The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter VI
Part I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER VI.

LONG ISLAND AND STATEN ISLAND.

From the time of the earliest settlement on Long Island until the surrender of the colony of New Netherland to the English the western end of the island was within the jurisdiction of the Dutch, whose claim included the town of Oyster Bay, which claim, however, was disregarded by the English. The Plymouth company issued, by order of Charles I, letters patent to William, Earl of Sterling, for the entire island. Sterling executed the power of attorney to James Farrett to dispose of land on Long Island. Four years later the earl died and his grandson, who succeeded him, survived but a few months. Their heirs surrendered the grant for the island to the Crown. The settlers on the eastern end were left to themselves and regulated their affairs accordingly. Purchases of land were made by the towns and were in later years confirmed by the governors appointed by the Duke of York. There were claims and counterclaims. A Scotchman claimed Long island, according to Van der Donck. Another, Captain Andrew Forester, of Dundee, claimed Long island for the dowager of Sterling. When Charles II ascended the throne, Winthrop, governor of the colony of Connecticut, was sent to England to obtain a charter. He received a charter covering the territories of the colonists of Connecticut and New Haven, and as a result the colony which became later known as the Connecticut colony laid claim to Long Island, as being one of the island adjacent.

The English Settlement--In 1664 Major John Scott came to Long Island with some royal authority and formed a combination of the Englishes villages--Hempstead, Gravesend, Flushing, Newtown, Jamaica, and Oyster Bay--with himself as president. Charles II granted, by letters patent, to his brother, James, the country occupied by the Dutch, together with Long Island. Lyon Gardiner appears to have been the first settler on the eastern end of the island, locating on Gardiner's Island a little before Southold and Southampton were settled. Then came the settlements of Easthampton, Shelter Island, Oyster Bay, Huntington, Brookhaven, and Smithtown. Each town was in the beginning a colony by itself, independent of all others. After a few years the towns voluntarily placed themselves under the protection of the New England colonies. Southampton obtained the protection of Connecticut; Easthampton, Brookhaven and Huntington did the same thing later. Southold united with the New Haven colony, together with Shelter Island. When the colonies of New Haven and Connecticut were united and a new charter was granted, including the territory of the islands adjacent, Connecticut claimed Long Island as one of those islands, and this claim had the support of the eastern towns. Oyster Bay also placed itself under the protection of Connecticut. The other English towns on the western end, within the Dutch jurisdiction, were trying to join this union, and then the grant to the Duke of York was made, and at the same time the colony of New Netherland became English, and Long Island was incorporated with New York. Later the English governor called together delegates of the various towns to meet at Hempstead. At this assemblage Long Island and Staten island were created into a "shire' called Yorkshire, and the Duke's laws were formulated. Yorkshire was divided into three ridings like its namesake in England. These were divisions of territory for the convenience of the courts. The shires in England were also called counties, because they were governed by a count or earl.

The several towns had up to the time existed without having their boundaries properly fixed. The settlers of the district came together from time to time to regulate their local affairs, and these men, associated for the purpose of government, constituted the town. Now the towns were recognized and were required to take out patents for the lands within their boundaries, which the towns themselves, or the West India Company, had purchased from the Indians. The present Suffolk County had constituted the East Riding. Hempstead, Flushing, Jamaica, and Oyster Bay the North Riding, and the present Kings County, Newtown, and Staten Island, the West Riding. The first General Assembly of the colony met and repealed some of the Duke's laws. The ridings also were abolished and the island was re-divided into three counties--Kings, Queens, and Suffolk. The towns of Newtown, formerly a part of West Riding, was made a part of Queens County. Kings and Queens counties were named in compliment of King Charles and his wife. Staten Island was made a county by itself and named Richmond, one of the titles of a son of Charles. In 1788 the towns were recognized by the laws of the newly established State of New York. The division of the island into three counties remained in force until Greater New York City came into existence, taking in, among Long Island territory, Kings County and a large part of Queens County. In 1899 queens County was divided. The part included within the greater city retained the old name, and the remainder was incorporated as the county of Nassau.

