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, June 17, 2016

More on Efforts to Invalidate Deeds of Many Prospect Hill Homes in 1900

Prospect Hill landowners in the Village of Pelham Manor suffered a fright in an odd interlude that began in 1900.  The heirs of a landowner who once owned the Prospect Hill area announced their intention, through an attorney, to file suit to recover the entire area under a theory that the property owner's deeds were defective.  I have written before about this odd, yet interesting, development in the history of Prospect Hill.  See Thu., Feb. 11, 2010:  Prospect Hill Landowners Face Loss of Their Properties in 1900 Due to Allegedly Defective Deeds (quoting and citing Pelham Manor News -- Townsend's Heirs Will Sue to Prove They Own the Entire Manor, New Rochelle Pioneer, Feb. 24, 1900, p. 8, col. 2).  See also OWNERSHIP OF PELHAM MANORThe Statesman [Yonkers, NY], Mar. 1, 1900, Vol. XVII, No. 4905, p. 2, col. 3 (same text).

Pelham Manor landowners periodically have suffered such threats to invalidate the deeds to their homes from litigants and their lawyers apparently seeking some form of payment.  For example, in 1909 heirs of Edwin Jessup, who once owned a large farm that covered a portion of today's Pelham Manor, filed suit to void a conveyance in 1873 of an important 50-acre tract of the Jessup farm on the grounds that the sellers of the property more than thirty years earlier lacked authority to sell the property.  They alleged that the property improperly had been sold by Jessup heirs when only the executor of of Jessup's estate had the authority to sell the property.  Henry W. Taft of Pelham Manor, at the time a brother of President-elect William Howard Taft, represented Pelham Manor property owners in the case in which nothing ever came of the plaintiffs' claims.  See Mon., May 17, 2010:  Jessup Family Members Tried in 1909 to Take Back Some of the Lands Conveyed to Form the Lands Developed by the Pelham Manor and Huguenot Heights Association.  See also Mon., Nov. 30, 2009:  Philadelphia Lawyer Questioned Title of All Pelham Property Owners in 1877.  

In the threats made in 1900, two heirs of John E. Townsend, once a large landowner around Prospect Hill, came forward represented by counsel.  One was Herman Fischer, a grandson of John E. Townsend.  The other was Andrew E. Townsend, described as an uncle of Herman Fischer.  Both were laborers and men of modest mens who lived in New York City.  The were represented by a Brooklyn lawyer named Henry Bonowitz.

According to news accounts, John E. Townsend, who owned the ninety-acre property  in 1819, sold it to Andrew J. Conselyea.  Conselyea later "made a contract with the Prospect Hill Village Land Association to sell it."  (That Association began developing the unincorporated section of the Town of Pelham known as Prospect Hill in 1851.)  The Townsend heirs apparently claimed that although a contract of sale of the property was completed, no deed was given to the Association and, thus, "the titles to all the property, which it afterward disposed of in villa sites" were defective.  The heirs, through their lawyer, threatened to sue to invalidate the deeds of many, many Prospect Hill homeowners.

As with the subsequent, similar suit brought by heirs of the Jessup estate, nothing further seems to have come of the matter.  No deeds were invalidated and Prospect Hill landowners continued unmolested in their enjoyment of their beautiful homes and properties in the heart of today's Village of Pelham Manor.

Below is the text of a number of additional newspaper articles concerning the threat to sue to invalidate Prospect Hill deeds issued in 1900.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Detail from 1914 Bromley Map Showing Portion of
Prospect Hill.  Source:  Source: Bromley, George W.,
"Pelham" in Atlas of Westchester County, N. Y. Pocket,
Desk and Automobile Edition, Vol. 1, p. 131 (NY, NY:
G.W. Bromley & Co., 1914).
NOTE: Click Image To Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *    

Two Heirs Trying to Prove Their Title to the Estate.

NEW YORK, Feb. 19. -- Residents of Pelham Manor are interested in a suit to be brought in the Supreme Court of Westchester county to recover practically the whole of the manor for the heirs of John E. Townsend, who owned the property in 1819, and died intestate.  The property consists of ninety acres, used for residential purposes.  The value of the tract is said to be about $350,000.  Those heirs who are about to begin suit to recover are poor.  They are Andrew E. Townsend and Herman Fischer.  Townsend is employed in the navy yard, and lives at 653 Metropolitan Avenue.  Fischer is an electrical worker, and lives with his wife and two children at 287 Bleecker Street.  Fischer is a grandson of the original owner of the Pelham Manor property, John E. Townsend.  The other contestant is an uncle of Fischer.

John E. Townsend sold the property to Andrew J. Conselyea, who made a contract with the Prospect Hill Village Land Association to sell it.  No deed was given to the association, it is held; therefore the titles to all the property, which it afterward disposed of in villa sites, are said to be defective.  The association went out of existence in the early seventies.  Some of the heirs of Andrew Conselyea have joined their claims with those of Fischer and Townsend.  The latter have retained Henry Bonowitz, a lawyer of Brooklyn.  The whole of the disputed Pelham property is occupied by handsome residences."

Source:  CLAIMING PELHAM MANOR -- Two Heirs Trying to Prove Their Title to the Estate, The Evening Times [Washington, D.C.], Feb. 19, 1900, p. 3, col. 2.

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