oyster rowed itself through the water with great speed.  Just how the minute oyster forward propelled itself was not known before.  [Illegible]

Taking the pictures through the microscope at high speed and then showing them at low speed, however, made the rowing motion discernible.  After acquiring the whips which enabled it to charge in all directions for food the oyster gradually acquired one shell, then another, and its after life was uneventful.

Another film taken over a period of weeks by the patient camera was the biological history of an infusion of hay and water.  Bacteria first developed in such quantities as to cloud the water.  The water cleared, as the protozoa, the smallest animals, multiplied and ate up the excess bacteria.  Then appeared the rotifers, a little more highly organized, which live on protozoa.  But the rotifers fattened themselves on the protozoa only to become themselves the prey of various water worms.  Hundreds of amazing feats of gluttony were exhibited with one drop of water for an arena. . . . "

Source:  Movies Produced by Dr. C. F. Herm, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 21, 1923, p. 10, col. 1.  

In addition to the above, below I have included two examples of early advertisements that appeared in the local newspaper, The Pelham Sun, in the first months after the Pelham Picture House first opened in late 1921.  Each is followed by a citation to its source.

Pelham Picture House [Advertisement], The Pelham Sun, Dec. 29, 1922, p. 6, col. 3. 

Pelham Picture House [Advertisement], The Pelham Sun, Nov. 30, 1923, p. 3, col. 2. 

I have written extensively about The Pelham Picture House and its history over the years.  For a two examples, see:  

Wed., Nov. 9, 2005:  The Historic Pelham Picture House at 175 Wolfs Lane in Pelham, New York.  

Wed., Nov. 16, 2005:  New Theory Regarding Identity of the Architect of the Pelham Picture House Built in 1921.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Night Pelham's Town Hall Burned

The night of October 23, 1908 was cloudy and, thus, unusually dark.  Yet, it was a festive night for many.  A marching band and about 200 local Republicans marched throughout the Town and gathered at "Lyman's corners" (the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 1st Street in front of the combination Lyman's Pharmacy and post office in a structure that still stands today).  See Pelham Republicans Have a Big Rally, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Oct. 24, 1908, pg. 4, col. 2.

Two divisions of marchers celebrated throughout the Town as they traveled to a campaign rally in the Village of North Pelham.  The first division began its march of the clubhouse at the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor at about 8:00 p.m.  It marched to Lyman's corners where it met the second division of Republican marchers.  Id.  

During their march, the two divisions passed two large bonfires treated to blaze bright red.  The band played gaily and the crowd celebrated merrily as it made its way through North Pelham to Firemen's Hall -- a large gathering hall on the second floor of the firehouse on Fifth Avenue.  There, the hall was "elaborately decorated with flags, bunting, shields and pictures" all in support of a large rally to support the campaign of William Howard Taft, the Republican presidential candidate, and Charles Evans Hughes, Republican New York gubernatorial candidate.  Id.  

The crowd was particularly boisterous and celebratory.  Its candidate of choice, William Howard Taft, was a brother of long-time Pelham Manor resident Henry Waters Taft.  Once the rally and speeches began, the rafters of the firehouse shook with each huzzah.  Local Republican candidates for local office begged for votes and the crowd cheered.  Id. 

Late in the evening, while the festivities continued, four giddy participants left the celebration a little before 11:00 p.m. and began to make their way down Fifth Avenue toward their homes.  They stopped briefly near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 2nd Street.  See Stubborn Blaze In Old Building, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Oct. 24, 1908, pg. 1, col. 7 and pg. 4, col. 5.  

The lower end of Fifth Avenue was deserted.  The cloudy skies made the night darker than usual.  As the men stood together near the intersection, they noticed a light in the windows of the Pelham Town Hall, a wooden structure built principally of pine.  At first they assumed someone was working late inside, but soon they noticed the flickering of the light and suspected something far worse.  One ran to the front door of the structure and broke it open.  Smoke poured forth.  A raging fire was well underway.  Id.  

The men ran all the way back to the firehouse to sound the alarm.  As they arrived, the Republican rally in Firemen's Hall on the second floor of the firehouse was just ending.  They and the firemen inside realized that if they sounded the alarm, panic might ensue and those attending the rally might be hurt in a stampede to exit.  Id.  

Several firemen quietly left the building with a wheeled "jumper" hose wagon.  They raced to the scene and began to fight the blaze.  When the crowd had dissipated, the fire alarm was given and the fire whistle at the local ice plant also sounded an alarm.  Id.    

While the firemen were laying the hose, they heard a "muffled roar as if an explosion had occurred."  The building and its contents seemed doomed.  Id. 

The water pressure, however, turned out to be surprisingly good.  Within thirty minutes the fire was under control.  It was declared to be out within forty-five minutes.  Incredibly, the flames never reached the Town records in the Town Clerk's office.  The walls of that office were scorched, but the records did not burn.  Id.  

Speculation on the cause of the fire was rampant.  Unidentified "members of the town board" reportedly were certain the fire was deliberately set given that the area was deserted and Republicans were rallying at the fire station when the fire began.  Id.  Others believed the fire began through spontaneous combustion in a pile of old rags in one of the jail cells in the structure.  Id.  

The old, wooden Town Hall was built on Fifth Avenue after New York City annexed much of the Town of Pelham -- including the Town's small brick Town Hall that once stood on today's Shore Road near the Pelham Bit Stables -- during the mid-1890s.  Following the loss of the wooden structure, the Town was forced to build a new Town Hall, this time of brick and stone.  That structure still stands and is the center of the Town's government today.  

Detail from an undated photograph of the old Pelham Town Hall
on election day, Courtesy of The Office of The Historian,
Town of Pelham, NY

Below are transcriptions of two newspaper articles describing the fire that destroyed the old Town Hall and of another newspaper article that describes the Republican rally that was underway when the fire began.

