[INDIAN LAND SALE - FLUSHING MEADOWS, QUEENS COUNTY]. Manuscript document, THE INDENTURE RECORDING THE SALE OF FLUSHING MEADOWS, QUEENS, signed (with marks and wax seals) by eight Indians, including Sachem Takapowsha, Gussaw wascoe, Suscanemen, Werah, Checharum, Numham, Shunshe and Oposan; countersigned by witnesses Elias Bayley, Thomas Townsend, and (also with marks) by Indian witnesses, Skungi and Wassakarum, Flushing, Queens, 14 April 1684 ["in the 36th yeare of the Raigne of Charles ye Second..."].
1 page, an oblong (12 1/8 x 15¼ in.), with eight seals impressed in red wax at bottom, fold separations with minor losses in two places obscuring several words (these neatly mended), slight soiling, verso neatly silked, but generally in sound condition. Text in a clear, round clerical hand, verso with lengthy autograph certifications of Richard Sprugge, Secretary (dated 17 April 1684), and of William Nicholls, Recorder of the City of New York; docketed "Flushings Indian Deede."
THE 1684 PURCHASE OF FLUSHING MEADOWS, LONG ISLAND, FUTURE SITE OF THE U.S. OPEN, SHEA STADIUM AND TWO WORLDS FAIRS, FROM ITS NATIVE AMERICAN OWNERS, IN EXCHANGE FOR "VALUABLES, SOME ALREADY IN HAND", SIGNED BY SEVEN MEMBERS OF THE TRIBE INCLUDING TAKAPOWSHA
An historic land sale, "made concluded and Confirmed in Flushing this 14th of Apr[il] 1684," signed with marks by eight native Americans, "the true owners and proprietors of all ye Lands Situate Lying and being upon the North Side of Long Island called and knowne by ye name of Flushing w[i]thin Queenes County," whose boundaries are carefully defined. Interestingly, the indenture explains that these valuable lands on Long Island sound had never previously been deeded by the Indian owners "to ye inhabitants of ye towne of Flush[ing]," though they had resided on them "nere this fourty-yeers" (the date coincides with the earliest settlements in Flushing Meadows).
The document confirms the purchase of these lands from "wee the Indians above named and Mentioned ye true Owners and proprietors of ye said Lands," and that the sale has been made "upon good reasons and Considerations...and without any compulsion or feare." The tribe has "freely and absolutely Sold and by present possession delivered" the land with "all Rights...Commodities, advantages and appurtenences," which include the privileges of "hunting, Hawking, fishing, fowling," and embraces "all Meadows, feeding Marshes, Marsh grounds, Woodes, underwoodes, waters, ponds, Libertyes, franchises, priveledges & preemniences." Named purchasers are Elias Doughty, Thomas Willett, Jonathan Brown, Mathias Harvye, Thomas Hicks, Richard Cornell, Jonathan Hinchman, Jonathan Wright and Samuell Hoyt, who are designated "agents of the free holders of ye said Town" of Flushing. In recompense, the sellers have received For "valuables some already in hand received before ye Signing & Sealing hereof to our full Satisfaction."
Beneath are names of the Indian signatories, each of whom has added a mark in simple ink, each unique in form. A memorandum at the bottom of the sheet notes that "ye Indians above mentioned hath...Liberty to cutt bullrushes for them and their heirs for ever in any place within ye tract."
European settlement in what is today the borough of Queens began in 1637 with the establishment of several modest farms in the Astoria, Hunters Point and Dutch Kills areas of present-day Long Island City. With the acquiescence of the Dutch authorities of New Netherlands, English-speaking pioneers attempted to settle outlying lands in Maspeth in 1642, but were driven out by the Indian attacks the following year. Other settlers from New England located in 1645 on the island's North shore, in the large tract the Dutch referred to as Vlissingen (anglicized to Flushing). The English settlers, many of them Quakers, loosely settled an area from Flushing Creek to Little Neck Bay, including present-day College Point, Whitestone, Bayside, Douglaston and Little Neck. The principal Indian tribes in the area, the Matinecocks and Meroke, were branches of the Metoac, an Algonquian-speaking tribe which had lived on Long Island since pre-colonial times. The Northern shores of Long Island controlled by the tribe constituted the main source in North America of the large clam shells used for the manufacture of wampum, which was widely traded inland as far as the Ohio Valley. The principal Matinicock village appears to have been in the Lake Success area. Takapausha (or Tackapausha), the same principal sachem who signed the present document also signed a 1656 treaty with the governor of New Netherlands granting protection to the Meroke (or Merrick) tribe and a number of land sale deeds, nearly all of which are in permanent archives or institutions. In 1658 a smallpox epidemic swept through the Metoac villages on Long Island, resulting in many deaths. New Netherlands was formally ceded to Great Britain in 1664, and European settlement continued to grow. By 1666 only an estimated 500 Metoac remained on Long Island, and their ancestral lands continued to pass into the hands of colonists; in 1703, fewer than 4,000 acres remained in Indian ownership. The Metoac population, too, continued to decline, reduced by disease and alcohol abuse, and by 1788 only 162 Metoac remained on all of the island they had once held. Seventeenth-century Indian land sale documents are very rarely offered for sale.
Provenance: After being officially recorded by the Clerk of the Province (as attested by endorsements on verso), the deed would have been returned to the parties to the sale -- Anonymous owner (sale, Sotheby's 26 October 1983, lot 97).