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THROUGH SEVEN GENERATIONS
TED FOR PRIVATE DISTRIBUT
By C. H. AUGUR
LIBI >■<■< ofCONSRESS
\w, & mes Heceiveci
APR 13 1908
Sun.., .* it cin-y
Cl^SS^- Mc. fro,
HUGUENOT MEMORIAL AT HUDSON PARK.
This stone is inscribed: "To commemorate the com-
ing of the Huguenots. Erected by the Huguenot
Association of New Rochelle and the Westchester
County Historical Society, 1688— 189S. The gift of
Huguenot Descendants of New Rochelle.
was founded by
French Huguenot Refugees
n commemoration of
that event this
is published in theyear
1908 and dedicated to
the Citizens of the
present City by the
NATIONAL CITY BANK
of New Rochelle
From an old print of the Boston Road (now Huguenot Street) showing the
F old-time residents of New Rochelle,
and eager students of local his-
tory, discover that many perti-
nent facts are omitted from this
little book, they will perhaps ac-
cept the author's excuse — that the
work is intended to be nothing
more than an entree, not a banquet. In this
modern city of fast-growing population old-
time residents are relatively few, and those who
were so ill-advised as to be "born and raised"
elsewhere must be led by degrees to full and
thorough appreciation of their early mistake
and present good fortune. To such of our
citizens we offer a fairly comprehensive story
of New Rochelle in small compass — a taste of
its interesting history.
Sixty years ago it was said that "New
Rochelle at an early period was a place of some
resort, not only for the acquirement of the
French language, but on account of the hos-
pitality and politeness of its inhabitants "
♦Bolton's Guide to New Rochelle, 1842.
Old French Church.
More than two hundred years ago a gifted
woman recorded her impressions of New Ro-
chelle in these appreciative words: "On the
22nd of December we set out for New Ro-
chelle, where being come we had good enter-
tainment and recruited ourselves very well.
This is a very pretty place, well compact, and
good, handsome houses, clean, good and passa-
ble roads, and situated on a navigable river;
abundance of land, well fenced and cleared all
along as we passed, which caused in me a love
of the place which I could have been contented
to live in."\
This early reputation for beauty, thrift and
hospitality we believe is consistently main-
tained by the modern New Rochelle, and we
may be glad to claim it as our inheritance.
Huguenot House on the old Lester farm, North Avenue, still standing.
fMadam Knight's Journal, 1704.
Drake House. See page 31.
Surrounded in Westchester County by
Dutch and English settlements, New Rochelle
came into existence as a distinctively French
Community. Its founders were the sons and
grandsons of those devoted Huguenots who in
1628 stubbornly resisted the attacks of the
French army in the beleaguered city of La
Rochelle until reduced from twenty-seven
thousand to five thousand souls, and who sur-
rendered in this extremity only upon promise
of future liberty to practice their religion un-
Fifty-three years after this famous siege of
La Rochelle, when King Louis XIV caused
the renewal of Huguenot persecutions by the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many citi-
zens of La Rochelle fled to England. It was
a body of these refugees who, about 1686, com-
missioned Governor Leisler of New York to
purchase a tract of land for them in America.
The Governor bought from John Pell,
Esquire, for this purpose, 6,000 acres of land.
This was part of a tract which had been pur-
chased in 1640 from the Siwanoy Indians by
the Dutch West India Company, transferred
by this Company to Thomas Pell in 1654 and
ceded to John Pell in 1669. At the time of the
Huguenot purchase it was a part of Pelham
Manor. In addition to the tract of 6,000
acres the purchasers received as a gift from
*Lord Pell one hundred acres for the church.
"The sum of sixteen hundred and seventy-
five pounds and twenty-five shillings sterling,
current silver money of this province" (about
$8,000.00) and "one fat calf on every four-
and-twentieth day of June yearly and every
year, forever if demanded" was the price for
which Lord Pell, his heirs and assigns forever,
quit claim to all of New Rochelle. As nearly
as one can judge from records accessible a part
of the tract was assigned to each family for cul-
tivation in advance of payment to Lord Pell,
for many later deeds from Pell to individual
settlers describe the land transferred as a part
of the 6,000 acres originally bargained for.
It is also on record that not only Lord Pell
but his heirs "demanded" the fat calf on the
appointed date for many years, and this date
being the festival of St. John the Baptist the
occasion was made a day of feasting and
*A Provincial title, signifying not a Peer of Great Britain, but Lord
of Pelham Manor.
In Residence Park.
There is evidence that farms were taken up
by single families of Huguenots prior to the
arrival from England of the main body of
colonists. As the exact time of the latter's
coming has been the subject of controversy it
will be enlightening to publish here two letters
written some years ago by Rev. Dr. Charles
W. Baird to Mr. Henry M. Lester. Dr.
Baird was an authority upon the Huguenot
migration and Huguenot settlements in Amer-
ica. At the time of his death he had in prepa-
ration a history of the New Rochelle Colony,
and there can be no doubt that his information
was the result of more exhaustive research than
any other writer has ever given to this sub-
Rye, N. Y., 12 Nov., 1883.