Pelham Town Hall Gutted by Fire Last Night - Origin a Mystery
Panic at Mass Meeting Nearby Prevented---Some Believe Fire Was Set

North Pelham, Oct. 24. -- The town hall on Fifth avenue, North Pelham, was gutted by fire last night, shortly before 11 o'clock, and if it had not been for the quick and effective work of the fire department, would have been totally destroyed, together with many valuable records in the library in the town clerk's office.  The fire occurred just at the close of the Republican mass meeting in the firemen's hall, on Fifth avenue, which was crowded with people, just beginning to pass down the stairs.  There might have been a panic but for the fact that the firemen waited until the firemen's hall was practically cleared before sounding the alarm.  The town hall is insured for $2,500.  The loss is not known.  The origin of the fire is a mystery.  

The blaze was discovered practically at the same time, by John Smith, Mr. Donovan, Walter Lindstrom and William Griffin.  These men were on their way home from the mass meeting, and were standing on the corner of Fifth avenue and Second street, when one of them happened to look in the direction of the hall, where they saw the reflection of a light on the windows.  At first it was thought that someone was in the hall, but when the light began to flicker, one of the men shouted that the building was on fire.  As soon as this discovery was made the men ran to the hall and one of them pushed the front door open.  The building was filled with smoke, and fire was seen in the jail located on the southeast corner of the building.  Mr. Lindstrom hurried out of the place and running around to the rear of the structure, found the jail in flames which were spreading very rapidly to other parts of the wooden structure.  

As soon as it was seen that the fire could not be put out by their efforts, the men ran back to the headquarters where the firemen were notified as quietly as possible on account of the crowd of people in the hall overhead.  While those who had attended the meeting were leaving the place, a number of the firemen grabbed hold of the 'jumper' and in a few moments were on their way to the fire.  A few seconds later an alarm was sounded from the fire house, and the fire whistle at the ice plant was blown.  But by this time the hall had been cleared of people.  

When the hose company reached the court house it seemed doomed to destruction.  The southeast corner of the building was in flames and great clouds of black smoke were rolling from all sections of the structure.  While the firemen were laying lines of hose, there was a muffled roar as if an explosion had occurred.  Immediately afterward a sheet of flame shot out through the front of the building and it seemed certain that the place would be destroyed in a few moments in view of the rapidity with which the fire was spreading, the hall being largely built of pine wood.

Five minutes after the alarm was sounded, the firemen had a stream of, water on the fire and prevented the progress of the flames, so that in a half hour the fire was under control.  It was declared to be out 
(Continued on Page Four).
(Continued from Page One).

three-quarters of an hour after it was first discovered, but not until the building had been gutted.  Under the leadership of Chief Lyon the firemen did great work in preventing the building from being destroyed.  The water pressure was excellent and was a great factor in enabling the firemen to save the structure.

Altho [sic] the tow [sic] hall is badly damaged and it will take a good many hundred dollars to rebuild those parts burned and damaged by the water, the town records in the town clerk's office were not burned, tho some of them may be damaged by water.  A peculiar feature of the fire was the fact that it did practically no damage to the town clerk's office, tho the walls were scorched by the intense heat from the flames in the jaul which is separated from the office only by a wooden wall.  The office, however, was flooded with water.

The origin of the fire is a mystery.  Some are of the opinion that it may have been started by spontaneous cumbusion [sic] in the jail.  However, the members of the town board believe that the building was set on fire.

No better time could have been selected for an incendiary to work.  The lower end of Fifth avenue where the town hall is located, was deserted last night while the mass meeting was in progress.  The two village policemen were in the hall, and a number of the firemen were in and about the place.  The night was dark and cloudy.

Those who do not believe that the place was set on fire, say that spontaneous combustion among rags in a cell could have taken place.  They say that it would not have taken long for the flames to spread.  In view of the mystery surrounding the fire's origin the fire commissioners may deicde [sic] to make an investigation.

The town hall is one of the oldest buildings in the town.  It is used not only as a meeting place for village and town officials, but as a court house and a place for social functions.  As a court house it has been the scene of many important trials."

Source:  Stubborn Blaze In Old Building, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Oct. 24, 1908, pg. 1, col. 7.

Lockup Is Burned, but Luckily No Prisoners Are in Cells.

Officials are investigating a mysterious fire which partly destroyed the Pelham town hall early to-day. 

Republicans had a big rally there last night [Editor's Note:  This is incorrect.  The rally was in the fire house.] and shortly after the meeting adjourned there was an alarm of fire.  The eastern end of the town hall where the cells are located was on fire.  There were no prisoners in the lockup, or they would have been burned to death.

Politicians who had taken part in the rally joined the volunteer firemen in fighting the flames and saved part of the hall and prevented the fire from spreading to other buildings."

Source:  Fire Partly Destroys Pelham Town Hall, The Evening Telegram - New York, Oct. 24, 1908, p. 5, col. 2.   

The following is a transcription of an article published in The Daily Argus of Mt. Vernon, New York about the Republican rally that took place at the time of the fire that destroyed Pelham's Town Hall on October 23, 1908.


North Pelham, Oct. 23.--'Taft is elected; Hughes will carry the state.'  These were the beliefs expressed at the mass meeting of the Republicans in Firmen's [sic] hall, on Fifth avenue, last night.  The names of the two candidates were cheered again and again whenever they were mentioned.  The interior of the hall was elaborately decorated with flags, bunting, shields and with pictures of Taft, Hughes and some of the county candidates.  The place was crowded to the doors.

The meeting was preceded by a parade of about 200 Republicans, music being furnished by a band.  The first division left the Pelham Manor club house in charge of Marshal W. P. Brown about 8 o'clock.  as the paraders reached the Fifth avenue bridge they were greeted with a display of red fire was burned and the first division was joined by the second, commanded by Marshal G. I. Karbach.  The two divisions then marched through the principal streets of the village.

They reached the hall about 9 o'clock.  It was not long before the place was crowded to the doors.  The band rendered a number of patriotic selections.

Allan Robinson, chairman of the Republican town committee, presided and made the first speech of the evening.  He said in part:  'The time has come for every voter to stand up for the ideals of this party; to stand where he can be seen and heard and make his position known.  This meeting is called to express interest in the campaign, not only for waht has been accomplished, but for what is going to be accomplished.  In my judgment the national election is settled.  There is no need of going into any details about that.  This state will go for William H. Taft by the thousands and the tens of thousands.  (Applause and cheers.)

