Pell's Treaty Oak
In 1654, Thomas Pell traveled from his home in Fairfield, Connecticut to the current location of Westchester County in New York to sign a treaty with the Siwanoy Native American Tribe, who claimed the land in that area. The treaty gave the British Colonials 9,166 acres that included disputed land with the Dutch. Fearing a war with Britain, the Dutch later decided to give up claim to their land in New Amsterdam. For the next two and a half centuries, the Treaty Oak served as a historic landmark signifying the birth of the country. However, in 1906, a fire caught the tree and burned it to the ground.
Backstory and Context
Everything was not easy for the colonists who arrived after the treaty was signed. Much of the land in the treaty was also claimed by the Dutch. Refusing to give over their land, the Dutch made life difficult for English colonists in the area known to the Dutch as New Amsterdam. However, after ten years of dispute, the Dutch signed over their claim of New Amsterdam to England in 1664. After that, the English honored the treaty between the Siwanoys and Pell, giving Pell the land claimed in the treaty.
For years, the Treaty Oak served as a historic symbol for the colonists in the area, and later for Americans. A fence was eventually placed around the oak to protect it. However, the tree began to show signs of decay in the late nineteenth-century, which is credited to relic hunters at the time. Then, in 1906, the tree was struck by a fire that burnt it to the ground. The fire was most likely caused by a group of boys who threw a lit cigarette on a pile of dead leaves near the tree. If you visit the site today, the fence that surrounded the tree still stands.
Coughlin, Bill. Pell's Treaty Oak. The Historical Marker Database. 10/12/16. Accessed Web, 7/17/17. https://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=32030.
"The Treaty Oak." Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum. Accessed Web, 7/18/17. http://www.bartowpellmansionmuseum.org/about/treatyOak.php.