My dear Sir:
My delay in replying to your note of the second Novem-
ber has been due to the fact that the inquiry it contained
needed a closer examination than I could give it. I have now
gone over the evidence on the subject, and have convinced my-
self that the year 1688 was the year of the formation of the
Huguenot settlement of New Rochelle. Should you wish it, I
could give you the leading points of that evidence: but it may
suffice to say that there is positive proof of the existence of the
settlement as early as September, 1688, and that I find no
mention of it before that year, but on the contrary much to
lead me to think that an earlier date is out of the question.
Believe me yours very sincerely,
Charles W. Baird.
Henry M. Lester, Esq.,
628 Broadway, New York.
View from Hudson Park.
Rye, N. Y., 12 Dec, 1883.
My dear Mr. Lester:
Mr principal reliance for the date of the settlement of
New Rochelle is upon a statement that occurs in a letter of
Dominic Henry Selyns of New York to the Classis of Amster-
dam. Writing on the tenth of October, 1688, he mentions
"Nova Rupella (New Rochelle), about five leagues from here,"
as "built up" or "being built up." I have been trying to get
a copy of the original of Selyns' letter, which is quoted by
Mr. Murphy in his Anthology of New Netherland. From the
connection of the passage, I presume he meant that New
Rochelle was then being built up. This would give the autumn
of 1688 as the time of the settlement.
Yours very truly,
Charles W. Baird.
Henry M. Lester, Esq.,
On the rocky point now called Hudson
Park, adding dignity and interest to one of the
most picturesque pleasure-grounds along the
Sound, stands a memorial stone said to mark
the spot where the refugees landed.
It seems that about thirty families com-
H pip)PP r
Fi|pn |L %
Davis House, Cooper's Corners.
prised this colony of Huguenots. They im-
mediately named the place New Rochelle in
honor of their native city, and then apparently
became too much engrossed with serious af-
fairs to record the trivial incidents of daily life
for the benefit of gossip-loving posterity.
Very little is known of them at just this period,
except that other Huguenots arrived from
time to time in small numbers and that Dutch
and English settlers occasionally joined the
colony, so that by the year 1710 there was a
total population of 261 persons, including 57
Naturally, the affairs of the church occa-
sioned the earliest literature relating to this
colony of intensely religious people. They
were exiled from home because of rebellion
against the established church of France, but
with entire freedom to worship as they pleased
it developed that they did not all please to wor-
ship in one way; and the circumstance engen-
dered some bitterness of feeling, at least
among the clergy and officers of the church.
The fact that our colonists had sacrificed
all their possessions in France and suffered
exile for the sake of a principle, is evidence
enough that they were men of strong charac-
ter. That many of them were also highly edu-
cated and intelligent is apparent even in the
meagre records which show how their public
and private affairs were conducted.
But they were few in number and without
means. They organized a church at once and
erected a small wooden meeting-house in 1692,
on the Boston Road — now Huguenot Street —
near the present Episcopal Church. They
could not maintain a regular pastor, but were
administered to by visiting clergymen from the
French settlement in New York City and by
pastors of the English Church having charges
in other parts of Westchester County. When
they had no pastor at all they walked bare-
footed, shoes and stockings in hand, a distance
of more than twenty miles to attend services
at the French Church in New York.
Clergymen of the English Church in
America were maintained largely by funds
sent from England, and these were the earliest
settled pastors of the New Rochelle Church.
First Methodist Church. See page 30.
It was inevitable that they should desire to
conduct the service in conformity with that of
the English Church, and in 1709 the Reverend
Daniel Bondet, then pastor at New Rochelle,
obtained the consent of a majority of the
French congregation to adopt that form of
worship. A minority, however, adhered to the
original service of the French Reformed
Church, and these established a second congre-
It was this division that occasioned the
more or less acrimonious correspondence of
various successive pastors with their church su-
periors concerning the church at New Ro-
chelle. Some legal controversy arose also
over the hundred acres of land deeded to the
church by Lord Pell.
Aside from this clerical correspondence we
do not find evidence that the people were much
disturbed by religious differences. They were
industriously building homes and laying the
foundation of a city in which churches of many
denominations are to-day conspicuously num-
erous, prosperous, and harmonious. One has
only to view the present beautiful Trinity
Church on Huguenot Street and the equally
imposing Presbyterian Church at the junction
of Huguenot and Main Streets, to see that
both the "original" congregations eventually
thrived and left worthy successors.
The oldest inhabited part of New Rochelle
is in the vicinity of these two churches.
