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, December 05, 2014

John Pell and John Richbell Selected in 1671 to Assess Best Roadway to New England -- The Beginnings of Old Boston Post Road

In the early fall of 1670, about a year after the death of his uncle, Thomas Pell, John Pell, Jr. sailed into the harbor of Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on his way to Fairfield.  There he planned to claim his inheritance of properties that included what later became the Manor of Pelham from the executors of his uncle’s estate.

Extensive research of seventeenth century records suggests that John Pell moved into a house built during his uncle's lifetime on "Ann Hooks Neck" (later known as Pelham Neck and, today, as Rodman's Neck).  He seems later to have built his own Manor Home near today's nearby Bartow-Pell Mansion.  

Given his large inheritance, John Pell immediately assumed the mantle of "gentleman" and used letters of introduction from English notables to gain prompt access to Francis Lovelace, an English Royalist who served as second governor of the colony of New York from 1668 until 1673.

Courtesy of Pennsylvania-German Society."

Only months after John Pell's arrival in the Colony of New York, Governor Lovelace designated him to work with John Richbell of Mamaroneck on an important roadway project.  A new roadway recently had been laid out as a common highway near the settlement of Eastchester adjacent to the Manor of Pelham to facilitate travel from New York to New England.  

The new road was said to be "much more convenient" than the former roadway that led into New England, but some people objected to the route of the new roadway.  Governor Lovelace sought a study to determine which of the two roads would be the "most convenient to be maintained" so that the Governor could resolve the objections and designate the roadway to New England that would continue to be maintained -- likely the beginnings of the Old Boston Post Road, a portion of which still passes through the Town of Pelham where it is named Colonial Avenue.

The records of the Town of Eastchester contain an entry reflecting instructions from Governor Lovelace issued on May 17, 1670 appointing "Mr. John Pell of the Manor of Ann Hooks Neck and Mr. John Rickbell of the Moroneck [i.e., John Richbell of Mamaroneck]" either to prepare the study the Governor sought or to hire other "understanding persons" to prepare such a study.  The entry is quoted below in its entirety, followed by a citation to its source.

Portrait of John Pell.

"Whereas there is a new road laid out for the common highway into New England near Eastchester the which is said to be much more convenient than ye former as well for strangers and travellers as the inhabitants, but yet by some persons it hath been objected against.  That a right understanding may be had here upon in having ye said way viewed by knowing and in different persons, Mr. John Pell of the Manor of Ann Hooks Neck and Mr. John Rickbell [sic] of the Moroneck [i.e., Mamaroneck] are hereby appointed either by themselves or some understanding persons in such affairs who they shall employ to take a view of ye said roads or highways within three weeks after the date hereof and make report unto me which of them they shall judge most convenient to be maintained the which thereupon shall be confirmed and allowed of accordingly.

Given under my hand in New York, 17 May 1671, Francis Lovelace."

Source:  Haacker, Fred C., Records of the Town of Eastchester, Westchester-County, New-York, p. 111 (typewritten manuscript citing p. 24-1/2 of the Eastchester Records) (Ancestry.com subscription required to access electronic version of this record).

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