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, November 03, 2014

More on the 17th Century Location of the Manor Home of John Pell of the Manor of Pelham

John Pell, often referenced by members of the Pell family as the "Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham," was the nephew and principal legatee of Thomas Pell who bought lands that became the Manor of Pelham from local Native Americans on June 27, 1654.  Born in England in 1643, John Pell traveled to America in 1670 following his uncle's death to claim his inheritance that included the lands that formed the Manor of Pelham. 

Unlike his uncle who remained a resident of Fairfield after purchasing his Pelham lands, John Pell moved onto the lands shortly after inheriting them from his uncle.  It is believed that he built a Manor Home worthy of his vast land holdings.  Its location has long been lost in the mists of time.  Some authorities have suggested two possible locations for Pell's Manor House:  (1) near today's Bartow-Pell Mansion; and (2) on Rodman's Neck, also known as Pell's Point and Anhooke's Neck.  See, e.g., City History Club of New York, Historical Guide to the City of New York, p. 210 (NY, NY: 1909) ("Not far away [from the Bartow-Pell Mansion] is the site of the original Pell Manor House, though some say that it was on the extreme end of Pelham Neck."). 

Image of Primitive Drawing of a Home Claimed by
Some to Depict the John Pell Manor House Near
Today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum; Provenance
and Source Information So Unclear that It Cannot
Be Known with Any Degree of Reliability Whether
This Actually Depicts the Pell Home.  Source:  Courtesy
of the Office of the Historian of the Town of Pelham.

Although it cannot be known with certainty, an analysis of the available evidence suggests that John Pell may have lived in two homes in the area. He first may have lived for a time in the early 1670s in a home built by his uncle and referenced in an inventory of his deceased uncle's estate on Pell's Point (today's Rodman's Neck). Evidence suggests that John Pell later built a Manor House near today's Bartow Pell Mansion.

There long has been a debate regarding exactly where John Pell's "Manor House" actually stood.  Most recently, there has been a vigorous, interesting, civilized, and well-documented debate among members of the East Bronx History Forum over whether the home stood slightly southwest of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum or, essentially, on the spot where the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum now stands.  

I have written about this issue before.  See:

Tue., Sep. 12, 2006:  Evidence Sheds Light on Location of An Early Home of John Pell, 2d Lord of the Manor of Pelham.  

Bell, Blake A., The Manor House of John Pell, Second Lord of the Manor of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 51, Dec. 24, 2004.

After reviewing my earlier writings on this topic, I returned to one of the maps that I cited in those articles:  "A Draft of the Lands In Controversy Between the Inhabitants of Westchester & the Inhabitants of East Chester Joynd with William Pear Tree & Surveyed & Laid Down 1st August - Graham Lell" prepared by the then-former mayor of New York City, Colonel William Peartree.  I have included an image of the map as well as a detail from the map showing the designation of a structure as that of "Pell."

The surveyed map, with its Scale of Chains, seems to indicate that the Pell Manor House was located southwest of the location of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum rather than on the spot where the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum later was built during the 19th century.  Additionally, there are stone ruins visible in the area beneath the overgrowth southwest of the mansion.  Moreover, aerial photography suggests at least the possibility of the presence of subsurface ruins in the same area (see image below). 

Absent intensive (and successful) archaeological investigation, we will never know the exact location of the John Pell Manor House that Pell family tradition says was abandoned and burned during the Revolutionary War.  Nevertheless, the 1708 Peartree map is one more piece of evidence that suggests, to this author at least, that the Pell structure was southwest of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum rather than on the spot where the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum now stands.

"A Draft of the Lands In Controversy Between the Inhabitants of
Westchester & the Inhabitants of East Chester Joynd with
William Pear Tree & Surveyed & Laid Down 1st August - Graham Lell"
prepared by Colonel William Peartree in 1708.  (Click for Larger Image.)

Detail from 1708 William Peartree Map Showing
Structure Denoted as "Pell" in Area Near Water
Southwest of Spot Where Today's Bartow-Pell
Mansion Museum Stands.

Aerial Photograph Showing Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum on
the Right and a Square Area of Ground with Less Extensive
Tree Growth on the Left Where the John Pell Manor House May
Once Have Stood Facing High Water Line Shown in Lower Left Corner.

Portrait of John Pell, Nephew of Thomas Pell and
Owner of the John Pell Manor House.

I long have championed the need for archaeological investigation of the area southwest of today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.  The possibility that such an investigation could shed light on a late 17th century country manor of a notable New York citizen would be of particular significance and well-worth investigation by archaeologists and students interested in 17th century colonial New York.  Such work, while underway, also could provide even more incentive than already exists for New Yorkers to visit the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.

Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak." 

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At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for all your work. I am (62) and a descendant of Thomas Pell and fascinated with his history and that of Ann Wampage and the subsequent Pell line. I hope to someday visit the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and would like to know as much as possible about my lineage.

Your information is terrific. I had no idea my ancestry had this much important history.

If I'm not mistaken my lineage is:
Thomas Pell (3rd Lord of Pelham)
his son Thomas Pell m. Dorothy Ward
Their son James m. Ann Fowler
their son Abijah m. Mary Baldwin
Their son William James Pell m. Francis F Lockwood
Their son Charles S Pell m. Lucinda Blake
their daughter Francis F Pell m. Charles E Loveland
their daughter Nellie married James Winkler
Their daughter Dorothy is my mother
I am Krys

At 7:02 PM, Blogger bessfones said...

Thank you for this very helpful post. I discovered after much trial and error that the surveyor was Augustine Graham. His half sister, Isabelle, married Gov. Lewis Morris. The inscription on the map above reads " ... laid downe by Augus Graham [Surv?].


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