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, February 10, 2016

Slaves Likely Were Held, and Forced to Work, at the Shrubbery, Once Located Near Split Rock Road in Pelham

On February 26, 1790, Aaron Burr purchased a 146-acre farm in Pelham commanded by a mansion that stood near today's "Split Rock Road" and Boston Post Road known as "The Shrubbery".  The home, built in the mid-18th century, was a Pell family homestead owned for many years by Joshua Pell Sr..  The 146-acre tract was part of a larger farm owned by Joshua Pell Sr. the Revolutionary War.  Joshua Pell Sr. had a son, also named Joshua, who served as a British officer in upstate New York during the Revolutionary War. 

During the 1780s New York State's Commissioners of Forfeiture sold the 146-acre tract to Isaac Guion for 988 pounds.  The land had been confiscated from Joshua Pell "Jr." after it was bequeathed to him by his father.

The will of Joshua Pell "Sr." entitled his children to receive monetary legacies when his entire farm (including the 146-acre tract) was divided in half and devised to two of his older sons: Joshua Pell "Jr." (who was entitled to receive the northern half) and Edward Pell (who was entitled to receive the southern half).  

The children of Joshua Pell "Sr." filed a lawsuit in which they were represented by Aaron Burr.  As a consequence of the lawsuit, in 1789 the New York State Treasurer paid Joshua Pell "Jr." 988 pounds in compensation for "wrongful taking" and paid Isaac Guion 125 pounds for his expenses. 

Significantly, in 1790 Aaron Burr bought the very 146-acre tract at issue in the lawsuit. He bought the northern half of Joshua Pell Sr.'s original farm -- the Joshua Pell "Jr." tract -- from Nicholas and William Wright.  He acquired the land subject to the right of dower of Phoebe Pell , the widow of Joshua Pell "Sr."  (For the complete text of this deed, see Wed., Jun. 14, 2006: Text of Deed by Which Aaron Burr Acquired Pelham Lands in 1790.)  Burr soon sold the tract to his step-son, Augustine J. F. Prevost. 

Prevost and his family lived in the home for many years until some time after November 17, 1813.  During that time Prevost was a slaveholder. For example, the U.S. census of 1800 shows that Prevost owned four slaves.  Additionally, manumission records of the Town of Pelham show that in 1807, Prevost manumitted a male slave named Job who was between 21 and 22 years old. The 1810 U.S. census shows that he owned one slave.  

It seems likely that others who owned the home known as the "Shrubbery" before Prevost also owned slaves who worked on the estate.  Joshua Pell, Sr. built The Shrubbery during the 1750s.  Both he and his wife were slaveholders.  

The New York Slave Census of 1755 indicates that Joshua Pell, Sr. owned two slaves.  A record of transfer of ownership shows that Phebe Ward Pell received three slaves from her father.  Moreover, the March 1, 1758 will executed by Joshua Pell, Sr. bequeathed slaves named Michael, Arabella and Hagar to various family members.  It seems likely that some or all of these slaves worked on the estate known as the "Shrubbery." 

It is also possible that Isaac Guion, who owned the estate during much of the 1780s, may have had slaves on the estate.  He was a known slaveholder. It is possible that the reference to “Isaiah Guion” as owner of one slave in the 1790 census is a reference to Isaac Guion, but that has not been established.  

Immediately below is an image of the Shrubbery before it burned in the 1890s.  It seems likely that slaves held by Augustine Frederick Prevost and Joshua Pell, Sr. – perhaps Michael, Arabella and Hagar – trod the floorboards of this 18th century home and worked in the fields and outbuildings that surrounded it.

The Shrubbery, Home of Joshua Pell, Sr., Isaac
Guion, and Augustine J. Frederick Prevost Before
It Burned in the 1890s.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1868 Beers Atlas Map Showing Location of
"THE SHRUBBERY" (Lower Left) Just Off Today's
Boston Post Road in Area Between Today's Split Rock
Road and Today's Boston Post Road.  Source:  Beers,
Atlas of New York and Vicinity from Actual Surveys by and
Under the Direction of F. W. Beers, p. 35 (NY, NY:  Beers
Ellis & Soule, 1868) (NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge).

*          *          *          *          *

I have written on numerous occasions regarding slavery in Pelham.  For examples, though there are many more, see:

Bell, Blake A., Slavery in the Manor of Pelham and the Town of Pelham During the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (paper prepared for and presented to the 28th Annual Conference on New York State History on June 8, 2007).  

Bell, Blake A., Records of Slavery and Slave Manumissions in 18th and 19th Century Pelham, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 27, Jul. 9, 2004.

Thu., Jan. 07, 2016:  The 1790 U.S. Census and What It Reveals About Slavery in Pelham.

Wed., Dec. 16, 2015:  The Will of Joshua Pell Sr. of the Manor of Pelham Dated March 1, 1758.

Tue., Feb. 09, 2010:  1755 Census of Slaves Older than Fourteen in the "Mannour of Pelham."

Mon., Jun. 18, 2007:  Information About Slaves Owned by Joshua Pell, Jr. of the Manor of Pelham.

Tue., Mar. 27, 2007:  1791 Will of Benjamin Guion of the Town of Pelham.

Mon., Mar. 26, 2007:  Will of Elizabeth Guion of the Town of Pelham Made in 1789 and Proved on October 5, 1791.

Thu., Mar. 22, 2007:  Abstract of Will of John Hunt, Owner of Land on "Mineford's Island" in the Manor of Peham Prepared in 1776 and Proved June 17, 1777.

Tue., Mar. 20, 2007:  Abstract of 1768 Will of John Pugsley of the Manor of Pelham, Proved December 31, 1768.

Mon., Mar. 19, 2007:  Abstract of 1768 Will of Caleb Pell of the Manor of Pelham, Proved April 9, 1768.

Fri., Mar. 16, 2007:  Abstract of Will of Thomas Pell of Eastchester, Owner of Lands in Pelham Manor, Prepared in 1753 and Proved in 1754.

Wed., Apr. 12, 2006:  1712 Census of Westchester County Documents Slave Ownership in Pelham

Mon., Apr. 3, 2006:  1805 Will of William Bayley of Pelham Included Disposition of Slaves

Fri., Feb. 17, 2006:  Runaway Slave Notice Published by John Pell in 1748 Comes to Light

Wed., Jul. 19, 2006:  Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in June 30, 1777 Issue of The New-York Gazette; And The Weekly Mercury.

Mon., Jul. 18, 2005: Pelham Manor Runaway Slave Notice in August 29, 1789 Issue of The New-York Packet

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