'The fight for Hughes is not so hard now as it was two weeks ago.  Two weeks ago Chanler would undoubtedly have been elected, but the tide has turned during the past two weeks, and in two weeks more there should be no question but that he will be elected.  Governor Hughes has been accused of not having any sporting blood in his veins.  What finer example of a man with lots of sporting blood in his veins than that presented by the governor himself when he took up the fight in this state two weeks ago.'

Mr. Robinson introduced as the first speaker Frank S. Hutchins of New Rochelle.  Mr. Hutchins spoke briefly and said that there were only two issues in the present campaign, one being the records of Taft and Bryan, and the other being the personality of each man.  He continued:  'I submit that the man who has the best memory will vote the Republican ticket.  Our Democratic friends are crying up and down the land, 'Shall the people rule?'  If Governor Hughes is elected in this state, the people will rule, for heaven only knows the bosses did not want him.  If he is elected, you will encourage men elsewhere in this country who are trying to do their duty as they see it.  It was Lieutenant Govern Chanler himself who said only last winter at the Hotel Waldorf:  'We have at Albany a man to whom I take my hat off.'  He urged the voters not only to support Governor Hughes at the polls, but the county candidates.

Theodore M. Hill, former justice of the peace, was the next speaker.  He said in part:  'I believe that the Republican party has selected one of the sanest and soundest men that has ever been elected president of this country.  I don't know much about Mr. Taft, but if he is anything like his two brothers, one of whom lived in this town, it is my opinion that he has every qualification to endear him to other people.

'Not only am I desirous to see Mr. Taft elected president, but I am equally desirous to see Charles E. Hughes governor of the state of New York.  If there is anybody we admire in this town it is a fighter.  We admire a fighter and the man who wins a fight.  I heard some talk in this town to the effect that they are opposed to the anti-gambling laws.  In 194 [sic], when Governor Hughes was not even thought of, the people of New York voted that there should be no gambling in this state.  Now Governor Hughes did not make the laws of this state.  The people made them.  What kind of a man is it that makes a law and will turn on the man who tries to enforce it?'  Mr. Hill spoke about the value of the Public Service Commission and said that he would not care to be obliged to return to old conditions on the New Haven road.  He said that those who say that they are opposed to the commission were not so much against it as they are opposed to Governor Hughes appointing the commission.  'We don't want to go back to old conditions here,' he said.  'When Chanler was in Mount Vernon he said nothing about abolishing the Public Service Commission.  The tide is certainly turning.  Two or three weeks ago I was fearful that Governor Hughes' elections would be very close, but in political currents the lighter objects come to the surface first.  The tide has now changed.  The state of New York has one of the greatest men in the country and New York is waking up to that fact.  It took the west to find that out for us.  He has stood for everything that is just and good, and I hope that in the town of Pelham Governor Hughes will get a vote that will make him feel that this community, at least, endorses his administration.'  (Applause.)

Holland S. Duell, the Republican nominee, spoke briefly about the various candidates.  He said that he was not as confident about the election of Hughes as some of the previous speakers were.  He thought that the voters would have to do all in their power to bring about the election.  He said:  'It seems to me that if Governor Hughes should not be elected it would be the severest blow that good government could possibly receive.  It would serve as an inducement to certain undesirable interests to attempt to get control of this government.  It would be a demonstration on the part of the people of the state of New York that they are not willing to support such a public servant as Governor Hughes has been.  'I put Chanler in the same class with Bryan.  He is in this campaign for the votes that he can get and for the office.'  He declared that he was in favor of direct nominations for members of the legislature.  He concluded:  'I will try and represent the people as I did two years ago.'

H.B. Boedecker, of Mount Vernon, Republican candidate for coroner, spoke briefly.  He said:  'I have no record; Dr. Banning has.  You all know what that is.  I will leave it to you, and I think that your vote will count on election day.  It is not necessary to be a doctor to become a coroner.'

Herbert L. Fordham, of New York spoke until J. Mayhew Wainwright arrived at the hall.  Mr. Wainwright said in part:  'I am very hopeful of the result.  I look on this campaign as the most important one that I was ever in.  The national campaign is of absorbing interest.  But the state campaign is of transcendent interest.  The people are anxious for the kind of government tha [sic] has been given them under the leadership of Charles E. Hughes.  He has opposition.  I wonder what kind of a government these people do desire.  Do they want an administration of corporations, or do they want an administration such as has been given them?  Governor Hughes has conducted the affairs of this state in the open.'  He told of the achievements of the Republican party in this state.  In regard to the Public Service Commission, he said that the Democrats would like to have the members of this commission elected by the people.  He continued:  'What we have been trying to do is to keep such an organization out of politics.  We now have our opponents in a position where they have no issue whatever.  Mr. Chanler says that he will not repeal the Agnew-Hart bill.  If they are not going to change the law, why change the administration?  If they will not change it, they they [sic] have no final grounds for support.

'There can be no doubt but that the action of the state convention in nominating Charles E. Hughes will be supported by the people of this staff at the coming election next November.  

'Personally, I come before the people on my record.  If they find anything in it to condemn, then I shall ask them not to vote for me.  If they find that I have been a faithful public servant, I shall ask for and shall expect the support of every Republican and ask for the support of those who have not identified themselves with any particular party.

'I believe that this county is going to give the national and state tickets great majorities.  Unless all signs fail, it means that the best citizenship of this county has been aroused to the needs of the hour and that the citizens will express this feeling at the polls next November in favor of Taft and Hughes.'"  

Source:  See Stubborn Blaze In Old Building, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Oct. 24, 1908, pg. 4, col. 2. 

I have written about the two Pelham Town Hall structures that preceded the one that is used today.  For more, see:  

Mon., Jun. 27, 2005:  The Precursor to Pelham's Town Hall on Fifth Avenue.  

Fri., Jul. 13, 2007:  Midnight Fire Destroyed Pelham's Town Hall in October 1908.  

Tue., May 11, 2010:  Mystery Solved - Pelham Town Hall That Once Stood on Shore Road Was Used as a School.  

Wed., May 12, 2010:  Fire Partly Destroyed Pelham Town Hall in 1908.   

