Gene Surfing

Adventures in Family History

Thomas Codrington – Sheriff of New York

Farmer BullshotCaptain Thomas Codrington, Merchant, turned up in Somerset County, bought land and become Sheriff of New York in 1691, yet nobody seems to know where he came from.

To have enough money to buy a large amount of land he must have been doing pretty well as a merchant.

He may have come from the West Indies and been related to Christopher Codrington but no records exist for a Thomas in the family.

Could this Thomas be the son of Robert Codrington of Bristol, who was a merchant working for the East India Company, last heard of in 1648?

Or perhaps an unknown son of Robert Codrington and Henningham Drury who’s son Robert is known to have been in Barbados?

New York

nycmap1764a[1]In 1664 the British captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch and renamed it New York after James, the Duke of York, brother of the King who had sponsored the expedition.

At about this time the population of New York was only about 2000.

Captain Thomas Codrington, merchant, was sheriff of New York in 1691 and bought a significant amount of land in Somerset County where he built a homestead.

14 Oct 1691 Minutes of Council of New York. Abraham De Peyster sworn Mayor of New York, and Thomas Codrington, Sheriff. [Col. Entry Bk., Vol. LXXV., p. 288.]

He is first recorded in New York 1678 when he married Margaret, the daughter of Thomas Delavall, an influential figure who had been the Mayor of New York.

One record shows Margaret to be born in 1652 so would have been 26 when she married – Thomas is likely to have been significantly older, perhaps 10 or 20 years – but perhaps this was a political marriage where age differences don’t seem to matter.

He is first recorded buying property in 1681.

Green Brook Township had its beginning in the Original Indian Purchase made May 4, 1681, when English settlers purchased it from two Raritan Indians named Konackama and Quereomak, presumably Indian chiefs.

John Royce had eight hundred and seventy-seven acres; Thomas Codrington eight hundred and seventy-seven acres next to him; the proprietors, eleven hundred and seventy acres next to Bound Brook;

Thomas Codrington, one thousand acres on the rear next to Chimney Rock and the mountain.

Green Brook Historical Society

Other reports suggest that Thomas Codrington of Barbados was a merchant trading between Bristol and the American Colonies but there seems to be no records of him there other than in a will dated 1714 as “a friend” – however he had already died by then.

Who was Thomas?

If Thomas was the son of Robert Codrington of Bristol A11  then he would have been born about 1616 and about 65 at the time he first purchased land in 1681 – he was last mentioned as a merchant in Armenia in 1648.

Captain Thomas Codrington married Margaret Delavall in 1678 and is mentioned as having links with the the West Indies, based on some of his associates, which does not fit in with what we know about Thomas of Armenia.

Thomas of New York died 20 April 1710 so would have been 95 if he was the son of Robert of Bristol – this is not impossible but I think it is highly unlikely.

Thomas and Margaret do not appear to have had any children and Thomas had sold most of his property by the time he died – perhaps he had planned to have a large family but it had just not happened.

The Codrington homestead, “Racawackhana,” was owned in 1700 by Aaron Lazarder ; then about 1720 by his son Moses Lazarder ; then by his son David Lazarder ; afterwards by Michael Van Tyle, Alexander Campbell and Samuel Swan, M. D.

One thing that we do know about Thomas is that in his will he mentions his two sisters Elizabeth and Katherine.

He also mentions a cousin Frances Willet who is shown as “Dervall” in some trees, but was  the cousin of his wife Margaret, who married Richard Willet and died in 1723.

In the Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism there is a reference to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which owned estates in Barbados bequeathed by Thomas Codrington.

This may just be a mistake and it should be a reference to Christopher Codrington III who also died in 1710.

speech50There may be some connection to the Willet family of Long Island. Thomas Willet, originally from Bristol, settled in New York and was also Sheriff and about the same (estimated) age of Thomas Codrington.

Much more information about the Willet family in Genealogies of Long Island Families, Vol. II [available through Ancestry although there may be a digital copy somewhere on-line]

Another possibility is that Thomas was an unrecorded son of Robert Codrington [i] and Hennigham Drury [of Norfolk] in which case he could have been born about 1640 and a younger brother to Robert, born in London 1635.

Robert is known to have been in Barbados with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Henningham, who was born in Barbados in 1675 and married into the Carrington family.

This makes Thomas about the right age to fit into this scenario, being only 12 years older than Margeret, yet old enough to have been established as a captain and merchant at the age of about 35 when he first appears.

But there are no records to support this, although it seems much more likely of the two suggestions.

[i] Some histories show this Robert as the brother of Christopher, the first Codrington to settle on Barbados,  but I believe this to be incorrect.

