were capable ; that he had twenty-four of his scholars publicly
catechized in the church, and the readiness with which they
answered all questions was admired by all who heard them ;
that he taught them the use of the "common prayer," so that
the children could join with the congregation in the divine ser-
vice. This report was certified to by the minister and the board
of justices of the county.
In 1717, Charles Taylor appears as the schoolmaster of the
" Society," with a salary of fifteen pounds a year. He appears
to have occupied the position for several years. In 1722 and
1723 he was teaching respectively, forty-three and forty two
scholars. Besides the scholars in regular daily attendance he
also at that time kept a night school for teaching negroes and
those children who had to work during the day-time. The
salary received from the " Society" was not his only reliance.
He received an additional pittance from his patrons as a rule,
though his own interest in the cause and the poverty of some
of his pupils induced him to teach some without any other pay
than the salary of the society. He continued to exercise the
functions of a schoolmaster for many years. He died in the
HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 447
service in 1742. as the following abstract from the "Society's"
minutes will show :
"And Mr. Taylor, the Society's Schoolmaster at Staten
Island being dead, the Society upon a Petition and Recommenda-
tion from the Reverend Mr. Arnold, their Missionary, and from
the Church-wardens and Vestry of the Church of Staten Island,
of Mr. Andrew AV right, as a Person of good Morals, and a con-
stant Communicant, and well qualified to teach, hath appointed
him School-master there to instruct the poor white, and black
Children also, if any such are brought to him, gratis, in the
Principles of Christianity, and to read the Bible and the Com-
It is hardly to be supposed that these schoolmasters employed
by this society were the first or only teachers engaged at the
time in the instruction of children. But we have been unable
to find any definite data in regard to the early operations of the
Dutch in the cause of education.
During the colonial period the secular schools were generally
under private patronage. To show the contrast between a
teacher's certificate of that time and those under which teachers
pass at the present time we give the following copy :
"We whose names are under written Do Certify that the
Bearer hereof, James Forrest, has lived in the West end of
Staten Island two years and six months, During which time we
know nothing of him but what is Just and honest, Teaching and
Instructing of Pupils in such parts of Literature as their
Capacity Could Contain: with great Fidelity and Justice, Giv-
ing due and Regular Attendance in said school to our mutual
& Intire Satisfaction and Likewise Instructed them in their
Parts and Honours to our great Felicity, and now to part at his
own Request. As Witness our hands 6th of August Seventeen
hundred and Sixtynine 1769.
ISAAC DOTY, WILLIAM BENNET, ABRAHAM WINANT,
PETER ANDROVET, DAVID LAFORGE, JOHN GARRISON,
ZACKEUS YANDYCK, GEORGE GARRISON, CORNELIUS DUSOSWAY,
JOHN DUBOIS, DANIEL WINANT, JOHN GOULD,
ISAAC PRALL, JACOB RECKHOW, JOHN STORY,
ISAAC DOTY, DANIEL STILWELL, THOMAS BUTLER,
MOSES DOTY, JOHN TOTTON, HENRY BUTLER,
JOSEPH SPRAGG, GILBERT TOTTON, CHRISTOPHER BILLOPP,
JACOB SPRAGG, ISAAC MANE,
DANIEL WINANT, Jnn'r."
448 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.
After the establishment of the state government the subject
of popular education began to receive notice in the legislature.
The rirst step in that direction was the incorporation of the
Regents of the University, which was done by the first legisla-
ture after the adoption of the constitution. In 1789, the state
set apart certain public lands for gospel and school purposes.
In 1795, an act was passed for encouraging and maintaining
schools, appropriating fifty thousand dollars annually for five
years for that purpose. In 1799, an act was passed authorizing
and providing for raising the sum of one hundred thousand
dollars by means of four successive lotteries, the money to be
appropriated to the encouragement of schools. In 1SOG, an act
was passed by which five hundred thousand acres of the public
lands of the state were to be sold and the proceeds devoted to
the establishment of a permanent fund, the income of which
was to be annually distributed among the school districts of the
state for the support of common schools.