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There Were No Native Americans Known as Siwanoys

The headline for today's posting may seem provocative.  Yet, the topic is a fascinating one, since it really is not clear whether there is any reliable evidence to support the widespread assumption that the Native Americans who once lived in the area of Pelham were known as "Siwanoys."  The post below, lays out the evidence and concludes that the term “Siwanoy” mistakenly emerged as a short-hand reference to local Native Americans who did not refer to themselves by any such appellation and may not even have used such a term.

In 1848, local historian Robert Bolton, Jr. claimed that the Native Americans who lived in and around the shores of today’s Pelham and Pelham Bay Park were a band called “Siwanoys”.  He made his assertion in the seminal two-volume HISTORY OF WESTCHESTER COUNTY, presumably repeating local tradition.[1]   Since at least then, many scholars, professional archaeologists, anthropologists, and local historians seem merely to have assumed that a band of Native Americans known as “Siwanoys” populated the area in and around Pelham.[2]

The notion has seeped into popular culture.  Pelham has a Siwanoy School.  There is a Siwanoy Place.  Nearby are the Siwanoy Country Club and the Siwanoy Trail.  Tradition says that Siwanoy Native Americans signed a deed with Thomas Pell in 1654 selling him the lands that later became Pelham and surrounding areas. 

Clearly, Native Americans had a rich and lasting impact on Pelham and its lore.  But, were those Native Americans “Siwanoys?”

Were There “Siwanoys”?

Native Americans unquestionably inhabited Pelham and surrounding areas long before Europeans settled the area.  There are, however, serious doubts about whether there ever was a distinct group of Native Americans that might properly be labeled “Siwanoys”.  According to Ives Goddard, a noted scholar on the topic:

“Some early deeds suggest that the [Long Island] Sound-shore residents were not organized in political groups distinct from their western neighbors, but evidence has been claimed nevertheless for a Siwanoy group extending east from the Bronx River . . . However, the name Siwanois is found only among early information of a general nature, not linked to specific individuals . . . The political groupings and proper designations for the Sound-shore Indians of Westchester and Fairfield counties thus remain obscure.”[3]

The same author notes as well that to add to the confusion, “the Siwanois on Block’s 1614 map . . . are located in northeastern Massachusetts”.[4]   The map the author describes is a map ascribed, in part, to the Dutch navigator Adriaen Block whom many believe to be the first European to sail into Long Island Sound in 1614.  His map depicts “Sywanois” as located in northeastern Massachusetts – not the area that comprises today’s Westchester County, New York.  

In contrast, there is another well-known 17th Century map by Nicolaes Visscher entitled “Novi Belgii Novæque Angliæ : nec non parties Virginiæ tabula multis in locis emendate / per Nicolaum Visscher nunc apud Petr. Schenk Iun.”  That map contains a reference to the area that the Dutch knew as “Freelandt” (also Vreelant, Vreedlant and Vreedlandt) – where Englishmen sponsored by Thomas Pell settled near an area known today as Westchester Square in the Bronx – as well as a reference to “Siwanoys” within the area around today’s Pelham.[5]   In short, reliance on deeds and maps alone does not seem to resolve this issue definitively one way or the other.

Detail from Visscher Map; Long Island is Across the Bottom.
In a large area that some believe encompasses today's Pelham,
the Map refers to "Siwanoys."  To the left of that reference, arguably
nearer the area that encompasses today's Pelham, the Map
refers to "Wichqaskeck" (see infra).

Noted anthropologist and Lenape scholar, Dr. David Ostreicher has stated that his research suggests that the term “Siwanoy” did not apply to a specific tribal band.  Rather, a word sounding much like “Siwanoy” was used by Native Americans to refer to other Native Americans nearby.  “It was a loose term used to describe people who lived in an area and surrounding lands extending as far south as Delaware and as far north as New York, Connecticut or even – as suggested above – northeastern Massachusetts.  No one today knows whether the term “Siwanoy” had any meaning to the Native Americans who lived in the area.  Dr. Ostreicher, however, indicates that “[i]t is guessed that the roots of the word ‘Siwanoy’ come from one of three other words meaning southerner, sea salt or wampum.”[6]

It seems most probable that during the early to mid-19th century or even much earlier, the term “Siwanoy” mistakenly emerged as a short-hand reference to local Native Americans who did not refer to themselves by any such appellation and may not even have used such a term.  Nevertheless, a brief survey of the scholarly work in the area seems in order.

The Case for “Siwanoys”

A number of serious scholars and academics have considered the issue and, typically, have accepted without presentation of proof or basis (other than reliance on other authors’ conclusions) that there existed a Native American group that they have labeled “Siwanoys.”  The conclusions of a few of the more notable such authors are addressed below.

     Edward Manning Ruttenber

In his seminal work HISTORY OF THE INDIAN TRIBES OF HUDSON’S RIVER[7]  published in 1872, Edward Manning Ruttenber concluded that the Wappingers consisted of nine “chieftaincies”:  Reckgawawancs (generally known by the generic name of Manhattans), Weckquaesgeeks, Sint-Sinks, Kitchawongs (or Kicktawancs), Tankitekes, Nochpeems, Siwanoys, Sequins, and Wappingers proper.[8]   Ruttenber devotes substantial attention to the Siwanoys in his work.

