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, January 06, 2016

A Brief History of the Bartow-Pell Mansion Published in 1931

The mansion that houses today's Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and the property on which it sits together have quite a storied history.  Scholars believe that John Pell, a nephew and the principal legatee of Manor of Pelham founder Thomas Pell, built a home near today's mansion in the early 1670s.  Four generations of Pell family members resided in the home until, according to a variety of sources, it was destroyed by fire during the American Revolution.  

The property passed from the Pells to Herman and Hannah Leroy in 1813.  Robert Bartow, a New York city merchant, bought the property in 1836.  Shortly thereafter, he built the native stone mansion and moved with his family into the home by 1842.  The Bartow family remained in the home for more than four decades.  They attempted to develop an area around the nearby City Island Station on the New Haven Branch Line into a settlement that came to be known as Bartow and "Bartow-on-the-Sound."  (The station likewise came to be known as "Bartow Station.")

In 1888, while assembling parcels to create today's Pelham Bay Park, New York City acquired the Bartow estate.  (It likewise acquired the lands that formed the tiny little settlement of Bartow nearby.)  For nearly the next three decades, mansions in the region acquired by the City of New York -- including the Bartow mansion -- languished scandalously.  They were subject to vandalism, squatters, and municipal corruption involving "rentals" of some of the structures to well-placed City employees for virtually nothing.  

In 1914, the International Garden Club was formed "to promote hoticultural knowledge and to save the Bartow-Pell Mansion."  The organization raised funds and restored the mansion.  Today, the mansion and grounds including the Bartow carriage house built in the 1840s are owned by the City of New York but are operated by the International Garden Club, Inc..  The Mansion-Museum is a member of the Historic House Trust and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1931, The Daily Argus of Mount Vernon, New York, published a brief history of the Bartow Mansion.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of that article and reproduces a photograph that appeared with the article.

I have written about the Bartow-Pell Mansion-Museum and members of the Bartow family on many occasions.  For examples, see the extensive bibliography with links at the end of today's posting.

"THE BARTOW MANSION  A view of the century-old house
builty by Robert Bartow on Pelham Road near Split Rock Road.
Robert Bartow was a descendant of the lords of Pelham, and
this house is near the site of Pelham Manor.  It is now the home
of the International Garden Club.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.
Source:  Cushman, Elizabeth, Near Pelham Manor In New York
The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 29, 1931, p. 3, cols. 1-2.

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"Near Pelham Manor In New York Is Bartow Mansion, A House Which Holds Historical Importance
It Is Hidden By Trees From View of Passersby on Pelham Road

'Three goes into nine three times; three goes into 12 four times --'

What could this have to do with pink and blue water lilies drifting placidly in the square pool of a sunken garden behind an old stone mansion on the shores of Long Island Sound?  What could it have to do with high-ceilinged rooms and old marble fireplaces, with oil paintings of lords and ladies of long ago, with inlaid tables and slim-legged chairs?

What could it have to do with a wide shady walk, leadning among tall bushes to a little plot of land enclosed by low iron bars, meeting at the four corners, stone pillars on which pelicans are carved?

'Three goes into --' would have more to do with this old cemetery, a stone's throw from the water, than with the dignified old stone mansion known as the Bartow House, standing on Pelham Road not far from where it is joined by Split Rock road.  All this land has belonged to New York City since 1888, but in the days when the Bartow Mansion was built, in the days when those graves were dug, this was an important part of Westchester County.  Historically, it is essentially all Westchester, for its past is the past of this county.

The Bartow Mansion is now the home of the International Garden Club; the garden in back of it was created only in 1916, though it has about it the peace and the permanency usually associated with centuries of existence.  But before this estate was known by the name of Bartow -- which has been, probably, for something around a hundred years -- it was the site of the Manor house of Pelham; the lords of one of Westchester's greatest grants of land lived here for five generations.

The Pells of Pelham Manor were descended from a famous English mathematician who is credited with having been the first to use the present signs for division -- who then, would not stand by the lily pool on the old Pell land and repeat softly to herself, 'three goes into -- '?  This reverend and right honorable John Pell, who spoke 10 languages, taught at the University of Breda by invitation of the Prince of Orange, lectured in London and Switzerland and received a special card of invitation to Oliver Cromwell's funeral, was the husband of Ithamaria Reginolles, and the father of another John, second lord of the Manor of Pelhamm, here in Westchester.

The first lord was Thomas, the Rev. John's brother.  Thomas died childless and left his manor lands to his nephew, 'John Pell, living in ould England, the only sonne of my brother . . . '  This was in 1669.

Provided For Huguenots

John Pell promptly came over from 'Ould England' and assumed his manorial rights in America.  He was an important personage in Westchester, for he was first Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and first member of the Provincial Assembly for Westchester.  It was he who sold part of the Pelham Manor lands to Jacob Leisler, to provide a home for the French Huguenots, who in 1688, arrived here to found New Rochelle.  

