The History of New York State
Book III, Chapter IX

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER IX

WESTCHESTER COUNTY #1

As one of the original divisions of New York State, Westchester was organized November 1, 1683. Although parts have been taken from its territory by New York City, it still has an area of 448 square miles, with the Hudson as the west boundary and Connecticut and Long Island Sound bordering the east and south. It is distinguished for the striking beauty of the scenery to be seen in almost any part. The undulating uplands near Hastings rise to a height of more than 1,200 feet at the promontory of the northwest corner, St. Anthony's Nose. The valley of the Bronx River, with the depressions of the dozens of other streams, form the gentle landscapes of the interior, where one of the greatest and most unique park systems is being built. Lakes and reservoirs abound, and to the southeast are the green hills and shores of the sound, with their deep indentations and pleasant islands. Countless numbers of residences, from the bungalow to the palace of the wealthy, are scattered all through the county. Every variety of estate, from the small farm to the fenced parks of the millionaire may be seen, and the "estates of the public" are the finest and largest of them all.

The county was once the home of the Mohegan Indians, who occupied the land in great numbers. On September 13, 1609, Henry Hudson anchored the "Half Moon" off the shores where now is situated Yonkers. His reports of the region impressed the thrifty Dutch, and by them were the settlements of the district founded. The first purchases of land from the Indians, north of the Harlem River, were made in 1639, and it is thought that the southern part had some individuals located on it before the end of the next decade. Shortly after 1650 Yonkers had become quite a port. In 1654 there were English buyers of land on the eastern side of the county; the early settlement of the Connecticut side of Westchester began about that time. Years before the Revolution almost every section of the county had its settlers and the population was relatively large.

Of the great part played by the people of the county in the war of this country, the story has been told at length in another part of these volumes. During the Revolution many of its most important events took place within its borders. It was the middle ground, over-run by both belligerents, and suffered by the contact with both sides. The southern part was taxed £2,000 May 6, 1784, to repay Revolutionary expenses. Prior to this period the most of the county was embraced in five manors, or covered by five patents: Cortlandt, patent granted 1697: Philipseburgh, 1703; Pelham, 1687; Scarsdale, 1701; and Fordham, 1671. Cortlandt sent a number to the General Assembly, but Philipseburgh was forfeited during the time of the Revolution by reason of the attainder of its lord.

When the district which is now the town of Westchester was bought from the Indians, October, 1642, it was known as Vredeland (land of peace). A settlement was made, called by the Dutch Oostdorp, and by the English, Easttown, which was the first civil division in the district, and later came to be called Westchester town. Colendonck (Yonkers) was the second civil division, 1629, but this place was wiped off the map by the massacre of its residents by the Algonquins in September, 1655. The county as such was erected in 1683, Westchester named as the county town, and the first of the half dozen courthouses that Westchester has had, was built. The second was at White Plains, erected 1759; the third at Bedford, about the same time, the county then being under a half shire system; the fourth and fifth and the present on were all built at White Plains.

 

The civil divisions of Westchester, with their populations, are:

 