Ruttenber repeats the widely-referenced conclusion that the Siwanoys were “one of the seven tribes of the sea-coast” and claims that the “chieftaincy” was “one of the largest of the Wappinger subdivisions.”[9]   He says that the Siwanoys occupied the north shore of Long Island Sound and ranged from Norwalk to the neighborhood of Hell-gate, a distance of 24 miles, although “[h]ow far they claimed inland is uncertain."[10]   According to Ruttenber:

“their deeds covered the manor lands of Morrisania, Scarsdall [sic] and Pelham, from which were erected the towns of Pelham, New Rochelle, East and West Chester, North and New Castle, Mamaroneck, Scarsdall, and parts of White Plains and West Farms; other portions are included in the towns of Rye and Harrison, as well as in Stamford.  There is also some reason for supposing that the tract known as Toquams and assigned to the Tankitekes, was a part of their dominions.  A very large village of the chieftaincy was situated on Rye Pond in the town of Rye.  In the southern angle of that town, on a beautiful hill now known as Mount Misery, stood one of their castles.  Another village was situated on Davenport’s Neck.  Near the entrance to Pelham’s Neck was one of their burial grounds.  Two large mounds are pointed out as the sepulchres of the sachems Ann-Hoock and Nimham.  In the town of West Chester they had a castle upon what is still known as Castle Hill neck, and a village about Bear swamp, of which they remained in possession as late as 1689.  Their ruling sachem in 1640, was Ponus, whose jurisdiction was over tracts called Rippowams and Toquams, and the place of whose residence was called Poningoe.  He left issue three sons, Omenoke, Taphance and Onox; the latter had a son called Powhag.  In 1661, Shansockerell, or Shanorocke, was sachem in the same district, and, in 1680, Katonah and his son Paping appear as such.  Of another district Maramaking, commonly known as Lame Will, was sachem in 1681.  His successor was Patthunck, who was succeeded by his son, Waptoe Pattunck.  The names of several of their chiefs occur in Dutch history as well as in the early deeds.  Among them are Ann-Hoock alias Wampage, already noticed, who was probably the murderer of Ann Hutchinson, and Mayane, spoken of in 1644 as ‘a fierce Indian, who, alone, dared to attack, with bow and arrows, three Christians armed with guns, one of whom he shot dead; and, whilst engaged with the other, was killed by the third,’ and his head conveyed to Fort Amsterdam.  The occurrence served to convince the Dutch that in offending against the chiefs in their immediate vicinity, they were also offending against the chiefs in their immediate vicinity, they were also offending those of whose existence they had no previous knowledge.  Shanasockwell is represented as ‘an independent chieftain of the Siwanoys,’ of the island called Manussing.”[11]

     Frederick Webb Hodge

In his widely-cited HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN INDIANS NORTH OF MEXICO[12], Frederick Webb Hodge in 1910 concluded that there once existed an Algonquian Confederacy known as  “Wappinger” that consisted of nine “tribes”:  Wappinger proper, Manhattan, Weckquaesgeek (see “Wiechqueaskeck” below), Sint-sink, Kitchawanc, Tankiteke, Nochpeem, Siwanoy and Mattabesec.[13]   Regarding the Siwanoy, Hodge says:

Siwanoy (from their having been a seacoast people, their name may be a corruption of Siwanak, ‘salt people,’ a dialectic form of Suwanak, a name applied by the Delawares to the English.—Gerard).  One of the principal tribes of the Wappinger confederacy, formerly living along the N. shore of Long Island sd. from New York to Norwalk, Conn., and inland as far as at least White Plains.  They were one of the seven tribes of the seacoast and had a number of villages, the principal one in 1640 being Poningo (J.M.)”[14]

     More Recent Scholarship of John Reed Swanton and S.F. Cook

The work of more recent scholars to consider the topic has begun to suggest that efforts to identify specific Native American groups and to settle on an accurate nomenclature for each may be in vain.  For example, in 1952, John Reed Swanton published his work The INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA.[15]   There he tried two different approaches.  He compiled a list of what he called “subdivisions,” “sachemships” or “sachemdoms” and a separate list of “villages” although he provides no source citations for his list of villages.[16]   

Swanton lists the following seven sachemships:  Wappinger proper, Wechquaesgeek, Sintskink, Kitchawank, Tankiteke, Nochpeem, and Siwanoy.[17]

In a work published in 1976 by University of California entitled THE INDIAN POPULATION OF NEW ENGLAND IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY[18], S.F. Cook recognized the confusion resulting from the difficulties of identifying specific Native American groups that formed the so-called “Wappinger Confederacy” of Western Connecticut and the Lower Hudson Valley accurately.  He wrote candidly:

“The Wappinger Confederacy consisted of a group of tribes which extended from Poughkeepsie to Manhattan on the Hudson River and thence eastward to the Connecticut.  The component tribes were some eight or ten in number and were themselves split into subtribes some of which may have been single villages.  The earliest names were applied by the Dutch at a time when knowledge of Indian ethnic organization was very rudimentary.  A later nomenclature was employed by the English, who saw the Indians from a different geographical and political standpoint.  The result has been considerable confusion in the definition of native groups, which even now has not been clarified.”[19]

Cook purports to avoid the issue altogether for purposes of his population study, choosing “to bypass terminology as far as is practicable, and also to avoid controversy relative to intratribal affiliation.”[20]   In apparent violation of that stated intent, though, he tries to make sense of the various groups within the Wappinger Confederacy identified by authors such as Ruttenber, Hodge and Swanton to assign purported population figures to “component parts of the Wappinger Confederacy” including:  Tunixis Group, Podunk, Mattabesec-Wongunk Group, Menunketuck and Quinnipiack, Pangusset, Siwanoy Group, Sint-Sink, Kitchawanc, Nochpeem, Wappinger proper, Weckquaesgeek, and Manhattan.[21]

Cook concludes that the approximate population of the group he references as the “Siwanoy” during the 17th century was about 1,800 Native Americans.[22]   He further details the many references in the literature to the various villages and settlements that authors have described as “Siwanoy” settlements.[23]

     Where Is the Evidence?

Careful scrutiny of the work of these authors and others including Robert Bolton, Reginald Pelham Bolton, Alanson Skinner, William Ritchie and many, many others shows that none details actual evidence showing that the Native Americans in the area in and around today’s Town of Pelham were referenced at any pertinent time as “Siwanoys.”  Rather, each author seems to rely on other authors to form a “consensus” over time that a group properly known as “Siwanoys” once existed – all traced as far back, at least for now, to the first edition of Bolton’s History of Westchester County published in 1848 in which Bolton, likewise, asserted the existence of a group known as “Siwanoys” without providing evidence other than the assertion that many Native Americans who signed deeds and the residents of many local settlements were “Siwanoys.”[24]

If Not “Siwanoys” Then Who?


