first plantation in the New World “ betwixt Conn. and the Dutch Collony.” Richbell was to educate himself “within what government it is, whether very strict or remisse.’” He was further empowered to “buy some small Plantation, having a sharp eye to the main object of our business. Be sure not to fayle of these accommodations: 1) That it be near some navigable Ryver, or at some safe port or harbor... 2) That it be well watered by some running streame... 3) That it is to be well wooded, healthy, high ground, not bogs or fens” Richbell’s first land acquisition in Oyster Bay, Long Island met his colleagues’ criteria as did his second purchase in Mamaroneck. Historians including journalist Elizabeth Cushman, could not dismiss that “ one of Richbell’s purposes in settling here [in Mamaroneck] was to be of aid to sea pirates.” Who gave Richbell his checklist? Were they indeed pirates or privateers or both?
One partner was none other than Thomas Modyford. At the time of their association, Modyford was one of the largest plantation owners on Barbados. Modyford was a dominant figure in island politics and an agent for the Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa which put him at the center of slave trafficking. He became acting governor of Barbados and later brought their inhumane slave code to Jamaica when he became its second governor. Richbell’s second associate was William Sharpe, an influential Barbadian planter. Sharpe was the owner of an “interloping” ship and by his own later admission, he was no stranger to the practice of subverting restrictions on his own island: “European goods, not from England, and foreign enumerated commodities are frequently run into bays and creeks here, where no officer is provided, also that vessels, cleared from the Custom-house here with little or no cargo, lie off the island and are further loaded by small vessels with goods which are to be carried to
foreign markets.” England’s oppressive Navigation Acts of 1660 were enacted to restrict colonists. Men like Richbell were told they could only trade with England and English colonies on boats built in England and manned by predominantly English crew. Predictably, the Acts were poorly enforced and openly flaunted by men like Modyford and Sharpe; the restrictions invited defiance and only further fueled the transatlantic slave trade. While there is no discrete evidence that Richbell personally transported enslaved people, real estate records confirm he was savvy about leveraging the use of his lands to men and women who did. One of these individuals was Haarlem born Cornelius Steenwyck. Steenwyck traded with merchants in Virginia and the West Indies and petitioned in 1660 for permission to trade for slaves along the West African Coast. He served as the 4 th and 14 th mayor of New York, and at one time he was the second wealthiest man in the province, surpassed only by Frederick Philipse. Following the English takeover of New Amsterdam in 1664, Steenwyck was one of a handful of Dutch merchants including Frederick’s wife Margaret Hardenbroeck de Vries Philipse who were permitted to resume trading directly with Amsterdam. Richbell mortgaged one of his parcels “having at the South side the Sound” WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM 169
RIGHT: IMAGE OF AN ENSLAVED MAN ON THE FRONTISPIECE OF THE CABINET OF FREEDOM, A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS ARGUING AGAINST THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE. BELOW: MEMBERS OF THEWESTCHESTER COUNTY AFRICAN AMERICAN ADVISORY BOARD GATHERED THIS FALLWITH DESCENDANTS OF ONCE ENSLAVED MEN ANDWOMEN FROMMAMARONECK AND RYE ASWELL AS COMMUNITY HISTORIANS AND EDUCATORS TO COMMEMORATE 400 YEARS OF STRENGTH AND RESILIENCE OFWOMEN AND MEN OF AFRICAN DESCENT IN THIS COUNTRY.
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