Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group
All five parts are available as a single pdf for download below
Created by Gilbert Tauber, member of the planning committee of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group
BLOOMINGDALE IN THE CENSUS OF 1703
There was very little systematic recording of land conveyances in late-17th Century New York. Nevertheless, in the colonial deeds, wills and other records found by Stokes, there are numerous mentions of land in Bloomingdale being bought, sold, bequeathed, leased, mortgaged, and foreclosed.
From this, one might imagine that Bloomingdale was a thriving agricultural community by the beginning of the 18th Century. However, the available evidence indicates that, prior to the construction of the Bloomingdale Road, which was in or about 1708, Bloomingdale was still populated by fewer than a dozen families.
Prior to 1708, there were only two censuses of the Province of New York, those of in 1698 and 1703. Records of the 1698 census have survived for some counties, including lists of the names of the heads of households in each town. Unfortunately, detailed data for New York County (Manhattan) has not survived. Even the subtotals for the individual wards of New York City in 1698 are no longer to be found.
Much more information survived from the 1703 census, including lists of the heads of households in each of the city’s wards. At that time, the city was divided into six wards. Five of the wards covered the city’s built-up area, which was roughly south of Chambers Street. The entire remainder of the Island was included in the “Out Ward.”
The Out Ward was itself divided into two parts. One part was the quasi-autonomous Town of Harlem, which was also the Harlem Division of the Out Ward. Everything west and south of the Harlem Line, including Bloomingdale, was the Bowery Division of the Out Ward. In addition to Bloomingdale, the Bowery Division included such areas as today’s Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, Chelsea and Kips Bay.
The results of the 1703 census of New York City were published in 1849 under the auspices of the New York State Senate. On the following page is the table showing the households in the Out Ward, listed by “Masters of Familys.”
Unfortunately, the available data from the 1703 census must be taken with more than a grain of salt. It suffered from language barriers, physical damage to the records, and the probable reluctance of a wartime population to cooperate with census takers whose main job was to identify males, including boys as young as 16, eligible for conscription.
The table breaks out data for Negroes but does not distinguish between slaves and free Blacks. This would have been an additional complication for the census takers, especially since there was an intermediate category of “half-slave,” in which the child of a manumitted person remained a slave for a set period. Note that Bloomingdale had had at least one Black landowner, John Evertse, mentioned earlier in connection with Lot 7 of the Syndicate’s lots.
The transcribed list includes 51 households with a total of 342 people—men, women and children, white and Black—for the entire Out Ward.
The 1849 transcription has numerous gaps. After nearly 150 years, the original documents were already in poor condition. Notice the asterisked names and the footnote explaining: “These names cannot be made out on account of the MS. being torn.” Of the 51 households listed, 12 cannot be identified because either surnames or given names, or both, are incomplete or are entirely missing. Many of the names have idiosyncratic spellings that are difficult to match with individuals recorded in contemporary documents such as the Minutes of the Common Council.  There is also the fact that, at this period, New York’s Dutch still commonly used patronymics rather than surnames.
Out of the 51 household heads listed in the 1703 census, only seven can be identified with reasonable certainty as living in Bloomingdale. These are:
John Dikman = Johannes Dyckman who on December 29, 1701, leased a farm in Bloomingdale from Jurien Rynchout, a son in law of Teunis Ides, for a term of six years. According to Riker, this Dyckman was not related to the Dyckman’s of Kingsbridge, an area included in the Town of Harlem. Persons in household: 2.
Jacob Cornelius = Jacob Cornellisen Stille. (1643-1711) Jacob was overseer of highways for the Bowery Division in 1703. He was the father-in-law of Wolfert Webbers. Persons in household: 6
Tuns Cornelius = Teunis Cornellisen Stille (1656-1724), the brother of Jacob. Teunis bought Lots 3 and 4, formerly owned by Thomas Hall, and purchased lot 5 from van Brugh in 1696. Teunis Cornelisen Stille was Constable of the Bowery Division in 1708. Persons in household: 10
_____ Tunsedes = Teunis Ides van Huyse (1640-c. 1723). This is the Teunis Ides who in 1688 or ’89 bought the former Bedlow grant, the largest single holding in Bloomingdale at that time. Persons in household: 15.
Rebeccah Van Scyock = Rebecca Van Schaick, widow of Adrian van Schaick, keeper of a well-known tavern near today’s Astor Place, who died in 1700. She bought Lot 6 from the van Brugh heirs prior to 1701 and already owned Lot 7 through her husband, who had bought it in 1797. In 1701, she sold lots 6 and 7 to Cornelius Dykeman, but may still have been living on the property in 1703. Persons in household: 5
Oronout Waber = Aernout or Arnaut Webbers, owned land just north of Wolfert Webber. According to the website Gene, Aernout was a brother of Wolfert but the site also says he died in 1694 or 95. The one found on the census may have been a grandson or nephew. Persons in household: 4.