Even more recent scholarship seems to treat the issue with more care.  It indicates that a group of Native Americans with shared cultural traits that included a language known as the Munsee dialect lived in an area that encompassed a large portion of New Jersey, Manhattan and Staten Island, portions of the Hudson Valley and all of the area of today’s Pelham and Pelham Bay Park northward toward Connecticut and western Long Island.[25]  

Dr. Paul Otto, Professor and Chairman of the Department of History at George Fox University has studied the Munsees extensively and has published a seminal work on the topic:  THE DUTCH-MUNSEE ENCOUNTER IN AMERICA.[26]  In that work, he cautions:

“There exists some difficulty in finding a suitable term to describe the Indian participants in this story.  Although the terms Munsees, Indians, native people or inhabitants, and Native Americans will usually be used, none of these accurately reflect the aboriginal sense of self-identity and thus they tend to be anachronistic.”[27]  

Dr. Otto argues that the native inhabitants of the lower Hudson valley and the surrounding region “can be grouped as the Munsees because of their shared cultural traits and the use of the Munsee dialect.”[28]   He continues:

“The term Munsee means ‘people of the Minisink,’ Minisink referring to an area surrounding the Delaware Water Gap, where one particular band of Munsees lived and where many of the people sharing the Munsee dialect came to dwell in the eighteenth century after selling the remainder of their lands to Europeans.  Although sometimes considered a branch of the Lenapes or Delawares, with whom they shared an ethnic and linguistic heritage, the Munsees more closely associated with that group in the eighteenth century and beyond.  The Lenapes (defined here as those who spoke the Unami dialect) comprised those Woodland Indians who, at the time of contact with Europeans, lived South of the Munsees in the region surrounding the Delaware Bay and River.  Together, their territory includes all of modern New Jersey, and portions of northeast Delaware, southeast Pennsylvania, and southeast New York.”[29]

Even Dr. Otto admits, however, that there is no consensus among experts regarding the proper use of the terms Munsee, Lenape and Delaware.[30]   Indeed, trying to link various Native American groups through dialect is a particularly difficult task since little information about the language and dialects spoken in the area of Southern New England.  As one who has studied the issue has noted:

“[t]he dialectology of southern New England is problematic due to a lack of data from much of the area.  None of the languages have been spoken for about a hundred years, and most have not been spoken for over two hundred years.  We have no linguistic records at all for many groups, while the documentation of several other groups is quite meager.”[31]

Nevertheless, there seems to be a consensus among modern scholars that the Munsee dialect was spoken in the area in and around today’s Town of Pelham.[32]   However, some use the term “Proto-Munsee” to refer to Native Americans whose descendants have since become known as Munsees.[33]


Dr. Otto further notes that those to whom experts refer today as Munsees did not group themselves as a nation, a tribe or even on the basis of small-scale villages.  Rather, “their sociopolitical groups can be defined in a number of levels including villages, districts and maximal groups.”[34]

The Munsees, according to Dr. Otto, organized themselves most commonly in villages and related territories.  He notes, however, that villages or even groups of villages also “claimed sovereignty over larger territories such as tracts and districts.”[35]   Such local associations could form into what Otto labels as “maximal groups” when the need for “broad cooperation or consultation” arose.[36]  

Significantly for present purposes, the Munsees “used unique names to identify these various groupings (usually at the village level or close to it) by which the Dutch knew them and recorded in their observations.”  These included a host of groupings among which were the Wiechqueaskecks.[37]

Early Dutch and English records indicate that the Munsee band or group known as Wiechquaeskecks ranged in an area on the mainland north of Manhattan from the Hudson River to the Long Island Sound, well north toward today’s Connecticut border and, perhaps, a little beyond.[38]   The area included most, if not all, of the lands acquired by Thomas Pell in 1654.

Some who have considered the issue have concluded that there was, in fact, a series of such groups in the area that included not only the Wiechquaeskecks, but also a group known as Siwanoys.  Reginald Pelham Bolton, for example, considered the Siwanoy to be a “sub-division” of the Wapanac “tribe” which he believed to be part of the Mohican “group” that, in turn, was part of a local band of “Algonkian” speakers known as “Weck-quas-kecks or Wick-quas-keeks.”[39]   Others, however, consider the inclusion of a regional group known as “Siwanoys” among the “Wappingers” to be “controversial.”[40]

Still others have reached a different conclusion.  One local historian, Reginald Pelham Bolton, studied the issue carefully in the early 20th century.  Bolton concluded that the Native Americans in the area of Pelham and surrounding environs are properly known as “Siwanoys” and that “friendly parties of the Weckquaesgeek” – a group distinct from the Siwanoys – merely “visited in summer.”[41]   According to Bolton, the “territory of the great chieftancy of the Siwanoy” extended “from Five-mile river on the east to Hunts point on the west, and from this shore-line inland, bounded west by Bronx river as far as Croton river.”[42]

As the foregoing suggests, the various taxonomies for local “intratribal affiliations” attributed to various scholars in the last century or so has not resolved the issue.  To the contrary, there remains “considerable confusion in the definition of the native groups, which even now has not been clarified.”[43]

Evidence That Wiechquaeskecks Lived in or Near Pelham

Historical references provide evidence that the Native Americans who populated the area in or near Pelham after European contact were the grouping known as Wiechquaeskecks.  

It seems clear that at least as late as 1676, Native Americans continued to live on Pell’s Neck (also known as “Anne Hookes Neck” and today’s Rodman’s Neck in Pelham Bay Park) and used it to farm.[44]   Official records refer to “Wyckerscreeke Indyans” as “planting on Mr. Pells Land at Anne Hoockes Neck”.[45]   Similarly, records at a Court of Assizes dated October 11, 1675 provide “that the Indyans at Mr. Pells bee ordered to remove within a ffortnight to their usuall Winter Quarters within Hell Gate upon this Island”.[46] 

The reference to “Wyckerscreeke” is significant.  The term “Wyckerscreeke” as well as the terms “Wickerscreek”, “Wickerscreeke”, “Wickersheck” “Wiskerscreeke”, “Witqueschreek” and “Wyquaesquec” are among more than fifty commonly-used colonial-era spellings of “Wiechquaeskecks”.[47]