1890

1892

1900

1905

1910

1915

1920

Bedford

3,291

3,267

3,497

4,759

5,629

5,806

5,905

Cortlandt

15,139

14,0030

18,703

21,029

22,255

22,790

21,023

Eastchester

15,442

17,763

3,040

3,985

6,422

7,558

9,372

Greenburg

11,613

11,630

15,564

18,635

23,193

26,129

23,881

Harrison

1,485

1,444

2,048

2,922

4,226

5,081

5,006

Lewisboro

1,417

1,369

1,311

1,542

1,127

1,507

1,069

Mamaroneck

2,385

2,470

3,849

5,655

5,602

7,830

7,801

Mount Pleasant

5,844

5,870

8,698

9,728

11,863

12,976

14,004

Mount Vernon city

---

---

21,228

25,006

30,919

37,583

42,726

Newcastle

2,110

2,187

2,401

2,956

3,573

4,401

3,639

New Rochelle

9,057

9,990

---

---

---

---

---

New Rochelle city

---

---

14,720

20,479

28,867

31,758

36,213

North Castle

1,475

1,403

1,471

1,483

1,522

2,484

1,705

North Salem

1,730

1,930

1,133

1,169

1,258

1,181

934

Ossining

10,058

8,814

10,895

10,316

12,828

12,181

12,358

Pelham

3,041

2,696

1,571

1,841

2,998

3,782

5.195

Poundridge

830

841

823

798

725

643

515

Rye

9,477

9,680

12,861

18,077

19,652

24,136

25,819

Scarsdale

683

594

885

1,018

1,300

2,717

3,500

Somers

1,897

1,743

1,338

1,175

1,228

1,173

1,117

Westchester

10,029

8,326

---

---

---

---

---

White Plains

4,508

4,952

7,869

12,129

15,045

16,618

21,031

Yonkers city

32,033

31,419

47,931

61,716

79,803

90,948

100,176

Yorktown

2,378

2,241

2,421

2,294

3,020

2,431

1,441

Inmates of Institutions

---

369

---

237

---

---

---

Totals

146,772

145,106

183,375

228,950

283,055

321,713

344,436

 

The City of Yonkers--When the "Half Moon" came op anchor above the Island of Manhattan, she lay opposite the Indian village Nappeckamack. In 1646 a Dutch pioneer purchased the site of the village; he had the courtesy title, Jonkheer (young nobleman) and to his tract of land was this title joined. When a village was incorporated in 1855 on the site of the old Indian wigwam settlement, the name given it was a corrupted form of the original nomenclature, Yonkers. On June 1, 1872, the place had grown sufficiently to secure a city charter, a charter which has since been amended five times.

The city of Yonkers today comprises a territory of twenty-three square miles. There are four and one-half miles of waterfront, 150 miles of paved street, ample transportation facilities, great industrial plants, and a large population. But it is well to recall that at the time of the incorporating of the village, 1856, its residents were only just getting used to having a railroad which connected them with New York City several miles south. The first horse car had not yet arrived; the first newspaper had been published but three years. A volunteer fire company had recently been formed, but there was no water system until twenty years later (1876). Schools numbered three, churches five, population 7, 554; all this as recently as 1855.

Today, the city of Yonkers comprises a territory of twenty-three square miles. There are five miles of waterfront, 150 miles of paved streets; nineteen railroad stations and almost 300 trains daily; thirty-six miles of electric lines. The number of schools is more than twenty-five, and the number of pupils attending exceed 20,000. Churches number sixty-four, fraternal societies over 100; the city hall, built in 1911, at a cost of $500,000, was claimed to be the best of its kind in the state. In Yonkers, where formerly the making of hats was the sole important industry, 240 manufacturing establishments, employing 25,000, and turning out products with a valuation of over $40,000,000. Here may be seen the largest carpet, the largest elevator, and possibly the largest sugar refinery factories in the world. From a population of 7,544, in 1855, the census of 1920 credits the city with 100,176.

City of Mount Vernon--An organization of mechanics and laboring men, formed for the purpose of securing homes near New York City, were the founders of the city of Mount Vernon. Under the name "The Home Industrial Association," on October 16, 1850, it purchased 375 acres of land on the present site of the city. three years later the place was incorporated with a population of 1,370. Out of the twenty-five names suggested for the village, Monticello was chosen, only to be changed by the postal authorities in 1851 to the present title. In 1869 Central and West Mount Vernon were consolidated, and in 1878 became apart of Mount Vernon. By an act of March 12, 1892, the village was given a city charter.

Mount Vernon has an area of 421 square miles, and a population in 1920 of 42,726. There are thirty industrial plants in the city producing a wide variety of manufactures. Transportation facilities are provided by six railroads. Of churches there are thirty; the title, "City of Homes," has been given to the place, and few other titles could better express its character.