~No system for carrying out the beneficence of the state had
been devised when Governor Tompkins, at the opening of the
session, in 1810, addressed the legislature, urging attention to
this matter. The income of the fund at that time amounted to
about twenty-six thousand dollars annually, the fund itself
having reached the sum of one hundred and fifty-one thousand
one hundred and fifteen dollars and sixt3 r -nine cents. In 1811
Governor Tompkins again urged the matter upon the legisla-
ture, and the result was the passage of an act organizing the
common school system as it existed until 1838. The first dis-
tribution of money under this system was made in 1813, the law
establishing it having been passed June 19, 1812. This system
divided the several towns into school districts, and placed the
affairs of each district in the hands of three trustees. The
school money was apportioned to the towns on the basis of their
population, and again divided to each school district on the basis
of the number of children in each, between the ages of five and
fifteen years. Each town was required to raise for school pur-
poses a sum equal to that which it received from the state. The
first superintendent of common schools was Gideon Hawley,
whose term extended from 1813 to 1821.
But it is not our purpose to give here even an outline of the
development of the common school system of which to-day the
Empire state may justly boast. That system, in its operations,
HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.
is not different in Richmond county from other parts of the
state. Its present status is shown by the following figures
from the reports of the schools for the year last closed :
TOWN OF CASTLETON.
!S o w
West New Brighton
1 256 968
New Brighton . .
TOWN OF MlDDLETOWN.
Toiupkinsville Kdge water
1 101 310
TOWN OF NORTHFIELD.
.">.">( i 1 1
Port Richmond, Village of
5 692 50
Port Richmond. .
SI KM III
TOWN OF SOUTHFIELD.
Clifton . .
3 512 61
New DorD. .
TOWN OF WESTFIELD.
1 [Richmond Valley.
2 Sea Side..
3 1 Green Ridge .
6 Prince's Bay. .
8'Sea Side. .
In the popular instruction afforded by public lectures and
literary entertainments of a high order, the people of Staten
Island have enjoyed unusual facilities. For ma,ny years in-
structive lecture courses have been maintained in some of the
450 IIISTOKY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.
villages. The support given to them speaks well for the intelli-
gent good sense of the people. The evidences are not wanting
to show that the people of Staten Island have been disposed to
appreciate the value of popular education in many ways, and
to give a generous support to whatever means were presented
for its accomplishment. The proximity to New York city, how-
ever, which circumstance has proven favorable to some means,
has been unfavorable to the maintenance here of collegiate
schools or academies of high grade. Attempts have been made
to establish such institutions, but the results until recently
have not been eminently encouraging. An explanation is
readily seen in the fact that the best institutions of the great
metropolis, with advantages which a rural county like this
could not be expected to emulate, are daily accessible to the
residents of the island. We shall notice but a few of the at-
tempts to found schools for higher education on the island.
The Richmond county college was incorporated by an act of
the legislature passed April 21, 1838. A condition of its exist-
ence was that it should within two "years own property to the
value of $80,000, in default of which the charter was to become
null and void. Ogden Edwards*, Walter Patterson, Charles
T. Catlin, Jacob Tysen, Thomas McAuley, Charles A. Porter,
John S. Westervelt, William Wilson, George Howard, Caleb T.
Ward, William W. Phillips, Thomas Wilson, Minthorne
Tompkins, William A. Seeley, John N. McLeod, Thomas Gum-
ming, Billop B. Seaman, William C. Brownlee, Robert Pattison,
David Moore, Alexander Martin, Thomas E. Davis, James O.
Smith, William Scott, Louis McLane, John E. Miller, James
Pollock, James B. Murray, Duncan Dunbar, Samuel Barton,
William Agnew, Thomas J. Oakley, John R. Satterlee and
William Soul were constituted the body corporate and politic,
and the first trustees. Several efforts were made to convene
the trustees without success, and the matter finally died away
and was forgotten.
