The Mystery of the Underhill Bible

Picture 4

Can you help decode this 19th-century document?

Bookplate from the Underhill Bible.

Bookplate from the Underhill Bible.

Last month we posted pictures of a bible offered on eBay, bearing the bookplate of Abraham I. Underhill, one of the three Underhill brothers who started the flour mill on the Croton River in 1792.

We were thrilled (and proud) when the Westchester County Historical Society immediately purchased this treasure, after we alerted them that it was available.

In addition to a handwritten page recording Abraham Underhill’s marriage “in a publick Meeting of the people called Quakers at Croton in the Town of Cortlandt, the 19th day of the 12th month, 1805 . . . ,” the bible also contained something unusual, which the seller described as “a folded paper in an unknown hand, possibly shorthand.”

What does it say? Is it simply a mundane document, slipped into the family bible? The minutes of a Quaker meeting in Croton? A document relating to the long-running legal battle between the Underhill and Van Cortlandt families over the Croton River mill?

If you happen to have expertise in 19th-century shorthand please contact me. Below are high-resolution black-and-white scans of the pages. Click to enlarge them.

Thanks to Patrick Raftery, Librarian of the Westchester County Historical Society, for providing these images.

Page 1


Page 2


Meeting of Friends Map, 1852


A detail from an unusual 1852 map of New York State and parts of surrounding states, showing distances between places of meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, including the meeting house in Croton (originally located along what is now Grand Street, between South Mt. Airy Road and Church Street).

For a map of Croton showing the location of the meeting house, see this post.

This map is from the online collection of the New York Public Library.