In 1702, this second lord of the manor fell off his yacht and was drowned in the water of Long Island Sound.  His son, Thomas, born in Pelham Manor about 1675 then became third lord.  Thomas' wife is said to have been Anna, the daughter of Wampage, the Indian chief, who tradition tells us, slew Anne Hutchinson.  Wampage was also known as Annahock, a name relating to his great prowess in the massacre of the Hutchinson family.

A Few Names

The fourth Lord of the Manor was Joseph, son of Thomas and the Indian Princess, and with this family, the name Bartow appears for the first time in relation to the Pells.  Joseph Pell's sister, Bathsheba, married Theophilus Bartow.  This was the first of several marriages binding the two families.

In the next generation Thomas, son of Joseph and grandson of the Indian Princess, married Margaret Bartow.  Their daughter, Ann, also married a Bartow, and it was to this couple, Anna Pell Bartow and her husband, John Bartow, that Ann's father turned over the lands where the Bartow mansion now stands, but the mansion itself was not built for two generations.  Then, Robert, grandson of Ann Pell and John Bartow, erected the building that stands today, but the exact date it was put up has never been determined.

Hidden Gold?

There had been a dwelling here previously, of course -- the famous Manor house of the Lords of Pelham.  Its site is not definitely known, but it is thought to have stood near the present Bartow mansion.  Those graves, hidden from today's mansion by thick clusters of trees, are Pell graves -- the birds carved on the corner posts are pelicans, the symbol of the Pells.  There is a marble tablet here, giving a clue to the identity of those who rest beneath the quaint old brown stones with their crude carving.  The tablet, erected in 1862 by James K. Pell, gives the date of John Pell's death as 1700.  As late as 1911 vandals dug here one night in search of the gold and jewels which, tradition declares, were buried with the Pells of long ago.

Meanwhile the Bartows, who have given their name to the place were of no little significance in Westchesterwhen they became affiliated by marriage with the Pells.

The Bartows

The family was founded in America by John Bartow, a minister.  Though he was an Englishman he came, curiously, of Huguenot stock.  His ancestor had fled from France to Holland in 1572, following the massacre of Saint Bartholomew.  The name was then Bertaud or Bretagne or Brittany, but when this refugee reached England from Holland, it became Bartow.

Early in the 18th Century -- probably about 1702, John Bartow came to Westchester to officiate as minister for the parish of Rye, but Caleb Heathcote, Lord of the Manor of Scarsdale and a prominent and indefatigable churchman, decreed he should remain in Westchester.  This parish then included the village or rather the borough town of Westchester-Eastchester, Yonkers and the Manor of Pelham.  The difficulties of administering a parish of that size, in days when horseback travel was over roads that were scarcely more than the ruts that had developed from Indian trails, were tremendous, and poor Mr. Bartow had his troubles.

His Troubles

Witness this letter which he wrote home to England in 1706:

'My great business is to plant the Church of England amongst prejudiced, poor, and irreligious people, who are more apt to receive than to give, who think it a hardship to pay their dues; and we dare not use the law for fear of bringing an odium on the Church, and on all occasions except to be civilly treated by the minister.  My task is greater than I can bear; I will hold out as long as I can with submission to the Divine will who feedeth the fowls of the air; trusting he will still feed me, by your means, when you come to be sensible of our wants.'

Was there a bit of sarcasm or bitterness in that last line?

More Connection

Despite his doubts, the Rev. John Bartow held out for more than a quarter of a century.  He had married Helena Redi, who bore him two [sic] sons three of whom died in infancy and one of whom died young.  It was their son, Theophilus, who became the husband of Bathesheba Pell; Theophilus and Bathsheba's son, John, took Ann Pell for his second wife.  Their daughter, Margaret, married Thomas Pell.  Thus, John Bartow, who inherited this portion of the Pell Manor lands, was the grandson of the first John Bartow.  (Incidentally, Theophilus had a brother, Theodosius, a lawyer.  The lawyer's wife was one Ann Stillwell; their daughter, Theodosia Bartow, had a British soldier, Colonel James Marcus Prevost, as her first husband, and an American soldier, Aaron Burr, as her second husband. . . .)  It gets more and more involved as it goes on. . . . 

Theophilus and Theodosius

Theophilus Bartow and his wife, Bathsheba, had nine children in all.  One of them, the Rev. Theodosius, named for his lawyer uncle, was rector of Trinity Church in New Rochelle for 29 years.  His grandfather had on occasion preached here before him.  A Theodosius Bartow also served as minister in Bedford, resigning in 1976 [sic], but whether or not this was the same person, let someone else decide.

You might think of these things -- beginning with the 'three goes into' -- as you motor along Pelham Road.  You might think of the fine traditions the Pells brought with them to America -- They had been manor lords in old England before they came, for the father of the famous mathematicians was second lord of the manor of Shouldham Priory and Brookhall and Mayor of Lynn Regis.