Brooklyn and Kings County--The borough of Brooklyn comprises the territory of Kings County. Until almost a century ago Kings county was least among he three original counties of Long Island, not only in area, but also in population. The population of Kings County was: In 1698, 2,013; in 1800, 47,613. The increase was slow outside the limits of the two later cities of Williamsburgh and Brooklyn. A description of the other towns within the county in the year 1700 closely fits the state of things in 1800. In 1700 the land was nearly all under cultivation; a century later some of the farms had been divided and the number of inhabitants had correspondingly increased. During the first four decades of the nineteenth century the population rose more rapidly--from 5,740 in 1800, to 47,613 in 1840, yet this increase was mainly caused by the influx of people into Brooklyn and Williamsburg, where ropewalks and factories had been built. The other towns were still farming districts. Indian footpaths connected the shores of the East river and Jamaica Bay. They followed the line of least resistance through the flats or level lands, and these flats the white men were eager of possess. Along one trail settlements were established which were known as the ferry, Breukelen, Bedford, Midwout, and Nieuw Amersfoort. Along another trail the Boswijck and "het kruispad" settlements came into existence. At an early date several settlers bought lands from the Indians in Flatlands, Flatbush, and probably in Brooklyn.

When the riding were created, Gravesend was made the shire town of the West Riding. This community had been founded by Englishmen, and was the only town in the later Kings county with which the English government could transact official business in English speech. The others settlements carried on their legal affairs in the Dutch tongue. Breukelen, which was then named Brookland; Midwout, then called Flatbush; Nieuw Amersfoort, later called Flatlands' Boswijck and New Utrecht were therefore made a separate district under the appellation of the "Five Dutch Towns." A register was commissioned by the Governor for this district to take the proofs of all documents, which were required to be recorded in the "Office of Records" in New York City, where certificates were issued with the seal of this office. The Five Dutch Towns also constituted an ecclesiastical society, and joined in the support of their ministers until the collegiate system was abolished about the end of the eighteenth century. In 1840 the town of Williamsburgh was separated from Bushwick and on January 1, 1852, the city of Williamsburgh came into existence. In 8152 the town of New Lots was separated from Flatbush. On January 1, 1855, the cities of Brooklyn and Williamsburgh and the town of Bushwick were consolidated and incorporated as the city of Brooklyn. In 1886 the town of New Lots was annexed to this union, followed in 1894 by the towns of Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and Gravesend. On January 1, 1898, Brooklyn became a borough of the city of New York. In 1810 Brooklyn had a population of 4,402 and there were 400 houses, fifty to sixty ships docked annually at its wharves, and there were then six grain or tide mills, three magazine for storage of gunpowder, several distilleries, three ropewalks, one Episcopalian stone church, one Reformed Dutch stone church, one Methodist church, one poor house, two market houses, constructed of wood and situated in the open spaces near the old and new ferries. The one at the old ferry was established in 1673 and both were abolished in 1814. The post office of Kings county was in this town, and was a principal point of concentration for all the stage and other roads on the island. There was one weekly newspaper. A drawbridge was at this time contemplated to connect Brooklyn with New York. In 1850 the population of Brooklyn had risen to 96,838. In 1810 the village of New Utrecht contained forty houses and the Reformed Dutch Church edifice. The taxable property was valued at $275,765; the population was then 907; in 1835, 1027; in 1840, 1,283. Neighborhoods in this town were Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton, and Bath on Gravesend Bay. The fortress known as Fort Hamilton was constructed during the years 1824-1832. Fort Lafayette was built upon Hendrick's Bluff, 200 yards from the shore, in 1812, and was originally known as Fort Diamond. A few feet below the surface, at the Narrows, was found in 1837 more than a wagon load of Indian arrow heads. #1

Id the original 7,000 acres of land in the original Gravesend, 3,500 were farm land, 300 woodland, and the balance salt meadow and a ridge of sand hills near the seashore. Directly opposite Gravesend, on the other side of Lower New York Bay, was the Navesink Highlands; along these highlands and the Navesink River the sand is of a reddish color, hence the name of Red Bank in the neighborhood. On the Long Island shore the sand is of a grayish color and this fact may have led to the settlers to name the shore "Graauwezande" or Grauesand, as the name if often written in the old documents, i. e., "Grayishsand." The Dutch Church was organized in 1763 and a church edifice was erected, which was replaced by a second one in 1833, and this one again by a third in 1894. Shortly after he conquest the town was made the seat of justice, a courthouse was erected, and the courts of Session of the West Riding were held there. In 1810 Gravesend village contained twenty houses, the Reformed Dutch Church and a schoolhouse. A lighthouse was designed to be erected at Coney island. There were two tidemills. The taxable property was valued at $178,477. The population was 520, which rose to 810 in 1840. The settlement in Sheepshead Bay was originally known as "The Cove" and later as Sheepshead Bay. Other neighborhoods were Unionville and Guntherville, on Gravesend Bay, South Greenfield on the King's Highway, and on the head of Garrettsen's Creek, extending over the Flatlands line.