Huguenot Street — variously denominated
Kings Road, High Street and the Boston
Road in the early records — existed when the
Huguenot colonists arrived here. There they
built their church and most of the first dwell-
ing-houses. "There is one dozen houses round
the church near each other," wrote one of the
early chroniclers, "which gives the place the
appearance of a town."
When the New Rochelle tract was divided
into farms in 1693, North Street was opened
as a "division line." At tlfe first recorded
"General meeting of all the inhabitants" held
Dec. 2, 1699, Peter Frederick and Joseph De-
bane were named "for to be surveyors about
the fences in all the plantations of this place
for to preserve the place," and at the next sub-
sequent meeting, March 1, 1700, it was voted
that "as for the Kings Road from York to
Boston the assembly has confirmed it as it is
now settled, being a chain broad, and for the
Water Road the assembly has also confirmed
it as it stands now from Boston Road to the
Water side betwixt John Jeffries and the
Widow Market, and this to be also a chain
broad too, and for the other roads to the water
side it is ordered that they shall stand as they
are now settled, provided they be 18 foot
NEW ROCHELLE CHURCHES.
The earliest roads to the water-side were
the streets we know as Centre Avenue, Echo
Avenue, Drake Avenue and Weyman Avenue,
which appear to have been opened in the order
named. Echo Avenue, first called Cedar
Street, ran a tortuous course from the Boston
Road along the creek, probably including all
of the present Pelham Road to the intersection
of Centre Avenue. Drake Avenue was
Drake's Lane and is still so called by the older
residents of New Rochelle. The present
Weyman Avenue, then called Parcott's Lane,
joined the road to Kingsbridge and New York
by way of Eastchester.
A leisurely drive or walk through the vari-
ous thoroughfares referred to will disclose
some evidence still remaining of the compara-
Old Pugsley House.
lew on Davenport's Neck.
tive antiquity of these portions of New Ro-
chelle. Old buildings, bits of old fences, cor-
ners of orchards and "home lots," here and
there exist ; but they are rapidly disappearing,
and a few years hence there will be little to re-
call the old French settlement. One may ap-
preciate fully all the beauty that wealth and
modern refinement lend to the present city,
yet echo in his heart the impassioned words in
which a descendant of one of the eminent
Huguenot families deplored the destruction of
the old stone church. "Alas," he says, "that
this venerable relic of antiquity should now
have to be numbered among the things that
were! The changes incident to the lapse of
years and the vandalism of progress — or shall
I say the progress of vandalism — have so com-
pletely annihilated every vestige of the ancient
structure that even its exact situation is more
or less a matter of conjecture. * * * *
And why could not the grasping, all-absorb-
ing spirit of change and novelty which char-
acterizes the age have spared us this one hum-
ble monument of the past to build which it is
said that the men carried stones in their hands
and the women mortar in their aprons."
To see what landmarks do remain, suppose
we drive through some of the old streets of
New Rochelle, starting westward from the cor-
ner of Huguenot and Mechanic Streets.
Immediately we are at Trinity Church, it-
self a beautiful, modern structure, but de-
scended lineally from the old stone church just
referred to. Some chroniclers assert that be-
neath the busy highway where your vehicle
stops the remains of the earlier pastors of the
church lie buried; others dispute this, and you
may choose between a conflict of testimony of-
fered without satisfactory proof on either side.
At the west side and back of the church are
graves: some marked by stones bearing recent
dates, others old as the town itself, many with
names and inscriptions obliterated by the pas-
sage of time.
Across the deep chasm through which the
railroad trains are incessantly rushing, flashing
and rumbling, are more of these ancient stones,
and you note again the "vandalism of prog-
ress" which could not allow the old Huguenots
to preserve in death the peace they loved so
well in life, but must cut in two their quiet rest-
Trinity Churchyard and Old Huguenot Cent
ing-place and make of it such a thundering,
quaking region of everlasting torment as they
never expected or deserved to inhabit.
Across the way from Trinity Church you
notice a commodious and comfortable-looking
old dwelling-house, painted white and in very
good repair. Only two or three years ago a
row of enormous old trees stood before the
spacious grounds of this "mansion," but to-
Carpenter House on Huguenot Street.
day its broad veranda looks upon the kitchen
windows of smart, modern apartments for
which the trees of a hundred years' growth had
to make way. This is not one of the old land-
marks of French New Rochelle, but as a for-
mer dwelling of one of the Astor families it
recalls the intermediate period when New Ro-
chelle was still a stage-coach journey from the
metropolis and the Summer home of many dis-
A little further on, midway between Centre
Avenue and the Presbyterian Church, stands
a quaint little house almost wholly obscured
by trees, lilacs and thick-growing shrubs.
Since pre-Revolutionary times this has been
known as the Carpenter House, the home of a
family long eminent and deservedly honored
in New Rochelle.