City of New Rochelle--Nearly two centuries and a half ago, 1688, a ship sailed into Long island Sound and anchored in the ice of what was later known as Devenport's Neck. From this ship came the Huguenots, who founded the city of New Rochelle and the first French settlement in Westchester County. Negotiations were opened with the English Governor, Leisler, for the purchase of 6,000 acres from John Pell, Lord of Pelham Manor, upon which the present city is built. The pioneers numbered but thirty families, some of whose descendants still own parts of land allotted at that early day As a township the region was erected March 7, 1788. On December 7, 1857, a part of the town was incorporated as the village of New Rochelle with a population of under a thousand. In 1900 a city charter was secured and at the present time the number of residents must be 40,000. The seat of hundred of country estates, with more private and public parks than any like area in the United States, it is known as the "City of Parks.' Manufacturing plays but a small part in the life of New Rochelle.

The Town and City of White Plains--the shiretown of Westchester County was organized March 7, 1788. The territory was purchased November 22, 1683, by the inhabitants of Rye and settled soon after. These pioneers met opposition from John Richbell, who claimed the land under a previous purchase of 1660, which had been confirmed by the Dutch officials. Without going into the lengthy material of the dispute, suffice it that the modern historian has rescued the Rye pioneers from the charge of being mere squatters, indebted to the kindness of a later owner of the Richbell grant, who gave them title to the region.

White plains at the time of its purchase was the planting ground of the Indians, and derived its name from the white balsam which overran the surface. The first public road was laid out from Rye to White Plains in 1708 and called the Queen's Highway. By the time of the Revolution the district was well populated and was the scene of many of the important events of that affray. The central location of the town with its courthouse made it the natural rendezvous of both the public and the heads of the armies. The village was burned by the orders of the New England major, November 5, 1776.

The village of White Plains was incorporated in 1866, with a population of about 1,000. It was for years little more than a rural center, deriving the most of its importance from the fact that it was the shire village. In 1916 the city of White Plains was chartered with an area of ten square miles. The present population is estimated at 25,000 (1920 census giving 21,034). While never a factory town, it has, in recent years, had a number of concerns establish plants for the production of a number of articles. It is rather as the home of thousands who work in, or wish to live near the metropolis, that the city is known. To the lover of the historic, there are few places more worthy of his attention. By way of illustration, it was at this city that the State of New York had its birth, after the Declaration of Independence had been read.

TOWNS

Bedford was first formed from Connecticut in May, 1697. Its rights were confirmed by New York in April, 1704, and as town it was fully organized March 7, 1788. The town was mostly included in the purchase of Nathan turner for New Haven, July 1, 1640, and sold the same year to Andrew Ward and other for £33. Various other purchases were made from the Indians up to July 24, 1703. Settlement began in earnest in 1681, the incomers being for the most part the children of the original Massachusetts Bay colony. Once a farm region, since about 1885 Bedford has been passing from a rural character to the suburban. Many of the fine fields are now used for residential purposes; the little villages have either grown together or have been so changed as to retain none of their former characteristics. The village of New Bedford was a half shiretown for a number of years. Bedford station only contained ten houses in1860, and Mount Kisco felt very superior in that same year because it had a population of nearly 200. Two institutions of note within the township are : The N. Y. S. Reformatory for Women and the Montefiore Home for the tubercular.

Cortlandt-on-the-Hudson, in the extreme northwestern part of the county, was formed March 7, 1788. Lying at the base of St. Anthony's Nose, among the famed Highlands of the Hudson, it is noted for its natural beauty. The "Hills" are full of interesting, if not useful, minerals and the clay along the shore is the base of a large brick industry. Among the pioneers of the district were Daniel Birdsell, Captain Conklin and others, who located on the site of Peekskill in 1764.

