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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"


    Old Families of Westchester


The Odell Family
by Maureen McKernan
Peekskill, N.Y., Evening Star, Monday, August 14, 1951


A governor, scores of military men, a newspaper publisher, a member of a pirate Black Beard's crew, preachers, tavern keepers and John D. Rockefeller's favorite school master.

Such have been the descendants of William Odell, ancestor of the Odells in America. The only poet of record is Allan Odell, son of the head of Burma Shave, who originated the roadside jingles that catch the motorists' eyes from coast to coast. Best known today in Westchester is Wallace Odell of Tarrytown, vice president of the Westchester County Publishers and many times official of both state and national newspaper associations. Correspondence of Mrs. Llywellyn Williams Lewis of Tarrytown, descendant of Jonathan Odell of War fame who was a great grandson of the original American Odell, shows that there are Odells today in practically every state.

Opposed Queen of Scots

William Odell the ancestor, younger son of an English baronial family, fled to America in about 1637 after his family had made the mistake of siding with Lady Jane Grey against Mary--Queen of Scots. From Concord in 1644 he went to Fairfield, Conn, where he died in 1676. Some of his sons stayed in Connecticut and founded the New England line. His oldest son, William, was one of the 15 men who founded Rye in 1662.

The later Williams was also one of the original purchasers of White Plains. His inclusion in both groups indicates that he was a respected man of wealth. A "Goodie Odell", presumably his mother, is recorded as one of the judges in Fairfield in a witchcraft trial, according to Frederick Haacker of New York, whose hobby for years has been tracing the genealogy of the Odell family of which his wife is a member.

Of the sons of William of Rye, Samuel inherited the Rye estates and stayed there. His daughter Sarah Married John Archer, son of the last Lord of Fordham Manor. Her brother John moved to Fordham when he was twenty-two, died in 1735. This John of Fordham is the ancestor of the Odell families to be found in Yonkers today as well as of most of the "Tarrytown Odells" who were descended from John's grandson, Jonathan, of Revolutionary War fame.

Start of Greenburgh Odells

Isaac, another son of John, born in Rye in 1675, married Ann Tompkins and bought a big farm which included the present Gramatan Park on Lincoln Avenue, Mount Vernon. His descendants became known as the Greenburgh Odells and Wallace Odell is this line.

The gatehouse on the Murray estate at 100 South Broadway, Irvington, was the Albany Post Road tavern of Jonathan Odell in 1776. Opposite it stood the blacksmith shop of his son Abraham. Both were ardent patriots and the inn gave shelter to the Committee of Safety and the Provincial Congress, the Patriots' "undergrounds" ruling bodies within the British lines. Abraham rendered great service to Washington, as a scout, became a captain, later was Town Supervisor and eventually went to the State Assembly. Jonathan's 463-acre farm later was bought by Alexander Hamilton's son and during the Victorian days was the estate of the fabulously wealthy Wendell family.

A map of 1784 owned by Mrs. Lewis shows more than two dozen Odell farms between Yonkers and Peekskill, along the Hudson and Saw Mill River Valley. Until 1934 the Colonial home of Abraham Odell, who was a major in the War of 1812, stood on the Saw Mill River at Odell Avenue, Yonkers. The house, which for some years served as the first clubhouse for the St. Andrews Golf Club, was torn down when the Homefield real estate development was started in 1934.

A Close Friend of Washington

The brown shingle house on Ridge Street, Hartsdale, where French Gen. Rochambeau lived at the time of the Battle of White Plains, was the homestead of Col. John Odell, close friend of Washington.

Governor Benjamin Barker Odell, New York Governor fro 1901 to 1905, was a descendant of Jonathan of the famous tavern. Uke Isaac Odell of Yonkers, a scout for Washington, was rated by officers of the Colonial Army as "most alert and intelligent."

The Odell pirate was one Samuel Odell who survived the battle on Nov. 22, 1718, with the British Navy off the Carolina Capes in which Black Beard was killed. Samuel, only, of Black Beard's men was acquitted when he convinced the British Admiralty that he had been an unwilling captive, taken from a British sloop that had been scuttled by Black Beard. Samuel survived 70-gunshot wounds in Black Beard's final battle.

Moses Fowler Odell of Tarrytown was a Congressman during the Civil War and his brother Samuel U. F. Odell, was U. S. Consul General to the Kingdom of Hawaii. The world famous firm of pipe organ builders in Yonkers, headed by Harry E. Odell and his brothers, William H. and J. Franklin Odell, was founded by their ancestor, Caleb H. Odell and his brother, John, descendants of, John of Fordham. A grandson of Jonathan of the famous tavern, was the Rev. C. F. Odell who was a famous baseball pitcher at Yale in the 80s.

Hiram Taught John D.

Hiram Odell of Owego, N. Y., taught the first country school attended by John D. Rockefeller, near Owego. Until the aged school master died, Mr. Rockefeller visited in his home almost every year.

James Odell of Yonkers, in 1775, was an iron monger for the American Navy. He helped forge the great chain which was laid across the Hudson near the site of today's Bear Mountain Bridge, to safeguard West Point from naval attack.

Berlinger's Bar and Gill of today, at Dwyer Avenue and the Boston Road, just south of Mount Vernon city line, is the only remaining Colonial post road tavern. It was operated by Stephen B. Odell fro 1850 to 1898. Stephen was the owner of the famous trotter, Katie's Darling. His grandson is Stephen Odell of New Rochelle.

Levi Odell of Eastchester invented an early typewriter that sold by mail for $3.50. Lank Odell was president of New York's first street car line and himself drove the first trolley horse drawn in its initial trip from City Hall to 14th Street. Moses Odell of Brooklyn, a Civil War "Lincoln Democrat" was a great friend of Lincoln. He later was Collector of the Port.

The Tory Odell whom Odells forget was the Rev. Jonathan Odell of Fairfield, satirist and propagandist for the Loyalists during the Revolution. At the end of the war he went to New Brunswick, Canada where he was Provincial Secretary for many years.


Hunt Seacord Oakley Tompkins Purdy Haviland Odell
Hatfield Gedney Acker Horton Van Wart Van Tassel Storm
Lent Sutton Hoyt Hays Hyatt Coles Griffen

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