A short way beyond the Carpenter House,
close to the street, stands a two-story shingled
building in which the congregation of the Pres-
byterian Church met for many years prior to
1860. It was then moved to its present site to
make room for the new church at your left.
This handsome stone edifice may be called
a monument to the "dissenting" French con-
gregation referred to in the earlier pages. It
became a regularly organized Presbyterian
Church in 1812.
You are now at the junction of Huguenot
and Main Streets, beside the Soldiers' Monu-
ment. At your left the beautiful winding
thoroughfare called Pintard Avenue intersects
with Main Street, and well back from the street,
with an approach lined by aged trees, stands a
well-preserved house originally occupied by
,mJBS : nlXv^Nggtf^^HH
Jr - tr
Lewis Pintard, an illustrious New York mer-
chant, who lived in New Rochelle in the early
part of the last century.
As you continue west on Main Street bear
in mind that you are still traversing the old
Boston Road. About the corner of Drake's
Lane (now Drake Avenue) are clustered a
number of small buildings apparently belong-
ing to the old order of things, but none of his-
Between Drake and Weyman Avenues,
close to the walk on your left is an old square
house, half masonry, where a former citizen of
New Rochelle, Thomas Ronalds, used fre-
quently to entertain his distinguished brother
Peter, United States Minister to France. The
house and its environs are somewhat changed.
One domiciled here at the present day might
imagine himself minister to Italy.
A little beyond the Ronalds house the old
road turns to the right and proceeds through
Eastchester and Kingsbridge to New York,
while Main Street lies straight before you,
leading to the same destination by way of Mt.
You may now drive across to Pelham Road
— the "water side" of the old documents —
through either Drake or Weyman Avenues.
There is nothing of oldest New Rochelle on
either of these thoroughfares, though several
imposing places on Drake Avenue, in melan-
choly process of decay, attest the stately ap-
pearance of this old "lane" some two genera-
Turning east on Pelham Road you see an
attractive-looking old house, long and low,
with veranda extending across the entire front
and shaded by a single tree of venerable age.
This house was built before the Revolution and
is said to have been occupied at intervals dur-
ing the war by British officers.
Following the course of Pelham Road as it
merges into Cedar Road, and finally into Echo
Avenue, you find yourself on Main Street
again, beyond the eastern boundary of the busi-
ness section. At this corner, near the present
Beacon Hall apartments, stood, until recently,
the old residence of Vicount d'Allaire, a distin-
guished French nobleman who made New Ro-
chelle his adopted home at the time of the
Driving down Main Street to Rose and
turning northward you arrive at Huguenot
and North Streets. Here stands intact,
though changed in appearance by a latter-day
superstructure, an old roadside inn built before
1711, and kept by Captain Besley, a justice of
the peace and man of many activities in the
first generation of New Rochelle's existence.
The old Boston stages changed horses here,
and it is said to have been the stopping place
of the flying messenger who carried from Bos-
ton to New York the news of the Battle of
Proceeding across the railroad bridge and
out North Avenue perhaps half a mile, you
notice at the right, close to the walk, a little
Old Allaire House.
Old "Berpo" House on North Avenue.
whitewashed stone house so out of place and
lonely in its wizened old age that passersby
stop and examine it curiously. Legend says
only that a Frenchman named Berpo lived
here in the dim and distant past. It might not
be a wild guess that "Berpo" became a vulgar
contraction of Bonrepos, and that the little
house really sheltered the one-time honored
pastor of the old French Church.
Driving further on to the region now in
process of development by the real estate com-
panies, and directly in front of one of the most
sightly tracts, you are faced by a bronze bust
and pedestal erected to the memory of Thomas
Paine. Recalling Paine's great services in ex-
citing and spreading the spirit of independence
among the American people before the Revo-
lution, his intimate association with the great-
est men of that day, his later assaults upon
the Christian faith and the fierce denunciations
heaped upon him by its defenders — knowing
something of the man's splendid genius and in-
stability, his reputation and notoriety — you
are interested in what evidence now remains of
his connection with New Rochelle.
The property before you is the old Paine
Farm, confiscated by the Government because
of the original owner's adherence to the Brit-
ish cause in the war of the Revolution, and pre-
sented to Paine in recognition of his patriotic
services. Alone and in straightened circum-
stances the broken old man lived here a few
years, cared for by an old negro housekeeper.
A short time before his death in 1809 he re-
moved to New York City, but his remains were
The Thomas Paine House.
brought to New Rochelle and buried on this
property near the site of the present monument.
There is a well-authenticated story of their
surreptitious removal from this resting-place.
Some women of the neighborhood, it is related,
saw a wagon driven up to the gate and the
occupants alight carrying spades with which
they began digging about the grave. The
women ran to the house of Constable Seacord
and excitedly told him what they had seen.
When the Constable reached the place the
grave was empty and the strangers gone.
It is said that the body was transported to
England, but the mystery of its final disposi-
tion was never revealed.
