Port Chester Harbor is a village in New York's Westchester County. One of only twelve villages that are still incorporated under a charter in the State of New York, Port Chester Harbor is surrounded by wealthy enclaves to the northeast of New York City. Port Chester Harbor is just five nautical miles (7.7 kilometers or 4.8 miles) northeast of Port Mamaroneck Harbor. It is only 37 nautical miles (53 kilometers or 33 miles) northeast of the Port of New York. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 29 thousand people.
The blue-collar character of Port Chester Harbor has a heritage of immigrants. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, people came to Port Chester Harbor to work in local factories and mills from Italy, Ireland, and Poland. Today's immigrants come from Central and South America and make up almost half of Port Chester Harbor's residents.
The Mohegans were an early clan, The Wolf Clan, of the Delaware. In the early 17th Century, rapidly-growing settlements of Europeans placed increasing pressure on the land and resources, and their diseases decimated the populations of indigenous people. When they migrated to Connecticut and joined the Pequots, they became known as today's Mohegans. Uncas was the Sachem (high chief) of the Mohegan people from 1598 until 1683. Witnessing the losses from fighting the Europeans, Uncas befriended the English, allying with them against the Pequots. Uncas led the Mohegans to a village at Shantok (Connecticut) where the English alliance kept them safe during and after King Philip's War.
Mohegan Samson Occum was an early ordained indigenous Christian minister who was a respected teacher and spiritual leader over many indigenous people in New England in the 18th Century. He attempted to create a Christian Indian School, and the church sent him to England to raise money. After collecting eleven thousand pounds, he returned to find the school moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where it eventually became Dartmouth College.
Shortly after that, the Connecticut Colony ruled that the Mohegans would not be paid for the land they sold to the colony. The colony tried to instate in unpopular Sachem, so the people rejected the Sachemship altogether. As the tribe became more poor and powerless, Occum led the people to join the Oneida in New York. Because he was a Christian, the Mohegans were able to avoid relocation in later years.
In 1994, the Mohegan tribe won federal recognition as a sovereign nation, giving the Mohegans authority to rule themselves. Today, many of the people live on the Mohegan Reservation in New London County, Connecticut. They operate the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville and a casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, at Pocono Downs. The Mohegan Nation also owns the Connecticut Sun, a Women's National Basketball Association team. At least two bands of Mohegan people live outside the federally-recognized band.
The first European settlers in the future Port Chester Harbor came from the Connecticut colony in 1660. They bought land from the indigenous people, even though that land had already been claimed by the Dutch. In 1662, these brave colonists formally declared their allegiance to King Charles of England. Making more treaties with the indigenous people, the settlers consolidated land that now holds Rye, Harrison, White Plains, and parts of Greenwich, Mamaroneck, and North Castle.
The colonies of New York and Connecticut fought over the future Port Chester Harbor area for almost a century until the State of New York established the boundaries of the Town of Rye in 1788. Settlers moved outward from the town into Peningo Neck and Port Chester Harbor, even though they called it "Saw Pit" at the time. Port Chester Harbor had a good harbor, and the ship-building industry grew to make it a port exporting local farm produce.
Port Chester Harbor (or Saw Pit) was an important military installation during the American Revolution. Both the British and Americans struggled for control of the port, almost destroying the town. After the revolution ended, Port Chester Harbor was rebuilt, and the ship-building industry flourished. It was soon an important stop for steamboats. The name Port Chester was finally adopted in 1837, and Port Chester Harbor was incorporated as a village within the Town of Rye in 1868.
In the last half of the 1800s, the appearance of major railroads brought decline to agriculture and ship-building in Port Chester Harbor. The village began to transform from a port and trade hub to a center for manufacturing. By the middle 20th Century, Port Chester Harbor was a major factory town in the Lower Hudson River Valley. Many famous corporations were headquartered there or had factories in the Port Chester Harbor, including Life Savers, Fruit of the Loom, and many more. For a while, Port Chester Harbor bustled with evening and week-end activity at its popular stores and restaurants. In the 1970s, factories started moving to the south or west, and Port Chester Harbor's economic base faltered. The last important manufacturer to leave was Life Savers in 1984 after 64 years in Port Chester Harbor. Since those difficult times, Port Chester Harbor has rebuilt its retail sector and added a growing service economy.