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The Early Colonial Estate Era


New York was originally colonized by the Dutch. Their Patroon system of settlement, which parceled out large tracts of land for wealthy landowners to rent to tenant farmers,  did not encourage working class Dutch to cross the Atlantic. Those who did, often moved to other colonies, like Pennsylvania, where they could purchase affordable homesteads.  When the English took control of the colony in 1664, they continued this system of granting large land patents. 

The Fauconnier family was a respected family of property in the Loire valley of France. They were also Huguenots, a Protestant sect often persecuted in officially Catholic France. Born in 1659 in Tours, Pierre Fauconnier was brought to England as a child so he could receive a good education in a Protestant country. As a young man, he returned to Tours, where he married and started a family. The upcoming revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which removed all legal protections to Huguenots in France, caused the family to permanently resettle in England, becoming naturalized English subjects in 1685. By moving prior to the revocation, the Fauconniers were able to leave France with enough property to set up in business in London. Expanding his business into government contracts led Pierre to an appointment with the Commissariat, the department charged with supplying the English army. The reputation he gained as a reliable official along with commercial connections with relatives in Martinique led to his appointment as private secretary to the English Colonial Governor of New York and New Jersey, Sir Edward Hyde, also known as Lord Cornbury. This put him in a prime position to enter into partnerships designed to receive the large royal land patents. 

One of the many land patents Fauconnier participated in came about as a result of a serious surveying error. Henry Pawling had been granted the land between the Rhinebeck Patent in the north, and the Great Nine Partners Patent in the south, which included what is now the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt Historical Site. At the time, this patent was believed to be about 4000 acres. However, when the land was resurveyed on Pawling’s death in 1695, it was found to be about twice that size. Fauconnier and three partners were granted the patent for the additional land in 1705. The patent extended from the Hudson River, east to the Crum Elbow Creek and includes much of what is today the town of Hyde Park.  When Pierre Fauconnier died in 1746, he left his various land partnerships, boundary disputes, and debts to his daughter Magdalene Fauconnier Valleau. Although the patent required a certain amount of land development, this was not done at Hyde Park, and there is no evidence that Fauconnier ever set eyes on his property. 

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