The fact that Native Americans remained in the area after Thomas Pell acquired the lands by deed dated June 27, 1654 should come as no surprise. The deed itself clearly indicates that the Native Americans who sold the lands would remain nearby.  As set forth more fully below, one section of the deed provided that two English representatives and two Native Americans would re-mark the boundaries of the purchase each year:

 “Articles of Agreement
We also as lovinge neighbours & ffriends doo mutually ingage our Selves to send too men off Each yr one Day in ye Springe every yeare to marke ye Bounds of Ye Land yt a Right Knowledge may be kept wh out injury to Either side. . . Indyan Wittnesses +Marke Cockho +Mark Kamaque +Marke Cockinsecawa . . . ”[48]

Interestingly as well, one of the signers of the Pell Deed on June 27, 1654 was Annhook.  As noted long ago by local historian Robert Bolton, Annhook later signed at least two “Weckquaesgeek deeds for territory within that chieftaincy” suggesting the possibility, of course, that Annhook may have been Wiechquaeskeck himself (or, alternatively, very closely aligned with that grouping.[49]

It seems strongly possible, though it may never be established, that the Native Americans who signed the Pell deed in 1654, were not “Siwanoys” as local lore tells us, but rather were part of the grouping known as Wiechquaeskecks referenced as living on John Pell’s lands on Anne Hookes Neck twenty-two years later in 1676.  In any event, it seems likely, as Dr. Paul Otto has concluded, that those who inhabited the area in and around today’s Pelham can most certainly be referenced as “Munsees” because of their shared cultural traits and the use of the Munsee dialect.


 [1]  See, e.g., Bolton, Jr., Robert, A HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER FROM ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT TO THE PRESENT TIME , Vol. I, pp. ix, 65, 517 (NY, NY:  Alexander S. Gould 1848).

[2]   See, e.g., Bolton, Reginald Pelham, Snakapins, A Siwanoy Site At Clasons Point in CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN HEY FOUNDATION, Vol. V, No. 4, Part II, pp. 75 – 126 (NY, NY:  1919). Skinner, Alanson, Exploration of Aboriginal Sites at Throgs Neck and Clasons Point in CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN HEY FOUNDATION, Vol. V, No. 4, Part I, pp. 46 – 74 (NY, NY:  1919); Swanton, John R., THE INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA, pp. 45, 46, 47 (Washington, D.C.:  U.S. Gov’t Printing Office 1952) (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 45); Bolton, Reginald Pelham, New York City in Indian Possession in INDIAN NOTES AND MONOGRAPHS, Vol. II, No. 7, pp. 219, 254 (NY, NY:  Museum of The American Indian Heye Foundation 1920) (One of A Series of Publications Relating to the American Aborignes).

[3]  See, e.g., Goddard, Ives, Delaware in Handbook of North American Indians:  Volume 15, Northeast, 213, 214 (Trigger, Bruce G., ed.; Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian Institution 1978) (citing De Laet  1909:44; Ruttenber 1872:  77-85; Bolton 1920:  246-69).  

[4]  Id. at 237 (citing Stokes 1915-1928, 2:  C. pl. 23).  

[5]  An interactive digital image of the map is available via search in the Library of Congress American Memory collection.  See The Library of Congress, American Memory - Map Collections:  1550-2003 http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gmdhome.html (visited Jan. 29, 2014; search for “Visscher”). 

[6]  Notes of presentation by Dr. David Oestreicher delivered at St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site, 897 South Columbus Ave., Mount Vernon, NY 10550 on Jan. 13, 2007; copy in files of the author.


[8]  Id. at 77-85.

[9]  Id. at 81.

[10]   Id.

[11]  Id. at 81-82 (footnotes omitted).

[12]   Hodge, Frederick Webb, ed., HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN INDIANS NORTH OF MEXICO, Part 2 (Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office 1910) (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 30; hereinafter “Hodge, Part 2”).

[13]  Hodge, Part 2 at 913. 

[14]   Id. at 585.  According to Hodge,  “Poningo” was the “principal village of the Siwanoy in 1640, situated near the present Rye, Westchester co., N.Y.”  Id. at 279 (citing Ruttenber, Tribes Hudson R., 367 (1872)).

[15]    Swanton, John Reed, THE INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA (St. Clair Shores, MI:  Scholarly Press 1978) (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145; hereinafter “Swanton”).

[16]    See id. at 44-48.

[17]    See id.  Swanton lists the Manhattan as a sachemship of the Delaware.  See id. at 33, 49.

[18]    Cook, S.F., THE INDIAN POPULATION OF NEW ENGLAND IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY (University of California Press:  Berkeley, Los Angeles London 1976) (Vol. 12 Publications in Anthropology).

[19]    Id. at 60.

[20]    Id. 

[21]    See id. at 61-74.

[22]  Id. at 74.

 [23]   See id. at 69-70.

[24]   See Bolton, Jr., Robert, A HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER FROM ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT TO THE PRESENT TIME , Vol. I, p. 513 (NY, NY:  Alexander S. Gould 1848) (asserting, without citation or evidence, that “it is well known” that “a tribe of the Mohegans called Siwanoys” held possessions that extended from Norwalk to the neighborhood of Hellgate).

[25]   For a map showing the approximate area encompassed by Munsee territory in the early 17th century, see Otto, Paul, THE DUTCH-MUNSEE ENCOUNTER IN AMERICA:  THE STRUGGLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY IN THE HUDSON VALLEY, p. 3 (NY, NY & Oxford, England:  Berghahn Books 2006) (“Map 1:  The Dutch-Munsee Frontier”).

[26]   Id. 

[27]    Id., p. 4.

[28]   Id.

[29]   Id.

[30]   Id., p. 20, n. 7.

[31]   Costa, David J., The Dialectology of Southern New England Algonquian, 38 Papers of the Algonquian Conference 81, 81 (Winnipeg, Canada:  University of Manitoba Sep. 2007), available at < http://www.myaamiaproject.net/documents/costa_biblio/costa-pac.pdf> (copy in author's files). 

[32]   See id. at 82, Map 1 (“The languages of southern New England”) which agrees with Otto and his work.


[34]   Id., p. 4 (citing Grumet, Robert, “We Are Not So Great Fools”:  Changes in Upper Delawaran Socio-Politico Life, 1630-1758, pp. 23-28 (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 1979)).

