OLDEnslavement Comes to Mamaroneck: 1600s-1790

by Ned Benton

The Dutch West India Company introduced enslavement of Africans to the New York area in 1626, and it quickly spread north as Europeans moved to what is now Westchester County. To encourage agriculture, the Dutch agreed to furnish colonists “with as many blacks as they conveniently could.” (James Wood, in History of Westchester County,1866) There was such an acute shortage of agricultural labor in the Hudson Valley by the mid-1600s, that planters advertised to buy “any suitable blacks available,” according to Edgar J. McManus in A History of Negro Slavery in New York , 2001.

European settlement in Mamaroneck began in 1661 with John Richbell’s  purchase from two Siwanoy chieftains of three necks of land: known then as East Neck or Mamaroneck (today Orienta), Middle Neck (today’s Larchmont Manor) and West Neck (today part of the Unincorporated Town of Mamaroneck and New Rochelle). By the time of the first relevant census in 1698, there were 77 people living in Mamaroneck Township. Of these, 3 were identified as slaves in the households of Captain James Mott, William Palmer and Ann Richbell (John Richbell’s widow).

 

 From a 1781 Chart, “Position du camp de l’armée combinée a Philipsburg du 6 juillet au 19 août .” (Library of Congress American Memory Project)

A 1755 census focused exclusively on enslavement, listing only the “owners names” and the number and gender of enslaved people. For Mamaroneck and Scarsdale (which was part of Mamaroneck then) there were 24 enslavers and 48 enslaved people. Elizabeth Allair was listed as enslaving people, all males. The other owners reported only one or two, which was typical throughout the years that enslavement occurred in Mamaroneck.

From Edmund B. O’Callaghan’s Documentary History of the State of New York (1849-1851) indexed by Roseanne Conway.

 

By 1790, the federal census showed 23,978 people living in Westchester County with 1416 people – 5.91% – recorded as enslaved. In Mamaroneck Township, with a total population of only 452, 57 or 12.06% were enslaved people. The table below compares these enslavement figures to elsewhere in New York and across the country.

Author’s Note: The above was edited and updated from content published between 2006 and 2011 in the Larchmont Gazette and the Larchmont Historical Society.