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, June 24, 2014

Story of Pelhamdale, the Old Stone House by the Bridge, Once Owned by David J. Pell

In October, 1927, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker at the David Jones Pell house, known today as "Pelhamdale," located at 45 Iden Avenue in Pelham Manor.  The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

During the ceremony for placement of the marker, Town Historian William R. Montgomery delivered remarks on the history of the home and the life of David J. Pell, a patriot who served during the Revolutionary War.  Ogden Philip Pell, a grandson of David J. Pell, and Isabelle Pell Lawrence, a great-granddaughter of David J. Pell, attended the ceremony.

I have written about David J. Pell and the lovely home known as Pelhamdale (that has been significantly altered since the 18th century) on many occasions.  For examples, see:

Thu., Jan. 03, 2008:  Charges in 1808 Against Lieutenant-Colonel David J. Pell of Pelham that He "Indulges in Inebriety and Habitual Drunkeness."

Thu., Oct. 26, 2006:  Genealogical Data Regarding David Jones Pell of the Manor of Pelham, Revolutionary War Officer

Mon., Oct 15, 2007:  Town Proclamation Recognizes Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of Pelhamdale at 45 Iden Avenue.

Wed., Nov. 02, 2005:  Engraving by P.M. Pirnie Showing Pelhamdale in 1861.

Thu., Oct. 13, 2005:  Two More Pelham Ghost Stories.

Mon., Sep. 19, 2005:  The Long-Hidden Pastoral Mural Uncovered in Pelhamdale, a Pre-Revolutionary War Home.

Mon., Apr. 11, 2005:  More From the William R. Montgomery Glass Negative Collection (includes photograph of fire at Pelhamdale on February 28, 1925).

Tue., Mar. 22, 2005:  The 1790 U.S. Census Information for the Township of Pelham.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of the presentation that William R. Montgomery delivered in 1927 on the occasion of the placement of a marker honoring David J. Pell at his home, Pelhamdale, by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  It is followed by a citation to its source.

Engraving by P. M. Pirnie Showing Pelhamdale in About 1861.
Source:  Office of the Historian of the Town of Pelham.

Pelhamdale on October 14, 2007.
Photograph by the Author.



We, of the old Manor of Pelham, which in the early days included the present town of Eastchester, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Bronxville, City Island, Pelham Bay Park and the Pelhams, are indeed fortunate in having so many inspiring legends handed down to us which make our traditional history the envy of many communities.  One of the most beautiful of our legends refers to a young Indian girl who on a cold October night just 151 years ago, speeded from her home near Hunter Island along the old trail, which is commonly known as the Split Rock Road, until she reached 'the stone house by the bridge,' which this building was often called in the colonial times.  The story goes on to say that she kept on rapping and knocking until she woke up young David J. Pell and hurriedly told him that the British were landing at the Point, and for him to spread the alarm.  He immediately rowed down the Hutchinson river to the village of Eastchester and notified the Continental troops that the enemy was preparing to take them by surprise.

The battle of Pelham was fought the following morning, and it was the American troops that did the surprising and succeeded by well planned military tactics in delaying Gen. Howe long enough to enable Gen. Washington to escape a well laid trap.

This stone house played a very important part in the lives of the people of the old Manor of Pelham.  It was the meeting place of the youth for miles around, the swimming hole being only a short distance away.  The original part of this building was supposed to have been built by David J. Pell's father, Philip Pell, about 1752, at about the time of his marriage to Gloriana Tredwell.  

The earliest record that I have been able to locate is the British war map drawn by Claude Joseph Sauthier for General How in 1777 which makes note of a building at the junction of the old Boston Post Road and Hutchinson River.  The first United States government official map surveyed in 1789 by Christopher Coles plainly shows a building at the junction of the old Boston Post Road and Hutchinson River and he designated this house as D. Pell.

The late Mr. Rodman, a descendant of the Pells, who owned this building about 20 years ago, always claimed that the Pell coat of arms with the date 1750 was above the doorway i the basement of the present building.  From another source it was claimed that the date stone was incorporated in the fire-place.  It is safe to say, however, that the original part of this building was erected about 1750.

Relic of Revolution.