You'll see, as you ride down Pelham Road, a circular iron fence around a tree on the grounds before the Bartow mansiion.

The Indians Treaty

This is supposed to encircle the site of the famous old charter oak under which Thomas Pell made his treaty with the Indians.  The claim, however, is disputed -- a local story says that one of the Bartows had a favorite horse which he buried here on this place.  But whatever the site is or is not, it helps to keep alive the story of Thomas Pell and the Indians and so serves the purpose quite adequately.

The windows of the Bartow mansion look out on lands that both British and American soldiers trod -- and disrupted in Revolutionary days.  The military history of this part of Westchester, however, does not belong here.  All that belongs here is a sign over a lilly pool, a glance at a grave and a thought of that gentleman of far away and long ago who first made up the signs for 'three goes into --'"

Source:  Cushman, Elizabeth, Near Pelham Manor In New York Is Bartow Mansion, A House Which Holds Historical Importance -- It Is Hidden By Trees From View of Passersby on Pelham Road, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jul. 29, 1931, p. 3, cols. 1-2

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Below is a bibliography of articles I have prepared regarding the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, members of the Bartow family, the settlement known as Bartow, and the little horse railroad that once ran from Bartow to City Island.

Tue., Jul. 28, 2015:  John Bartow Who Lived in the Manor Home Built by John Pell in About 1672.

Thu., May 21, 2015:  Pelham Manor Romance: A Tale of Aaron Burr and His Love, Theodosia Bartow Prevost of the Manor of Pelham.

Thu., Jan. 22, 2015:  Lawsuit in 1884 Cleared the Way for Construction of Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to Lower Part of City Island in Pelham.

Mon., Nov. 03, 2014:  More on the 17th Century Location of the Manor Home of John Pell of the Manor of Pelham.

Fri., Sep. 5, 2014:  Post Card Image of Bartow and City Island Stage Coach With Driver.

Thu., Aug. 28, 2014:  Gouverneur Morris Jr. Lived His Later Years, and Died, in Bartow-on-the-Sound in the Town of Pelham.

Tue., May 4, 2010:  Questions Regarding the Trolley Franchise from Bartow Station to the Tip of City Island Arose in 1915.

Fri., Apr. 2, 2010:  More on the So-Called "Horse Railroad" that Once Ran from Bartow Station to City Island.

Wed., Feb. 3, 2010:  Early Information Published in 1885 About the Organization of the "City Island Railroad", a Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to City Island.

Fri., Jan. 22, 2010:  1884 Account of Early Origins of Horse Railroad Between Bartow Station and City Island.

Mon., Jan. 4, 2010:  1888 Local News Account Describes Altercation on the Horse Railroad Running from Bartow Station to City Island.

Fri., Jan. 1, 2010:  1886 Dynamite Explosion in Baychester Kills Four and Shakes Residents of Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham.

Thu., Oct. 22, 2009:  Dynamite Explosion in 1890 Breaks Windows and Shakes Residents of Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham.

Tue.,Sep. 1, 2009:  Pelham News on February 29, 1884 Including Talk of Constructing a New Horse Railroad from Bartow to City Island.

Thu., Nov. 29, 2007:  John Bartow Offers His Pelham Farm for Sale in Advertisement Published in 1807.

Mon., Jul. 2, 2007:  Notice of Auction Sale of Lots at Bartow-on-the-Sound in Pelham in 1874.

Mon., Jun. 4, 2007:  Abstract of 1797 Will of John Bartow, Sr. Who Owned Land in Pelham and Whose Family Became Early Pelham Residents.

Wed., Feb. 28, 2007:  Lord Cornbury Installs John Bartow as Rector of the Parish of Westchester, Eastchester, Yonkers and the Manor of Pelham in 1702.

Fri., Jan. 12, 2007:  A Brief Description of Scott's Grocery Store at Bartow Village in Pelham.

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

Wed., Jan. 4, 2006:  Another Post Card Image of the Horse Car That Ran Between Bartow and City Island.

Fri., Dec. 30, 2005:  Subdivision Development Map Created in 1873 for Bartow Village in the Town of Pelham.

Mon., Dec. 12, 2005:  19th Century Subdivision Map of Planned Bartow Village.

Thu., Jul. 21, 2005:  Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island.

Tue., June 14, 2005:  Ceremony in 1915 to Open Bartow-Pell Mansion as Headquarters of International Garden Club Marred by Tragedy.

Thu., Mar. 24, 2005:  The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

Bell, Blake A., The Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and Carriage House, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 31, Aug. 6, 2004, p. 9, col. 1.

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.

Bell, Blake A., Bartow-on-the-Sound, Once a Hamlet in the Town of Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XV, Issue 5, Feb. 3, 2006, p. 13, col. 1.

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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