February 11, 2014

A new series looks at the history of the officeholders of the oldest elected office in Westchester County
WHITE PLAINS, NY: As the oldest elected office in our county, the Westchester County Clerk has served the residents of Westchester for more than three hundred years by maintaining and preserving the official documents and records of the County’s rich history.  But what do we know about many of the former officeholders of this position?  “In a special series, we will explore the history of many of the early county clerks as well as highlight historic events and share some of the interesting documents filed during their time in office,” shared the current Westchester County Clerk, Timothy C. Idoni.

John Ryder (1684)
John Ryder, a Cortlandt resident, was appointed the first Westchester County Clerk on May 11, 1684 and served only four months.  His installation as Clerk followed the establishment of Westchester County as one of New York’s ten original counties under the Dongan Assembly Act, a formal action by the Colonial Assembly. An image of the law is shown below and is now on public display at the Westchester County Clerk’s Office in White Plains.

The “Province of New York”, as it was known, was under British rule as were all of the original colonies at that time. Though insurrections and challenges to the British Crown Rule were common in the colonies, it would be many years before the start of Revolutionary War.  One of the significant events of that year was King Charles II of Great Britain revoking the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  

Joseph Lee (1684-1688) (1691-1698)
Ryder was succeeded by Joseph Lee of Yorktown whose service began in September 1684 and ended in1688. He returned to the office from 1691until 1698.  Lee was the Clerk signatory on many early recorded land deeds.

An interesting fact is Westchester County, which at time included the Bronx, was primarily made up of large manor houses owned by the very wealthy. One of the more prominent landowners of the time was Samuel Drake, who was son of John Drake and grandson of John Drake, one of the original Plymouth Company. He came to Eastchester in 1663. He had sons Joseph, Samuel, and John. The following is a transcribed image of a 1689/90 deed of sale by Samuel Drake.

Edward Collier (1688-1691)
Edward Collier from Sing Sing, New York served as Westchester County Clerk during what is known as the Leisler period.  Jacob Leisler (“aka” Leister) was acting Lieutenant Governor, who on behalf of a group of French Huguenots, brokered the purchase in 1688 of 6,000 acres of land, which became the settlement of New Rochelle.  

Leisler purchased the land from John Pell, Lord of the Manor of Pelham and one of the leading land owners of that time.  Leisler is also known for leading a rebellion against the King William and Queen Mary, briefly seizing the colony of New York, but was later captured and executed in 1691.

Many of the images highlighted can be found on the County Clerk’s Westchester Records Online portal (WRO)  https://wro.westchesterclerk.com.  You are also encouraged to come to our office and use the free public viewing terminals to see if the land document you are searching for is recorded in our office and also to view the actual document image. Our office is located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Room 345 in White Plains and open Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Please arrive by 4:30 p.m. You can also view original recorded images such as the deed of sale between John Pell and Jacob Leisler of the land that became New Rochelle at the Westchester County Archives located at 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford.  Please call (914)231-1500 for information on their services and archive collections as well as when they are open to the public.