Brighton Heights seminary for girls is located on St. Mark's
place, jiearly opposite the Reformed church. The large prop-
erty of Horace R. Kelly was purchased for it. It was estab-
lished in 1883. Its first principal was Mrs. Hartt, the widow of
the late Professor Charles F. Hartt, of Cornell University. It
* The names in Italics were residents of the island.
HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 431
was intended to make the school equal to the best New York
and Brooklyn schools.
The " Brighton Heights Association" was formed in the spring
of 1883, by a number of gentlemen, residents of Staten Island,
who purchased property at a cost of $20,000, formerly the resi-
dence of G-eorge Wetherspoon, Esq. The interior was re-
modelled and fitted to the new purpose at a cost of over $3,500.
The school was well patronized by all parts of the island, and
the building was found too small, so an addition was made at a
cost of $6,000, built in 1884, on the south side of the grounds
fronting St. Mark's place. It is connected by a covered passage
way with the first building. The size of the new addition is
forty by forty-one feet, two stories high. The basement is of
brick, the building frame. A kindergarten has been added.
Preparatory, music, drawing and French are taught. The pres-
ent principal is Dr. George W. Cook.
The Staten Island academy is the fulfillment of a desire long-
felt and discussed, to provide for this populous suburb of New
York a school so organized that it should furnish graded in-
struction complete and of a high order, from the primary to
the collegiate years. An earnest effort in the spring and sum-
mer of 1884, shaped a movement which resulted in the estab-
lishment of an incorporated school, planned from the outset to
furnish such instruction and especially to give the carefullest
preparation for the university or schools of technology.
The school was first opened September 15, 1884. It is char-
tered under the laws of the state of New York. Its general
management is given to a board of trustees elected by the
stockholders. It offers systematic courses of study in all
primary and academic grades, with the strictest features of a
thoroughly classified school maintained in every department.
The school is exclusively for day scholars and receives pupils
of both sexes from the primary grade upward.
The building now occupied by the school is on Richmond
road, opposite the Lyceum, and stands in one of the quietest
and most attractive parts of Stapleton. It is supplied with
modern school furniture, electric bells, gas, water, toilet rooms
and all that may contribute to the comfort of scholars and the
efficiency of their class work.
The trustees of the academy have designed to provide here a
complete Froebel kindergarten, and to this end two rooms have
452 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.
been furnished with all that relates to kindergarten work. In
one of these the children are busy with their various occupa-
tions, while in the other and larger one they have ample space
for the beautiful games and exercises of the Froebel system.
Care is taken that the children shall be surrounded by all
that can help develop a taste for the beautiful, and a habit of
kindness to the lower animals. An aquarium of fishes, a mini-
ature flower garden, singing birds, pictures, and designs, of
which many are the specimens of the children's own handiwork,
adorn the rooms.
The entire organization of the school property, its courses of
study, etc., has devolved upon the present principal, Frederick E.
Partington, A.M., of Brown University, who was the first to take
charge at the opening in September, 1884. The school registers
now over two hundred students, and can admit no more, except
when vacancies occur, and it has a list of thirty or forty who
are waiting to enter when the chance comes. The trustees have
lately acquired a large property, and steps have been taken to
erect a large and permanent structure which will accommodate
four hundred pupils, and be provided with a fine gymnasium,
assembly hall and all the appointments of a modern preparatory
school. Among the more prominent citizens of the island
closely interested in its development are Hon. George William
Curtis, Erastus Wiman, Esq. and Dr. John C. Eccleston.
The present board of trustees are : Augustus Schoverling,
Dr. John L. Feeny, Carl von Dannenberg, Hermann Garbe,
Frederick W. Graef, August Horrmann, Algernon K. Johnston,
Dr. Rudolph Mautner, Anthon G. Methfessel, William Rock-
stroth, Reinhardt Siedenberg, Hugo Schering and Erastus
St. Austin's School, for boys, at West New Brighton, was
established in 1883, through the efforts of Rev. Alfred G.