Peekskill, situated on the bay of the same name, is the largest of the village in Cortlandt. In 1820, principally because of its advantageous position on the Hudson, an iron industry started, which not only placed it in the forefront of this, but was one of the last of the occupations to be set aside under modern condition. There are numerous minor factories in Peekskill today, but the only one of first-class size is the place of the Fleischman Yeast Company. The population of the village, which was incorporated April 17, 1816, was in 1920 given as 15,688.

Other settlements in the town are: Montrose Station, built in 1862 by Stephanus Hunt; Croton, incorporated, with a present population of more then 3,000; Mount Airy; Cortlandtville, the original Peekskill; Green's Cove; Verplanck's Point; Centerville and others.

East Chester ws recognized as a town March 7, 1788. George Washington, after passing through the region, declared it "very rough and rocky." The settlement of the town was by immigrants from Fairfield County, Connecticut, in 1664. The Indian title was secured by Thomas Pell, in 1654. The most important village to be developed in this area was Mount Vernon, now a separate division. Tuckahoe village, incorporated in 1902, with a 1920 population of 3,509, and Bronxville, incorporated in 1898, with a population in 1920 of 3.055, are the largest and most important of the places in East Chester.

Greenburgh, another of the towns, formed on March 7, 1788, is situated with the Hudson for a west boundary and the Bronx River for the east. The first Indian sale of the region was in 1649; in 1662 Connecticut bought all the lands west to the North river; and in 1681-82-84 Frederick Philipse purchased the land of this and other town which, by the patent of 1693, made up Philipse Manor. In 1779 much of the patented land was forfeited by the attainder of the heir to the Philipse territory, and sold to former tenants. The principal centers of population are along the Hudson, and naming them from north to south they are: Hastings, incorporated November, 1879, with a present population of 6,000; Dobbs Ferry, incorporated July 5, 1873, with the name of Greenburgh, has residents to the number of 4,500; Irvington, incorporated 1872, with a present population of more then 3,000; and Ardsley, incorporated 1896, a place of about a thousand, the seat off a number of fine estates.

Tarrytown village, on the north line, with part of it slipping over into the next town, is the largest of the villages with a population of 10,000. It was legally organized on December 9, 1879. It has been more of an industrial town than most of the others mentioned, turning our at one time large quantities of shoes, flour and pottery. Its present importance is due to the beauty of its location and the advantages of residency.

Harrison, formed March 7, 1788, is one of the interior towns with an area of nearly 10,000 acres. Rye Pond was one of its beauty spots until 1898, when it was made a part of the Kensico Reservoir, with its area doubled. The St. Vincent's Retreat for the Insane is located north of the principal village, Harrison. Must of the land of Harrison still under farm fence.

Mamaroneck, organized as a town March 7, 1788, lies on the Long island Sound. Title to the land was obtained from the Indians in 1640 and 1662. John Richbell obtained a ground brief from the Dutch, and letters patent from Governor Lovelace, October 6, 1668. to three necks of land, In 1700 Caleb Heathcote acquired title to most of the eastern neck. These and other deeds made difficult the securing of clear titles to lands, but led to the early settlement of the region (1660).

The principal village of the township, Mamaroneck, is one of the oldest settlements in the county, and has one of the first post offices established in the State. When incorporated, in 1895, the village had a population of less than 3,000' its present numbers are estimated at more then 9,000. There are a number of other villages, each year adding to the number, since this is one of the popular suburban localities of New York. Of the more ancient of these settlements are; Kelloggsville, Orienta, Washingtonville, Chatsworth and Hickory Grove.

Mount Pleasant. formed March 7, 1788, has a frontage of three miles on the Hudson above Tarrytown. Ossining was taken from it in 1845. Marble quarries were once an important industry of the town, farming making up the remain occupation of the district. The market for the stone has almost closed, and many of the farm have gone to the making of country clubs and private estates. The town was included in the original Philipseburgh Manor. Adolph Philipse, December, 1792, was willed the part in which the present town was located. The title was forfeited through attainder in 1779. Permanent settlement of the region did not begin until just before this latter date.