[35]   Id., p. 4.

[36]   Id.

[37]   Id., pp. 4-5.  Extensive research of period records has revealed to this author more than fifty different spellings of the label for this Munsee group.  This work will follow the custom of more recent scholarship including that of Dr. Otto by referring to the group as “Wiechquaeskecks”.

[38]   For a helpful map showing the approximate area inhabited by Munsee groups or bands including the Wiechquaeskecks in the early 17th century, see id., p. 5 (“Map 2:  Munsee Bands in the Early Seventeenth Century”).

[39]   Bolton, Reginald Pelham, THE INDIANS OF WASHINGTON HEIGHTS IN ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY VOL. III:  THE INDIANS OF GREATER NEW YORK AND THE LOWER HUDSON, p. 78 (NY, NY:  Sep. 1909) (Edited by Clark Wissler), available at http://books.google.com/books?id=JpKUUPtdJtcC&dq=Siwanoy%20Indians&pg=RA1-PR1#v=onepage&q=Siwanoy%20Indians&f=false.

[40]   See Pritchard, Evan T., NATIVE NEW YORKERS:  THE LEGACY OF THE ALGONQUIN PEOPLE OF NEW YORK, 405 (Council Oak Books 2007).

[41]    Bolton, Reginald Pelham, New York City in Indian Possession in INDIAN NOTES AND MONOGRAPHS, Vol. II, No. 7, pp. 219, 254-55 (NY, NY:  Museum of The American Indian Heye Foundation 1920) (One of A Series of Publications Relating to the American Aborignes).  This conclusion, however, forces Bolton to concoct a strained and unlikely conspiracy by the Wiechquaeskecks, going so far as accusing them of “putting over” a sale to the Dutch in 1649 of land that was really occupied by the Siwanoys, see id. at 264-65, although a more likely explanation seems to be that the area was occupied, and deemed owned, by the Wiechquaeskecks – not a group that later came to be labeled “Siwanoys.”  Bolton similarly must surmise that a supposed Siwanoy “brave” known as “Ann-hook” (i.e., Anhõõke) supposedly “retired from the Weckquaesgeek” and “probably migrated” after he signed the deed to Thomas Pell “and took up his abode with the Weckquaesgeek, for in 1682 and 1684 he was party to Weckquaesgeek deeds of sale of their land to Philipse.”  Id. at 322.

[42]   Id. at 259.

[43]   See Cook, S.F., Western Connecticut and the Lower Hudson Valley:  The Wappinger Confederacy, Ch. 5 in THE INDIAN POPULATION OF NEW ENGLAND IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, Vol. 12 of University of California Publications in Anthropology, pp. 60-61 (University of California Press 1976).

[44]   See Hough, Franklin B., ed., A NARRATIVE OF THE CAUSES WHICH LED TO PHLIP'S INDIAN WAR, 0F 1675 AND 1676, BY JOHN EASTON, OF RHODE ISLAND. WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS CONCERNING THIS EVEN IN THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE OF NEW YORK. PREPARED FROM THE ORIGINALS, WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, pp. 165-66, 169-70 (Albany, NY: J. Munsell 1858) (1676 references to the “Application of Mr. John Pell . . . concerning the Indyans living upon his Land at Anne Hookes Neck” and “The Wyckerscreeke Indyans having made Suite to the Governor that the Restraint of their going into and passing to and fro in ye Sound in Canooes may be taken off, in regard to their planting on Mr. Pells Land at Anne Hoockes Neck or ye Islands adjacent”).  See also id., pp. 77-78 (“and the next Morning went myselfe in my Pinnace as farre as Mr. Pells, to the Indyans there”).

[45]   Id., pp. 169-70.

[46]   See id., pp. 92-95.

[47]   See Bolton, Reginald Pelham, The Indians of Washington Heights in Wissler, Clark, ed., ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, VOL. III., HUDSON-FULTON PUBLICATION. THE INDIANS OF GREATER NEW YORK AND THE LOWER HUDSON, p. 78  (NY, NY:  American Museum of Natural History Sep. 1909) (referencing the “Wick-quas-keek, or, as the name became corrupted in colonial times, Wickers-creek”).  For examples of references to the assorted spellings of Wiechquaeskeck that include or resemble “Wyckerscreeke”, see, e.g., Hough, Franklin B., ed., A NARRATIVE OF THE CAUSES WHICH LED TO PHLIP'S INDIAN WAR, 0F 1675 AND 1676, BY JOHN EASTON, OF RHODE ISLAND. WITH OTHER DOCUMENTS CONCERNING THIS EVEN IN THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE OF NEW YORK. PREPARED FROM THE ORIGINALS, WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES, pp. 169-70 (Albany, NY: J. Munsell 1858); Hodge, Frederick Webb, ed., HANDBOOK OF AMERICAN INDIANS NORTH OF MEXICO, Part 2, p. 930 (Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office 1910) (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 30) (citing  “Doc. of 1671, ibid., XIII, 460, 1881”); Mashantucket Pequot Research Library, Connecticut Tribes and Bands Mentioned in Historical and Contemporary Sources:  A Bibliography (visited Sep. 30, 2009)   (citing “Speiss Ms, 20; Douglas; Hodge, V2, 929-30).

[48]  The whereabouts of the original deed are unknown.  An important copy of the document exists, however.  Scholars believe the copy is in Thomas Pell’s handwriting.  That copy is on display in the Thompson-Pell Research Center located near the Fort Ticonderoga National Historic Landmark in Ticonderoga, New York.  For an image of the document and a transcription of its text, see Appendix 1.  See also Bell, Blake A., THOMAS PELL AND THE LEGEND OF THE PELL TREATY OAK, Appendix A, pp. 59 et seq. (Lincoln, NE:  iUniverse 2004).

[49]   Bolton, Reginald Pelham, “New York City in Indian Possession” in INDIAN NOTES AND MONOGRAPHS, Vol. II, No. 7, p.257 (NY, NY:  Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation 1920) (stating Annhook “took part in 1682 and 1684 in Weckquaesgeek deeds for territory within that chieftaincy, to which he had probably removed”). 

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