The Early Nicolls

Draft 11/24/2013

Matthias Nicoll:

Matthias came to the New World with an expedition organized by the Duke of York (later to be James II) to take over New Amsterdam in 1664, which they succeeded in doing without a shot fired. The expedition was led by Richard Nicolls who became the first British governor of New York. His secretary was Matthias Nicoll, probalby no relation. He brought with him his two year old daughter Margaret and his son William who was nine years old.

In 1672 Matthias became the Mayor of New York City and from 1683 to 1687 he was one of the judges of the supreme court. He died at his residence at Cow Neck, now Plandome, Queens county, leaving his estate to his son William, the patentee in Islip.

William Nicoll:

William studied to be a lawyer, prehaps under the guidance of his father. At age 22 in 1677, he returned to England with Governor Andros and joined a regiment going to Flanders to fight the Dutch. He almost died, according to legend, but survived and returned to New York to resume the practice of law. In 1683, he was appointed the clerk of Queens County, a position he held until June 1688 when he became the attorney general of the province of New York. He was on the wrong side of Jacob Leisler's rebellion against James II, and was imprisioned until 1891 when Goernor Sloughler arrived in New York and took control of the city in the name of the King and Queen, William and Mary. He was appoint to the Governor's Council in 1691. In 1695 he returned to England to represent the Council in a report to the King. He was captured by the French in transit and spent several months in captivity in Malo before being released. He returned to New York in 1698. The party of Leisler regained it acendency and William was suspended from the Council, but in 1701 he was elected a member of the General Assembly from Suffolk County. Not being a resident of Suffolk County he was not seated. So, he built a house on his land on Long Island and ran again and was dutifully elected to the Assembly, where he was elected speaker in 1702 and served in that capacity until 1718 when he resigned from ill health.

He had made his first purchase of land from the Indians in 1683 and made three more purchases until by 1697 he owned approximately 60 square miles which he named Islip after his ancestral home of Islip on the River Nen in Northamptonshire, England.

In 1688, when he was 33 years old, he married 23 year old Anna Van Renssaelaer, the widow of Kilian Van Renssaelaer, her cousin. In the next six years they had five children: Mary (1689), Henry (1691), John (1692), Benjamin (1694) and Jeremy (1695). The tragic story is that while they were crossing the East River, there was a terrible accident and three of his children were drowned: Henry, John, and Jeremy.

It was be seven years before Anna would bear any additional children. However, in 1702 William was born, followed by Renssaelaer (1706), Catherine (1709) and Frances (1711).

Anna died in 1715 leaving four young children. William was ill-prepared to care for a household of children. He sent Renssaelaer to Bethlehem, near Albany, to llive with his Aunt Schyler, Anna's sister. And he hired a young woman, Ruth Dwight, to manage his househld and care for the children. It appears that she also warmed his bed, and before he died in 1723, she bore him children. His Will acknowledged two sons (Edward and John).

In 1695 William Nicoll purchased about one-third of Shelter Island (known as Sachem's Neck) from Giles Sylvester -- the oldest son of Nathaniel Sylvester the first owner -- who was land rich and always cash poor. Giles, in his Will, made William his executor and requested that he pay his bills and was to dispose of the rest of his land as he saw fit. Giles had already sold 1,000 acres in the middle of the Island to George Havens, so William kept the rest.

In his own Will, William left his land at Islip to his first son Benjamin, Sachem's Neck on Shelter Island to William, the area called the Menantic on Shelter Island to his son Renssaelaer, and the farm previously lived in by Edward Downing and now by William Richardson to his (illegitimate) son Edward. (This final bequeath was the subject of a law suit between Nathaniel's grandson Brinley Sylvester and William's son William (2) which lasted until the 1730s when Brinley Sylvester won back from the Nicolls 1,000 acres and the manor house.)

William died on 1723.

Benjamin Nicoll:

Benjamin, born in 1694, was the third son of Anna Van Rensssaelaer and William Nicoll, and the only one to have survived the boating accident on the East River in 1695. He was 29 years old when his father died in 1723. He married Charity Floyd in 1714 and they had three children: William (1715), Benjamin (1718) and Gloriana (1721). He inherited no land on Shelter Island. He was the second owner of the Grange at Islip which was recognized as a town in 1720. He served as the Supervisor of Islip until his death in 1724.

Willian Nicoll (2):

William Nicoll (2) was born in 1702. He was 21 years old when his father William died in 1723. After completing Yale College in 1724 and his law studies, he set up housekeeping at Sachem's Neck in 1726. His first act of civic engagement was to arrange for the provincial assembly to recognize the Town of Shelter Island which organized in 1730. He served as the Town's first supervisor and for most of his life thereafter he served his town's government in one capacity or another. In 1739 he was elected to the Colonial Assembly where he continued to serve until he died in 1768, the last nine years as Speaker. Apparently, on his way home from the Assembly on December 3, 1768 he had spent the night at a home on Hempstead Plains where he was stricken and died. Jacob Mallman quotes Benjamin Thompson's 1839 History of Long Island: "He was a man of sound and discriminating mind, bold and fearless as a politician, and an unwavering asserter of the rights of and liberties of the colony. In all public acts as a legislator he was diligent and attentive to every duty devolving upon him."

William remained unmarried. He left his estate on Shelter Island to his nephew William, the son of his brother Benjamin and known as William (3) in 1768.

William Nicoll (3):

William, the son of Charity Floyd and Benjamin Nicoll was born at Islip in 1715.

He was nine years old when he inherited the Grange at Islip and 53 years old when his Uncle William died and left him the Sachem's Neck property.

In 1750 he married Joanna De Honneur. They had five children, Charity (1753), William (1756), Gloriana (1759), Johanna (1761), and Samuel Benjamin (1764). He also trained as a lawyer and was known as Clerk Nicoll because he served as the Clerk of Suffolk County for 26 years. He also succeeded his uncle in the Colonial Assembly in 1769 and served until it was dissolved in 1775, the beginning of the Revolution. He also served at the Supervisor of Islip from 1747 until 1775.

William (3) and his wife Joanna De Honneur are both buried at the Nicoll Cemetery at Mashomack. Also buried there is their daughter Charity who married Gerret Keteltas.

When he died in 1780, he left the Grange at Islip to his son William and the land at Sachem's Neck to his son Samuel Benjamin who would bring his bride Anna Willett Floyd there following the Revolutionary War. The Nicolls of Sachem's Neck begins with that union.


The Islip Historical Society devoted a wall to pictures of members of the Nicoll family. Unfortunately, when the building burned this wall and all of the Nicoll papers burned as well.

This is a closeup of the wall that burned.


The Chart below was commissioned by the Town of Islip at its 300th anniversary in 1983. It was reconstituted in 2013 by Ray Lembo for the East Islip Historical Society. After William (3) willed the Sachem's Neck property on Shelter Island to his younger son Samuel Benjamin, the family was split between the branch living in Islip and the branch living on Shelter Island.