“Free access”

122 Pearl Street abstract coverIt was a matter of some pride to my grandfather that his great-grandfather John Steward (1777–1854) bought the (downtown) Gracie Mansion[1] when he moved to New York more than two hundred years ago. Perhaps so, as John Steward lived at 1 Pearl Street until he moved far uptown to a new house at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-first Street, shortly before his death in 1854. The title abstracts in my grandfather’s box of family papers concerning John’s Pearl Street real estate are for some other properties – one was his store, at 80 Pearl Street,[2] while another (122 Pearl Street) was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Charles McEvers.

Click on images to expand them.

The house at 122 Pearl Street was bought first, and probably represents John’s initial foray into Manhattan real estate. The abstract indicates that Elsie and Jacob Leisler sold a house on the site to Barent Rynders on 6 April 1700. Rynders’s executors sold the house to Elisabeth Richards in 1763; by her will, dated in 1773, the property passed to Theophilus Bache. A suggestive pair of transactions in 1807 preceded John Steward’s purchase: Bache entrusted the house to Leonard Lispenard and Charles McEvers on 8 June, then on 9 October Lispenard, McEvers, and Bache executed a “Quadripartite Deed between Bankrupt Trustees of Bankrupt and Creditors,” by which the property passed to Ebenezer Burrill[3] and others. Finally, on 3 March 1808, “Burrill & others” sold the house outright to Charles McEvers, who in turn sold it to John Steward Jr. on 1 May 1814.

It looks like there are two versions of the abstract for 80 Pearl Street. The first, a rough draft, bears the faint notation that someone (John Steward?) paid $5.32, presumably for the research necessary for Stephen Whitney to develop this history of the house and land. The second, more polished version, lists a number of parties to the initial sale, on 20 March 1775, of “the house and lot No Eighty pearl Street” to William Neilson. After recording the deed on 19 June 1794, “Nielson [sic] continued in possession until the fourth day of May 1820 when he assigned the property to Beverly Robinson and Joseph Milnor in trust to sell which deed is recorded in the office of Register in [and] for the city and County of New York in Lib. No. 143 of conveyances &c page 202 on the fourth day of May 1820.

“The above mentioned title deeds are in my possession and I do hereby promise John Steward Junr. that he may have free access to them and the use of them if he should want them. New York 29th January 1822.”

Stephen Whitney

Continued here.


[1] The Gracies’ country house at East End Avenue and Eighty-eighth Street has served as the official residence of the Mayor of New York since 1942.

[2] Longworth’s American Almanac… (1827), p. 461.

[3] Ebenezer Burrill’s daughter Elizabeth married James Kane Livingston in 1820; Livingston’s great-niece Margaret Atherton Beeckman married John Steward’s grandson Campbell in 1885.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

11 thoughts on ““Free access”

  1. As an “old” Realtor, both of the documents are title abstracts ,

    The long hand version for 80 Pearl shows that Wm Nielsen bought in 1774 possibly from heirs of an estate maybe a Van Courtland or White – that was intestate OR that the several persons mentioned were all trustees/heirs of Nielsen (not very likely).
    If there had been a will all of those owners (some relatives of John Steward) would not have been listed individually. Nielsen either died or ran in to financial problems. As the property was given in “trust” it means that it was collateral for a mortgage or personal note, hence the trustees selling it to John Steward, Jr.

    The Title abstract for122 Pearl was done much as it would be today for the purchase of a property under a Warranty Deed. Much like a pedigree chart for a family. it tells of direct passing of title/ownership.
    in 1773 Theophiliate Bachs inherited the property but in 1807 he was bankrupt and as it indicates the bankruptcy trustees, auditors and creditors seized the property under a previous “trust agreement” collateral/mortgage. in 1808 they transferred the Title to McEvers individually (probably at a foreclosure sale) thus he resold to John Steward, Jr. a warranty deed. BUT now his wife must also convey the title as she had a dower interest. Passing on “their” total interest and a warrant that he knew of no other claims to the property by debt or inheritance in the property, but he/they did not have a direct deed or will from Bachs to pass title.

    Today as back then it would be unthinkable to pay money or make a loan to a person with collateral that you were not sure he /she had complete clear and previously unencumbered ownership.
    For genealogists, much as we strive to find primary sources or researched secondary evidence of birth, death, marriage – but sometime accept a preponderance of evidence, > warranty/trustee deeds are the preponderance of evidence that you investment is safe.

  2. I wouldn’t have expected to learn about my ancestor’s neighbors in NYC. My 3 great grandfather, Henry Odell Dusenberry lived at 552, 549, and 547 Pearl in 1829, 1839, and 1840. Have you come across images of houses on that block of Pearl? I’m interested in learning what the neighborhood was like in the 1830s and 1840s. Suggestions?

    1. All I can suggest is a search for prints of the New York of the period. I have yet to see any images of the Steward properties (as such) on Pearl Street, although you might have some luck with early photographs of New York street scenes…

  3. Good Afternoon, John. I really enjoy reading your postings and those of your fellow staff members. I am Paul Morris Hilton of Harvey Station, New Brunswick, Canada. I have many Ancestors linked to the Plymouth and Boston areas along with many other Mayflower passengers and Crew. I have links to the Steward, Stewart family(s) and also to some links to them from the Morris family who were linked to Lewis Morris who was one of the Co -signers of The Declaration of Indepepndence. I live in a Seniors Home and I have been working on my family history since my Mother (Morris) and Grandmother (Hilton) gave me some research which goes back to at least 1488 and William Hilton of Co. Durham, England and Hilton Castle. My Grandmother was one of the huge Archibald family. I have over 1300 pages of data on them. They began their research in the 1920s up to the 1950s and then turned over lots of great info in earl 1954 to me. William Hilton mentioned above is linked to William the Conqueror and Royalty. I am also the 8th Cousin (twice removed) of Queen Elizabeth II of British Empire through links to my 5th Cousin- Sir Thomas Ingleby -owner of Ripley Castle of Leeds, Yorkshire, England. More info is on hand as well. Good luck with your research and your many writings. Sincere Best Wishes, Paul Morris Hilton.

  4. Is the question whether or not your grandfather was justified in his pride, re Gracie Mansion?

    And, genealogically, how accurate does the Whitney research seem to be?

    Perhaps we all should run permanent searches on eBay for such documents! Its where they are most likely to show up these days.)

    1. I can’t confirm it from these papers, or from a quick search online for the Gracie house in Lower Manhattan. I post the documents mainly as originals in themselves, rarely seen or handled since the 1820s!

  5. Such an informative posting Scott. It is a reminder to us all that real estate records and their transfers often tell an accurate and true tale of the people whose lives were so connected by what they represent. What a wonderful source of pride for you too – Indeed, you have given me cause to learn more about the Gracie Mansion. Many thanks!


  6. New York, New York. What interesting bedfellows the city makes. I am much amused to think that my Irish great-great grandparents, Patrick Quinlan and Margaret Gorman, were Pearl Street neighbors of your ancestor. They arrived from County Cork in 1849 and 1850 and lived at numbers 38, 48 and 10, just steps from the Battery–and John Steward.

    Just a few years later, in 1863 my Spanish ancestors founded the NY branch of their Havana leaf tobacco export business, F. Miranda & Co., at 193 Pearl Street. The street was truly a crossroad for many.

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