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.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Executive Council of Province of New York Urges Settlement of John Pell's Boundary Dispute with John Richbell on January 18, 1671/72

Only two weeks before Thomas Pell died in late September, 1669, John Richbell of Mamaroneck started a lawsuit against him claiming that he "Doe unjustly detaine & keep from him a certain parcell of meadowe Ground lyeing & being neare unto or upon one of ye three necks of Land at Momoronock".  Many of the papers relating to the dispute that formed the basis of that lawsuit were published in 1910 as part of the "Minutes of the Executive Council of the Province of New York Administration of Francis Lovelace 1668 - 1673 Volume II".  The papers are fascinating for a host of reasons. 

The death of Thomas Pell two weeks after John Richbell first demanded a hearing on the matter before the Court of Assizes seems to have brought the matter to a halt for quite some time.  In the interim, Thomas Pell's nephew, John Pell, became the principal legatee under Thomas Pell's will and succeeded to his estate including his large land interests. 

The dispute seems to have simmered, however.  In September, 1671, John Pell arranged the issuance of a Special Warrant demanding that three men affiliated with John Richbell (including one described as Richbell's "servant") appear before the Court of Assizes to answer trespass charges.  Pell claimed that the men harvested hay from the same meadow that had been the center of the dispute between Thomas Pell and John Richbell before Thomas Pell's death.  John Richbell stepped forward and took over the defense of the three men. 

The papers are fascinating.  They recount Richbell's acquisition of lands including the area in dispute from Native Americans in the 1660s.  Significantly for students of Pelham history, close inspection of the materials shows that Richbell joined with a man named John "Ffinch" (also referenced as "Finch") to acquired the lands from Native Americans including one named "Cakoe."  

These same two individuals likely are the "John Ffinch" and the Native American "Cockho" who signed Thomas Pell's "treaty" (actually, a deed) by which he acquired the lands that became the Manor of Pelham on June 27, 1654.  

Francis Lovelace, Governor of the Province of New York, appointed a group of Commissioners to make recommendations regarding resolution of the dispute.  The Commissioners could not agree on a resolution.  Interestingly, however, they reported to Governor that they had discovered a tree in the disputed meadow "markt on ye East side with J. R. [John Richbell] & on the West with T. P. [Thomas Pell]" from which, if a line were drawn from the tree directly toward Long Island Sound, would divide the meadow exactly in half.  Though the Commissioners did not resolve the dispute, Governor Lovelace ordered Pell and Richbell to consider the report and attempt to resolve the matter before a trial would be conducted.  On January 25, 1671/72, the men reportedly settled the matter and "agreed upon [the land] to bee divided equally between them, both Meadow & Vpland, quantity & quality alike".

I have written about this fascinating boundary dispute before and have transcribed many of the records relating to it.  See Tue., Oct. 24, 2006:  Thomas Pell's and John Pell's Land Dispute with John Richbell in the Late 1660s and Early 1670s.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an additional record relating to the boundary dispute that began between Thomas Pell and John Richbell and that was settled by John Pell and Richbell after Thomas Pell's death.  The record consists of the minutes of the Executive Council of the Province of New York held on January 18, 1671/72 where Provincial Governor Lovelace urged that the matter be settled.  [Note, the "double date" results from the leap year correction of the Julian calendar resulting in the transition to the Gregorian calendar by England and British Dominions in 1752; the dual year is due to England and British Dominions beginning their numbered year on March 25 rather than January 1 until the passage of the Calendar Act of 1750 which made the start of the year January 1 and advanced the calendar by eleven days as of Wednesday, September 2, 1752.]

In essence, the dispute that began between Thomas Pell and John Richbell essentially was a dispute over a meadow and uplands that lay between two brooks.  Richbell claimed the entire meadow and uplands, contending that the brook nearest Pell's land marked the boundary between the properties.  Pell, in contrast, claimed the entire meadow and uplands, claiming that the other brook nearest Richbell's land marked the boundary between the properties.  In the end, there was a piece of evidence discovered by Commissioners assigned to mediate the matter that seemed fatal to the claims of both men.  The Commissioners found a tree in the middle of the meadow marked with "T.P." on one side and "J.R." on the other.  If a line were drawn from that tree directly to Long Island Sound, that line split the meadow exactly in half.  The matter was settled consistently with that "line," splitting the meadow and the uplands equally between the Pell and Richbell properties.

