Rye Founders of Other Ryes

Rye Founders of Other Ryes

Not surprisingly for an important shipbuilding town, Ryers emigrated, and in Rye ships too.  Besides their  shipbuilding and trading pursuits, economic hard times and the pursuit of religious freedom motivated some to seek a life elsewhere — but to honour their origins by creating new Ryes:  in New York and New Hampshire in the USA and in Victoria, Australia.

Rye, New York
8 Coats, 7 Shirts and 4.1 0s.  How three men from Rye started a city in America

Slightly adapted, with additions, from an article in Rye’s Own No. 115 (February 2004). Information for the Rye’s Own article came from a 1970s newspaper cutting sent to Julie Fuggle by her American pen pal Mary Toohy who lives in Rye, New York . Julie and Mary have been writing to each other since the early fifties when Miss Lister at Rye Youth Club supplied names of pen pals to members.

In 1660 three men originally from Rye in Sussex, England, living in Greenwich, Connecticut, purchased a tract of land on the beautiful shore of Long Island Sound from Mohegan Indians. It cost them eight coats, seven shirts and four pounds ten shillings sterling. Little did the three–Peter Disbrow, John Coe and Thomas Studwell– realize that they were thereby starting the oldest settlement in what is now affluent Westchester County, New York. Confusingly, it now includes both the Town of Rye and the City of Rye, separate municipalities. The former has three times the population of the latter, which in turn has three times the population of Rye, Sussex.

At the time of the arrival of the white man, the area now known as Rye, New York was one vast unbroken wilderness, with the Mohegan tribe its sole inhabitants. The Mohegans had set up camps on the shores of brooks entering Long Island Sound. Over the next few years, Disbrow, Coe and Studwell, joined by other Greenwich settlers, expanded their holdings from the initial Peningoe Neck to include Manursing Island and these eventually encompassed entities now known as the City of Rye, the Town of Rye, Harrison, White Plains and parts of Greenwich and North Castle. A neighboring town named Hastings was merged into Rye in the 1660s.

In 1665, Connecticut merged the various settlements under the name of Rye, home of those early settlers from Rye, England. For nearly one hundred years the official location of Rye seesawed between the State of Connecticut and that of New York. In 1683, Rye was ceded unwillingly to the Province of New York by King Charles II as a gift to his brother, the Duke of York. But when a New York court severed the Harrison area from the settlement in 1695, the Rye colonists rejoined Connecticut in protest. In 1700, Rye again became part of New York by royal decree, this time permanently. The New York State Legislature officially established the Town of Rye boundaries in 1788.

The majority of the first settlers were farmers and millers. Within a few years, several docks or landings were built from which fishing craft sailed the Sound to Oyster Bay and New York. Eventually oystering became one of the major industries. During the American Revolution (1775-1783), they took up positions in Rye for the defence of Connecticut when the English under General Howe landed on Throggs Neck. Yet Rye remained a secluded community for two centuries after its founding, It was more than fifty years after its inception in 1660 that the first school was established.

During the first half of the 18th Century, the community started to flourish. In 1739, the Rye-Oyster Bay ferry was inaugurated. In 1772 the New York-Boston Stagecoach made its initial run with Rye as an official stopover. The milestones from New York City were fixed by Benjamin Franklin in 1763; some still exist. In the mid 1800s, when the New Haven Railroad was completed, Rye became a popular summer resort for New Yorkers, Horseracing on the Flats (Rye Beach) was a special attraction. With the coming of rail transportation, Rye experienced its first real growth. For the exorbitant sum of eight cents, one could travel all the way to New York City, 22 miles to the northeast

As the oldest settlement in Westchester County, the City of Rye boasts many historical landmarks, most prominent being the oldest house in the county, built in 1663 and still standing at Milton Road and Rye Beach Avenue.

The Square House, now the Museum.

This was  built in 1700  and is properly dubbed ‘a portal to the history of New York State’. It is here that travellers, first by foot, then by horse and later by stagecoach, stopped for refreshments and rest at Haviland’s, as the house was then called.

The Square House became the source of world news and attracted settlers from all over the area. The ‘greats’ of American history made it a point to break up their travels and spend some time at the Square House. Records show that John and Sam Adams visited the house in 1774, and, from his personal diary dated October and November 1789 , President George Washington not only slept there once, but twice. The Marquis de Lafayette visited the Square House in 1824.

By 1904 Rye boasted two schools, five churches,a library and a population of 3,500. It was during this year that Rye was incorporated as a village. In 1942 Rye village adopted the status of a City, leaving the Town of Rye which is in fact larger.

Today the City of Rye is a unique conglomerate of the old and the new, an unusual blending of a 300 year history and a suburban community with every modern facility. Its official seal displays in the centre a ship copied from the seal of Rye; around it are a peace pipe, a torch of freedom and significant dates in the city’s history. The city is home to a museum and an historic amusement park, the Rye Playland, which is also designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The  town of Rye, East Sussex and the City of Rye, New York, are in regular communication; there have been exchange visits and exchange gifts. Each is proud of the other.

See also:   info@ryeny.gov  and the Wikipedia article on Rye, New York

To come:

Rye, New Hampshire
Rye, Victoria, Australia.   (Nearby are Winchelsea, Brighton, Hastings and St Leonards)

First posted in Rye Town History on 18th September 2011
Last updated: 7th December 2012
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