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Thomas Pell (1612/13–1669) was an English-born physician who bought the area known as Pelham, New York, as well as land that now includes the eastern Bronx and southern Westchester County, New York, and founded the town of Westchester at the head of navigation on Westchester Creek in 1654.[1]

Born in Sussex, England, Thomas Pell was a brother of mathematician John Pell. He studied at Cambridge, but did not finish his course.[2] In the 1630s he emigrated to New England; he lived in Fairfield, Connecticut as of 1654.[3][4]

In 1654,[5] Pell signed a treaty with Chief Wampage and other Siwanoy Indian tribal members that granted him 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) of tribal land, including all or part of the Bronx and land to the west along Long Island Sound in what is now Westchester County, extending west to the Hutchinson River and north to Mamaroneck.[3][6] There are no contemporary records of the price he paid for the land, but an 1886 source states that the Siwanoy were paid with "sundry hogshead of Jamaica rum".[3] He named the area Pelham in honor of Pelham Burton, who had been his tutor in England.[6]

Pell was legally challenged by the Dutch courts who considered the "English were trespassing on Dutch territory".[7] This dispute was finally resolved by Pell in September 1664 when the British Navy, supported by a militia invasion force consisting largely of City Island colonists and led by Pell himself, entered New Amsterdam and forced Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of New Netherland, to surrender.[6]

Thomas Pell died in 1669. Having no children, he left his estate to a nephew, John Pell (1643-1700), son of his brother the English mathematician John Pell. The nephew traveled from England to New York and took up residence at Pelham Manor.[6]

The Pell family lived in this area until the Revolutionary War and has remained prominent to the present, with family members including U.S. Ambassador Herbert Pell and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell. Thomas Pell's grandson Philip Pell II built Pelhamdale at Pelham Manor about 1750.[8]


Note: Dates in this article may not be entirely accurate due to disagreements between sources.

  1. ^ "Bronx Chronology". Bronx County Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2015-07-27.
  2. ^ Frances N. Teague (1998). Bathsua Makin: Woman of Learning. Bucknell University Press. p. 11. ISBN 9780838753415.
  3. ^ a b c "The Treaty Oak". Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum.
  4. ^ Blake A. Bell (2004). Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595313341.
  5. ^ Sources variously give the date of the transaction as June 27, November 11, or November 14, 1654.
  6. ^ a b c d "Town of Pelham History".
  7. ^ James B. Saunders (1991). "History of Pelham Manor". excerpted from The Pelham Manor Story. Archived from the original on 2010-08-30.
  8. ^ Austin N. O'Brien (August 1982). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Pelhamdale". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2010-12-24.

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