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.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Connecticut Authorized Thomas Pell to Make Another Purchase of Native American Lands in 1663

It was déjà vu.  Apparently Pelham founder Thomas Pell believed that if it worked once, it likely would work again.

During early 1654, as the First Anglo-Dutch War raged, Thomas Pell used the confusion of the times to acquire from local Native Americans lands that the Dutch claimed they already had acquired -- the very lands that became the Manor of Pelham.  Indeed, in 1653 and early 1654, only months before Pell’s purchase, the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands were at war.  Although they fought the “First Anglo-Dutch War” entirely at sea, English and Dutch settlers feared fighting would spread to the North American colonies at any time.  Only days before Pell’s purchase, Dutch and English colonists were unaware that the Treaty of Westminster had been signed in Europe on April 5, 1654, ending the war. Amidst all this, Pell negotiated his acquisition of Native American lands claimed by the Dutch – a dangerously provocative act clearly designed to support the English cause and to defy the Dutch.  For more about how Pell used the unsettled political circumstances of the First Anglo-Dutch War to further his personal gain and the political objectives of the English settlers by acquiring Pelham, see Bell, Blake A., The New Englanders Who Signed Thomas Pell's 1654 Agreement Acquiring Much of Today's Bronx and Lower Westchester Counties From Native Americans, The Bronx County Historical Society Journal, Vol. XLVI, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. 25-49 (Spring / Fall, 2009).

Nearly a decade later, Thomas Pell saw another such opportunity as the winds of war swirled yet again.  The English and Dutch were on the brink of war again as the Second Anglo-Dutch War loomed.  Moreover, Thomas Pell was still smarting from the Dutch wresting control of the settlement he planted on his new Pelham lands known as "West Chester."  See Tues., Apr. 24, 2018:  Important New Scholarship on the Men to Whom Thomas Pell Sold Part of the Manor of Pelham in 1654; Wed., Apr. 25, 2018:  More on the Settlement of Westchester Planted by Thomas Pell in 1654.

As the drums of war sounded, in March of 1663, more than a year before Petrus Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam to a small English fleet on September 8, 1664, Thomas Pell obtained a license from the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut to acquire lands to expand his Pelham purchase.  

At a session of the General Assembly held at Hartford on March 10, 1663, Governor John Winthrop Jr. and the members of his Assembly entered the following into the records of the Assembly:


John Winthrop Esq r, Gou r.

Assis ts.

Mr. Allyn,          Mr. Woolcot,
Mr. Willys,        Mr. Clark,
Mr. Treat,          Mr. Allyn, et Sec'y.


Mr. Wadsworth,       Tho:  Judd,               John Nott,
Mr. Fitch,                 Mr. Jehu Burre         Wm. Cheny,
Capt. Newbery,        John Bnkes,             Tho: Tracy,
Ln t Fyler,                Nath:  White,            Tho:  Leppingwell,
Anth:  Hawkins,       Sam ll Boreman,       Mr. Rob:  Chapman. . . .

This Court doth grant liberty to Mr. Thomas Pell to buy all that land of the Indian proprietors between West Chester and Hudsons Riuer, (that makes Manhatoes an Island,) and lay it to West Chester, prouided that it be not purchased by any before, nor in their possession. . . ."

Source:  The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, Prior to the Union with New Haven Colony, May, 1655; Transcribed and Published, (In Accordance with a Resolution of the General Assembly,) Under the Supervision of the Secretary of State, With Occasional Notes, and an Appendix:  By J. Hammond Trumbull, Vol. I, pp. 417418 (Hartford, CT:  Brown & Parsons, 1850).

Though there are no further records of efforts by Pell to secure the lands to the southwest of his Pelham purchase all the way to the Hudson River, had he done so, today's Pelham likely would be a very different place.  For reasons now lost to history, however, Thomas Pell never succeeded (and, perhaps, never attempted) to acquire such additional lands adjacent to those he purchased on June 27, 1654 that subsequently became the Manor of Pelham.

