History Makers

Captives from The Charles Westchester’s ties to the Transatlantic Slave Trade Revisited

I n 1685, eight chained Angolans were carried thousands of miles to Westchester by a wave-born prison infamously known today as The Charles. The ship was capable of holding hundreds of captives at a time, along with rum, textiles and other goods. It was owned by Frederick Philipse, one of the richest landowners in the province of New York. Accounts of Philipse’ calculated subterfuge to evade paying taxes on his cargo live on in the testimony of at least four seamen deposed after the offense was discovered and tried in court. These same admissions provide historians details of Philipse’ greater crime against humankind as well as some clues about how and where his unnamed victims came to our shores. On this one voyage in question, The Charles had already deposited over 100 souls for sale at Barbados, but several remained on board for the next leg of the journey. According to two eyewitnesses, William Johnson and Peter Lockcourt, simple sailors on the narrow sterned “pink” ship:

Nine Remained Alive who were brought into the Sound and Eight of them Put Ashore with the Long boat neer About Rye and Delivered to Mr. Frederick Philips his Sonne The “neer About Rye” location of their disembarking was narrowed down further to a two-mile radius. A senior crewman named Charles Barham was deposed not once but twice and corroborated by a fourth man, John Wilson: Charles Barham Aged Thirty Years Or thereabouts being Examined Declareth that he was Boatswaine On Board of And Belonging to the Pink Charles whereof Robert Codingham was Mast’r… And of them but Nine Remained A Live who where Brought into the Sound – And Eight of them Put A Shore with the Long Boats By the Order of Adolphus Philips about two miles from Rye where the Say’d Adolphus Rec’d the Say’d Eight Adolphus was Frederick’s second oldest son. Imagine this youth, just shy of 19, covertly moving the eight enslaved individuals, of unknown sex or age across

Westchester for days and nights towards the family’s holdings in today’s Sleepy Hollow. The captives would be tasked with building the Philipse’ family new stone Manor. But where might this rendezvous two miles distance from Rye have fallen on a map? Who was in a position to provide a safe and discreet haven for the enslavers? Could the secret delivery have taken place near Mamaroneck Harbor or one of its adjacent islands? on september 23, 1661, Englishman John Richbell acquired the deed to “three necks” of waterfront acreage from Sachem Wappagquewan beginning “at a point where the Fresh water falls into the Salt,” beside the “Mammaranock” River. The land was not selected by Richbell haphazardly. As a wealthy English merchant with dealings in Barbados, Richbell was well versed in the lucrative and exploitive trade of the Caribbean. Four years earlier he had formed a partnership with two likeminded men from London. They gave him very explicit instructions about where to establish his



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