During the Revolutionary War this house was in the center of what was termed neutral grounds, and being situated at the junction of two of the most used roads, the old Boston Post Road (now known as Colonial avenue), and Pell's Point Road (near the present Wolf's Lane), it was the scene of many foraging parties and often left devoid of everything worth taking.  

There is a Pell family tradition that a young British officer, Captain Wm. Evelyn, a descendant of the famous English author, and a member of the King's Own Regiment, being badly wounded during the battle of Pelham, Oct. 18, 1776, was carried to this house and was, as affectionately cared for, as if he were a Continental officer.

Reverting back to the principal character of this paper, David Jones Pell, whose old homestead the Daughters of the American Revolution have this day (October 17, 1927), decorated with a marker.  He was born January 13, 1760 and died Aug. 18, [1823].

As far as official military records are concerned a great injustice has evidently been donne, as he does not appear either as an enlisted soldier or an officer during the Revolutionary War.  I recently received from the Adjutant-General the following data relative to David J. Pell's military life:

1st -- He was captain in the New York State Militia, 1786/

2nd -- A major in 1797. 

3rd -- A lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of militia in Westchester County in 1803 and retired from service in 1809.  

I am convinced, however, that he actually served in the Continental army in the 3rd Regiment Dutchess County, Pawling's District.  In the records of this regiment appear the names of David T. Pell and Philip Pell, who were no doubt the sons of the Philip Pell, who built this old stone house.  Pawling in those days was in Dutchess County, as Putnam County was not established until 1812.  It is quite likely that the 3rd Regiment Dutchess County was stationed nearby, as in all probability the Westchester County regiments being earlier in the field were sent to the principal camps.  In addition to this, I might add that David J. Pell was only 16 years old when the battle of Pelham was fought, which delayed his enlistment until later.  

You will recall that in the Battle of Pelham the American troops were from Massachusetts, Colonel Glover himself being from Marblehead.

The New York State Library, through the manuscripts and history section has supplied me with most valuable information in regard to David Pell.  They find record of a certificate of pay to David Pell for services as a private in Captain David Hecock's company of Colonel John Field's regiment of Pawling, Dutchess County.  So it is quite evident and conclusive that David T. Pell of the 3rd Regiment, Dutchess County and David Pell of Colonel Field's regiment of Dutchess County were one and the same person.  The discrepancy as to the middle initial is easily explained as in colonial times and even today the letter J has often been confused with the letter T as many people write both the same way, but add a slight curve at bottom of the J.  I think we can assume without fear of contradiction that Colonel David J. Pell's son Stephen S. Pell would be fully conversant with his father's military activities, as Stephen was past 21 years old when his father died.  

We can also assume that Rev. Robert Bolton in writing his history, no doubt conferred with Mr. Stephen S. Pell, son of Colonel David J. Pell, and thereby received his information practically first hand.  We find on page 544 of Bolton 1848 edition the following statement, 'David (J.) Pell was an officer in the Continental army and the father of the Stephen (S.) Pell, of Pelham.'  Whether David J. Pell was an officer or not is beside the question.  However, we are positive that he served in the Continental army in the 3rd Regiment Dutchess County.  His tombstone in old St. Paul's churchyard, Eastchester, is misleading, which no doubt was the cause of questioning David J. Pell's military service in the Continental army.  The marker reads 'the 3rd N. Y. Militia,' as in colonial times, the regiments were formed by counties and not by the State.  

Colonel David J. Pell was married March 1st, 1790 to Hester Sneden and they had 10 children.  Among them was Stephen S. Pell, who was born Nov. 29, 1803, and lived in Pelham for many years.  

Ogden Philip Pell, son of Stephen S. Pell and a grandson of Colonel David J. Pell was born Feb. 20, 1835, and we are happy to say that he is enjoying good health and has honored this occasion with his presence.  His recollections of old Pelham are amazing, in view of the fact that he has not been in Pelham for 75 years until today.  I understand that Mr. Ogden P. Pell is the last of this branch of the Pell family to bear the Pell name.  We are glad to have also with us at these ceremonies the great grand-daughter of Colonel David J. Pell, in the person of Mrs. Isabelle Pell Lawrence, of Newark, N. J.

