May 10, 2006
History Event! Come!
The 27th Conference of New York State History takes place June 1-3 at Columbia University, in conjunction with the Association of Public Historians of New York State. Papers are presented every day beginning on June 1 from 3:30-5:30. Friday the papers begin at 10:15 to 11:45, then lunch, and resume at 1 p.m. for three sessions. About five papers are presented at each session. On June 3, the session relative to Eastern Long Island begins at 8:30 a.m. The title of the session is "Origins of Government on Eastern Long Island," with three papers.
The first presenter that morning is Yours Truly, with a paper on Lyon Gardiner documents, what few there are. The second paper is entitled "The Southampton Common Lands, A Case Study," presented by Steve Boerner, an archivist presently working in the Pennypacker Collection of the East Hampton Library. The third paper is presented by the popular professor, John A. Strong — "The Autonomous Commonwealth — Southampton 1640-1644."
There are very few pre-1774 documents relative to Gardiner's Island, because of the fire that burned the mansion house to the ground in that year. There is a 1599 Geneva Bible with a handwritten page about Lyon Gardiner extant. It can be seen in the East Hampton Library, Pennypacker collection.
Lyon's famous "Relation of the Pequot Warres" had been much printed; the original manuscript is in Boston in the Massachusetts Historical Society archival vault. There are letters Lyon wrote to his friend, John Winthrop, Jr., erstwhile Governor of the Providence of Connecticut. Both Winthrop, Jr. and Lyon were raising livestock, cattle, and sheep on their islands which they sold (?) to each other. Winthrop's island was Fishers. Raising and selling livestock was the way to make money in those times.
After Lyon died in 1662, and the Duke of York acquired Manhattan Island in 1664, Royal Governors were appointed to be in charge.
Gov. Richard Nicholls needed some extra change, and conceived the idea of creating manors. A patent from the Governor to a single individual (or two related individuals) who already owned the property in question, with local autonomy was patented.
The first manor patented was to Gardiner (1636-1689), Lyon's son in October 1665 for his 3300-acre island. The second manor patent was to the Sylvester brothers, Nathaniel (1620-1680) and Constant (1627-1671) in May 1666 for their 8000-acre island. The next patent was in March 1668 to John Winthrop, Jr. (1605-1676), Governor of Connecticut, for Fishers Island; 4000 acres. Under Gov. Nicholls and subsequent royal governors, a total of 23 manors were patented in the province of New York, six in the period 1660-1670.
There is no manor patent for Sagtikos, now a Suffolk County Park. The land was owned by Stephanus Van Cortland (1643-1700), Mayor of New York City, Secretary of the Province of New York, and Chief Justice of the Province of New York. His patent is dated June 1697 and is for 80,000 acres in northern Westchester County.
Very few of these manor patents are intact today, with the exception of Gardiner's Island, still owned by descendants. The present owners prefer the privacy of their island.
For more information about the Conference, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests for Conference schedules from Conference, NYS History, Box 215, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-0215.
The definitive book on this subject is by Sung Bok Kim, Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society 1664-1775, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1978.