Local Slavery: 1661-1822

1661: ENSLAVEMENT COMES TO MAMARONECK

The first European settlers to New York – the Dutch of New Amsterdam – arrived in xx. Almost immediately, they imported slaves: NN in 16YY.

The first European settler appeared in Mamaroneck in 1661, when John Richbell purchased three necks of land from the Siwanoys. We have no documents directly linking John Richbell to enslavement in Mamaroneck, but he surely was the first enslaver there. 

In prior years, Richbell owned plantations in Barbados (an island famous for enslaving Africans in the production of sugar) and was a “trader of slaves,” as described in Sakonnet, a website covering various historical topics, including the interconnection between Mamaroneck, Rye and Barbados. On April 1, 1647, he purchased 21 African slaves from Willem Kieft, director of the Dutch West India Company in New Amsterdam, and took 19 to sell in Boston. Partnering with other plantation owners, he sought land between Connecticut and New England, primarily so they could circumvent the oppressive English navigation laws — i.e., to smuggle goods between England, the West Indies and the Colonies. For this purpose, he purchased the land that became Mamaroneck. 

1689: FIRST DOCUMENTATION OF SLAVERY IN MAMARONECK

A history of Rye Town includes the first evidence of enslavement: In 1689, Captain James Mott of Mamaroneck sold Jack, then 14, to Humphrey Underhill of Rye.

1698: FIRST CENSUS ENUMERATING ENSLAVEMENT 

The first official census appears in 1698 when Mamaroneck Township had a total population of 77 people: 74 were white residents listed by name, including two women, probably indentured servants, identified as part of the Palmer and Pearce households. The other three were listed as “male slave of Capt. Mott,” “Female slave of Sam’l Palmer,” and “Female slave of Ann Richbell.”

Ann Richbell, Captain James Mott and William Palmer were prominent figures in the community. Ann Richbell was the widow of John Richbell (above). She sold 30 acres on the East Neck (Orienta) to her son-in-law, Captain James Mott.  Samuel Palmer arrived in Mamaroneck with his family in 1696, when there were only “eight freehold families settled on the land nearest the harbor — and very little else,” according to Judith Doolin Spikes  (Larchmont, NY: People and Places, 1991, p. 9 ). By 1697, Samuel Palmer was elected the first supervisor for the town, and Captain James Mott was named his assistant. Samuel Palmer soon began buying land, starting with a purchase from Robert Richbell (John’s brother) of acreage on the Middle or Great Neck (later Larchmont Manor). By 1700s, Samuel Palmer owned all the land that later became the Village of Larchmont. Notably, the Palmers were Quakers. 

The 1698 record tells us little of the lives of the enslaved people. For example, it is unclear if there were infants or young children left off the record. Particularly when the census was undertaken for tax purposes, only enslaved people above a certain age may have been counted. According to Charles W. Baird, in neighboring Rye, “‘Slaves from sixteen years old and upward’ are mentioned in a rate of assessment, April 2, 1708. Notably, the rate on “all cristiaine male persons from 16 years old and upward per head” was 12 pounds: the same as all slaves of this age. (Chronicle of a Border Town: History of Rye, Westchester County, New York 1660-1870, p. 182) Clearly, enslaved people of both genders above a certain age were valued by the taxing authorities, while younger ones were not.

ENSLAVEMENT NOT REFLECTED IN THE CENSUS FIGURES

The extent of enslavement by Caleb Heathcote in Westchester was unusual for this period. When the Anglican Church in Rye was considering outreach to the “negroes and Indians of this parish,” in 1708, their leaders learned that “there are only a few negroes in this parish. Save what are in Colonel Heathcote’s family, where I think there are more than in all the parish besides.” (George Muirson in Ecclesiastical Records of New York.)

The Ecclesiastical Records suggest that the local parish aspired to bring the enslaved people into the church through baptisms and Sunday schools, which would provide sufficient education to read scripture. Caleb Heathcote was greatly involved in the development of the early Anglican parishes, both in Trinity Parish (New York City) and Rye (also covering Mamaroneck and Bedford. (See: An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church.)

From the various descriptions of Caleb Heathcote, it is possible to speculate that the enslaved people on Heathcote Hill lived in their own quarters and had enough peers to form their own society. It appears that they would have been encouraged to join the Anglican church and, probably, to learn to read. Linked to such an affluent establishment, their situation might have been far different from others attached to lesser estates with only one or two enslaved people. However, it is also likely that many of the other  enslaved people in the parish would have met each other by visiting neighbors or attending church services and Sunday school in Rye, at Grace Church. (Construction of the church began in 1706; a successor building, now known as Christ Church, is at the same location on the Boston Post Road, today). For more on Caleb Heathcote and his relationship to enslavement, see: Slavery in New York and Scarsdale.