Flatbush was originally known as Midwout, and was first settled in 1651. In 1810 it was known as the capital of the county. The village then contained about 100 houses, standing on the town road and covering a stretch one a half miles in length; the stone buildings of the Reformed Dutch Church, the courthouse and jail, Erasmus Hall Academy and two common schools, also two tidemills and one windmill, were within the town limits. The poorhouse of the county was located in the town.

Neighborhoods in the town were: Greenfield, Parkville, Oaklands, and Windsor Terrace.

Flushing was originally called Vlissingen, after a place in the Netherlands. The settlers erected a blockhouse near the pond at a point later known as Union Street and Broadway. Prior to 1821 the only road between Little Neck and Flushing Village was through what was later known as the "alley," winding its way round about and over hills and increasing the distance more than two miles before reaching its terminus at the "lonely barn." In 1824 the road from Little Neck Hotel was donated, a causeway constructed, and a ridge built at Wynandt Van Zandt's expense, who owned the land. In 1824 the road was turnpiked to Roslyn and three years later to Oyster Bay. It was known as the Flushing and North Hempstead Turnpike Road and later as Broadway. An Indian trail formerly existed there and in widening the road the Indian burying ground at Little Neck, where for two centuries the remains of the red men had rested, had to be cut off.

The Jamaica band of Indians dwelt upon the shores of Rockaway Inlet; the territory around Jamaica Bay was known as Conorasset, i. e., the planting land of the bears, or Canarsee tribe. When Queens County was created the courts were transferred from Hempstead to Jamaica Village and a County court was erected. When the building became too small for its purposes and the stone meeting house had been erected, the courts were held for some years in that edifice. Later a new courthouse was erected and used until the seat of justice ass removed to North Hempstead. Increase Carpenter's Tavern, later known as Goetze's Hotel, was used as a tavern from the date of 1710. The inn was the scene of General Woodhull's capture. The property purchased by Rufus King, in 1805, consisted of a roomy house and of about ninety acres of land, situated a little west of the village in the main road. the town was several times the seat of the colonial legislature.

College Point, formerly called Strattonport, is the northwestern portion of a tract of land which was known as Lawrence's Neck, or Tew's Neck. The neck was named after William Lawrence, who resided there. Eliphalet Stratton purchased, in 1790, 320 acres of land on the neck for £300. About 1850 his daughter disposed of 140 acres, the site of the later village, for the sum of 30,000, retaining the balance of the land in the family. Here were located St. Paul's college, an institution for the education of young men for the Episcopal ministry. The college was discontinued, but the name of College Point remained in use. Whitestone was settled nearly at as early date as that of Flushing. It was first named Cookie Hill, and its later name came from a large white rock that lies at the point where the tides of the Sound and the East River meet. There was the house of Francis Lewis, the only signed of the Declaration of Independence who resided in queens county, during the popularity of Dewitt Clinton the place was known as Clintonville. At the beginning of the last century there were within the circumference of one mile only twelve houses in the village. About this time a ferry was in existence, running from this point to Throgg's neck, in Westchester County, used mostly for the conveyance of cattle. Bayside, three miles north of Flushing village, was settled soon after Flushing. Dr. Rodman settled there; he died in 1731. The land at Douglass Point was owned by Thomas Hicks long before the Revolution. After several changes the property passed into the hand of George Douglass, and so derived its name. In 1784, the town of Hempstead was divided into North Hempstead and South Hempstead. The mansion of George Duncan Ludlow, at Hempstead Plain, later called Hyde Park, was one of the largest houses in the island. The estate was confiscated in consequence of his adherence to the British side in the war. The courts of the colony were originally for the most part held at Hempstead. #2

