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1633 - 1698


                    HENRY DISBROW

     We have already assumed that the two boys, Peter and
Henry Disbrow (Desborough) who grew up fatherless in Rox-
bury, Massachusetts, are the same Peter and Henry Disbrough
who have now appeared here on the border of New York.
Henry in 1659 was living at Oyster Bay and, assuming he
was born in 1633 is now 26 years old.  Presumably he came
there from Greenwich where Peter is at the moment still
living, but as to where either of them had been since
1653 when last they appeared on the Roxbury record, how
they got to Greenwich, and how long they had been there
- all this is as yet a blank.  The fact that Henry oper-
ated a ferry across the Sound which is five or six miles
wide at this point shows he was well acquainted with and
probably owned a shallop and that he doubtless got there
with all his goods and chattels loaded comfortably upon
such a craft rather than by following the still danger-
ous overland trail.  Indeed, from that day till very re-
cently, every Disbrow in our direct line seems at some
time in his career to have been connected with the water
and there was no doubt a long line of these sloops which
wound up finally with the Thorne, the Jersey Blue, and
the John Travers, as we shall later see.
     How long this partnership between Henry and Peter
lasted is not clear.  Two years later we find Peter dwell-
ing in his new home on Manussing Island (also then known
ass "Disbroe's Island") when a certain John Richbell ar-
rived from Barbados via Boston and, on September 23rd,
1661, purchased from the local Indians a tract of land
called Mamaroneck.  Shortly thereafter the same Indians
sold the same land to one Revell and the resulting law-
suit which finally established Richbell's ownership,
makes interesting reading.  However, what immediately
concerns us is that, according to the testimony of var-
ious witnesses, the transaction took place at Peter's

HENRY DISBROW house. Incidentally, the price paid for Mamaroneck was - On Sept. 23rd, when the Deed was signed Two Shirts 10 shillings in Wampum And then, on a later date, Twenty two Coates One hundred fathom Wampum Twelve Shirts Ten paire Stockings Twenty Hands Powder Twelve Barres Lead Two Fyrelockes Fifteene Hoes Fifteene Hatchetts Three Kettles Henry Disbrow is mentioned as being present at these transactions. Obviously, from the Court records of land transfers, he was still living at Oyster Bay but just about to move to Hempstead. Another witness was Ed- ward Griffen, also of Oyster Bay. He had a daughter Mary of whom we shall hear more when we come to our next in line, Benjamin. Just when Henry first came to Oyster Bay is not clear since the Town Clerk's record, prior to 1659, has now become illegible from neglect and the inroads of long departed mice, but from then on, we are able to fol- low his career in some detail, albeit haltingly, from various scraps in the Ancyent Booke. December, 19 Day, 1660 - Henery Disbrowe have taken up foure acores of planting landes butting agaynst a round hill on the Northe end and lying on the East side of John Dickenson & bounding on the same swamp lying on the West side of nicholas wright. February 1st, 1661. - It is this day ordered by the Towne that every Townesman shall bring in all their dews for wolfe killing Agaynst the next towne meeting unto antony wright, it being three shillings a wolfe. 23
HENRY DISBROW 16th September 1661 - In an agreement about a Mill to be built and operated by Hennery Townsend, our Henry signs his name "Hennery Disbrowe" but it is a copy and may be the town clerk's own idea of spelling. Later in 1661 Henry sells his home in Oyster Bay and moves to "Mad nans Neck" in Hempstead proper, for we now find the following - "Bee Itt knowne to whom itt may Consarne yt I, henry disbrough, have sould my house and land and medow, with all other apurtenences thereunto belonging, to John Dick- enson sen'r, sould and alienated from me and mine for Ever and, in Consideration of ye fore sayd Agrement, I acknowledge my selfe to be fully satesfyed to my Content, ye two words have and John dickenson is Interlined. Whereunto I have sett my hand this 14th of november 1661. henry disbrowe." * * * RECORDS OF HEMPSTEAD, Jamaica 1896 - Published by the Town. 1663 - Henry Disbrowe, having killed a Woolfe ye 28th of this present May, there is due to him from the Towne 25 s. (Presumably our Henry already had a credit to his account or else the bounty had skyrocketed since '61.) 7th Day of December 1663 - Caleb Carman doth make over to Henry Desbroe a Cetayne Neck of meddow land lying below ye Mill....; and I doe acknowledge that I have received of him, ye s'd Henry, full payment and satisfaction for same. In 1664 New Amsterdam surrendered to the fleet sent out by the Duke of York; henceforth the City and Province are known as New York. June ye 15, 1665 - hope washburn: one mare received of Henery Dessbraw this day; Collared gray with a sliett in


