Pell, Thomas
(1st Lord of the Manor)

Thomas Pell is considered the founder of Pelham and the "1st Lord of the Manor" although the designation of the "Lordshipp and Manner of Pelham" did not occur until the patent of October 20, 1687 issued by New York Governor Thomas Dongan confirming the inheritance of Sir John Pell from his uncle, Thomas Pell. 

On June 27, 1654, Thomas Pell signed a treaty with the Siwanoys purchasing approximately 9,166 acres that included what we know today as Pelham, New Rochelle, portions of Bronx County and much of the land east of the Hutchinson River northward to Mamaroneck. 

Thomas Pell was born in England, the son of the Rev. John Pell, D.D. As a young man he reportedly served as a Page to Prince Charles and, later, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber of Charles I, King of England.  He died childless in late September or early October 1669 and left his property, including the lands that later became The Pelhams, to his nephew, John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor.

(re: Thomas Pell)


From the standpoint of present day medical knowledge the story of medicine in the early colonial period is not an attractive one. The ridiculous treatment and the absurd remedies accorded the sick in that day are valueless now. Nevertheless, the meagre accounts that tell us of the medical life of that period are inspiring. One reads of the endeavors and contentions of these earnest medical pioneers with an admiration that is akin to reverence. The incessant physical struggles that their environment dem anded and their firm spiritual contention for righteous living, produced in them a fortitude of body and mind that we their descendants may properly revere.It is my purpose to speak of the beginnings of medical practice in New Haven Colony, to discuss our first physicians and to review the medical life of their time.

Of necessity I shall limit my inquiry to a period from the establishment of the Colony in 1639 to the beginning of the next century.When we consider the changes in medical practice in our own time, changes brought about not only by newer and more effectual methods of treatment, but changes brought about by such things as the telephone, the automobile, and the development of the mod ern hospital, it is difficult for us to form an accurate picture of medical life even half a century ago. Scientific discovery and invention are making such tremendous changes in our entire life today, that the wonders of yesterday become commonplace, and each new complexity further obscures our vision of those who have gone before.How extremely difficult it is for us to think of the tiny settlement of Quinnipiac with its one hundred and thirty families and how hard to picture the seventeenth century physician making his daily rounds.

The settlement of New Haven from its inception was a compact, thriving community. It comprised among its inhabitants people who were wealthy and educated. Although Bacon in Atwater's History says that "New Haven Colony managed to be born and pass some years of its life without the help of any doctor of its own" I think it is reasonable to believe that Mr. Thomas Pell acted in this capacity almost from the first. Bolton in his History of Westchester County says that Pell was a resid ent in Fairfield in 1635 and in New Haven in 1642. We do find that he appears in the Records as an attorney for the executor of Richard Jewellin, September 6th, 1642.

The first reference to his medical life appears December 3rd, 1640, in connection with a gunshot wound. Because of "the great damage Stephen Madcalfe had susteyned in the losse of his eye, with the losse of his time & the great chardge of the cure, Mr. Pell affirming it was worth 10L" the court "ordered Francis Linley to pay to Stephen Medca lfe 20L damadges"Pell, who was born and educated an English gentleman, would have been immediately attracted to the new Colony, which numbered among its people so many men of his own intellectual sphere.

His father, the Rev. John Pell, of Southwyke in Sussex, died in 1616, leaving two sons, the Rev. John Pell, D.D., rector of Fobbing in Essex, afterward ambassador to the Swiss Cantons, and Thomas Pell described as "gentleman to the bedchamber" to King Charles I and first Lord and proprietor of the manor of Pelham. He was born about 1608 and although his exact arrival in America is unknown, he was one of New England's first settlers. His name is associated with Roger Ludlow of the Rev. John Warhams Comp any at Dorchester, Mass., in June, 1630.

In 1636 he acted as Surgeon to the Saybrook Fort and in the next year accompanied Captain Underhill to the Pequot war.He came to New Haven shortly after its settlement and on the tenth of March, 1646, we find him recorded as an occupant of the first seat on the cross benches at the end of the Meeting House with Mr. Tutle and Bro. Fowler. In 1646-47 he married the wido w of Francis Brewster (Lucy) of New Haven and this act, together with his service in the risky Pequot war, assures us, says Dr. Francis Bacon, that his intrepidity is undoubted.Both Thomas Pell and his wife appear somewhat prominently in the Records, the latter in a trial for slander which occupies some eighteen pages of the transactions and the former because of his persistent refusal to pay a debt of 200 L which his wife co ntracted before their marriage.

That he was a man of enterprise is unquestioned and he not only practiced medicine but we find that he engaged in various commercial pursuits. In 1647 he traded to the Delaware and Virginia. As there were no professional la wyers in the colony Mr. Pell not infrequently acted in this capacity for others. Pell was a man of independence and spirit and at least one in the Colony was not particularly awed by the Court proceedings. In September (5) we find Mr. Pell warned by the Court:"and appeared; he was told it was for two reasons, first to take the oath of fidellitie, 2ndly to paye in ye fine of 10L laid vpon him ye last court of magistrate. He said for ye oath, he had taken it in England and should not do it heare; he was told no more is required of him then others doe, yett if he had any grounds against it he might propound them, or elc if he would considr of it he might. He said he desired to considr of it, for his fine of 10L he was asked if he had taken any ord er to paye it, he said no. Mr. Goodyear said he hoped he would. Mr. Pell said he knew not. He was asked ye reason, he said he should be silent for he had given offenc heretofore with speaking, but ye court desired an answer, whether he would paye or no, b ut his answer was that he desired to be silent."

If Thomas Pell was as skillful a physician as he appears to have been a lawyer, the health of New Haven Colony was in safe hands. In 1654 he removed to Westchester County, New York, and became proprietor of Lands now known as Pelham Manor. He di ed in 1669 of what was called Hasty Consumption and was buried at Fairfield.

His estate shows him to have been a man of considerable wealth. Bolton says the inventory shows the "household array of a wealthy merchant and gentleman of that period." From the perusal of this and other information we have reason to believe that during this latter part of his life he did not practice medicine to any extent. The only books listed in the inventory are "Culpeper's dispensatory wh 3 other small books" and "2 of Cra dock's works in quarto." In his will he bequeathed all his "lands and houses in any part of New England and in yre territory of ye Duke of York" to his nephew, John Pell, living in Old England, the only son of his brother, John Pell, Doctor of Divinity.