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These papers read as follows, the latter, namely, the release, bearing the earlier date of the two, and therefore given first: "Richard Nicoll, Esqr., Govenor, under his Royall Highnesse, James, Duke Yorke and Albany, &c., of all his territorys in America: To all to whome these presents shall come; whereas Nathl. Sylvester, of Shelter Island, merchant for and on behalfe of himselfe and of his brother Constant Sylvester, off Barbadoes, Esqr., hath of his own voluntary free will and good affection to this government, advanct and paid towards ye the support and maintenance thereof, the sum of 150 lbs., the receipt whereof I doe hereby acknowledge. Now know yea, that by vertue of commission and authority given unto me, by his Royall Highnesse, James Duke of Yorke, I, for and in consideration of the aforesaid sum of 150 lbs., and for other good causes and considerations me thereunto moving, doe hereby grant unto ye said Nathaniel and Constant Sylvester, and to their heires and assignes forever. That ye said island called Shelter Island is, and forever hereafter shall be, by these presents discharged, exonerated and acquitted from all taxes and rates, either civill or millitary, and from all trayning, setting forth and keeping any soulders, horses, arms, troopers or other warlike provisions other than what they shall voluntarily doe, for the defence of their said island, and this government in cases of foreigne invasion or disturbance by the natives. Given under my hand and seale in James fforte ye 25th day of May, in ye year Anno Dom. 1666.
"RICH. NICOLL.” (L. S.) The confirmation is as follows: “ A tract of land lying and being in a certain bite, bay, or arm of the sea, which runneth between the lands of Easthampton, Southampton and Southold, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, upon Long Island, heretofore purchased from the Indians by James fforett, agent to William, Earl of Stirling, and which hath since come by several deeds, conveyances and grants to the said Constant Sylvester, of the island of Barbadoes, Esq., and Nathaniel Sylvester, then inhabiting and residing in Shelter Island aforesaid, merchant; and which said manor and place of itself, and forever have, hold, and enjoy like and equal privileges and immunities with any other town, infranchised place or manor, within this government; but not to extend to the protecting any traitor, malefactor, fugitive or debtor, flying unto the said island, to the damage of any person, or the obstruction of the laws. The same to be held, as of his majesty, the King of England, in free and common soccage, and by fealty only, yielding and paying yearly one
lamb, upon the first day of May, if the same shall be demanded." This paper bears the date of May 31, 1666.
You will notice, please, that in this document Governor Nicoll places Shelter Island on the same footing with “any other town, infranchised place or manor within this government.” Thus, as early as 1666 Shelter Island was designated as a town, though not fully organized as such by the selection of proper officers until 1730.
For a few years after this the island continued in the peaceful ownership of the Sylvester brothers and Thomas Middleton. But only for a few years. For in 1673, seven years later, the Dutch suddenly recaptured New York and all their lost territory. This involved another change in the government and proprietorship of this island. Governor Colve, now being the ruler of Long Island and its adjacent islands, by a formal act, dated April 28, 1673, declared Constant Sylvester and Thomas Middleton enemies of the government and confiscated their ownership and interests in Shelter Island. Constant Sylvester in the meantime had died, leaving his portion to his heirs, while Thomas Middleton was in England. To enforce this confiscation, several Dutch men-of-war appeared off Shelter Island, with the following result as set forth in the colonial documents of that day, written in Dutch, the translation of which, as here given, being an exact copy of what is on record at the State Capitol in Albany.
"Nathaniel Sylvester delivered in council an extract from his Privileges. He was commanded to produce the original, which he said he left home-on which the protocol being examined it was ascertained that the Heirs of his Brother, late Constant Sylvester, with one cos. Middleton, residing in England, were co-partners of the Island, named Shelter Island—whose share must be confiscated in behalf of the State.
"To which the aforesaid Nathaniel Sylvester replys that a considerable sum of money was due to him by the aforesaid heirs of Constant Sylvester—but after many discussions pro and con it was finally agreed with the aforesaid Nathaniel Sylvester that he, in compensation for the action of said heirs of Constant Sylvester and Thomas Middel-towne—as for the confirmation of his Privilegesshall pay to the Government the sum of five hundred pounds in provision of this country.".