1712: MAMARONECK’S POPULATION GROWS SOME – AND SO DOES ENSLAVEMENT

According to Judith Doolin Spikes, “In 1712, four years before Samuel Palmer’s death, there were but 84 inhabitants: nine were slaves, 29 were white adult males, and only 16 were women between the ages of 16 and 60. Thus there could have been only 16 families at most (with 28 children among them.” (Larchmont, NY: People and Places, 1991, p. 16).

The 1712 census reproduced by Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan in his Documentary History of the State of New York, III  (1819)did not include names or even households, but it did count all residents of all ages.  Of the enslaved population, there were 3 males and 3 females aged 16 and above, 2 males and 1 female under 16. Some of the enslaved people might have labored along with the adults or as companions to the children of the enslavers. Others might have been infants. 

So, from 1698 to 1712, the total number of residents grew only from 77 to 84, but the enslaved population tripled from 3 to 9.

1755: THE BRITISH COUNT THE ENSLAVED

Between 1712 and 1755 the number of enslaved people grew in Mamaroneck more than fivefold: from 9 to 48, according to the census of slaves conducted by the British authorities throughout New York in 1755. This census did not count the general population.

Mamaroneck’s census was undertaken by Captain Joseph Sutton, who appears on the list as one of the enslavers. He reported only the “owners” names next to the number and gender of the enslaved people (characterized as Indian, Negro or Mulatto). The table below lists the 24 enslavers and shows that there were now 48 enslaved people in the township. At this point, “Scarsdale Mannor”  included land that is part of modern-day Town of Mamaroneck. There are several misspellings, probably due to OCR (optical character reader) translations from the handwritten census document. “Vnderhill Bridd” should be Underhill Budd, for example.

Some of the census takers in other jurisdictions counted only slaves above age 14; others used a cutoff of 16. (Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York Excerpted from The Documentary History of the State of New York by Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan.1849-1851, p. 195-221.) Other documents provide clues about younger children left uncounted.

It is likely that a number of young, enslaved (Black) children of Thomas Hading were living in 1755 in a small cottage across the (Scarsdale) Post Road from his (white) wife and three children. (See: Slavery in New York and Scarsdale). In his 1761 will, Thomas Hading manumited Mary Wems and his “wench Rose” along with Frances, Robert, Amos, Lazerus, Dennes, Jacob and Eleanor – “my Negro children.” He left Mary Wems and Rose use of the house and related land for six years after his death and provided  the children with money, to be handled by his executors. Further, he directed that the children learn to read and be bound out to trades as soon as they are fit. His white children received (more) cash but no directions to learn a trade. According to Ossining historian Caroline Ranard Curvan, Lazerus, also known as Lazarus Heady, lived to age 99 and was buried in the Heady Family Cemetery, a plot on his family farm in New Castle.

While the Hading story may be unique in its details, it illustrates the general lack of accounting in census records for enslaved children.

From Lists of Inhabitants of Colonial New York Excerpted from The Documentary History of the State of New York by Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan.1849-1851, p. 205.

1790: THE FIRST US CENSUS FINDS MORE ENSLAVED PEOPLE IN MAMARONECK

The first federal census of the United States was conducted in 1790. As shown in the table below, the total population of Mamaroneck had grown to 452 (up from 84 in 1712). Of these 13% or 57 were enslaved people (up from 48 in 1755). There were 65 families, of these 15 were enslavers. (See a typed transcription of the complete census: 1790 Census.)

1790 Census of Mamaroneck Township
Free white males, 16 and over 100
Free white males under 16 98
Free white females 171
All other free persons 18
Slaves 57
Total 452

 

FEDERAL CENSUS 1790-1800: THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF NEW YORK ENSLAVEMENT

From 1790, the number of enslavers in the census went from 15, to 9 and then 7. The number of enslaved people went from 57, to 33 and then 18.  This period coincided with the enactment of gradual emancipation laws in New York.

The census showed only numbers for the enslaved, but there were names of the white residents, including the enslaving heads of families, listed below. At the time, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, so it is not surprising that some of Mamaroneck’s leading citizens were listed as slave owners in 1790. Modern residents will recognize many of the names, since they appear on local streets and nearby locations: Gedney, Griffin, Merritt, Palmer, Mott and others.

Gilbert Budd, Jr., who enslaved the most people between 1790 and 1810, had served with distinction in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and also served as the Clerk of Mamaroneck Township. Mary Palmer may have been a relative of Samuel Palmer, who purchased the area now known as Larchmont Manor. The Allaires and their four slaves were neighbors of the Palmers.

