Before New York was called “New York,” it was dubbed New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company, the entity that governed the colony. When the English took over the Dutch colony in 1664, English colonists from New England began to settle in this area. Among them were three English families that settled in today’s Van Cortlandt Park. Their family names were Tippett, Betts, and Hadley. Colonial maps and land deeds indicate that this was the homesite of George and Mehitable Tippett as early as 1668.
An estate inventory of George Tippett dated 1675 provides the earliest record of an enslaved African person living in this part of The Bronx although that person’s name was not recorded. The first census of this area, taken in 1698, lists one enslaved man named “Adam,” who lived here at the Tippett homesite. While most households did not hold enslaved people at that early date, Adam was part of a growing community of enslaved Africans living in the Kingsbridge area. The local environment was largely a wilderness in the early colonial period and enslaved people were likely performing work that is generally associated with life on the frontier–clearing land, building roads, and developing land for agriculture. That same 1698 census also refers to a local early free Black family consisting of Antone and Diana and their three children Ben, Abraham, and Jacob. The exact location of their homesite is unknown.
The Tippett house stood through the American Revolution when it was home to the area’s first physician–Dr. John Cregier. During the Revolutionary War it was also occupied by noted British cavalry officer Banastre Tarleton, who played a large role in a skirmish that occurred in today’s park in 1778. That skirmish came to be known as the “Stockbridge Indian Massacre” because an outnumbered company of Native American soldiers from Stockbridge Massachusetts was nearly annihilated in the fighting.
Local historians believed that the old Tippett house burned down in the early 19th century. Nearby Tibbetts Brook derives its name from the Tippett family.