Important villages in this section are: North Tarrytown, Pleasantville, Hawthorne, Philipse Manor, Briarcliff Manor. North Tarrytown, Formerly Beekman town, incorporated in 1874, with a population of 2,500, has a present population of about 6,000 In the early days its location on the main means of transportation, the Hudson, made it a busy industrial place. The present-day industry is confined mainly to a great motor car works, the largest in the county. Pleasantville was incorporated in 1897 with inhabitants numbering 1.181. As its name implies, it is such a pleasant place to live that , without industries, it has grown to almost city size, with a population of more then 5,000. Hawthorne is one of the interesting hamlets of the township, of which Philipse Manor is another. Briarcliff Manor Village is one of the recent developments. Incorporated in 1902, with an acreage of 3,440 and a population almost minus, it is now one of the sport centers of the county, with residents numbering 3.500.

New Castle, formed from North Castle March 18, 1791, is in the north central part of Westchester, thirty-five miles from New York City. Rather more hilly than most divisions, settlement began relatively late, 1720. The land was covered by what is known as the "West Patent," coming down from Richbell, 1660, through Heathcote, 1701. Much of the land is still farms, vegetables being the main crop. There are numerous apple orchards. Chappaqua village, known best as the place where Horace Greeley "farmed" once a week for twenty years, has not changed greatly since Greeley's day. Millwood is a rural hamlet, in spite of its industrial name. Mount Kisco, incorporated 1876, is a prosperous center, thoroughly modern in its appointments, having a population in 1920 of 4,500.

New Rochelle, organized as a town March 7, 1788, lies on the sound in the southeast part of the county. Its peninsulas are thrust out in the Sound, and its several islands attract many visitors and homemakers. The history of the section has already been given under the story of the city of New Rochelle.

North Castle, formed March 7, 1788, lost territory in the making of New Castle, in 1791. It is a long narrow town on the east border adjoining Connecticut, with a rugged terrain drained by numerous small streams issuing from several lakes. Agriculture is still the important industry, railroads being lacking; outlet and ingress is by a splendid system of hard surfaced roads. The pioneer settlements were in the southern part of the town, made in the early years of the eighteenth century. Forty years ago the villages of the section were: Armonk, Banksville, Kensico and North Castle. Today Armonk is the only post village in North Castle, while Kensico was covered by the waters of Kensico Reservoir.

North Salem, in the extreme northeast corner of the county, was formed March 7, 1788. Part of its area was given to Lewisboro, in 1844. The town was originally a port of Cortlandt Manor and settled some time prior to 1769, the year in which the first deeds were given to residents. Dairying was not only one of the first forms of agriculture introduced, but is today the one that persists. The villages: North Salem, Purdy and Croton, are of a more rural type than is usual so near to New York.

Ossining, formed from Mount Pleasant, May 2, 1845, fronts on the Hudson for five miles, about thirty miles from New York City. When first erected the name Ossin-sing was attached to it, the present form being a later origin. The district was settled by the Dutch prior to the Revolution, although deeds to the land could not be secured until after hat event. The historic importance, the beauty of scenery, the industries of the town, are overshadowed by the fact that it is the seat of Sing Sing prison, the State penitentiary, the town and village promptly voted May, 1845, to take the title Ossining. The industries of the village are neither numerous nor large, the place being rather the business center of a very wealthy estate region. Population, 1920, 10,729

Pelham, formed March 7, 1788, lies on Long Island sound, embracing several island, Pelham Neck and others of the peninsulas that extend into the sound have been for a century noted for their fine country estates. The first to live within the boundaries of the town was Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, 1642, who was banished from the Massachusetts colony because of her religious views. She and her family, with the exception of her youngest daughter, were slain in an Indian massacre the next year. the three main villages of t his district are: Pelham Manor, Pelham and North Pelham. Pelham, incorporated in 1896, with a population of fewer than 100, had, in 1920, residents to the number of 1,050. Pelham Manor, incorporated in 1891, has a present population of more the 2,000. Travers Island, the home of the New York Athletic Club, is near. North Pelham, incorporated 1896, was given 2,385 by the census of 1920. City Island, formerly a part of the town, was annexed by new York City in June., 1895. It was at one time platted and planned as a rival to the metropolis.