There are two people – Peter Jay Munro and John Peter DeLancey – who do not appear in the census as slave owners in Mamaroneck, yet appear in Township records where they report about the people they enslaved in Mamaroneck. They were wealthy landowners with primary residences elsewhere in New York. It was only in 1826 that Munro moved his primary residence to his country estate, which he fashioned after the Rye home of his uncle, John Jay. His home is known today as “the Manor House” at 18 Elm Avenue. (For much more on Munro, see Judith Doolin Spikes, Larchmont, NY: People and Places, 2003.)

Enslavers 1790 Enslaved 1800 Enslaved 1810 Enslaved
Absolom Gidney 4    
Bartholomew Hadden 3    
Benjamin Griffin 5    
John Merritt 5    
Gilbert Budd, Jr. 12 9 8
Deborah Horton 7 5  
Giles Simmons 1    
Mary Sutton 2    
Isaac Gidney, Sr. 1    
Mary Palmer 2    
Peter Allaire 4    
Oliver Belly 1    
Elizabeth H. Duncan 1    
Edward Merritt 8 8  
Charles Rowe 1    
William Grey   1  
Nathaniel Sachet   2  
David Rogers   1 3
John Sands   2  
Henry Disinborough, Jr.   4  
John Pinkney   1 1
James Mott     3
Henry Merritt     1
Jane Merritt     1
John Darby     1
NUMBER OF ENSLAVED PEOPLE 57 33 18
TOTAL POPULATION 452 503 496
PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION ENSLAVED 12.6% 6.6% 3.6%

NEW YORK STATE LAW PHASING OUT SLAVERY: REGISTERING ENSLAVED CHILDREN

In 1788, New York State passed a law that banned the slave trade, declared that all current slaves were to be slaves for life, but authorized slave owners to free slaves under certain conditions. By 1799, according to historian Douglas Harper, New York State law went further with the passage of An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. Children born to enslaved mothers after July 4, 1799 remained slaves, but only during their most “productive years” – until age 28, if male, or age 25, if female. Those born earlier were not granted freedom by the act, though they did get a new classification – indentured servant. (See: Slavery in the North) For a further understanding of New York State’s 

With this new act, it now became necessary to register the slaves born after July 1799 so it could be known when they were entitled to freedom. Mamaroneck Township records in 1799 duly started to include the newborn slaves’ names in the traditional manner of slavery — just the first names. Below is a view of one such certification from the Mamaroneck Township records, followed by a list of each child so registered. 

“This may Certify a Black Female Child born of Gin, who is my black Servant Girl by the name of Peg was born – March 29th, 1800 – Certified by me – Edward Merritt Recorded this 29th day of October, 1800 by me Gilbert Budd, Township Clerk.”

“This may Certify a Black Female Child born of Gin, who is my black Servant Girl by the name of Peg was born – March 29th, 1800 – Certified by me – Edward Merritt Recorded this 29th day of October, 1800 by me Gilbert Budd, Township Clerk.”

Registry of Children Born to Enslaved Parents
Mother Father Child Birth Date Enslaver
Bet   Pheby July 12, 1799 Gilbert Budd
Esther   Charlot November 18, 1799 Charles E. Duncan
Gin   Peg March 29, 1800 Edward Merritt
Phebe   Daniel July 8, 1799 Gilbert Budd
Hannah   Henry November 11, 1800 Gilbert Budd
Nelly   Sally April 15, 1800 William Thompson
Bet   Peter February 1, 1802 Gilbert Budd
Hannah Peter Sarah November 22, 1802 Gilbert Budd
Hester   William August 12, 1802 Charles E. Duncan
    Plato September 24, 1803 David Rogers
Bet   Charles September 10, 1805 Gilbert Budd
Nanny Pott Tom Pott Tom September 25, 1805 John P. D’Lancey
Lilly   Nanny December 18, 1806 David Rogers
Nanny Pott Tom Pott Tamar April 21, 1808 John P. D’Lancey
Bet Jack Purdy Eliza October 26, 1809 Gilbert Budd
Dorathea Lewis George October 10, 1809 John P. D’Lancey
Grace   Benjamin February 28, 1808 Jane Merritt
Nelly   Charlot May 25, 1814 Peter Jay Munro
Harriot   Anne or Nancey October 12, 1814 John P. D’Lancey

MANUMISSIONS SPEED UP AFTER 1799

The earliest recorded manumission in Mamaroneck Township occurred in the 1761 will of Thomas Hading that freed all “my Negroes” – including five of his children – and provided for their future living and education. In his 1880 will, Samuel Underhill freed the entire family of eight people enslaved in his household. In some cases, an enslaved person was purchased for the purpose of freeing them, as was clearly the case of Joseph Sutton, who purchased Jane from his father’s estate and then freed her the next day. This is also true for James Mott’s purchase and subsequent manumission of Andrew.

