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Early Westchester County History
- 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.
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 Pounds 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 member 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.
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Each of these sections has different books on the same region:
- Town & County
- Native American
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Copyright © 1996 by Richard Frisbie -- All rights reserved.