Westchester County, New York: April 4, 1750. Folio sheet measuring 16.5 x 12 inches with manuscript to recto and verso. A delicate piece, with small losses to paper along central fold line near top and along first two horizontal fold lines; loss to several letters with all text remaining legible. Generally toned and chipped along margins, most significantly to left and right. Several faint instances of later underlining. Deed of sale to recto with Sarah Palmer's signature near remnant of wax seal and list of witnesses. Docketing and witness attestation to verso. A scarce example of an 18th century colonial woman selling and profiting from property independent of a husband or father, Sarah Palmer's deed of sale has a more complex history: the land that she sells in Westchester County, New York was, in fact, acquired by her family in 1654 through Thomas Pell's arrangement with the Siwanoy Peoples, who were ejected from the land that would become Pelham and the Bronx.
"The Siwanoys are a tribe of Native Americans indigenous to the coastal areas of Long Island Sound in modern-day New York and Connecticut. Historically they were one of the western bands of the great Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy...they referred to the area now known as the Bronx as Rananchqua. Siwanoy territory became hotly contested between Dutch and English colonial interests, and the western bands of the Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy become embroiled in Kieft's War in 1640. The war, primarily motivated by...General Willem Kieft's disdain for Indigenous people and greed for land lasted five years and cost the lives of some 1,600 natives. Thus, tensions between colonists and Indigenous peoples of the area were extremely high and undoubtedly contributed to the massacre of Anne Hutchinson and her family in 1643. Anne Hutchinson's home was being built on Siwanoy lands...Not long after, leader Wampage befriended Thomas Pell, then the Indian Commissioner at Fairfield Connecticut.. On June 27, 1654...a treaty was executed deeding to Thomas Pell 9,160 acres of land east of the Hutchinson River...including modern day Pelham, New Rochelle, the Pelham Islands and portions of the Bronx" (Siwanoy Nation). Following the treaty, the Siwanoys "eventually 'melted away' by intermarriage and assimilation into larger groups...living under the protection of the Iropquois and with many merging into the Lenape" (Siwanoy Nation).
It is this land that Sarah Pell Palmer, listed in the 1790 Census as head of her own household, sells in the present deed. Operating as a legal femme sole without a father or husband, Palmer had the freedom to enter into her own legal and financial agreements. "To all Christian People to whome this Deed of Sale shall com [sic] Sarah Palmer of Eastchester in the County of Westchester and Province of New York sendeth greeting. Know ye that I the said Sarah Palmer for an in the Consideration of the Sum of two hundred and thirty pounds currant [sic] money of now New York to me in hand paid by Israel Hunt of the Burrough of lower Westchester...now attest before the Ensealing and Delivery thereof the Receipt --whereof she doth hereby acknowledge and my self therewith fully satisfied contented and paid and thereof and of and from every part and parcell [sic] thereof doth hereby acquit." The price, equivalent to £55,000 today, liquified a significant portion of Palmer's assets and made her exceptionally wealthy. And the deed lists in detail the portions of land she has carved off her estate -- land from the original 1654 negotiation, bounded by Anne Hutchinson's house, the land of Nehemiah Palmers, and the land of Joseph Drake. In addition to being signed by Palmer, it is additionally certified by Samuel Sneden, an early Bronx landowner and later official. As the modern-day Bronx developed, it would face its own struggles with racial segregation, economic stratification, and gentrification.
In inheriting and continuing to grow her family's wealth through the land, Sarah Pell Palmer lived off the promises her ancester Thomas Pell had made. Tragically, the Siwanoy Peoples did not have such opportunities. In 1677, as tribal elders sought to collect bills of sale and income from the land they had sold, they were informed that "the English held all lands by right of conquest and that contracts between the English and Indians had no validity" (Siwanoy Nation).
An important piece of history, and an opportunity for further research.
A portion of proceeds will go to the Siwanoy Nation. (Item #5002)