Poundridge, on the eastern border of the county, next door to Connecticut, was organized with the county March 7, 1788. The hilly town was formerly one of the leaders in fruit growing and dairying. At one time there were a number of factories located in this area, such as show shops and woolen mills. The height of its population was reached in 1850, and in 1920 the number of its residents was less than at any time since its formation (515). The pioneer of the town was Capt. Joseph Lockwood, who cleared a farm in the central part in 1744. The hamlets of the area are: Poundridge and Boutontown.

Rye, erected march 7, 1788, is a narrow, irregularly shaped town lying next to Greenwich, Connecticut, on the sound. Manursing Island, under the name Hastings, was the scene of the first efforts at the settlement of this district, in 1660. Several years later the mainland had a few newcomers. In 1837 a settlement that had been known as Saw Pit since 1725 was incorporated with the name Port Chester. Now the second largest village in the township, it has a population (1920) of 16,573. The industrial interest are larger and more numerous than many of the places in the county. Rye, although of ancient history, was not incorporated until 1904. The main interests of the village are mercantile, it being a residential rather then industrial place. Population (1920) 5,308. Rye Beach has been a summer resort fro fully a century, improving with age.

Scarsdale, formed March 7, 1788, with an area of 6,000 acres, lies in the center of the county. Settlement seems to have been delayed, it being an extensive piece of rolling forest land. In 1712 there were people to the number of 12; in 1740 the residents had increased to 255, a figure that was not exceeded until 1810. Even as late as 1900 the population had not exceeded a thousand. With the present century came an appreciation of its attractiveness and the number of inhabitants given by the 1920 census was 3,506, and the estimate for 1925, 5,192. The unique fact concerning Scarsdale is that it is the only place in the State where a village and town are coincident and have two separate sets of officials. Scarsdale village was incorporated 1915; population, 3.506.

Somers, formed March 7, 1788, as Stephentown, was given its present title in 1808. It is situated in the central part of the north border. The first white owners of the land were Margaret Bayard and others, who received it as their share of the division of Cortlandt Manor, in 1734. The agricultural possibilities of the section were as fine as any in the county, but the land was not settled to any large extent until just prior to the Revolution. In more recent years the town was the leader in sheep growing, although this soon gave way to vegetable culture, and the sending of milk to the nearby city. Water power was plentiful and mills became numerous, but the purchase of Lake Mahopac by New York City, in 1871, changed all power development, the town now being a place of public parks, the estates of the wealthy, and the homes of lovers of nature. Somers is the main village, formerly the home of Hachaliah Bailey, famous showman.

Yorktown, formed March 7, 1788, is situated on the north border west of the center, in the "Highlands" country. The town is a part of the old Cortlandt Manor and had few settlers until after the division of the manor, in 1734. The military history of the town has many points of interest; not the least of these is that the French Allies of the Colonies were encamped at least twice during the Revolution at Crompond. Yorktown heights is the main village of the township. Formerly, it was simply Yorktown Station, just a hamlet on a railroad, bit with the change to a more picturesque name came also quite a growth in population and importance.

Concerning Former Towns--it is noteworthy that the town, Westchester, which gave its name to the county, is no longer a part of the county. In 1874, by an act of the Legislature, the towns, Morrisania, West Farms and Kingsbridge, were annexed by the county of New York. In 1895 the incorporated villages of Wakefield, Eastchester, and Williamsbridge, the whole town of Westchester, and parts of the towns of Eastchester and Pelham, were taken by New York City. An attempt was made in 1910 by New York City to annex the cities of Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle and the towns of Pelham and Eastchester, but failed.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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