Like most Lloyd residents, Archivist Joan de Vries Kelley typically answers “Highland” when asked where she lives. But she felt plagued by the question, “Why Is Our Town Named Lloyd?” and devoted herself to finding a credible answer. Because no existing historical documents answered her question, she expanded her search. Recently, Kelley shared her research methods and her findings at the March program of the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society.
In her presentation, Kelley described how she looked for the answer in primary sources, including legislative, census, and town records; secondary sources, such as local histories and newspapers, other supporting information like maps and land records; and typical naming patterns for other towns. In the process, she uncovered several other tidbits of information about regional history, and she shared those too, frequently to the amusement of her audience.
She looked for hints in records going as far back as the founding of New York’s 12 original counties, which included Ulster. New York’s counties were created after England drove out the Dutch rulers, and the counties were frequently named after members of the royal family, including King Charles’ many illegitimate children. Others were named for towns or regions in England. Westchester, she learned, got its name when it was settled by colonist who came west from Chester – so the story goes. But nothing that far back gave hints to the naming of Lloyd.
As time passed, the colonies got too populated to manage efficiently, and they were divided into towns. Then even many towns outgrew their ability to manage their roads, schools, and other aspects of town life. In 1833, a group of petitioners asked the state to split the town of New Paltz in two. Their application was denied, but in 1842, the town was divided into two election districts, and in 1845 the complete split into two towns took place. That was well documented in state and town records, which refer to the new town as Lloyd or Loyd. But none of those records tell why.
Perhaps there was a hint in the establishment of a Loyd (single L) Post Office even before the founding of the town. While that contributed to the confusion over the spelling of the name, it offered no new clues as to its origin. One thing was certain – the post office was not named after the postmaster. That, according to records at the time was a definite no-no.
Kelley tracked down a report of the new town’s first meeting, where the Board of Auditors reported on their approvals of payments to people ranging from the superintendent of schools to election inspectors and overseers of the poor, and even a man claiming a bounty for killing two foxes. But no mention of the town name.
The mystery remained. Kelley delved into census records. Unfortunately, the full records kept in Albany were burned, but from a Census Summary for 1845 she learned that Lloyd had a population of 2,035 including 461 voters, 46 aliens, 39 colored persons, 221 farmers, 16 manufacturers, 75 mechanics, and seven learned professionals. But still no mention of how the town got its name.
She dug deeper into other supporting information. Maps of the time showed a Loyd Patent within the Town of New Paltz along its southern border, but not in the part that eventually became the new town. It was land owned by Thomas Loyd (sometimes written as Lloyd) between 1687 and 1692. He was not a local resident, and was actually lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania for a few years. But he was a big landowner, who even owned Ellis Island for a time. On records of buying and selling lands, the spelling of his name seems to evolve from Lloud to Loyd and finally Lloyd. Kelley attributed the changes to the difference in spelling between Dutch and English.
So who was this Thomas Loyd/Lloyd? Kelley reported that he was born in Wales in 1640, graduated from Oxford in 1661, converted to the Society of Friends in Wales in 1663. The records Kelley found described him as a physician “with a large practice,” and as “influential in matters of state.” In 1683, he, his wife Mary, and their nine children sailed for America. He purchased land in Philadelphia, New York and New Jersey. But his wife died just a few months after their arrival, after the birth of another child, a little boy. When William Penn, chief executive of the province of Pennsylvania, returned to England in 1884, he left Thomas in charge. But Thomas’ second wife was a New Yorker and he spent much of his time away from Philadelphia, so Penn replaced him for a time with John Blackwell. Eventually however Penn commissioned Thomas as lieutenant-governor, an office he held from 1690 to 1693.
Is it likely that Lloyd was named after someone with no real connection to the Town? Actually yes, it’s quite possible, as shown by Kelley’s research into the origins of names of surrounding towns. Among the towns of Rosendale, Denning, Gardiner, and Hardenburg, only Rosendale is named after a resident. All the others are named for people with some degree of fame in politics or the military.
Looking at naming patterns of the time, one sees at least two points in Thomas Loyd/Lloyd’s favor: the fame he acquired as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant-governor and the patent in his name, even though it wasn’t in the part of New Paltz that would become the new town. Then, there was one other factor that Kelley pointed out: There wasn’t anyone else around who fit the naming patterns any better.
Kelley also delved into the writings of several local historians. Most of them, such as the late Beatrice Hasbrouck Wadlin, acknowledge that no one knows for sure. But if there’s been no consensus on the theory of Thomas Lloyd, most agreed it’s the most likely answer.
Kelley believes it, and no one has dug deeper or broader into the records to find the truth. Meanwhile, town residents will continue to give their address as Highland, because that’s what the post office says, while they pay their taxes to and get their services from the Town of Lloyd.