Mortimer, the present rector. From its beginning this school
has met with unusual success. In February, 1885. the property
of the late W. T. Garner, on Bard avenue, consisting of fifteen
acres of ground with the buildings thereon, was purchased for
the school. Class rooms and gymnasium, with a front of one
hundred and fifty feet, were erected near the main building.
The faculty includes nine resident masters from Brown, London,
Oxl'oi'd, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, and Dublin.
The Natural Science Association, growing out of the intel-
HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 453
lectual culture of the island, developing in a demand for scien-
tific investigation of the works of nature on the island, was
organized in November, 1880. Its members are mainly per-
sons of enthusiasm and energy in the particular direction in
which the investigations of each are absorbed. In the study
of the animals, reptiles, insects, birds, fishes, plants, trees,
rocks, earths, formation and the Indian relics, the members of
this association are performing an amount of labor that is per-
fectly bewildering to the mind of an observer, when viewed in
the aggregate. The society numbers about fifty active mem-
bers, and they hold meetings monthly at the village hall in New
Brighton, when the results of the labors of the different mem-
bers are reported and notes of information compared. A col-
lection of several hundred objects has been made, and this is all
the time increasing. The present officers are: Dr. A. L. Carroll,
president ; Samuel Henshaw, treasurer ; Ernest A. Congdon,
recording secretary ; Arthur Hollick, corresponding secretary,
and William T. Davis, curator. An incorporation, under the
provisions of Chapter 319 of the Laws of 1848, was effected by
the execution of the required certificate, January 19, 1885,
which was duly filed with- the county clerk on the 30th of the
same month, and with the secretary of state February 19, 1885.
The business and objects, as set forth in the certificate, are ' to
collect and preserve objects of natural science and antiquity,
with special reference to local matters, and to diffuse correct
knowledge in regard to the same, by means of publications,
meetings and public lectures." The management of its business
and affairs is in the hands of a board of five trustees, which,
for the first year of its incorporation, were : Alfred Ludlow
Carroll, M. D., Ernest A. Congdon, Arthur Hollick, Ph. B.,
William T. Davis and Samuel Henshaw.
The first Staten Island newspaper, of which we have any
knowledge, was published on the 17th day of October, 1827 ;
it was called the " Richmond Republican,'" and was edited by
Charles N". Baldwin ; it hailed from Tompkinsville, but was
printed in Chambers street, New York. Its publication day
was Saturday, and in politics it was rabidly democratic. Its
editor announced that he also sold lottery tickets, and solicited
orders for sign and ornamental painting. It appears to have
continued in existence for several years, but we are not informed
at what date its publication closed.
454 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNT?.
The "Richmond County Mirror" was published at New
Brighton in 1837 and 1838, by Francis L. Hagadorn.
The "Richmond County Gazette''' was established at Staple-
ton in February, 1859, with Charles Vogt as editor. Its origi-
nal name was the "Sepoy" and it had its birth in the excite-
ment which followed the burning of the quarantine buildings.
Since 1864 it, has been edited by Thomas J. Folan, Ernest F.
Birmingham, James S. Spencer, Colon K. Urquhart, James E.
Lee and William A. Suydam. It was consolidated with the
" Sentinel," May 10, 1882.
The "North Shore Advocate'' was started at West New
Brighton, by John J. Clute. in June, 1869. It continued under
the same management until 1877, when its publication was
The "Richmond County Sentinel" was started in April,
1876, by Thomas Humphrey and Hans S. Beattie. It was pur-
chased in 1881 by Erastus Wiman, and shortly afterward con-
solidated with the il Gazette."
The " Stolen Island Leader" was first issued in 1866, its
publication office being at Stapleton. It publisher has been
P. H. Gill. The "Stolen Island Advertiser," started in 1877,
at West New Brighton, was afterward merged in the
" Leader." It is now published by the Macklin Brothers.
' Der Deutsche Staten Islander" a German newspaper, was
started at Stapleton, in 1867, by John Schiefer, editor and pub-
lisher, by whom it is still continued.