Drive up the long avenue that was but re-
cently an old-fashioned country lane, and over
the crest of the hill you come upon a weather-
beaten little house set in a small garden-plot
with all that remains of its old orchard of
apples and pears. This was Thomas Paine's
dwelling-place. A half-constructed modern
residence has its elbow planted in the ribs of
the old house now, and probably before these
lines are printed this ancient structure, like
nearly all of New Rochelle's interesting land-
marks, will have been elbowed off the earth.
Returning to North Avenue and driving
on past the Country Club grounds you pass a
little stone church of decidedly modern appear-
ance in noticeable contrast to the old cemetery
beside it. This is the North Avenue Metho-
dist Church, whose former meeting-house — il-
lustrated on page 14 — was the first of that per-
suasion in New Rochelle, and sheltered the
third religious congregation established in the
Just beyond, at the corner of North Street
and Quaker Ridge Road is a pleasant old
house of pre-Revolutionary times, now occu-
pied by Mr. Niehaus, the artist.
A short drive further on you come to the
old Davis House, pictured on page 12. Mr.
George Davis states that this was an old house
when it was purchased by his grandfather in
You have now reached Cooper's Corners,
the end of this Huguenot thoroughfare. Drive
back through North Avenue, past "Mahl-
stedt's Pond," and at the south side of the ice-
houses you will see the beginning of an old and
little traveled road. This in earlier days was
a lane leading from North Avenue to Kast-
chester Road. Around the bend as you turn
into this cross-road is one of the most an-
cient and picturesque of all the old homesteads
now remaining. It is the Drake House, pic-
tured on pages 7 and 47.
Continue along this road and stop a mo-
ment before the Coutant Cemetery — a very old
burying-ground where rest the first of this hon-
ored New Rochelle family together with a long
line of descendants and connections. The
original Coutant homestead, where peculiarly
barbarous depredations were committed dur-
ing the Revolution because of its isolated situa-
tion, was doubtless near this burjmig-ground,
though its exact location is uncertain.
Old Inn. See page
You have seen most of the places that can
now be identified with the earliest years of New
Rochelle. Here and there along your route
you have noticed old homesteads evidently dat-
ing back several generations and with unmis-
takable suggestions of old-time comfort and
wealth (as wealth was measured then) in their
generous proportions, pleasing architecture,
and spacious grounds. Very few of them are
occupied by descendants of the original own-
ers, and many have been left to decay in neigh-
borhoods now distinctly "unfashionable."
In 1712 our polite and hospitable inhab-
itants numbered 304. In seventy-eight years
— down to the first National Census in 1790 —
we had attained a population of 692. Ten
years later, 1274. In 1840 we were 1816
strong. In 1850 — one hundred and sixty-two
years after the Huguenot landing — the popu-
lation of New Rochelle was 2547 souls.
This very moderate advance through the
better part of two centuries would imply what
diligent searching of records proves to be the
fact. New Rochelle remained always a
steady-going, industrious and eminently re-
spectable community. From 1699, until we
enter that momentous period preceding the
Revolution, there is no indication of any dis-
turbance in her placid existence.
In 1701 the town records specify that the
annual assembly was held for the nomination
of officers "according to the use of this Coun-
ty," our French-speaking colony conform-
ing to the customs of their adopted land.
Isaye Vallau, senior, Robert Bloomer, and
Oliver Besly were named "Townsmen, for to
look after and manage the prudential affairs of
Huguenot House, Recently Standing on North Avenue.
In the same year we find recorded a receipt
made by Lord Pell in the good old compre-
hensive phraseology. It bears a date ten years
prior to the date of entry. "November the 21,
1691, then received full satisfaction, as well for
all payments of land accounts as for all others,
from Doctor John Neuf eille of New Rochelle ;
I say received in full of all demands from said
Dr. Neufeille from the beginning of the world
till this day, by me — John Pell."
In that year (1701) Ambrose Sicard made
his "Last will concerning the little it has
pleased God to give me," and John Martin de-
sired his wife Anne Martin "to have my body
buried with decent simplicity." As they lived
in the world so they would pass out of it.
In 1702 the townsmen and part of the in-
habitants examined the book of records kept
*--- r ^~
Residence on Beauchamp Place.
by Isaac Bertrand Dutuffeaux, found that
"from folio two to folio twenty-three the book
is full and without any cross or defectuosity,"
placed the book in the hands of Paul Bignoux,
and thanked said Dutuffeaux for his adminis-
tration. A faithful officer satisfactorily paid
with thanks and commendation.
In 1708 it is noted that "after next Christ-
mas the hogs shall no longer be allowed outside
the plantations." A severe restriction but re-
laxed after a short trial; subsequent records
repeat for many years the provision that hogs
may run "in the commons" if provided with
rings in their noses; horses, too, if shackled, but
not sheep under any conditions.
