Sketches of the Mayors of New York From 1665 to 1834 Part I

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Thomas Willett, Mayor in 1665-7.

Captain Willett, the first Mayor of New York, was an Englishman, who emigrated to America with the Pilgrims, and arrived at Plymouth in 1629. He soon after engaged in trade with neighboring settlements, and was one of the pioneers of the carrying trade on the Sound, between this city (then New Amsterdam) and the English settlements. He is found to have acquired landed interests as early as the year 1645, and probably had a temporary residence established here, at that period.

In subsequent years when questions of territorial boundary arose between the Dutch and their English neighbors, he was an efficient and active negotiator between the respective parties, as he had acquired a knowledge of the Dutch language from his constant intercourse with them. On the conquest of this city by Col. Nichols, in 1664, it was the policy of that officer to conciliate the Dutch inhabitants by the appointment of magistrates as nearly as possible unobjectionable to the Dutch, for which purpose Captain Willett was chosen as the head of the magistracy.

After his retirement from office, having become advanced in age, he retired to his farm at Rehoboth, now in the town of Seekonk, Bristol County, Massachusetts, where he died August 4, 1674.

Captain Willett had married, July 6, 1636, Mary, a daughter of John Brown, of Plymouth, by whom he had the following children: Thomas, Hester, Rebecca, James, Andrew, Samuel, and Hezekiah, the last of whom was murdered by the Indians during King Philip's war, in 1676. Captain Willett left considerable property in the province of New York, and his son Thomas resided here, and became one of the leading citizens of his time. The great great grandson of the first Mayor, viz., Col. Marinus Willett, held the same office one hundred and forty years subsequently (1807.)

It is said that Mayor Willett lies buried in an humble graveyard in the town of Seekonk, at a place seldom visited by the footsteps of man; a plain monument marking the spot where his ashes repose.

Thomas Delavall, Mayor in 1666-71-78.

Captain Delavall became first known as a resident here after the capture by the English in 1664. He was then a Captain in the English service, and probably came with Col. Nichols as an officer of his forces; but it would seem that he had before that time been in America, as we find some transactions of his with the inhabitants, which took place prior to the year 1664. Captain Delavall immediately after the surrender of the place to the English, took a prominent part in the administration of the government, both in military and civil affairs.

In the year 1666, he purchased a country seat of about 30 acres at Harlem, and soon after acquired the whole, or a great part, of Great Barn Island, (then called Barent's Island,) at Hell-gate. He afterward purchased about seven acres of land, upon which was a cherry orchard, near the present Franklin square; Cherry street derives its name from this orchard. The price paid for this land, which was sold at public auction, was 160 guilders (about 50 dollars.) Captain Delavall visited England in 1669, where he had a conference with the Duke of York, who sent by him, to the Mayor and Aldermen, a mace of the mayoralty office, and gowns for the Aldermen. In 1672, Captain Delavall purchased the former residence of Nicasius de Sille, an eminent man among the Dutch.

This establishment, which consisted of a house, garden and orchard, was situated on the present east side of Broad street, corner of Exchange place. For this place he gave 3,000 guilders in sewant currency, equivalent to about 7 or 800 dollars of the present day. Captain Delavall engaged in mercantile pursuits and acquired considerable property in the province. He owned a mill and extensive landed interests at the Esopus (now Kingston.) He also owned shares in a mill and lands at Yonkers. he died in 1682, leaving one son, John Delavall. One of his daughters married William Dervall, afterward Mayor of this city, and a man of large property, who lived in the first style of those days. Another daughter married Mr. Codrington, a merchant. Captain Delavall was esteemed as a worthy and prudent man; he exercised a prominent part in the delicate duty of converting, by peaceable means, the prejudices and habits of the Dutch settlers into allegiance, and contented subservience to the rule of a government of foreign language and laws.

In the time of his mayoralty the city contained about 2,000 inhabitants.


Website: The History
Article Name: Sketches of the Mayors of New York From 1665 to 1834.Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York by D.T. Valentine 1853
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