The " Staten Islander Deutsche Zeitung," a German paper,
was established in 1876, by Carl Herborn, by whom it was
edited and published two or three years, at Stapleton.
The "Richmond County Standard" was established April 9,
1881, by Robert Humphrey and Colon K. Urquhart, in the
village of New Brighton. After January, 1884, by the with-
drawal of Mr. Urquhart, the proprietorship fell entirely to Mr.
Humphrey, and Ira K. Morris was employed as editor, in
which position he is still retained.
The "Richmond County Democrat" was first issued in Sep-
tember, 1880, by Williain J. and J. H. Browne. The publica-
tion office is in the village of New Brighton. In 1883 the paper
was enlarged, and a power press and steam were added to the
working material of the office. Its publication is still con-
HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 455
tinned by the original proprietors. Thomas J. Folan is its
The '' Richmond County Herald' 1 '' was established August
'27, 1880, at Stapleton, by Gilbert C. Dean, by whom it has
since been continued.
The " Staten Island Star" was established at West New
Brighton in 1877. It is still published by Oscar A. Douglas.
The publication of ' The Citizen" was begun at Port Rich-
mond, in September, 1885, by Ira R. Bamber and George D.
GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS. For years it has been the priv-
ilege of Richmond county to number among its residents one
of the foremost of American authors, journalists and statesmen,
George William Curtis. Although Mr. Curtis has never held
a political office, he has made a profound study of states-
manship, and possesses a knowledge of public affairs second to
that of no other man in the country ; but his greatest and best
work has been achieved in the field of journalism. Starting
out on his youthful career as the author of several charming-
books of travel, and afterward drifting into literary engage-
ments with the New York " Tribune" "Harper's Weekly"
and other journals, he was at an early age. and in common
with thousands of earnest young men in the North, driven by
conviction to take part in the great moral revolution which cul-
minated in the war for the Union and the abolition of slavery
in the United States ; and throwing himself with fervor into
this new field of activity, he abandoned a profession in which
he might have obtained high honors, for the one in which he
has achieved his great reputation as a leader and teacher of
men. It will be interesting to trace the steps by which he came
into his chosen career of work.
Mr. Curtis was born in Providence, R. I., February 24, 1824,
but he was partly of Massachusetts descent, his father having
been born in Worcester, in that state, of which an ancestor was
the first settler. His mother was the daughter of James Bur-
rill, Jr., atone time chief justice of Rhode Island, and after-
ward United States senator. In 1830 he went to boarding school
at Jamaica Plain, near Boston, where he remained for four
years. Pleasant reminiscences of his school days there are
found in the early chapters of his novel, " Trumps," narrated
456 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.
with a freshness and enthusiasm which remind the reader of
" Tom Brown at Rugby." Meanwhile he lost his mother; and
in 1839, his father, who had married again, removed with his
family to New York, and, desirous that his son should pursue
a mercantile career, placed him. after a year's study with a
private tutor, as a clerk in a German importing house in Ex-
But mercantile life was not agreeable to the youth. His tastes
were decidedly literary, and in the course of his reading he be-
came deeply interested in the transcendental movement in which
so many of the best and purest minds of New England were at
that time engaged. Accordingly, after about a year of uncon-
genial drudgery in the importing house, he went to " Brook
Farm," in company with his eldest brother, who shared in his
tastes and aspirations. It is unnececsary to repeat the story of
failure and disappointment which led to the breaking down of
that amiable experiment; but the incident of his taking part in
the endeavor to create an ideal society is interesting as show-
ing the early tendency of Mr. Curtis' mind. He is still called
an idealist by those who use the word as a term of reproach, as
though it were folly in the youth to believe that, society may,
in time and by persistent effort, be organized on a higher and
purer basis than at present, and still greater folly in the man
to retain such optimistic views. The millennium may be far
away; but its coming will not be hastened by deriding the prin-
ciples whose application in social and political life may make
it possible at some distant period; and men who endeavor to
bring society into harmony with those principles are prophets