Several Clerks served longer terms of office in the 1700s
WHITE PLAINS, NY: 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? Four clerks served longer terms in office during a time when New York and Westchester would increasingly become central to the rising tensions in the colonies under strict British Rule. “Westchester County began to take shape during the 1700s and land documents recorded in our office at that time illustrate the county’s substantial growth,” shared the current Westchester County Clerk, Timothy C. Idoni.
Daniel Clark (1711-1722)
Daniel Clark, a Peekskill resident, served for eleven years as Westchester County Clerk from 1711 until 1722. While much is not known about Clerk Clark’s background, the house and tavern owned by John and Eliza Van Tassel was built in Tarrytown during his term. The house and tavern were made famous and used as a model for the home of one of Washington Irving’s main characters Katrina Van Tassel in the literary classic novel, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
William Forster of Westchester and Benjamin Nicoll of Scarsdale both served very long terms in office and Nicoll is believed to have died while still in office. During Forster’s tenure, a group of Quakers settled in what eventually would be known as Chappaqua. In J. Thomas Scharf’s History of Westchester County, New York, he described Clerk Nicoll as a lawyer who was of renown and “great ability”. The town of Lewisboro, formerly known as “Salem,” was formed during his tenure. Nicoll served during the time when the French Indian War, otherwise known as “the Seven Years’ War,” raged. George Washington, our nation’s first President, served as a Major in the British Militia fighting against New France.
John Bartow (1760-1777)
John Bartow served sixteen years as Westchester County Clerk. Bartow, who was born in Westchester in 1715, was the seventh son of Rev. James Bartow. His father bequeathed him sixty acres of land in Barnegat, which is now a township in Ocean County, New Jersey. Bartow was a practicing attorney and served as Surrogate from 1754 until 1761 and county clerk from 1760 until 1777. He never married and later in life took to writing meditations. Bartow also taught school with his brother from 1744 to 1763 and ran a mill business. In 1776, he purchased sixty acres of land in what is now known as Eastchester and sold the land in 1794. Bartow died in 1802. The following is an excerpt from Bartow’s meditations about his service as clerk and the rising tensions between the American Colonies and the British, which culminated in the American Revolutionary War:
“My mother lived with us till she was near eighty years old, when she died, full of faith and love in’ Christ.
Then I followed mill business, and had two publick offices to attend and take care of, until the contest arose between Old England and America. And as I lived between the armies of Great Britain and America, I thought it best to move about fifty miles up in the country, where I continued about a year and returned back to my home, the two armies being separated, but still I lived between the lines with one of my brothers. We lived in great distress for about six years.”
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 of documents 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.