The fence viewer was admonished each
year to see that all fences were of proper
strength and regulation height, and as the
height was frequently subject to compulsory
change the relations of the fence viewers and
inhabitants should have been a beautiful object-
lesson in "politeness and hospitality."
Frequent entries record the "ear-marks"
adopted by various cattle owners. Thus: —
"To-day, May 12, 1726, Mr. Cesar has given
the marks of his stock, which are a slit on each
ear and on the right ear a spot."
In 1719 a Bridge Tender was appointed to
take toll- — for each horse 6 cents, each horned
animal 6 cents, and for sheep "a price accord-
ing to the amount they will shake the bridge."
The bridge referred to was probably on the
Boston Road crossing the creek near the pres-
ent site of Stephenson Park.
In 1720 the assembly voted Mr. Allaire a
salary for keeping the records: — 20 shillings
In 1759, and each year thereafter, high-
way overseers were elected for the "Upper
Quarter" as well as for the "low part" of New
Rochelle, indicating a growing population
So these chronicles of small events continue
to 1776. In the year that the Declaration of
Independence was signed, they ceased abrupt-
In 1783 they are resumed. We have then
the first meeting under the new regime. It
was no longer an ''Assembly of All the Peo-
ple" but a "Town Meeting held for the regula-
tion of said town and carrying into execution
the Law of the STATE." It was held at the
house of Gilbert Brush, "Innkeeper," in pur-
suance of an ordinance of the Council appoint-
ed by the Act of Legislature entitled: "An
Act to provide for the temporary government
of the southern part of this state whenever the
enemy shall abandon or be dispossessed of the
same and until the legislature can be con-
Here, of course, is the explanation of the
temporary cessation of records :
In the Summer of 1776, Washington and
the Continental Army were forced to retreat
from New York and Long Island to White
Plains, leaving Howe's forces in control of the
City. The whole of Westchester County ly-
ing between the two armies became thence-
forth disputed territory (or "Neutral
Ground"). Occupied permanently by neither
British nor Americans, it was the foraging and
skirmishing ground for the worst elements of
It was in October, 1776, that General
Howe, in pursuit of Washington, united his
forces at the point now called Pelham Neck
and marched toward New Rochelle. Here he
was joined by General von Knyphausen with a
body of Hessians and part of a regiment of
Irish Cavalry. Skirmishes between parts of
Washington's army and the British forces oc-
curred in the vicinity of New Rochelle, but no
important engagement took place until the
main armies met at White Plains in the bat-
tle of October 25.
During the remainder of the war our vil-
lage saw little of the "pomp and circumstance"
attending it, but of its meanness and lawless-
ness they saw enough. The "Cowboys," a
regularly organized band of marauders attend-
ing the British army, and the "Skinners," an
equally choice company of freebooters, identi-
fied with the American forces, plundered and
pillaged throughout the county with cheer-
ful impartiality. Many of New Rochelle's
inhabitants were doubtless despoiled of all they
possessed. Family names appearing in the
records of earlier days now drop out. The
churches were closed, local government sus-
pended; our polite and orderly community
merely existed, a powerless victim of circum-
stances, ground between the upper and the
During this period Admiral Howe was ad-
vised by his superiors in England that —
"As the County of Westchester is in a very unsettled
condition and our troops are much harassed by the Rebels,
whenever in that vicinity, you will send a couple of frigates
up the Bronx River to protect our forces and fire into the
enemv whenever seen."
llii JttJ .111
National City Bank and Masonic Temple.
As every disaster came to New Rochelle
except damage from the fire of the Bronx
fleet, it is believed that the Admiral disobeyed
orders and kept his frigates out of that purling
For three generations prior to the Revolu-
tion the official records of the old settlement
are as regular and peaceful as the ticking of
grandfather's clock; and after seven years of
silence the ticking goes on in much the same
A smaller proportion of French names ap-
pear in the subsequent records, though many
of the oldest remain throughout the town's his-
tory. At the first Town Meeting, in 1773,
these officers were elected:
James Willis, Town Clerk.
James Ronalds, Constable and Collector.
Benjamin Stephenson, Supervisor.
David Guion and James Willis, Overseers
of Roads for the Upper Quarter.
,\ ' i ir Rochelle
Wykagyl Country Club.
Abrani Guion and Isaiah Guion, Overseers
of Roads for the Lower Quarter.
Peter Flandreaux and Elias Guion, Dam-
Stephenson, Ronalds and Willis, Assessors.
