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Land Grab on Long Island

 Betts Homestead, Newtown, Long Island


Richard Betts (1613-1713) and Joanna Chamberlain (1630-)


Richard and Joanna are our my ninth great-grandparents. Richard Betts was likely born at Hemel Hempstead about 1613 son of Richard and Susanna (Smyth) Betts. He immigrated by 1648 and was first in Ipswich, Massachusetts. On 27 January 1649, he married Joanna Chamberlain who was born at Strood, Kent in October 1630 daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Stoughton) Chamberlayne. Joanna’s mother had been twice widowed. After the death of her second husband, Robert Chamberlayne, Elizabeth loaded up her five children from her two marriages, hopped on the boat and went to Ipswich in 1640.


Richard and Joanna moved to Newtown, Long Island soon after their marriage and were likely there by 1652. Richard was a bitter opponent of Peter Stuyvesant. The English were building up their settlement in the New Netherland territory but were denied any land grants from the Dutch. Richard Betts headed up a group that undermined this by purchasing a very large tract of land, essentially all of Newtown, Long Island, directly from the Sachems, Pomwankon, and Rowerowestco for one shilling per acre. This land purchase essentially ended any ownership of the lands on Long Island by the natives. It was also a severe blow to Stuyvesant who had hoped to obtain the land. After the takeover of New Netherland by the English in 1664, Richard was the representative from Newtown to the Provincial Assembly in 1665. In 1678, he was high sheriff of “Yorkshire upon Long Island” and was in this position until 1681. Richard was a large landowner in the English Kills area of Long Island which is near Newtown Creek.


Richard Betts lived to be 100. The story is that when he turned 100, he literally dug his own grave within sight of his bedroom window. His death on 18 November 1713 was recorded by the Rev. Thomas Poyer, rector of the Episcopal Churches of Newtown, Jamaica and Flushing under Burial Notices: `Richard Betts of Newtown, age 100 at ye Kills.'


 The original Betts homestead survived until the early 20th century. Richard and Joanna’s daughter, Joanna Betts, is my ancestor. Joanna Betts married John Scudder.

Group sheet for Richard Betts and Joanna Chamberlain:



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