HENRY DISBROW ye ner eare, branded on ye bottack with "G"; aged 5 yrs. The brand "G" was the brand of all stock originat- ing in Hempstead. Note too, that if the spelling of Hen- ry's name was phonetic, they must still be pronouncing it "Desborough" or a reasonable facsimile thereof. June 21st, 1669 - Complainte was brought in Hempstead Towne against Henry Disbrowe and wyfe Margaret of Madnan's Neck. Samuel Messenger testifyeth that in ye Winter when Snowe was upon the ground, being at hinery Disborow's, Mr. Stricklan's Grand Childe that lives with ye sayde Disborowe ffell into ye Mill Dam up to ye middle, and his Master and Dame Neither offered to shift him but lett hin goe in his wett shirt att night; and, since be- ing there, ye Childe being come from Cow Keeping and some way his Wescotte being a little torn, shee kickt and beat him for itt and sayd shee never see such a Bastard. And this Testimonie taken upon Oath before Mr. daniell Denton. At a Court held att Hempstead by the justis peace, ye Constable and overseers this 3rd July 1669. "The Evi- dence of Barnard Smith" - This Deponent testifyeth that hee heard richard Combes say that hee struke down the Child several times going and, if it were to doe, he will doe itt agayne. "John Curtis saith - that Margaret saith that A sar- vant has more Libertie to stryke than a border; he further saith that all the time he lived in ye house, soe farr as he see, hee could not tell but the Childe was well used; further ye John Curtis saith that as Consarning Stryking Down ye boy 3 severall times going, Richard Combes said that if itt were to doe Agayne he would Doe itt agayne." (*** Hempstead Public Records, page 370). It is odd how, after the lapse of centuries, little, apparently unrelated facts can be found to dove-tail - al- 25
HENRY DISBROW though I am well aware that, in over enthusiastic hands, two and two can be made to appear like 22 rather than a humble 4. It does seem reasonably clear, however, that in the above choice morsel we have a definite clue to Henry's origin. Let us summarize the few facts we already know and see what sort of vague picture they suggest. This Strickland boy incident shows us that, when Nicholas married Elizabeth, widow of Thwaite Strickland, in 1669 Henry, in that same year, has been made the guardian of one of her four children. If one were of the imaginative type, which I, of course, am not, one might go so far as to infer that, while old Nicholas was only too eager to get the children of his predecessor out from under foot, (at least during the honeymoon) Henry's wife Margaret so far disapproved of this late marriage that she did openly and publicly cast doubts upon the mo- ral integrity of the new Mistress Disbrowe. On the other hand, in 17th Century Hempstead just as in Australia to- day, bastard may have been practically a term of endear- ment. But such exercise of the imagination is what I mean by putting two and two together and getting 22. quite disregarding such speculations, however, the known facts definitely imply a probable close blood relationship. But enough of such mental Juggling; let us proceed with the Record. At the time of this Strickland episode, Henry was still living at Hempstead. His oldest son, Henry, was al- ready born and the second boy, Benjamin, was about to put in his appearance in 1672, the year old Peter Stuyve- sant died. Somewhere between 1669 and 1673, however, the family moved to Mamaroneck for in that latter year we find an interesting entry. On August 9th 1673 a Dutch fleet under Evertsen re- took New York and held it until February 19th 1674 when the Treaty of Westminster ceded it back to the British 26
HENRY DISBROW Crown. During the flurry of excitement in that summer of '73 we find in the British Archives - "An exact account of all the proceedings of the military officers of Fort James (The Battery) from ye 28th July 1673 to the sur- render of the Fort....Seeing ships in the Bay under sail and suspecting them to be enemies, sent a warrant to Mr. Desborough of Mamaroneck with letters to his Honour to press horse and man to Hartford and there...etc., etc." which definitely locates our family in that July of 1673. Not only that, but we see how, over a century before the midnight ride of Paul Revere through that April night in 1775, Henry Disbrow galloped "pressing horse and man" over the summer wilderness trails of Westchester and Con- necticut