Upon the death of Colonel David J. Pell in 1823 his estate was divided and a large part of the farm was conveyed in 1827 to Nancy H. Ogden and upon her death became the property of her son, Nathaniel P. Ogden, who in turn conveyed it on April 7, 1836 to Francis Secor.  The Ogden house was built about 1827 and was situated in front of the well near Wolf's Lane on the Secor land which is now the property of Mr. J. Manger.  It was in this house that Mr. Ogden P. Pell was born in 1835.  The house was destroyed upon the completition of the new Secor house.

Another part of David J. Pell's estate was conveyed in 1833 to A. Wolf, who sold it in 1851 to the Pelhamville Land Co.  This property constituted the major part of what is now known as the village of North Pelham.  Another part of this vast estate including the old stone house became the property of James Hay in 1827, who named it Pelham Dale.

As soon as Mr. Hay secured the property, he immediately made extensive alterations on the building and turned the farm into a garden of beautiful and rare plants.  The first floor of the original building is now the basement of the present building, where one can still see the old Colonial doorway.  Unfortunately the old door knocker has been lost, but it was of the square base style which represented an early Colonial period.  The fluted columns, of the old doorway are in perfect condition.  The present building shows many examples of fine workmanship.  Particularly is this true of the reception hall with its circular walls, curved door and niches for statues.  The curved door is a masterpiece of very skillful workmanship and it is very remarkable that it has been preserved these many years, in spite of several disastrous fires.

After Mr. Hay's alterations the building was again disturbed by the Couderts, who conducted a boys' school here after purchasing it in 1856 from Rebecca Hay, the widow.  The Couderts closed up several windows and spoiled a very beautiful stairway.  The building since then has passed into the hands of several owners who let it go to ruin, until finally it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Howard E. Wagner, who are restoring it by degrees to its old splendor.  Today we can realize why at one time it was termed a show place of Westchester County.  Mr. and Mrs. Wagner should be congratulated upon the marvellous [sic] results of their arduous work, although I believe it was a labor of love.  The building in my opinion cannot be replaced today for many thousands of dollars and I doubt the ability of present workmen to duplicate it.

The Hay Crest.

The coat of arms incorporated in the wall facing Sixth street has been the cause of many inquiries as to its origin and meaning.  The story attached to this coat of arms is very interesting and fascinating, and could properly be made part of this paper.  It is one of the few crests granted by a king for meritorious services on the field of battle.  The coat of arms (according to Rowland's History), was granted to the Hay family in the year 983 A.D. by King Kenneth III of Scotland.  It appears that in the year 983 the Danes, being desirous of conquering the Scots, landed and destroyed the town of Montross.  King Kenneth with an insufficient number of men gave battle and was badly defeated.  The king, disheartened, fled inland and was prepared to accept the inevitable.

A farmer named Hay and his two sons were plowing the fields and learning the fate of their countrymen they decided it would be better for them to be dead than slaves of the Danes.  They took the yokes of the plow and standing in a narrow pass from which the Scots had just fled, threatened the Danes and invited them to advance.  The Danes fearing an ambush halted, and the Hays made a furious onset, crying aloud, 'Help is at hand.'  This inspired the Scots, and at the same time made the Danes believe a fresh army was falling on them, causing them to retire in disorder and the entire army of the Danes was that day destroyed at a placed called Longcarty.  

The king ennobled the three farmers and bestowed upon them a coat of arms consisting of three crests of red upon the shield of silver with the motto, 

Serva jugum
Keep the yoke.

You will notice that the crest above the shield represents a falcon.  This is explained by the fact that the king, as a further reward gave them 'As much land in the fruitfulness part of the country as a falcon off a man's hand flew over until alighted.'  The place was called Falcon Stone, which was six miles in length and four miles in breadth, lying on the River Tay, now called Errol.

In conclusion permit me to call your attention to the wonderful chestnut tree that once stood on top of the hill, on the farm of Colonel David J. Pell.  This tree sheltered the officers of Gen. Howe during his stay in Pelham.  It has been known for over 150 years as the Howe tree.  Only a part of the dead trunk is now standing near the Boy Scout Cabin."

Source:  Montgomery, William R., The Old Stone House by the Bridge, The Pelham Sun, Oct. 21, 1927, p. 10, cols. 1-6.

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