In the town records year by year one may
see between the lines some reflection of events
in the larger world. For example, the dis-
tressing financial conditions prevalent through-
out the country after the war closed are faith-
fully indicated in the provision made by this
little village for the poor fund. From less
than $200.00 per year the sum appropriated
rose gradually to $800.00, dropping back to
smaller amounts with the slow return of gen-
The rising sentiment against slavery is
faintly indicated in these quiet pages, as in
1789 when the overseers and Justices of the
Peace "certify that Plato, a negro, and Cate,
a negro woman, late the property of James
Pugsley of the said town of New Rochelle, is
of sufficient ability of body to provide for
themselves and under the age of fifty years,
agreeable to a certain clause of an act of the
State of New York, passed at the last meeting
of the late session."
The town meetings were long held at the
citizens' houses, but a slight beginning was
made in the direction of public housing facili-
ties by a vote, passed in 1802, authorizing the
town clerk "to provide a chest or trunk for the
purpose of keeping the town books in."
At a little later date (1815) commissioners
were authorized to petition the legislature for
proper authority to receive an amount of
money left by Wm. Henderson for building a
town house. In 1824 suit was begun against
the executors of Wm. Henderson's estate to
The First City Hall.
Drake House and Grounds. See page 31.
secure this legacy. Three years later the
money was paid, and the first Town House
was built soon after on the site occupied by the
present City Hall at Main and Mechanic
Streets. The old building was moved a block
eastward and is now a weather-beaten relic,
facing Lawton Street a few steps from Main
A little book called "A Guide to New Ro-
chelle" was published by Mr. Robert Bolton
in 1842. The date has something of a modern
look until we subtract the figures from 1908
and find that the intervening years make two-
thirds of a century. Looking over the pages
of the '4guide" then, we are scarcely surprised
to find that it is not exactly a guide to the New
Rochelle we are living in to-day. The differ-
ence is fairly indicated in the picture that we
have reproduced from Mr. Bolton's hand-book.
A complete full-size reproduction would have
included the following legend :
"This splendid establishment is delightfully situated on
Long Island Sound, about a mile from the Village of New
Rochelle and eighteen miles from New York. In point of
salubrity and picturesque scenery it is not surpassed by any
in America. The accommodations are of the most excellent
description; warm and cold salt and fresh water baths ready
at all times; and nothing is spared to promote the amusement
and comfort of the inmates. Pleasure and fishing boats for
aquatic excursions, and vehicles and horses for driving or
riding provided at a moment's notice. The Steam Boat Ameri-
can Eagle leaves New Rochelle early every morning and the
foot of Fulton Street, East River, every afternoon, landing at
the dock. The Harlem Railroad cars will convey passengers
to Fordham from whence stages run twice a day to New
July 1st, 1842. C. F. Rice."
Where this flourishing hotel stood we now
have the beautiful wooded park presented to
the city a few years ago by Mr. Iselin. The
store of Mr. Rice is a thing of the past. So
are the anglers in skirts and beaver hats; so
are the big farms stretching back to the vil-
lage, then a mile away, now reaching to the
water-side. The wagons, carriages and ex-
pectant people at the wharf awaiting the land-
ing of the "American Eagle" indicate that here
was the chief point of communication with the
outside world, and the New York steamer
making one trip daily each way the readiest
means of access to the great metropolis where
so large a part of male New Rochelle now
earns its daily bread. The old flag, with its
twenty-six stars, is itself hopelessly out of date.
"The advantages presented by the prox-
imity of the Sound," says Bolton's Guide, "are
Btacft at Hudson Park.
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New Rochelle Rowing Club.
of great importance to the Town. Besides
the shipping of various market produce on
board the sloops, there is the convenience of a
daily steamboat to the city during the Summer
months and three times a week in the Winter.
By this means quantities of produce are sent
to the New York markets at reasonable rates.
There are several hotels which afford excellent
accommodation to parties visiting New Ro-
chelle for the amusement of fishing, the salu-
brity of its air, or the beauty of its scenery.
"The Le Roy House, in the town of New
Rochelle, is an excellent and comfortable es-
tablishment, well suited for those who prefer
the small stir of a village, while they are not
too far removed from the banks of the Sound.
"There are also two other excellent hotels
in the village, well managed — the Mansion
House and New Rochelle Hotel."
In passing, it may be noted that the hotel
referred to as the Le Roy House was at a still
earlier date the home of Herman Otis Le Roy,
and not improbably the scene of Daniel Web-
ster's courtship of Catherine Le Roy, who be-
came the great statesman's second wife and
who lived in New Rochelle at the old home for
many years after Webster's death. The house
stood in large grounds, well back from Main
Street, at the corner of Centre Avenue.
The Mansion House was a commodious
and popular hotel on the northwest corner of
Centre Avenue and Main Street, with an ex-
tensive garden running back to Huguenot
Street. Its large ballroom was the scene of
many brilliant social events, and the daily
stages from Fordham brought to its doors
many gay parties of Summer resorters and dis-
tinguished visitors. A part of the old house
still remains, partially obscured by small stores
erected in front of it.
The New Rochelle Hotel stood on the
north side of Main Street, about midway be-
tween Centre Avenue and Mechanic Street; a
comfortable old hostelry with a double-deck
veranda extending across the entire front.