17th Century Copy of Pell Deed Signed by Thomas Pell
and Native Americans on June 27, 1654. Believed to be 
In Thomas Pell's Handwriting.  The Whereabouts of the
Original Deed Are Unknown.  This Copy is on Display in
the Thompson-Pell Research Center Located near Fort
Ticonderoga National Historic Landmark in Ticonderoga, New York.
For Another Image of this Copy of the Deed and a
Transcription of the Handwriting, Click Here.

The  Executive Council Minutes for the meeting held on January 18, 1671/72 appear immediately below, followed by a citation to their source.

"At a Councell held at ye Fort
Jan ry 18th 1671.


The Governor
Mr. Delavall
Mr. Steenwijck
The Secretary.

The Matt r under Consideracon was ye difference between Mr Pell & Mr Richbell.  2 [Footnote '2' reads as follows:  '2 Collateral and Illustrative Documents, No. LXVII.  Thomas Pell, of Norfolk, was an Englishman and adherent of the royal cause, who in 1654, purchased a large tract of land, including the town of Pelham, Westchester County.  He died at Fairfield, Conn., in 1669, and made his nephew, John Pell, only son of Dr. John Pell 'of ould England,' his heir.  His plantation or manor in Westchester County was known as 'Anne Hooks Neck,' and he died while the litigation with John Richbell was in progress.  Singularly enough, Richbell was one of those who were appointed to make an official inventory of Thomas Pell's estate, on October 13, 1669. -- Brodhead, Hist. of N. Y., vol. I, p. 593; Collections of N. Y. Hist. Society, 1892, pp. 11, 12; Court of Assizes, vol. 2, p. 423a, 550, 562.  See also Bolton, Hist. of County of Westchester (1881 edition), vol. I, pp. 468-469; vol. 2, pp. 44-49.  Jacob Young, a resident of Pell's manor, was sworn in as constable, February 1, 1670/1.  -- Court of Assizes, vol. 2, pp. 639, 641.  Young later removed to Phillipsburg and was survived by his wife, who was married to John Tanke. -- Pelletreau, Westchester County Wills, p. 388.'] 

The Commission rs Papers delivered, Sealed up, were now opened and read.  

Capt Dudley Lovelace, & Capt Jaques [Cortelyou] in a manner Agree, yet referr to a Tree in the middle of the third Neck, markt on the one side w th J. R Eastward, on ye Westward with R. P. w ch would divide ye Meadow between them.  [Page 119 / Page 120]

Mr Elyas Doughty declares positively of [90] Mr Richbells Bounds by Purchase to bee Stony Brooke.

Mr Ponton saith, That ye Brooke menconed in both Patents is the same; & that hee hath known the afore named Cedar Tree or Gravelly Brooke to bee called by that name for 16 yeares.  And concerning that w ch is now called Stoney Brooke, it was formarly called Chapmens Brooke or Stoney Brooke.

ffrancis Yeates 1 [Footnote '1' reads as follows:  'Francis Yates, of Westchester.  For his will dated November 29, 1682, and proved February 3, 1682/3, see Collections of N.Y. Hist. Socieety, 1892, p. 123.'] saith that in his Judgment Mr Pells Bounds comes to Gravelly or Cedar Brooke.

An Ord r to bee referr d to.-- }

Vpon perusall & Consideracon had hereupon, two of the Commission rs making Report, That between the two Brookes now called Stoney & Gravelly Brookes, there being a Tree markt on the East side with J. R. & on the West wth T. P. from ye which if there were a Line run directly down to the Sound, 2 [Footnote '2' reads as follows:  '2  Long Island Sound.] It would divide the Meadow in difference between both Partyes, & putt an End to ye Matt r in question, & neither of the other three agreeing amongst themselves as to their Opinion of the Bounds, The Governor being very desireous of an Amicable Composure of the Matter between both Partyes, doth recommend the same unto them; However if either Party shall not seem satisfyed herew th, that then they have Liberty to proceed to a Tryall at a Speciall Co rt according to the Ord r of the Last Gen all Co rt of Assizes; of their Resolutions hereupon a speedy Answ r is expected, that Order may bee taken accordingly. 3  [Footnote '3' reads as follows:  '3  Collateral and Illustrative Documents, No. LXVII.']"

Source:  Paltsits, Victor Hugo, ed., Minutes of the Executive Council of the Province of New York Administration of Francis Lovelace 1668-1673 Volume I Minutes -- Collateral and Illustrative Documents I-XIX, pp. 119-20 (Albany, NY:  State of New York, 1910).

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