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Lewis Morris, Jr. Rents Part of Morrisania
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LEWIS MORRIS, JR (1698-1762). Manuscript Document Signed. Morrisania, New York, July 30, 1741. 2 pp., 13 x 15½ in.

Inventory #20054       Price: $1,400

Indenture renting land in the Manor of Morrisania to Gerardus and Effie Wilsey.

The property in question is described as being “Bounded westerly by the [Mill] Brook Easterly by the Land in the Tenure and occupation of John Karr Northerly by the Road that heads from the mills of Peter Delancey...and Southerly by a Small Brook that falls into the Mill Brook.” The tenants are allowed to live and farm on the property for their lifetimes, for an annual rent of seven pounds. Morris reserves the right to evict them, however, for a variety of transgressions, including neglecting to spread “dung” as instructed or allowing hogs to “run at large.” On the verso, is a March 31, 1769 release of title signed by “Effie, now a widow, with her mark.

Co-signed by Gerardus Wilsey (“Garerdus Willse”); his wife, Effie, signs with her mark. Co-witnessed, on verso, by Sarah Gouverneur and [Maryrat?] Cargill. Includes remains of three wax seals.

One unusual aspect of this indenture is a clause stating that if the tenants “shall be Ejected by the Dutch church That then the said Lewis Morris Shall Enter himself Defendent [sic] and Indemnifie The Said Gerrardus Wilsey and Effie his wife from all the costs and charges that shall arise by the said suit....” Did this agreement with Lewis Morris somehow jeopardize the standing of Gerardus Wilsey and his wife in their church?

Historical Background

In the late 17th century, brothers Lewis and Richard Morris purchased 500 acres (later to be expanded to 1900 acres) from Dutch farmer Jonas Bronck. The tract was across the Harlem River from the northern end of Manhattan Island, ten miles from the small town of New York. A royal patent for the manor of Morrisania was subsequently issued to Richard’s son Lewis, later governor of New Jersey. Governor Lewis Morris’s son (also named Lewis), judge of the high court of admiralty, was the signer of this indenture. A widower, he married Sarah Gouverneur, one of the witnesses to this document, five years after this indenture was signed.

In 1764, two years after Lewis’s death, the estate was divided, with the entire 500-acre region west of the Mill Brook willed to one of his sons (also named Lewis), who would become a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the other 1400 acres as a life interest to his wife Sarah (nee Gouverneur) Morris. After her death, that land passed to the oldest Morris heir, Staats Long Morris, who lived in England. In 1787, he sold his share of Morrisania to his younger half-brother Gouverneur.

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