Following is the confiscation of Shelter Island and its transfer to Nathaniel Sylvester:
“We, Cornelis Evertse, Jun., and Jacob Benckes, Comm., with our Military Counsil of the Navy, in the service of Their High and Mighty Lords, the States General of the United Netherlands, and His Serene Highness the Lord Prince of Orange, greeting
“Be it known that we, in virtue of our commission of aforesaid High and Mighty Lords are authorised and qualified to make war with our men-of-war and confided soldiers against the King of England and France and their subjects—publick enemies of our State and to inflict them all possible damages by water as well as on land, and if possible to take and conquer their possessions, and when conquered to confiscate these in behalf of the High and Mighty Lords, the States General of the United Netherlands and His Serene Highness the Lord Prince of Orange, and further to dispose of these to their best advantage, so is it that we in virtue of aforesaid commission endeavored to execute it—for this end which by force of arms lawfully and brought under the submission of our Masters Fort James, now William Hendrick named, with the city of New-Yorke, now named New Orange, situated on the Island Manhattans, with all the lands, places and territories dependant from it, so as those were lately possessed by the subjects and in virtue of the commission of His Majesty of England, under the patronage of the Duke of Yorke, among which lands and territories is discovered a certain island known by the name of Shelter Island, situated to the east of Long Island, now in possession of Nathaniel Silvester—to whom however it belongs in part with heirs of Constant Sylvester and cos. Thomas Middletowne, residing in England, the Barbadoes, being subjects of his Majesty of England and of course open enemies of our Lords and Masters aforesaid, to whom in no manner can be permitted the liberty granted to all our good subjects who cheerfully submitted themselves under our cbedience—but that in conformity to the laws and customs of all nations the goods and effects of our aforesaid enemies ought to be confiscated; therefore, we, in virtue of our aforesaid commission, confiscated in behalf of the aforesaid High and Mighty Lords, the State's General of the united Netherlands and his Serene Highness the Lord Prince of Orange, after mature deliberation with our military tribunal, all the right, property, title and pretention which the aforesaid heirs of Constant Sylvester and Thomas Middletowne, or any other individual of our lawful enemies may have in aforesaid island named Shelter Island. So as we now confiscate all their
interest and property in behalf of our Lords and Masters-nevertheless well understood that in this confiscation it is not inwell expressly, after mature deliberation excluded the rights and property of aforesaid Nathaniel Sylvester, either in regard to said Island or his other real and personal property-goods, effects, furniture, negros or whatever else within this government may belong to him as lawful property—while his submission to the allegeaince of our aforesaid Lords and Masters, Their High and Mighty Lords the State's General of the united Netherlands and his Serene Highness the Lord Prince of Orange entitles him with all our other good subjects to an equal protection with him.
"In Fort William Hendrick on 28 of Aug., 1673.
“This day Nathaniel Sylvester, agreeable to the agreement concluded on yesterday, delivered his bond at the Secretary's office of Secretary Bayard, on which the following transfer was made to him and confirmed:
"The noble, valiant Military Tribunal in behalf of the High and Mighty Lords, the States General of the united Netherlands and His Serene Highness the Lord Prince of Orange—commanding the Squadron now at anchor in Hudson's River, in New Netherlands
preceeding Act for sufficient motive confiscated in behalf of our Master the lands, house, and goods, negros and effects of what nature these might be, which belonged to the heirs of the late Constant Sylvester and cos. Thomas Middleton, situated on Shelter Island, to the east of Long Island, and being property belonging to subjects of England and publick enemies of our State, so is it, that we have deemed it proper and resolved to confiscate said house, lands with all the goods, negros, and effects belonging to enemies of our State as aforesaid in behalf of our Lords and Masters and to sell these to their advantage—so as we then in conformity with this resolution agreed with Nathaniel Sylvester a partner of aforesaid Shelter Isl. to whom the aforesaid interest, right and title of the aforesaid heirs of Con. Sylvester and Thomas Middleton was sold by us for the sum of five hundred Pound Sterling, payable in conformity to certain bond (obligation), declaring therefore to the aforesaid Nathaniel Sylvester, his heirs and posterity in considerating of the aforesaid sum to transfer and dedicate, so as we are doing by this all the interest, right and title which the aforesaid heirs of Constant Sylvester and Thomas Middleton might possess in aforesaid Island and its dependences as aforesaid, to be taken possession of, used and retained in full and lawful property by aforesaid Nathaniel Sylvester, his heirs and posterity—and further to act with it so as they might think proper or should wish to act with any other parts of the patrimonial land or effects with a further confirmation of all advantages, immunities and privileges, which have been granted and consented to the Island by the former Governoras namely, execution of all taxes, either Politick or Military—the Custom House duties and recognition excepted-except that it might please their High and Mighty Lords the States General to resolve on any new general tax Item—That they shall not be amenable before any inferior Courts of Justice, but shall be prosecuted before the Chief Magistrate, and farther, that they shall not be obliged to attend any training, nor maintain any soldiers, neither to supply any necessaries of war-except what they voluntarily shall contribute for the defence of the aforesaid Island and Governor in a time of danger against any foreign invasion or troubles with the savages, all which aforesaid liberties and immunities annexed to the possession of aforesaid Island are by this again confirmed to the aforesaid Sylvester and his posterity—besides the liberty of conscience and all other privileges and immunities as shall be granted to all other subjects under this Government. "Done fort William Hendrick,
29 Aug., 1673."
Nathaniel Sylvester has now become sole owner of Shelter Island. Shortly after the Dutch were again forced to surrender the Colony of New York to the English, but before doing so the Dutch Governor sent a ship with fifty soldiers to Shelter Island to collect the amount of the bond that Nathaniel Sylvester had given.
In his will, dated 1679, Mr. Sylvester tells how these soldiers landed on Shelter Island, surrounded his house and compelled him to pay this amount of five hundred pounds sterling. The Sylvesters have now lived twenty-two eventful years on this island and become the sole proprietors. During these years the Lord has prospered them materially, numerically and spiritually. The sugar trade has proved to be very lucrative, and the two earnest souls of Nathaniel and Grissel Sylvester have been blessed with eleven children, six sons and five daughters, named Giles, Nathaniel, Constant, Peter,