Westchester County, NY
The town of Harrison is noted in the history of the county as having been the bone of contention that led the town of Rye to "secede" from the province of New York, and ask to be taken back to Connecticut. The story has been told elsewhere in this volume, and needs only to be recapitulated briefly here. A tract of land situated above Westchester Path, between Blind Brook and Mamaroneck River, and extending as far north as Rye Pond, was purchased in 1662 by Peter Disbrow and his companions from certain Indians. Four years later John Budd bought, from other Indians, a more extensive tract, including the preceding purchase. Neither Disbrow nor Budd made any attempt to improve the land, and it remained vacant and uncultivated.
In 1695, John Harrison, disregarding these claims, bought the territory north of Westchester Path from an Indian who professed to be "the true owner and proprietor." Harrison's Purchase was surveyed by order of Colonial Fletcher, Governor of New York, and a patent was granted by the British government to Harrison and his associates.
The inhabitants of Rye in general, who represented the interests of Disbrow and his co-purchasers, -- all of whom were among the original settlers of the town, -- together with the son and heir of John Budd, opposed the grant. Unfortunately, instead of combining their forces, they presented two separate claims. This division was fatal. The Council paid no regard to either claim, but confirmed Harrison's title. Hence the secession of the exasperated people of Rye, in 1697. The King's order in Council placed them back within the jurisdiction of the province of New York, in 1700.
The purchase was held in equal shares by five patentees. These were John Harrison, William Nicols, Ebenzer Wilson, David Jamison and Samuel Haight1. The last named was the only one of the original patentees who retained his portion of the land. John Harrison sold his interest in the purchase to William Lawrence in 1702. Wilson conveyed his to his son-in-law, Philip Rokeby, in 1708. Nicols and Jamison probably disposed of their shares before that date or soon after2.
Haight was a member of the Society of Friends, and most of the early settlers were of the same religious persuasion and came like him from Flushing, or from other Long Island towns. It is probable that their intention was from the first to found a "Quaker" settlement.
Harrison's Purchase was first settled about the year 1724. A few of the inhabitants of Rye bought land in this section, but in no such number as removed to the White Plains and other purchases. Roger Park, 3 of Rye, as early as 1740, had acquired lands in Harrison's Purchase, which are owned by some of the name at the present day. The Rev. James Wetmore owned a farm in the lower part of the Purchase. William Horton owned lands on "Brown's Point," near St. Mary's Pond, in 17574. Gilbert Bloomer owned in 1743 a farm which he then sold to Thomas Carpenter. This farm is now the property of Mr. Charles Park.
A tract of land anciently knows as "Brown's Point," now a part of Harrison, bordering on White Plains, appears to have been held, at first, as distinct from either purchase. The principal proprietors in the lower part of this tract were Obadiah and David, sons of Joseph Purdy, who owned lands situated here, at the time of his death, in 1709. "Home-lots" were owned here in 1725 by John Haight, Caleb Hyat, Abraham Miller, Francis La Count and others. Transfers of property are recorded from Walter Williams to Eliezur Yeomans in 1739; Daniel Cornel to Daniel Merritt, 1749; David Purdy to Michael Chatterton, 1752. In 1757, William Hooker Smith, oldest son of the Rev. John Smith, of Rye, owned land on the Point, and in 1769, Thomas Smith, his youngest brother, bought house and thirteen acres of land, beginning at the bridge across the Causeway Brook, and lying between the brook and the road to John Horton's mill. Here, in a house which is still standing, Dr. Smith passed the last days of his life.
Until the Revolution the inhabitants of the Purchase participated with those of Rye in the transactions of town business, without any other distinction than that of having their own officers for the discharge of local functions. We find Samuel Field chosen as "surveyor for harycons pattne" in 1724, and "sheepmaster" in 1725; and Roger Park, chosen as "pounder" in 1729. In 1773 the Board of Supervisors for Westchester County refuses to recognize a supervisor for Harrison, as distinct from the town of Rye5. Harrison also formed one of the six precincts of the parish of Rye, under the semi-ecclesiastical system that prevailed. The first election of officers for the town of Harrison was held April 5, 1774, and resulted, as follows:
"Major Thomas Thomas, supervisor; William Miller, clerk; Wilsey Dusinberry, constable and collector; Stephen Fields and Job Hadden, Jr., assessors; Samuel Haviland, William Anderson, Thomas Vail, Alexander Hains, Job Hadden and Samuel Purdy, highway masters; Thomas Park, pound; Samuel Haviland and Thomas Park, fence and damage viewers."
The following extracts from the town records relate to the election of town officers at the commencement of the Revolution, and immediately subsequent:6
"On Tuesday, the 2nd of April, 1776, the freeholders, inhabitants of Harrison's Precinct, met at the place appointed by law and made choice of the following town officers: Samuel Haviland, supervisor; William Miller, town clerk; Joshua Hunt, John Haight, Wellsey Dusenberry, assessors; Joseph Carpenter, highway master for lower part; David Halstead, highway master for the middle; Stephen Field, highway master for the upper; William Ascough, highway master for Brown's Point; William Woodward, highway master for North Street; Job Hadden, highway for master for West and Haight Streets, all to the usual bounds; Thomas Park, pounder."
"At a town-meeting held this first day of April, 1783, in Harrison's Precinct, State of New York, the following town officers were chosen to serve the ensuing year:"
"Isaiah Maynard, supervisor; Stephen Field, town clerk; James Miller, constable and collecytor; Thomas Thomas, William Woodward, Thomas Carpenter, assessors; Henry Dusenberry, pounder; John Cromwell, overseer of the highway for upper part of precinct; Roger Purdy, for North Street; Job Hadden, Jr., for the west part of the patent; Henry Dusenberry, Elisha Horton, fence and damage viewers."
Harrison was organized as a separate township on the 7th of March, 1788. In 1790 the town contained 1004 inhabitants. Since that time the growth of the population seems to have been singularly intermittent. Thus, in 1800 only 855 inhabitants are reported.
1 Caleb Heathcote bought two hundred acres from Jamison in 1712 (Co. Rec. lib. 260).
2 E. Boudinot Servoss, Esq., of Harlem, N. Y., represents all the legal rights of Ebenzer Wilson. The descendants of Haight retained possession of their ancestors lands until a comparatively recent day.
3 Records C, 176.
4 Ibid D. 116, 178.
5 Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Westchester County for 1800 (appendix, pages 9,10).
6 Bolton's "History of Westchester," pages 387,388.
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Westchester County, New York, including Morrisania, Kings Bridge, an West Farms which have been annexed to New York City [Philadelphia: L.E. Preston & Co., 1886) Vol. 2, pages 709-711.
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