Wolford Waber = Wolfert Webbers. He married a daughter of Jacob Cornellisen Stille in 1697 and purchased a farm from his father in law. He was probaby a son of the Wolphert Webber who received a grant of land on the Lower East Side from Stuyvesant in 1650. Stokes identifies the Bloomingdale property as the Wolfert Webbers Upper Farm. Persons in household: 4
The households of the people identified above total 46 people, with an average per household of 6.7. However, it is likely that at least some of the dozen unidentifiable Out Ward households were also located in Bloomingdale. Since roughly a sixth of the identifiable households were in Bloomingdale, let us assume two additional households with an average of 6.7 people per household. Thus, if we rely on this census, we can estimate the total population of Bloomingdale in 1703 at approximately 60 people.
However, It is important to take into account the historical context of that census and its possible defects. In the preceding year, 1702, an outbreak of yellow fever grew to be the worst epidemic in New York City’s history in terms of the proportion of population killed. As the provincial governor, Lord Cornbury, wrote on September 27, “In ten week’s time, sickness has swept away upwards of 500 people of all ages and sexes.” The death toll represented fully 10 percent of the city’s population. 
Also in 1702, a new conflict had broken out between England and France, and New Yorkers once again found themselves under threat of invasion from Canada. Lord Cornbury, who had arrived in New York in May of 1702, immediately set about rebuilding New York’s defenses. A major concern, especially in the wake of the epidemic, was military manpower. On November 27, 1702 the legislature passed an act fixing the draft age as between 16 and 60. On January 29, 1703, Queen Anne signed a lengthy set of instructions to Cornbury including an order to make an annual report of the population including the number “fit to bear Arms in the Militia.”[i]
Thus, the immediate purpose of the Census of 1703 was to identify men available for conscription. This is evident from the first column of the census table, headed “Males from 16 to 60.” Given its purpose, the census takers were unlikely to have been met with enthusiasm. The General Assembly acknowledged as much in an address to Governor Cornbury on May 27, 1703: “The late war, drained us of the greater Part of our Youth, who to avoid being detached to serve on the Frontiers forsake their native Soil, to settle in the neighboring Colonies.”
Thus, the census results shown in the table may have been depressed by a tendency of young men to make themselves scarce; of residents to fudge the number and ages of male household members; and of householders to be less than forthcoming about the whereabouts of neighbors.
While twelve of the names on the 1703 census list are unreadable, it is nevertheless curious that the list includes so few names that one would expect to find among a list of inhabitants of the Out Ward in 1703. Those are the names, or at least surnames, of ward officials who were elected annually from among actual residents.
Among those one would expect to find, all of which are recorded in the Minutes of the Common Council for their respective years, are Hendrick Cordus, Collector of the Bowery Division in 1703; Abraham Boeke, Assessor of the Bowery Division in 1702; Jan Brevoort, who was Assistant Alderman in 1702 and also appointed Pound Keeper for the Bowery Division in that year; Jan Cornelisse, Constable for the Bowery Division in 1702; and Jacob DeKey, Alderman of the Out Ward in 1702 and 1703. We do not find any of the Meyers of Harlem, although Adolf Meyer was its Assessor in 1703 and Johannes Meyer its Constable. Nor do we find any of the Waldrons of Harlem, although Barent Waldron was Overseer of Highways in 1702 and 1703, as well as Collector in the latter year; and Samuel Waldron was Assessor in 1702.
Could these well-informed public officials have somehow avoided the census takers? Or did the census takers, for whatever reason, fail to count them? The answers to these questions may be found in documents yet to be unearthed in the New York State Archives and other collections in the U.S. and Britain.
In the meantime, assuming the 1703 population count was affected by census avoidance, how great could the undercount have been? I believe an undercount of 25 percent is plausible. If that percentage is applied to Bloomingdale, its estimated population would be increased to 75. That is still a very sparse population for an area of three and a half square miles on the island of Manhattan.
The recipients of the 1667 “syndicate grant” had divided its 1300 acres into 12 lots, each large enough for a farm of respectable size. As of 1703, Teunis Ides’ grant of over 400 acres had not yet been divided among his children and their spouses. Two additional grants covered what is now Morningside Heights. Thus, there were a total of 15 parcels. The small number of households identified in the 1703 census suggests that as many as half of the Bloomingdale parcels were unoccupied and still being held as speculative investments by absentee owners.