Playgrounds of New York--It is thus seen that the first century of the island, or at least that portion of it which has been incorporated in the city of New York, or which rests on the fringe of the city, is marked by gradual development. In more modern times it has become the home not merely of the well-to-do wage-earner, but of men of great means, who have acquired large tracts of Long Island for their country homes. In the last generation the history of the more western part of the island has been embraced in the history of New York as, indeed it has been largely embraced in it from the beginning. It in and beyond it the great new estates which have become chief among the features of the new Long Island have resulted in vast improvements inroads and railroad services and in other directions. The modern development has been I a large measure the improvement of the island as the great playground of New York as well as the homeland of a large proportion of the working population of the city. From the point of view of the sportsman it is something of a paradise. "Within a twenty-mile circle around New York City Hall, the only rabbits, quail, foxes, the only ducks and snipe out of captivity are found on Long Island. About forty miles out deer are found in numbers that bring hundreds to the shooting on the days allowed bylaw. The trout season opens earlier on the island than elsewhere in the State. The duck shooting surpasses anything on the Atlantic seaboard, owing to the fact that Long Island is the only land laying across the line of flight and because its northern bays, its southern salt marshes and open water close to myriad sweet-water ponds and feeding grounds, make this land the only resting place for the birds on their long semi-annual trips. 'The Automobilists' Paradise' was long ago applied to Long Island and to this day there is no other worthy claimant to the title. The highways of the island offer an infinite variety of hill and vale, land vista and water views, level stretches and forest-crowned slopes without equal in America. No less complete are Long Island's attractions to the lover of golf. Besides the famous Nassau and Garden City links, dozens of smaller club links and private estate courses are found in every corner of the island. To the fisherman and the yachtsman little need be said of the bays and backwaters, with their safe harbors and open inlets to Sound and Ocean, for the island has held first rank in these since the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. #3

Historic Associations on Staten Island--There has been a close connection between Long Island history and Staten Island history, and Staten Island has been largely settled from Long Island. The first settlement on Staten Island was at Onde Dorp, the present site of Arrochar Park, near Fort Wadsworth. It contained but a few cottages and was destroyed three times by the Indians. At Stony Brook was the first permanent settlement. Nieuwe Dorp was a continuation of Stony Brook. Several foundations of the old buildings may yet be distinguished. Long Neck was on the site of the New Springville, It had one of the first public schools on Staten Island. Smoking Point, later called Blazing Star, and later Rossville, is a very old settlement. Tottenville was formerly the manor of Bentley, named after the little vessel which brought Billopp to America. Tompkinsville was laid out in 1814 by governor Tompkins, who gave to the streets the names of his children. the road from Tompkinsville to Richmond is full of historic interest. On Pavilion Hill, at Tompkinsville, may be seen an old British breastwork, which was rebuilt by Americans in the War of 1812. Concord was so named by the Emersons. Judge William Emerson, who was county judge of Richmond County, lived there in 1840, and his brother, Ralph, was a frequent quest, as was also Thoreau, the naturalist. West of Emerson Hill is the Old Clinch homestead, built in 1700. It was confiscated by British officers during the Revolution.

At Garretsons is the Perine home, erected in 1668, by one of the Huguenot settlers, whose descendants still hold it. Captain Coughlin, of the British Army, who married Margaret Moncrieffe, lived in this house while his regiment was stationed at Staten Island. The old Moravian church at new Dorp was built in 1763. The British made an unsuccessful attempt to burn it. Near the head of New Dorp Lane stood for nearly 200 years the Rose and Crown farmhouse, built by a Huguenot settler named Bedell. On July 4, 1776, Howe, commander-in-chief of the British land forces in America, had his headquarters there. In that house he first saw and read the Declaration of Independence. Here was planned the battle of Long Island to offset the Declaration. The Black Horse Tavern is west of this site at the junction of Amboy and Richmond roads. This was occupied by the British officers and here they received the reports of the spies. A few hundred yards from the Black Horse Tavern toward the west is Camp Hill, where stood the gambling den which witnesses the ruin of many British officers. Near this on a level depression now covered with trees was a dueling ground, where many famous duels were fought. It is said that these two places caused the dishonorable discharge of nearly fifty British officers. Beyond this on the Amboy Road lies Stony Brook, where stood the first Waldensian Church on the continent, and the first church on Staten Island, the first trading post in that part of the country. West of Stony brook may be seen the remains of the Britton homestead which, until a few years ago, was probably the oldest house standing on the island.

Beyond Green Ridge, between Huguenot and Rossville, is Woodrow. It once held one of the very earliest Methodist churches built in America. In the old Van Pelt house Bishop Asbury preached eleven day after his arrival in America. The lower part of the island was known as Bentley Manor and contained perhaps the greatest landmark in the borough, the Billopp house. When the apportionment of the islands surrounding New York and New Jersey was made, it was agreed that New York should have as many as could be circumnavigated in one day. Captain Christopher Billopp, commander of a small vessel, succeeded in including Staten Island in one day's sail, an act which won from the Duke of York a tract of land containing 1,063 acres. This includes the village of Tottenville. Under the roof of the Billopp house was held the only peace conference of the Revolution. Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania; John Adams, of Massachusetts, and Edward Rutledge, of South Carolina, were appointed as a committee by the Continental Congress, then in session at Philadelphia, to confer on the issues of war.