See I, Robert  for more information.

speech50Although not available in Ancestry and other sources, there is a baptism record for a Thomas Codrington in 1630, which would be about the right date for this Thomas.

As the grandson of Samuel Codrington of Dodington he would probably have had the resources and finances to embark on a career as a merchant based in Bristol, but trading between Barbados and Virginia.

The record is shown in the History of Antigua but originated in Gloucestershire Notes and Queries volume II.

dodington baptisms

There is a slight problem with this theory – his brother Samuel Codrington (the younger) was in the line of inheritance to Dodington, and identified as B9 in the memoirs by RHC.

Samuel died in 1668 so Thomas would have become next in line, but in a twist his father, Samuel the Elder, was still alive and when he died in 1676, the property passed to his brother Richard, Thomas’ uncle – which seems to show that this Thomas was not alive.

It was Samuel B12 the son of Richard that sold Dodington to Christopher Codrington in 1703.

Perhaps Thomas then set out to create his own dynasty in New York to rival Dodington, but failed to produce the children he had hoped for  – the large house he had built and the lands he had bought were all sold.

He did have a sister Elizabeth as mentioned in his will, but there is no record of a Katherine in this family so perhaps these were sisters-in-law?

The only Katherine I have come across was born in 1644 in Devon, the daughter of Col. Nicholas Codrington (brother of Christopher Codrington I) who was in Dartmouth during the Civil war and his wife Katherine.

speech50It is possible that Nicholas did have other children but they were simply not recorded during the civil war. When his widow, Katherine, claimed a pension for herself only one child, a daughter named Penelope, is mentioned.

1665: Katherine, widow of Col. Nicholas Codrington, and Penelope, their daughter. For a pension or other relief; the late colonel lost 3,000  by his loyalty, and they are reduced to great want, and have received nothing from the 60,000l. for indigent officers, nor the 9,000l. for their widows.

If Thomas was the son of Nicholas then he could have been born around 1645 [too old to be mentioned as a dependant] and about 35 when he appeared in New York, which is about the right age to fit with this scenario.

But where did his money come from?

If Katherine was granted a pension, or compensated from the financial losses to the family, then Thomas [if he existed] could have benefited from it – the sum of £3000 mentioned above would today be worth about £300,000. He could have built up a successful merchant business over the next twenty years and then decided to settle in New York.

I am uneasy about this solution, but then there is no other obvious answer, so perhaps this is something close to the truth.

John Delavall

John Delavall was a son of Thomas Delavall [and brother of Margaret], a captain under Col. Nichols when New York was captured in 1664. It seems from some transactions of [his] that he had been in the city before this time, but immediately after the surrender he took a prominent part in the administration of public affairs. He owned a farm at Harlem as well as a residence in the city, on the south east corner of Broad Street and Exchange Place, embracing an orchard and a large garden. Visiting England in 1669, he had a conference with the Duke of York, who sent by him to the Mayor and Aldermen of the city, a mace of office and a gown to be worn on proper occasions.

The Codrington Estate

Thomas seems to have been the only one of his associates to actually settle on his property.

The only one of the proprietors under this Indian grant who actually settled on any part of it, was Thomas Codrington. He had 877 acres apportioned to him September 25th, 1683 ; and built a house upon it soon after, and called his place Racawackhana.

He also owned 1,000 acres more, lying on the rear of his farm, running up to the apex of the mountain. Thomas Codrington was living at Racawackhana on the 26th of November 1684, and was at that date appointed one of Governor Barclay’s council.

He was a man of influence in his time, and received the same appointment from Lord Neil Campbell Oct 18th, 1686, and again from Governor Bass, May 6, 1698.

Centennial history of Somerset County [New Jersey] 1878

Thomas eventually bought the shares of all the other partners in the original purchase perhaps in the attempt to build an estate to rival those back in England or in Barbados, but had sold it all by 1700 when he had no male heir.

The Codrington land was located partially in what would be come Bridgewater and part what was known as Bound Brook. It started out as a joint purchase of former Indian land by John Palmer, Thomas Codrington, John White, and John Royce.  It appears they had to repurchase from the Proprietors in 1684, each receiving 877 acres.  Palmer was to the west of Codrington and Royce was to the east.

In a deed dated 8 May 1706, Thomas Codrington and his wife Margaret sold the entire plantation at Bound Brook to Phillip French. “With all an singular the houses, edifices, buildings, barns, stables, warehouses, landings” etc.

Phillip French may have been from Kellshall, Hertfordshire and it was on this property, purchased from Thomas, that Kells Hall was built by his descendants.

Both Phillip and Thomas are mentioned in the will of one James Graham who died 1700 and had been the attorney-general of New York .

Archibald Campbell Son of Lord Neil Campbell and the History of Kells Hall

Chris Sidney 2014


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