A Special Series – The County Clerks of Westchester – Part 2

WHITE PLAINS, NY: Captain John Clapp served as Westchester County Clerk from 1707 until 1711. “With the growth of Westchester County in the early 1700s, the need to keep detailed land records became even more important,” stated current Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni. “County Clerk Clapp’s personal story helps illustrate this need.”

Captain John Clapp, a former sea captain who ran a successful maritime and mercantile business, was born in England in 1649. It was around 1680 when Capt. Clapp arrived in the Americas, settling in Charleston, South Carolina where he owned four properties. He was one of the early landholders after the English established their first permanent settlement in Carolina in 1671.

Capt. Clapp and his family moved north to Flushing in Queens County in 1688 and began acquiring land and property throughout the area and in Manhattan. A loyalist to the British rule of William and Mary, Clapp was witness in 1689 to the rebellion that erupted when a group of New Yorkers led by Jacob Leisler, rebelled and took control of the government. Clapp was asked by fellow loyalists to write a letter of protest against Jacob Leisler and his accomplices, which through the Secretary of State made its way to the British Monarchs, William and Mary. The rebellion was short lived and Leisler was later executed in 1691 after Henry Sloughter was appointed the new Governor by order of the Monarchs William and Mary. Governor Sloughter put in place a government sanctioned by the crown, which included the appointment of Capt. Clapp as clerk of the First Provincial Assembly in New York and of the succeeding Assemblies. Clapp served in this capacity until 1698 and as Clerk issued the 1697 Almanack, the first to be compiled by a resident of New York.

Between 1703 and 1715, Clapp acquired substantial portions of land in northern Westchester. The 1703 Census lists among his household, a wife, children and three slaves. In 1696, the Royal African Trade Company lost its monopoly on the slave trade, which in turn spurred colonists in New England to engage in slave trading for profit. In 1704, Clapp was among the twenty-nine proprietors in a patent granted by Queen Anne, of the township of Bedford. Large tracts of this land were established as manors or patents and the lords of which Clapp was among leased parcels of the land to tenant farmers.

In 1705, Clapp purchased a large tract of land in what became known as Rye Township and in North Castle from Native American inhabitants. Several land purchases by Clapp including three hundred acres purchased in North Castle for his family’s use were recorded. He also held land in Greenwich, Connecticut, which he willed to his adult son, Gilson, upon his death. This image is of the original recorded deed of the 1705 purchase of Rye tract of land from the Lenape, “the people”, of the Algonquin Native Americans.

Capt. Clapp became a well known and respected leader in Westchester and in 1707 was appointed County Clerk. His achievements included conducting the 1710 Census of the County. Capt. Clapp saw an uptick in land sales and the county continued to expand.

Capt. John Clapp, who may have been married up to four times, died before February 18, 1726.

Some of the recorded deeds and wills images highlighted in this series 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 and recorded images 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.