The advent of the railroad, which ran its
first train through New Rochelle on Christmas
day, 1848, foreshadowed changed conditions
which were to accelerate the growth of the vil-
lage, but without effecting any sudden or
radical change in its general characteristics.
Westchester County has been a favorite re-
gion for the Summer homes and large estates
of eminent families from early Colonial days;
The Present City Hall.
-i m m m
The New Rochelle Hospital.
and New Rochelle, possessing the advantage
of a shore location not too remote from the
city, had drawn much of its slowly increasing
population from the same cultured and well-
to-do classes of merchants and professional
men who were settled in other parts of the
Improved railroad service brought more
and more people of this character; their Sum-
mer residences became permanent homes ; after
a time men of similar tastes with more restrict-
ed incomes found that they, too, might estab-
lish homes in this favored region, and these
came in still greater numbers to swell the pop-
ulation of New Rochelle.
It is not necessary to record the details of
this development which has now made of the
old village a city of more than twenty thousand
Old School House at Cooper's Corners.
NEW ROCHELLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
souls. The story is told impressively in the
miles of beautiful streets that now intersect all
the old Huguenot farms, in substantial public
buildings, in thousands of tastefully ornate
dwellings. The pictures of modern New Ro-
chelle distributed through these pages are more
significant than words.
Perhaps the churches of any community
afford the best visible indication of its moral
tone ; the hospitals and charitable organizations
are a fair index of its humanitarian standards ;
the schools supply the measure of its general
intelligence and civilization. One who knows
these institutions as they exist in New Ro-
chelle need not fear to have his city judged by
their character and efficiency.
The city has numerous if not aggressively
prominent industries ; its mercantile houses are
substantially prosperous, it contains within it-
self all the features of an independent, self-
sustaining municipality. Its financial institu-
tions may be specially mentioned to illustrate
this fact. The National City Bank — whose
charter and that of the present city date from
the same year — the New Rochelle Trust Com-
pany and the People's Bank for Savings are
firmly established and ably conducted organ-
izations competing successfully with the best
of their metropolitan contemporaries.
When the National City Bank opened its
NEW ROCHELLE CHURCHES.
new building a short time ago, the visitors who
came to inspect its banking rooms and safe de-
posit vaults equalled in number one-fourth of
the city's adult population — a circumstance
that agreeably indicates the survival here of
that "friendship in business" which it seems
can still exist though the business be modern
But, creditable as its commercial institu-
tions undoubtedly are, New Rochelle is not and
does not aspire to be a typical "hustling"
American city. Belching chimneys, a murky
landscape and a babel of business are not
among her distinguishing features. She offers
a clean atmosphere, physically and morally
healthful, and a congenial environment where
the home is the center of attraction, and the
means for making the most of life are as varied
as differing tastes demand.
It has seemed best to devote most of our
descriptive pages to the earlier days because
they have stamped New Rochelle with charac-
ter. It is the prestige and dignity of early as-
sociations, the mellow beauty of age, not less
than the glory of flanking hills and flashing
waters that beckon to New Rochelle and cause
old residents and new ones alike to echo in
slightly changed words the thought of Madam
Knight — They cause in me a love of the place
which I am contented to live in.
NATIONAL CITY BANK.
Vaults, Offices and Reception Rooms
Family Names of French Huguenots Who are Known
to have Settled in New Roc he lie at Various
Periods Between 1688 and l?$0.
de Ste. Croix
Huguenot Memorial Window in the First Presbyterian Church.
The National City Bank
OF NEW ROCHELLE
Officers and Directors
HENRY M. LESTER, President
JOSEPH T. BROWN, Vice-President
GEORGE F. FLANDREAUX, Cashier
GEORGE W. LIPPINCOTT, Ass'T Cash
JOHN G. AGAR HENRY M. LESTER
JOSEPH T. BROWN CLARENCE S. McCLELLAN
ROBERT C. FISHER CHARLES PRYER
GEORGE F. FLANDREAUX HENRY A. SIEBRECHT
JOHN F. LAMBDEN GEORGE A. SUTER
HOWARD R. WARE
To Mr. Charles Pryer's "The Neutral Ground" and "Remi-
niscences of an Old Westchester Homestead," and to Mr. Pryer
in person, the author is indebted for much valuable assistance.
To Mr. S. A. Stephenson, for access to valuable transla-
tions of the old Huguenot town records, and to Mr. George T.
Davis and Mr. Henry M. Lester for useful information thanks
are gratefully tendered.
For facts and legends which could not be incorporated in
this brief sketch, the reader is referred to Mr. Pryer's books —
published by Putnam's — and to Rev. Robert Bolton's History
of Westchester County, and A Guide to New Rochelle, both
of which are available at the New Rochelle Public Library.
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