John Winthrop, Known as "John Winthrop Junior" or "The Younger,"
Was the Eldest Son of John Winthrop, the First Governor of the Massachusetts
Bay Colony, and Mary Forth.  He Was Governor of the Colony of Connecticut
and Head of the General Assembly at the Time a License Was Issued to Thomas
Pell on March 10, 1663 to Purchase Additional Lands from Native Americans
Adjacent to the Lands that Became the Manor of Pelham.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *         *          *

Below is a brief excerpt of material from a wonderful article by L. H. Roper entitled in a recent issue of The New England Quarterly entitled "The Fall of New Netherland and Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Imperial Formation, 1654-1676."  It provides an excellent background of the tumultuous events leading up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War and the surrender of New Amsterdam to the English on September 8, 1663. 

"The Connecticut leadership did not await the conclusion of London's laborious process.  News that it had received its charter, which was proclaimed in the colony on 9 October 1662, was taken as a license to intensify its pressure to detach Long Island and 'West Chester' from Dutch authority and to extend its 'protection' to the New Haven towns of Southold (on Long Island) and Guilford.  By 8 January 1663, Stuyvesant learned that Connecticut was aserting that its patent included all of Long Island.  Accordingly, the colony had issued a 'peremptory order' to the inhabitants of Oostdorp (Westchester) informing them that henceforth they were subject to Connecticut's control; in addition, over the course of 1663, Connecticut operatives incited riots against Dutch authority at Rustdorp (Jamaica), Middleburgh (Elmhurst), Vlissengen (Flushing), Hempstead, and Gravesend.  In December, Stuyvesant was compelled to arms to prevent an English group from acquiring the lands of the Neversink Indians between the Barnegat and Raritan Rivers in modern New Jersey.  By the spring of 1664, Dutch authority in these places hung in the balance as Hartford, acting expressly in accordance with its new powers, directed Winthrop and three other leading colonists -- Wyllys, Matthew Allyn, and John Young -- 'to go over to Long Island, and to settle the English plantations on the Island under this Government,' while Thomas Pell received 'liberty' to buy the Indian lands between 'West Chester' and the Hudson River.  Five days later, Stuyvesant received a report that 'the English of Westchester' had been intriguing with the Esopus and Wappinger Indians, who between June and December 1663 had fought a nasty war with the Dutch in the Hudson River Valley, 'to kill all the Dutch and drive them away' after the English had seized Long Island and Manhattan.  A presumed English spy arrived at Wiltwijck (Kingston) the following month proclaiming that the English would take over New Netherland 'within 6 or 8 weeks.' 33

[Footnote 33:  "33  Report made by P. W. van Couwenhoven of Information Respecting Intrigues of the English with the Wappins and Esopus Indians, [March 1664], and Letter from Ensign Nyssen to Director-General Stuyvesant, Reporting the Visit of an Englishman at Wildwyck, 21 April 1664 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 13:363-64, 368.  For English activity in the Neversink country, see Instructions Given to Martin Cregier and Covert Loockermans for the Purchase of the Nevesing Country, from Barnegatt to the Raritan, 6 December 1663 (n.s.), Journal of a Voyage to the Newesinghs by Captain Cregier, and Agreement Made by the Newesingh Indians to sell to the Dutch their Lands, not already sold, 6-11 December 1663 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 13:311-12, 314-16, 316-17; Edward Rous and and Others to John Scott, 2 December 1663, MHS Collections, 5th ser., 1:397-99.  For Connecticut's activities, see Connecticut Records, 1:384-87, 392-98 at 398; Letters Relating to the Annexation of Long Island to Connecticut, DRCHNY, 14:516-18; Meeting of the General Assembly, 10 March 1664, Connecticut Records, 1:416-24 at 418.  For the attachment of 'West Chester' and Long Island to Connecticut, see Extract from a Letter of Stuyvesant to the Directors, 8 January 1663 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 14:520; Meeting of the Council, 10 July 1663, Meeting of the General Assembly, 8 October 1663, At a Generall Assembly Held at Hartford, 12 May 1664, and At a General Session of the Generall Assembly at Hartford, 8 [October] 1663, Connecticut Records, 1:406-7, 425-31 at 426-27, 409-16 at 411-12; extract from a Letter of Stuyvesant to the Directors [Westchester], 14 May 1663 (n.s.), To his Honor, Secretary Cornelis van Ruyven, at Fort Amsterdam, 15 November 1663, and Letters from Director Stuyvesant to the Governor and Council of Connecticut about the Claims of the Latter, 5 November 1663 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 14:526-27, 531-40."]