On the north shore the first object upon leaving St. George is the old Pavilion Hotel, built in 1832, which was in the '50s the center of attraction for many wealthy Southerners. Sailors' Snug Harbor, a world-famous institution, is the outcome of a will made by Robert Randall, in 1801. The will was drawn up by Governor Daniel Tompkins and Alexander Hamilton, and resulted in much legislation, in which Daniel Webster and Dr. Emmett took part. The suits were not terminated till 1831, in which year the corner-stone was laid. At Tompkins Place once stood the Fountain Hotel. General Sullivan ordered this to be burned when he made his raid on Staten island, but the British succeeded in rescuing it. It was the scene of more gaiety and social functions than any other of the ancient taverns on the island. At Castle Corners was one of the oldest schoolhouses, being the third on the island. It was just back of the site of the present school and was built in 1784. At the junction of Brooks Avenue and Broadway is the Tyler House, the former residence of the wife of the tenth President of the United States, John Tyler. It later became the residence of the Russian consul General, whose coach and four-in-hand were the delight of the neighbors. Old Place is interesting as the last Indian settlement or village on Staten island. Fort Wadsworth was established during the War of 1812 by New York State. In 1847 the United States Government bought the property, tore down the old forts, and built the present stronghold. The last shot of the Revolutionary War is said to have been fired at this fort by a British gunboat on Evacuation Day, 1783. #4

Staten island and New York--Since Staten island became part of New York City it has shared in the development of the great metropolis. It is felt, however, that the transportation facilities have not kept pace with the borough's growth, and this is in part due to its peculiar situation, divided from Manhattan by a broad harbor and from Brooklyn by the Narrows. The operation of the Municipal ferry opened a new era of prosperity, and trolley lines are now bringing isolated communities in closer touch. Later it is hoped the Staten Island Tunnel will bring the island also within the subway system. There are over a 100 houses of worship in the borough and many of the churches are of historic interest. There are numerous charitable institution, many of the leading organizations of that character in New York having branches in the borough.

As the ferry boat approached St. George the stranger is sure to be impressed by the high stretch of land just back of the ferry slips. Crowning the summit is a large greystone building, whose square towers and massive proportions stand out very clearly. This is the Curtis high School. It is a good indication of the interest in education in the borough. The Richmond Borough schools belong to the New York system, but the buildings are usually more commodious then those in the city and the schools have larger playgrounds and more cloistered situations. There are over fifty elementary schools with a total attendance of over 20,000 pupils. The introduction of public lectures has proved an important element. The Staten island Academy was founded in 1884, and the course of study extends from the kindergarten to college entrance. There are also several private school, among them St. Peter's Academy, New Brighton; Westerleigh Institute, the Augustan Academy, Grimes Hill, and the St. Louis Academy.

There are four important hospitals. Of these the one most often seen because in plain view of the harbor and of the railroad, is the Marine Hospital at Clifton. The establishment of United States marine hospitals is a long story, dating back to 1798, the object being to enable seamen of the merchant marine, when sick or disabled, to be cared for by the general government. U. S. Marine hospitals are established at the larger ports and at the smaller ports the government rents wards in a municipal or private hospital, where the sailors are cared for by a commissioned officer of the service. The hospital building and grounds for the Port of New York were rented by the government in 1883 and purchased from the Marine Society of New York City in 1903. The hospital was built seventy or eighty years ago, but the government has remodeled it, Congress appropriating $250,000 for the purpose. In addition there ere the Smith Infirmary, St. Vincent's Hospital, St. John's Guild, and some lesser places.

Staten Island is coming to the fore also as an amusement ground for New Yorkers. Within easy access are two pleasant resorts, Midland Beach and South Beach. Both lie on the south shore of the island and have much of that variety of entertainment which has made Coney Island famous. The large casino at Midland Beach has a large skating rink. At South Beach there is a fine pier where there is good fishing. The roads throughout the borough have been continuously improved and automobiles continue to increase at a great rate. The population of Staten Island was 130,697 in the last estimate. The island is hilly and contains much excellent farming land. Its length is more than thirteen miles, its greatest width seven and three-quarters miles, and it has thirteen miles of ocean frontage. Quaint old ports are scattered along the south shore and odd little villages in the interior. But interspersed everywhere are the modern and luxurious country residences of wealthy New Yorkers, who go back and forth daily. Richmond, the judicial seat of the island when it was Richmond county, is some distance from the railroad, but accessible by trolley cars from St. George. Some idea of the island's relation to Manhattan is the fact that the ferry carried, in 1922, 22,223,612 passengers and 751,303 vehicles.

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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