The unoccupied parcels were not necessarily without economic use. Bloomingdale, in its natural state, was heavily wooded. Absentee owners could have profited for years from the harvesting of timber, a seasonal activity that could have been carried on by crews living in tents or other temporary shelters. Once cleared, all or parts of the land could have been rented to neighboring farmers for cropland or pasturage. Cleared land could also have been used for orchards, which could also be tended and harvested by seasonal labor not requiring permanent shelter. Such seasonal labor would not have affected the resident population count.
Even taking into account the defects of the 1703 Census, it is likely that the entire population of Bloomingdale in 1703 did not exceed 75.
THE ADVENT OF THE BLOOMINGDALE ROAD
On June 19th, 1703, the New York General Assembly enacted a law providing for the “laying out, regulating, clearing, and preserving common highway through this Colony.” Three commissioners were appointed to lay out highways in the County of New York—i.e., Manhattan—and within 18 months to “make return to the clerk of the County a full and perfect report and description of the manner and extent of every road laid out by them.”
The deadline was twice postponed, but as eventually filed and recorded, the report described four routes in New York County.
The first, beginning at about the present Broadway near Fulton St., went north via the Bowery and the Eastern Post Road, to Harlem; the second went from Harlem to the Kings Bridge, mostly following the ancient Indian trail to Spuyten Duyvil; the third was a road from the Bowery westward to Greenwich, most of which is now Greenwich Avenue; and finally a road to Bloomingdale. That name is not used in the commissioners’ report, which describes the eventual Bloomingdale Road as follows:
“ From the house at the End of New York Lane, there is likewise to lye a Road turning to the left hand the course being northerly and so by Great Kills & forward as the said Road now lyes unto Theunis Edis’s & Capt. D’Key’s through the said Edis land.”
The New York Lane was the northerly extension of the Bowery, which is now part of Broadway where it crosses Fifth Avenue at Madison Square. From that point, the commissioners may have had to map an entirely new route through the network of streams feeding into the Great Kill. But once beyond that, the phrase “forward as the said road now lyes unto” Theunis Edis’s land suggests that there was an existing road of some kind. This might well have been an old Indian trail, or might have developed out of paths beaten by settlers and their livestock in moving between farms. 
Thus, there were rural roads, however rough, in Bloomingdale well before 1707. An improved road through Bloomingdale was very desirable. It would make it easier and faster to move goods, using bigger and better carts and wagons. In time of war, it would enable faster movement of troops and their equipment.  Widening and better grading would make the road safer and more passable for horse drawn carriages. It also made the adjacent real estate more attractive to the class of people who could afford to travel in horse-drawn carriages.
However, significant road improvement was not feasible without assurance that everyone along the road would be legally bound to contribute to its construction and upkeep. Giving it the status of a provincial highway was the legal mechanism to assure this.
The Bloomingdale Road was laid out to a width of four rods or 66 feet. The surveyors marked out two parallel lines, using stakes in the ground or blazes on trees. This was not the width of the roadway, but the width of the right-of-way, the line at which farmers could place their fences. The actual cleared path was a fraction of that, probably no more than 15 feet in most places. This made sense because the road—unpaved, of course—was subject to rutting, flooding and washouts. There had to be room to shift the alignment on short notice. There also had to be space to make repairs, build embankments or dig drainage ditches where they were needed.
The road was expected to be maintained by the people living along it through a system of conscripted labor. Overseers were appointed for each district, with the power to compel people to work on the highway for a certain number of days per year, or to provide substitutes, under penalty of a fine.
As it turned out, the work of maintaining the road was excessively burdensome for the inhabitants of the Bloomingdale district, with its relatively small population. In 1751, the legislature, in an act specifically to address the maintenance of the Bloomingdale Road, reduced the right-of-way from four rods to two.
The road did have the effect of increasing land values and changing the social character of Bloomingdale. In 1707, Bloomingdale was still predominantly an agricultural district. A major shift came with the arrival of Stephen Delancey, one of the richest and most socially prominent men in the colony. Sometime between 1720 and 1729 he acquired the former Lots 8, 9 and 10 of the syndicate’s grant, amounting to about 300 acres, and established a country estate that he called Bloomingdale. Also in 1729, he acquired the former Lots 3, 4 and 5, which he called Little Bloomingdale. The presence of the Delancey estates gave Bloomingdale a social cachet that attracted other landed gentry-- or would-be gentry-- for several more generations.
The Bloomingdale Road was an important determinant of development in Upper Manhattan. It would have been obliterated by the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, but by that by time so much had been built in relation to the Bloomingdale Road that it managed to survive. With minor tweaks of alignment, the Bloomingdale Road is essentially today’s Broadway from 23rd Street to 107th Street. The squares created by its intersections with the grid remain some of the liveliest and most interesting places on Manhattan Island.
Footnotes for Part 5 can be read by clicking the "Read More" to the right.
Footnotes for Part 5
 Ibid., pp. 69-177.