Stuyvesant's protests to Connecticut and to his superiors in the West India Company brought him no satisfaction on either front.  34  

[Footnote 34:  "34  Extract from a Letter of Stuyvesant to the Directors, 26 April 1664 (n.s.), and Extract from a Letter of Stuyvesant to the Directors, 4 August 1664 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 14:546-48 at 547-48, 551-55."]

When Winthrop returned to America, Stuyvesant  asked him for a 'categorical answer'; meanwhile, a delegation to Hartford in October 1663 requested that the neighbors honor their 1650 treaty until further directions were received from Europe.  Connecticut officials insisted on the colony's right to all of the disputed territory and, further, its duty to perfect the king's grant.  Continuing to dissemble, Winthrop, supposed friend of the Dutch colony, advised the visitors that the Connecticut patent did not include New Netherland; nonetheless, he mostly absented himself from the negotiations on the grounds of illness and declined to put his opinion in writing since, as he insisted, the language of the patent was clear on its face.  His councilors, though, when presented with this view, observed that 'the Governor is but one man.'  The confused and irritated emissaries returned to New Amsterdam empty handed.  35

[Footnote 35:  "35  Journal kept by Cornelis van Ruyven, Burgomaster Cortlandt and John Laurence, Delegates from New Netherland to the General Assembly at Hartford, in New England, in the month of October, 1663 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 2:385-93; Peter Stuyvesant to John Winthrop Jr., 20 July 1663 (n.s.), and Thomas Willett to John Winthrop Jr., 23 July 1663 (n.s.), MHS Collections, 5th ser., 1:395-96, 396-97."]

By August, Stuyvesant, now fully disabused of Winthrop's motives, had prepared as best he could for an English attack.  He informed the West India Company of Connecticut's predations on Long Island, which reflected his neighbor's contempt for the boundary negotiated in 1650.  He also heaped skepticism on the report relayed by his superiors.  The assembling commissioners and military expedition, the report had concluded, were intended for New England with the brief to 'install' bishops there and to unite those colonies 'under one form of government in political, as well as ecclesiastical matters.'  Dismissing the report's hopeful inference that the initiative would provoke resistance and manifest New English affinity for the Dutch colony, Stuyvesant insisted that New Netherland was the real target, and his intelligence was supported by news that Rhode Island had received a charter, which included a grant of liberty of conscience, and that York had been granted his patent.  36

[Footnote 36:  "36  Extract from a Letter of Stuyvesant to the Directors, [4 August 1664 (n.s.)]; [responding to] Chamber of Amsterdam to the Director and Council of New Netherland, 21 April 1664 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 14:551-55 at 552-54, 2:235-37 at 235-36."]

