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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Was it Mary Pell of Pelham Who Scandalized the Town of Eastchester in 1696?

Occasionally, it is fascinating merely to speculate. That is all today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog does. It speculates regarding the identity of a woman identified as "Mary Pell" of "Seabrock in New England" referenced in an intriguing record contained in the seventeenth century records of the Town of Eastchester.

The record reflects a scandal involving a woman named Mary Pell (also referenced as "Mary Pelle") who is described as a resident of "Seabrock [Saybrook] in New England in America". Although it cannot be known with certainty, I ask today whether there is some possibility that the woman may have been Mary Pell of the Manor of Pelham. She was the daughter of John Pell, Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham.  Although this seems highly unlikely, it is interesting to consider within the context of the few facts that can be established.  

I have been unable to locate any late seventeenth century record of a Mary Pell or a "Mary Pelle" of "Seabrock" or Saybrook. While, of course, it is possible that such a woman existed, I offer for consideration the possibility that the woman lied about her residence given her scandalous circumstances (at least as viewed through seventeenth century eyes), described below.

Mary Pell, daughter of John Pell (Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham), was born in about 1682. The Eastchester record does not explain the scandal in which this "Mary Pelle" was involved. The record strongly suggests, however, that a pregnant Mary Pell arrived at the home of "Joseph Tayller Senr" [Joseph Taylor, Sr.] in Eastchester "near hear time of being dellivered".

Apparently fearful that this girl would be a bad influence on residents of the Town or that she and her child might be unable to take care of themselves and would become wards of the Town, the Town obtained an indemnification from "Joseph Tayller Senr" and another man named "John Tomkings Senr" [John Tomkins, Sr.] to hold the town "harmless by Reason of hear being hear". The entire record is transcribed immediately below.

"Att a town meting called March the 3th 1696 whereas Mary Pelle now being in Eastchester and sojourning at the house of Joseph Tayller Senr and being great with chilld and near hear time of being dellivered and the Town being unsatisfied doe desier that sequirity shall be given for hear good behaviour and that the said Mary Pell nor hear chilld that she is now going with shall not be chardgabell unto the Town wereon John Tomkings Senr and Joseph Tayller Snr have bound themsellves thear heirs and suckesors to keep and beare the town harmless by Reason of hear being hear as witnesseth our hands this day & year befor written

This aformenshoned woman declared hear selfe to be named Mary Pell & that she bellongs unto Seabrock in New England in America

The mark of
John Tomkins
Joseph Tailer"

Source: Records of the Town of Eastchester, New York, Book Three, pp. 5-6 (Typewritten manuscript of records transcribed by the Eastchester Historical Society Jan. 1964).

Part of Pelham and Eastchester Border in 1851.
Source:  Dripps, Matthew & Conner, R.F.O.,
Southern Part of West-Chester County N.Y. (1851).

There are, of course, problems with any speculation that this "Mary Pelle" was Mary Pell, a daughter of John Pell of the Manor of Pelham. If the young woman lied about her residence, why not her name? The record refers to her as a "woman" -- not a girl, suggesting that she may have been older than 13 or 14. Additionally, the Manor of Pelham was adjacent to Eastchester and, thus, it seems at least plausible that someone in Eastchester would have known John Pell's young daughter, Mary.

In any event, the record is sufficiently intriguing and may possibly be tied to the Pell family (so integral to the early history of Pelham) that it is worth transcribing so that others may be able to see it, provide their own speculations, and comment on it.

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