Column: Begin at the beginning

“21. That one day every spring be chosen for the destroying of rattlesnakes.”

This is one of the founding tenets of Eastchester, written along with 25 other ones in 1665, just a year after the town was founded.LissaHalen

It all began 350 years ago in 1664 and Eastchester, along with its villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville, is celebrating its founding. What better way to understand what the town is all about than to visit local historical sites?

In keeping with the times, let’s begin with the town’s new virtual site dedicated to its 350th anniversary. The site draws on the town’s rich heritage.

Thanks to recent residents Jennifer Frost and Kevin Elbert, the site, eastchester350.org, went live in October 2013. Frost and Elbert volunteered their time and expertise to design and develop the site, including its unique logo. The research, writing and editing was accomplished by longtime Eastchester residents Patty Dohrenwend, Donato Vaccaro, Linda Doherty and Eastchester Town Historian Richard Forliano. They work tirelessly for the town and have been in overdrive the last two years planning and organizing the town’s anniversary celebrations.

On your first trip to the website, don’t be overwhelmed. Be overjoyed at the comprehensive amount of information about our rich past. You might want to begin with the link to the Eastchester Covenant to see what else the founders had in store besides destroying the rattlesnakes.

The covenant is a civil document of 26 articles drawn up by the 10 founding families in the 1660s. They compiled a set of 26 town laws and promised to live by them. You can read them in their original, ornate old English handwriting and language of the time, or the transcribed, modern typed list also available on the website. All 26 tenets offer a glimpse into how Eastchester’s earliest residents thought and lived. Consider the variety in these and read the remaining ones at eastchester350.org/about-2/covenant/.

2. That we keep and maintain Christian love and civil honesty.

3. That we help and counsel each other.

15. No man shall entertain a foreigner who is obnoxious. This is amended after a warning is given.

20. That one, either of himself, or by consent, give entertainment to strangers for money.

The website offers a plethora of the town’s rich past and the links will take you there. When Frost said this website is “still very much a work in progress,” she was referring especially to the link under Resident Memories. All are invited to contact the committee to relate their memories of the town.

The younger generation will be represented by the students in all three school districts. Teacher resources and student projects will be developed at the schools aided by the Teacher Resources link.

Within the Teacher Resources is a link to topics for the 350th anniversary celebration for student projects. It is a wide-ranging outline of the history of the town and a great place to begin learning about the town’s celebrated past. Once you peruse the broad outline, you will go searching for more and more on the 26 topics included in the outline.

Another historical outline appears under the Community Programs tab for an all-inclusive book about Eastchester and its two villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville. It is a book 350 years in the making and will be available in late 2014. Bronxville editor and Village Historian Eloise Morgan and Forliano spearheaded the hardcover book’s research, writing and editing. Both have extensive writing credits and this new publication proves it.

Need to zero in on a topic? The website will take you to articles related to specific topics or time periods. These articles, written by historian Forliano, originally appeared in the Eastchester Review, formerly the Town Report. The index links to all his comprehensive newspaper columns.

There existed into the 1960s a small creek referred to as Rattlesnake Brook in a section of the Bronx, which was once part of Eastchester. The title attests to the wilderness Eastchester once was and some unwanted wildlife. Today the brook is merely a trough near Boston Post Road.

Ever heard of Pigs Hollow in Eastchester? This story and others about Eastchester and its historical sites will come later.

Now it’s time to head to the Eastchester anniversary website and read all about it.

Lissa Halen is a resident of Eastchester for more than 35 years and a member of the Eastchester Historical Society Board. She also contributed to the upcoming book “Out of the Wilderness: The emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville, 1664-2014”