Four frigates bearing Nicolls, Maverick, Carr, Cartwright, and between three and four hundred soldiers reached Nantasket toward the end of July.  The commissioners sought the assistance of the Massachusetts government, which agreed to recruit and pay for two hundred volunteers and to send Clarke and Pynchon (Wylly's son-in-law and close friend of Winthrop, the physician of his wife, Amy) as the colony's representatives to the mission.  Notifying Winthrop of their arrival, the other commissioners planned to rendezvous with him at Gravesend, at the western end of Long Island.  37

[Footnote 37:  "37  John Pynchon and Thomas Clarke to Secretary Edward Rawson, [15 August 1664], Pynchon Papers, 1:32; Colonial Records:  General Entries, vol. 1, 1664-65, University of the State of New York, State Library Bulletin, History, no. 2 (May 1899):  55; Massachusetts Records, vol. 4, pt. 2, pp. 120-24.  For Pynchon's relationships with Winthrop (with whose family Amy Wyllys Pynchon lived in 1654-55, while he treated her) and Wyllys, see, e.g., letters between Pynchon and Winthrop of 22 May, 20 June, 26 July, [30 November], and [17 December] 1654.  Pynchon Papers, 1:5-13, 131.  The social connections between these New England imperialists also appear from Amy Pynchon's requests for treatment on her knee from Thomas Pell (John Pynchon to John Winthrop Jr., 1 and 7 May 1660, Pynchon Papers, 1:32-34)."]

At the end of August, the fleet arrived at New Amsterdam and ordered the town to surrender or be sacked; meanwhile, Nicolls proceeded to recruit additional colonial troops to swell the occupying force.  38  

[Footnote 38:  "38  License to Recruit Soldiers on Long Island against the Dutch, 24 August 1664, and Letter from Col. Nicolls to Capt. Young about such Long Island People as have taken up arms against the Dutch, 29 August 1664, DRCHNY, 14:555-56."]

Stuyvesant's attempts to delay the inevitable came to nothing; with a shortage of powder and his defenses in disarray, he was compelled to accept terms.  Yet, despite the Crown's involvement, Connecticut's hand remained firmly on the tiller.  According to the Reverend Samuel Drisius, 'about 600' New Englanders had joined the expedition.  Stuyvesant, in his report to the States General, noted that defeat came at the hands of 'the Hartford Colony, our too powerful enemies,' who had been 'reinforced by four Royal ships.'  We may wonder what went through the director-general's mind when Winthrop personally delivered the articles of capitulation to him.  39"

[Footnote 39:  "39  The West India Company and its operatives on the South River had reports of 300 soldiers; see West India Company to the Burgomasters of Amsterdam, [July 1664], and Commissioners of the Colonie on the Delaware River to the Burgomasters of Amserdam, [June 1664], DRCHNY, 2:243, 244.  The New Amsterdam government later reported that one of the frigates carried almost 450 soldiers 'and the others in proportion,' but this seems an exaggeration given the other accounts and the size of the ships; see Translation of a letter from the Schout, Burgomasters, and Schepens of the City of New Amsterdam, to the West India Company, 16 September 1664, in John Romeyn Brodhead, Commemoration of the Conquest of New Netherland on the Two Hundredth Anniversary, by the New York Historical Society (New York:  By the Society, 1864), pp. 70-71; Letter from Rev. Samuel Drisius to the Classis of Amsterdam, 15 September 1664 (n.s.), DRCHNY, 13:393-94 at 393.  E. B. O'Callaghan, the nineteenth-century translator and editor of DRCHNY, translated 'gesecondeert' as 'reinforced' in Stuyvesant's Report of the Surrender of New Netherland, 1665 (DRCHNY, 2:365-70 at 366), but 'seconded' or 'supported' seems aa superior translation of the original Report of the Honorable Peter Stuyvesant, late Director-General of New Netherland, on the causes which led to the surrender of that country to the English (Archive States General, 1.01.07 in.nr.12546.57, Nationaal Archief, The Hague).  My thanks to Jaap Jacobs for the original reference and for his wisdom on this and many other points.  For Winthrop's delivery of the terms, see Answer of Ex-Director Stuyvesant, 1666, DRCHNY, 2:429-47 at 444."]

Source:  Roper, L. H., The Fall of New Netherland and Seventeenth-Century Anglo-American Imperial Formation, 1654-1676, The New England Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 4, pp. 686-89 (Dec. 2014).

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