In 1799, following passage of New York’s Gradual Emancipation laws, Mamaroneck Township records start including notices from the overseers of the poor certifying that an enslaver intends to manumit a named person, and that the person is “under the age of 50 years, and of sufficient ability to provide for himself.” Enslavers were not allowed to encumber the community with the care of elderly, infirm or otherwise dependent people.

Manumitted Person Enslaver Date of Manumission
Mary Wems,
Rose and her children with Thomas Hading:
Frances, Robert, Amos, Lazerus, Dennes, Jacob, Elenor
Thomas Hading In 1761, by will of will of Thomas Hading
William (Billy), Jane (Jinny) and their children:
James, Charles, Michael,
William, Jesse, Benjamin
future children of William and Jane
Samuel Underhill In 1880, by will of Samuel Underhill
Jane Joseph Sutton “Purchased” on July 7, 1786; freed on July 8, 1786
Susannah (Suck) Gilbert Budd January 26, 1799
Harry Edward Merritt March 27, 1799
Charley Deborah Horton March 27, 1799
Peg Benjamin Griffen March 27, 1799
Jack Gilbert Budd March 27, 1799
Charles Johnson Deborah Horton April 4, 1801
Candice Peter Jay Munro November 19, 1803
Jack John Peter Delancey November 15, 1808
Jack Christopher Hubbs November 15, 1808
Hannibal Gilbert Budd August 20, 1808
Rose James Gray December 12, 1810
Telemaque James Gray December 12, 1810
Catherine John Pinkney April 2, 1811
Andrew James Mott May 17, 1811
Mary Jack Jack Budd December 12, 1812
Harry Rogers David Rogers May 25, 1813
Harry Joseph Haight March 20, 1817
Andrew Deborah Horton January 17, 1822
     

SO WHEN DID SLAVERY END IN MAMARONECK?

There are no records of enslavement in Mamaroneck after 1822. However, as described by Ned Benton in an article for Northeast Slavery Records Index, there were still enslaved people in New York in later years. Some were serving out their years in “slave-like service” under gradual emancipation. Others were in New York waters and ports aboard slave ships or visiting from states where slavery was still legal. Still others were fugitives from enslavement or being returned to slave states. 

FREEDOM?

At least two Mamaroneck men – John Cox and Andrew Cole – won freedom for themselves and their families during the Revolutionary War by escaping and joining the British. (See: John Cox and Andrew Cole: Two Local Fugitives Found.) Their service gained them passage to Nova Scotia, but conditions there were barely survivable. They disembarked in the winter of 1783 and had to fend for themselves without proper shelter or other resources. Driven from better terrain by hostile white residents, they wintered in crude shelters.   

Other enslaved people were emancipated upon the death of their enslavers, who made provisions for their upkeep in detailed wills. (See Samuel Underhill and Thomas Hadding, above.)

But for the most part, freedom came by way of state-wide legislation, beginning in 1788 and gaining steam in 1799. In Slavery in the North, Douglas Harper notes that the new laws created additional perils for Black people. “In A History of Negro Slavery in New York [1966], Edgar J. McManus writes that an analysis of census figures shows an extremely sharp drop in the growth rate of New York’s black population after 1800. Many blacks must have left the state, he writes, and few left voluntarily. ‘The conclusion is inescapable,’ McManus writes, ‘that the exodus was largely the work of kidnapers and illegal traders who dealt in human misery.'”

Many newly manumitted enslaved people, whether free or indentured, may not have experienced an improvement in their lives.  Children abandoned to the care of the Township lived under grim conditions at the poor house, as chronicled by Susan Fenimore Cooper in her article, “The County Poor-House. Facts.” (Harper’s Bazar, July 20, 1872, pp. 478-480)  As soon as they were able, the children were “bound out” as apprentices or servants, with wages going to pay for their room and board. In the early years of the laws, the enslavers were allowed to register the children’s births, “abandon” them to the Township, then receive them back into their homes as “boarders,”  thus receiving both the services of the children and compensation from the State of New York. 

FOR MORE ON SLAVERY IN LARCHMONT MAMARONECK


NOTE: This article adds to and updates information from articles by Ned Benton published first in the Larchmont Gazette and Larchmont Historical Society website between 2005-2012.