 Until 1874, when it annexed part of the Bronx, New York City consisted only of Manhattan Island and various smaller islands in New York Harbor and the East River; it was also coterminous with New York County. While the city was further expanded in 1895 and again in 1898, the boundaries of New York County are essentially the same as they were in British colonial times.
 Probably the largest concentration of population in the Bowery Division was immediately west of the Bowery, between Stanton and 14th Streets, where numerous small grants had been made by Peter Stuyvesant to former slaves of the Dutch West India Company. By the end of the 17th Century, nearly all of the “Negro patents” had been acquired by white owners. The east side of the Bowery in that stretch was the estate of the Stuyvesant family.
 Papers Relating to the City of New York. Excerpted from O’Callaghan, E. B., (ed), Documentary History of the State of New York, Vol. 1, Albany NY, 1849, p. 624. [1849 is date on title page. Hathi Trust catalog gives date 1851.]
 The originals of these lists, though damaged even then, existed when the below table was published. Unfortunately, they were among the documents burnt in a fire at the New York State Capitol in 1911. The burnt fragments have been retained in a box in the New York State Archive but are not readable, (e-mail to G. Tauber from NYS Archives, Researcher Services Unit, August 31, 2022}.
 While the population of the Out Ward at that time was still predominantly Dutch-speaking, the provincial officers conducting the census were probably English speakers who were not fully familiar with Dutch names and who wrote down what they thought they had heard. This would account for such odd spellings as Oronaut for Arnaut, Agar for Edgar, and Van Scyock for Van Schaick.
 Even allowing for spelling variations, 22 of the surnames or patronymics did not correspond to any names listed in either Stokes or Riker.
 Riker, op. cit., p. 545n.
 Stokes Chronology, September 27, 1702
 By comparison, excess deaths in the 1918 influenza pandemic numbered approximately 30,000 in a population of 5,600,000, or slightly more than half of one percent. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862336/), The city’s population in the 1698 Census had been 4,937.
 Among those who died during the 1702 epidemic, though probably of smallpox rather than yellow fever, was Brandt Schuyler, who may have been the owner of the Syndicate’s Lot 8 at the time of his death. See Bielinski, op. cit.
 Queen Anne’s War, as it was known in America, lasted from 1702 to 1713. It was the American theatre of the broader European War known as the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).
 Stokes 4: 437, 441
 Stokes 4:444. The “late war” referred to was King William’s War (1688-1697), the first of the four French and Indian Wars.
 Each ward other than the Out Ward was entitled to elect an Alderman, an Assistant Alderman, a Constable, a Collector, an Assessor and two officials known as Overseers or Surveyors of Highways. The Out Ward, had its single Alderman and Assistant Alderman, but because of its large area and the special status of Harlem, had separate Constables, Assessors, Collectors and Highway Overseers for its Harlem and Bowery Divisions. As provided in the Dongan Charter, all of these local officials were elected annually on “The Feast of St. Michael the Archangel” [September 29] and took office on October 14.
 The commissioners were Will Anderson, Klement Elswerth, and Pieter V. Oblienis. Their report was delivered in June 1707. Years later it found that, in recording it, a paragraph was dropped. It was therefore re-recorded in its entirety in 1726 and sworn to by Will Anderson.. (Stokes Chron. June 16, 1707). In 1726 Anderson may have been the only surviving commissioner.
 Quoted in typescript report for Broadway in Street Title file of Topographical Bureau, Office of the Manhattan Borough President. (n.d., prob, ca. 1940)
 A 1751 act on maintenance of the road identifies its starting point as the house of John Horn, which was at 23rd St. and Fifth Avenue.
 Life in a farming community is dictated by the seasonal needs of particular crops and livestock. Many tasks are done jointly or involve informal exchanges of labor and equipment. Jan’s sons will help harvest Dirk’s wheat; Dirk’s daughters will help card Jan’s wool, etc. There would have been constant traffic between farms.
The motivation for the 1703 Act may have been largely military. At the time, England was in the second year of what was known in Europe as The War of the Spanish Succession and in the colonies as Queen Anne’s War. This conflict pitted England against an alliance of France and Spain. There was a realistic threat that the Quebec French and their Indian allies might attempt to attack New York via the Champlain-Hudson Corridor. There were existing roads on Manhattan Island and elsewhere in the Province but they were narrow, in poor repair, and difficult of passage for troops or artillery.
New Harlem had a chronic problem in getting people to contribute their mandated share of money or labor to maintain the “wagon way” to New York. See Riker, op. cit., pp 273, 280.
The comparable figure for a New York City crosstown street is 60 feet.
 Riker, op. cit, p. 369.
 Stokes, op. cit., Vol IV, Chronology, Nov. 25, 1751.
Rev. to 1 Mar 2023
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