nearly a hundred miles to Hartford, spreading the alarm and calling out the train bands. What is even more noteworthy, Henry actually reached hiss destination and accomplished his mission - which is more than Revere did. Unfortunately there was no Longfellow to immortal- ize your ancestor's much greater and equally dramatic feat and so it lies buried in the thickening mists of nearly forgotten history. As to his move to Mamaroneck, it seems probable that Henry had for the last few years been acting as agent and factor in Westchester County for Colonel Caleb Heathecote who was a large landowner here. The present town of Heathcote was named for him. His name appears again and again coupled with Henry's and with the Disbrow family for years. An interesting side-light is that somewhere around the turn of the century he was Lord May- or of New York in the same year that his brother was Lord Mayor of London. However, the first Mamaroneck purchase of which we know is in 1676. In 1670 Richbell had set aside eight House Lotts in the new settlement, fronting on the West- 27
HENRY DISBROW chester Path or old Indian overland trail to Narragansett Bay. On February 16th 1676 Richbell sold Lot #4 to Hen- ry Disbrowe - "Twenty & a half rods wide fronting on the Westchester Path and the same in the rear; by 80 rods on each side in depth, running northwesterly." This lot was subject to the reservation of an annual payment of one bushell of winter wheat, or the value thereof, on the 1st of each March, and one day's work at harvest time to the Proprietor, and to a covenant that it could not be sold without approval of the Richbell estate. Here, in the following year, Henry built himself a house. In 1885 Scharf, in his "History of Westchester County" says - "There still stands upon the southern part of the `House Lott' of Henry Disbrow the identical home he built there in 1677. It faced the harbor, its side toward the present Union Avenue which at this place is built upon the old Westchester Path. It is built of rough hewn timbers and the coarse stone of the country even to the chimney above the roof. The siding has been renewed but always in the same style. The old house has well born its 209 years but, in the course of things, cannot last much longer." The fear Scharf expressed was quite justified. Com- stock in his "Old Roads from the Heart of New York" says - "Mamaroneck's most picturesque relic is the Disbrow Chimney - a mere pile of stones standing on the lawn of what is known as the old Stringer residence. The house itself burned around the turn of the Century and this chimney is the oldest historic relic in all Westchester County. A few years ago the great fireplace and the closets on each side of the stonework could be distin- guished, but so rapidly is the masonry crumbling that it now appears almost shapeless, smothered in vines and su- 28
HENRY DISBROW mach. In one of the large closets beside it, tradition has it that Harvey Birch, hero of James Fennimore Coop- er's novel "The Spy," hid when he was being pursued. I might add that Cooper's interest in the old house stem- med from the fact that it was here, under its ancient roof, that he was married on January 1st, 1811." And here, till the day of his death in 1698, Henry dwelt with his wife Margaret and his three boys, Henry Jr., Benjamin, and John. And it was here that our an- cestor Benjamin spent his boyhood and early youth. There are a last few entries. In 1681 Henry Dis- browe of Mamaroneck mortgaged all his lands in Long Is- land; thereafter all records of Henry seem confined to Westchester County. In Colonial days the law of primogeniture was still in effect so Henry Jr. would naturally inherit the Mamar- oneck homestead and the main properties. As early as December 20th 1682 all the Long Island properties were settled on him although, as we shall see, he was still living in Mamaroneck as late as 1707. What a Christmas present! But with neither Henry nor John are we particularly concerned. Our progenitor was the boy who was born in 1672 and whose head-stone now lies immediately in front of the entry to the Old Tennent Church right here in Mon- mouth County, namely Benjamin Disbrow 29

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Last updated September 14, 1995.

Todd L. Sherman (genealogy at alachuaskywarn dot org)
© Copyright 1995/1996/1997 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.