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, January 26, 2016

1807 Offer to Lease Alexander Henderson's Farm on Henderson Island in the Town of Pelham

An island named "Henderson's Island" once was part of the Town of Pelham.  Known today as Hunter's Island in Pelham Bay Park in the City of New York, the island once was owned by Alexander Henderson, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, who moved to the Town of Pelham and lived on Henderson's Island.  He died on December 26, 1804.  One account of Henderson's life by the Reverend William Hague related:

"a few well-remembered facts, outlining his [Alexander Henderson's] life course, were recently rehearsed to me by Elbert Roosevelt, Esq., whose life long residence in Pelham, near the Island, suggest [sic] a series of memories related to the whole vicinity, extending over two-thirds of a century.  These conversational statements supply what was lacking to give a desired unity to the story. 

Mr. Henderson, born in South Carolina, was of Scotch origin; was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and then took rank as a Surgeon in the English Army.  Thus he was brought into communication with the British Ambassador in India, and was by him introduced to the Court of the reigning Prince, who engaged the Surgeon's professional services in behalf of his favorite wife, then seriously ill.  The treatment was a success, and the delighted Prince honored Mr. Henderson, in his own way, by the presentation of a beautiful Circassian slave girl, about thirteen years of age.  This present the Army Surgeon did not bring away with him from India; 'but, after establishing his home at the Island, said Mr. Roosevelt, 'he commissioned your father (Captain James Hague, of Pelham, commanding a ship in the India trade) to look after this princely gift, and bring with him the young Circassian as a passenger on his return voyage from Calcutta.  With her, accordingly, Captain Hague sought an interview, but found her so well pleased with her position in the household of a British officer that she could not be induced to leave her new protector. Nevertheless, the Captain was accompanied with an Indian lad, the Surgeon's protégé, who was welcomed, treated as an adopted son, and bore the name of William Henderson.  The lad survived the retired Surgeon eight years, and was buried by his side in the old French Burial Ground at New Rochelle.  The two graves are surrounded by a well-wrought iron fence, and the smaller marble headstone bears this brief inscription: 'In memory of William Henderson, who died January 19, 1812, in the 25th year of his age.' 

In his last sickness the young man was most kindly attended by Dr. Rogers, through whose influence or advice he bequeathed the sum of twelve hundred dollars, appropriated to the erection of a town house, 'for the use and convenience' of the people of New Rochelle. With the recognition of this gift the townspeople of our time generally associate the name of the owner of the Island Home; it is, however, the East India youth's memorial."

Source:  Old Pelham and New Rochelle by Rev. William Hague in Scharf, J. Thomas, History of Westchester County, New York, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, and West Farms, Which Have Been Annexed to New York City, Vol. I, pp. 711-12 (Philadelphia, PA: L. E. Preston & Co. 1886).

Not long after Alexander Henderson's death on December 26, 1804, Henderson's Island was offered for lease.  Immediately below is an advertisement offering the island for lease.  It is followed by a transcription of its text to facilitate search and a citation and link to its source.  

1807 Offering Henderson's Island, Known Today as Hunter's
Island, for Lease After the Death of Owner Alexander Henderson.
Text of Advertisement is Transcribed Below to Facilitate Search.
Source:  TO LET [Advertisement], The Evening Post [NY, NY],
Jan. 16, 1807, p. 1, col. 1 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required
to access via this link).  (NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge).

"TO LET, from the 1st of April next, a FARM in the town of Pelham, and county of West Chester, 19 miles from the City of New York, lately the residence of Alexander Henderson, Esq. deceased -- containing 250 Acres of Land.  On the premises is an excellent two story House (in the best repair) commanding one of the most extensive, beautiful and variegated prospect on the Sound.  Also, all the necessary Offices, with a good Garden and Orchard.  For terms enquire of Mr. John S. McKnight, No. 62 Courtland-street, New-York, or of Robert Ross, East Chester.

Jan. 5     1m*"

Source:  TO LET [Advertisement], The Evening Post [NY, NY], Jan. 16, 1807, p. 1, col. 1 (NOTE:  Paid subscription required to access via this link).  

This brief advertisement is fascinating for a host of reasons.  For example, the advertisement references "an excellent two story house (in the best repair)".  It seems likely that the "excellent two story house" to which reference is made is the one depicted in the image immediately below.

Undated Photograph of the Old Stone House on Hunter's
Island. Photograph Courtesy of The Office of The Historian
of the Town of Pelham.  NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

I have written previously about this two-story "Old Stone House on Hunter's Island" before.  See  Tue., May 12, 2015:  The Old Stone House That Stood on Hunter's Island Near John Hunter's Mansion.  According to local tradition, a portion of the Old Stone House may have been built as early as the seventeenth century.  Also according to tradition, the Old Stone House (or at least a portion of it) served as the residence of successive owners of the island including John Pugsley, Alexander Henderson, William Henderson and even John Hunter who reportedly lived in it while his famous mansion was being built only steps away in the early nineteenth century.  If this tradition is accurate, then the photograph above likely depicts the home referenced in the 1807 advertisement transcribed above.

Detail from Only Known Period Map Showing "Henderson Isl."
Source:  Copy of Surveyor's Map Entitled "Town of Pelham West
Archives Digital Collections.  (NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge).

It appears that the Old Stone House stood near the site where John Hunter built his mansion.  Hunter's Mansion stood at the very top of the knoll near the center of the island.  The Old Stone House seems to have stood near, but not on, the top of the same knoll. The map detail below, from a topographical map prepared in about 1905, appears to show the Old Stone House near Hunter's Mansion.

Detail from 1905 Map of Pelham Bay Park. Source: Office of the
President of the Borough of the Bronx Topographical Bureau,
Topographical Survey Sheets of the Borough of the Bronx Easterly
East of the Bronx River" (1905) (Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal
Map Division, The New York Public Library). NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

A different map published in 1868 also seems to show the Old Stone House.  It is difficult to decipher the reference on the map which may be a reference to "Farm H." (perhaps Farm House?) or Farm II (as in Roman Numeral "II"?).  In any event, the map detail below seems clearly to show the structure not far from John Hunter's Mansion.

Detail of 1868 Map of Pelham Showing Hunter's Island. Source:
A.B. Prindle & Others, pg. 35 (NY, NY: Beers, Ellis & Soule,
1868) (Detail from Page 35 Map Entitled "Town of Pelham,
Westchester Co., N.Y. (With) City Island").  NOTE: Click Image to Enlarge.

It seems quite likely that the photograph of the "Old Stone House" on Hunter's Island depicts Alexander Henderson's residence that is referenced in the 1807 advertisement offering Henderson's Island for lease.

*          *          *          *          *

I have written about Alexander Henderson and Hunter's Island when it was known as "Henderson's Island" on a number of occasions.  See, e.g.:

Tue., May 12, 2015:  The Old Stone House That Stood on Hunter's Island Near John Hunter's Mansion.

Fri., Aug. 17, 2007:   Advertisement Offering Alexander Henderson's Island Estate To Let Published in 1807.

Thu., Apr. 6, 2006:  Alexander Bampfield Henderson: "Lone Lord of the Isle".

Fri., Mar. 31, 2006:  Text of 1804 Will of Alexander Henderson, Owner of the Island Later Known as Hunter's Island.

Fri., Feb. 24, 2006:  Notice of Settlement of the Estate of Alexander Henderson of Pelham in 1805.

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."

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