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Proceedings of the Long Island Historical Society in memory of Hon. James Carson Brevoort, Mrs. Urania Battell Humphrey, Hon. James Greenwood and Alfred Smith Barnes online

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Mr. Brevoort was born July lo, i8i8, at Bloomingdale, now a
part of New- York City, and attended school first in New- York
City, then at Round Hill School at Northampton, Mass., of
which Joseph G. Cogswell and George Bancroft were masters;
then at Paris ; and afterward at Baron Fellenberg's school,
at Hofwyl, in Switzerland. He then entered the Ecole Cen-
trale des Arts et Manufactures, in Paris, where, after a three
years' course, he was graduated, receiving a diploma as Civil
Engineer. After studying railway-construction in France
and England, he returned to New- York in 1838.

He was then employed for nearly a year at the West Point
foundry, in which his father was interested. In 1841, as
surveyor, he accompanied Prof. James Renwick, one of the
Commissioners of the North-east Boundary Survey. In
1842, he accompanied Washington Irving, United States
Minister to Spain, as private secretary, and attache of the
Legation. In 1843, he made an extended tour through
Europe, and returned to New- York in 1844.

In 1845, he married Elizabeth Dorothea Lefferts, only child
of Hon. Leffert Lefferts, of Bedford, now a part of Brook-
lyn. Mr. Lefferts was the first Judge of Kings County,
and first President of the Long Island Bank, the earliest
bank incorporated in Brooklyn. After Mr. Brevoort's
marriage he made Brooklyn his home, and became actively
interested in whatever concerned the welfare of that city.
His only child, Henry Leffert Brevoort, survives him.

In 1847, h^ ^^'^s appointed a member of the Charter Convention,
and for several years served as a member of the Board of
Education. In 1856, he was appointed on the Board of Water
Commissioners, serving as secretary until 1862, when a
permanent Board was appointed. In 1858, he was appointed
a trustee of Greenwood Cemetery. In 1863, he took an
active part in the formation of the Long Island Historical
Society, was its President until 1873, Chairman of its execu-
tive committee until 1876, and Director until his death.
From 1852 to 1878 he was a trustee of the Astor Library,
serving as Superintendent for the last two years of that

He was a member of the Lyceum of Natural History, and of
the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He was an honorary or corresponding member of the Archae-
ological Society of Madrid ; of the Entomological Societies
of Baltimore and Philadelphia ; of the Academy of Natural
Sciences of Philadelphia ; of the National Institute, Washing-
ton ; of the New England Historic Genealogical Society ;
of the American Antiquarian Society ; of the Massachusetts,
New- York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and other Historical
Societies ; of the American Geographical Society ; and of
the Numismatic Society of Philadelphia. He was a Regent
of the University of the State of New- York ; and received
the degree of LL. D. from Williams College in 1873.

His contributions to historical and scientific journals were
numerous. In Natural History, he was specially interested
in Icthyology, his collections were extensive, and his writ-
ings on that subject have high authority. His '* Notes on
some figures of Japanese fish by artists of the United States
Expedition to Japan," were published in separate form.
Other separate publications by him were " Early Spanish
and Portuguese Coinage in America," and " Verrazzano, the
Navigator ; or. Notes on Giovanni da Verrazzano, and on a
planisphere of 1529, illustrating his American Voyage in
1524." His thorough acquaintance with ancient and mod-

ern languages opened to him sources of information inacces-
sible to many, and in his special lines of study, particularly
of geographical discovery, of maps, and of general bibliog-
raphy, his knowledge was extensive and accurate. Students,
and any one desirous of information, found him always will-
ing to impart his knowledge and to open his library to them,
his kindly manner giving added value to assistance so freely
and unselfishly rendered.

At a meeting of the Long Island Historical Society, held
December 15, 1887, the following Minute was adopted :

The death of Hon. James Carson Brevoort, on the
7th inst, removes from the roll of the members and
officers of this Society one of its most distinguished,
honored, and beloved names.

Mr. Brevoort had been intimately associated with
this institution from its beginning, in March, 1863.
He was one of those named in its original certificate
of incorporation ; was from that time forward one of
its Directors ; was its first President, and continued in
that office for ten years, from 1863 to 1873. Declinino-
a reelection to the Presidency in the latter year, on
account of the pressure of other cares, he continued for
three years longer to be Chairman of the Executive
Committee, and remained a member of the Board of
Directors until his death.

His affectionate and intelligent interest in the Society
was unfailing, and he has been from the first one of the
most generous and helpful of all the contributors to its
rapidly increasing collection of books, pamphlets, auto-
graphs, manuscripts, and objects of art and of scientific
interest. His own wide studies, and rare attainments,
along the lines especially of historical and scientific
research, had made him familiar with the needs of

studious men, and with the helps most sure to be of
welcome service to them ; and, with an unflagging
liberality, he gave to our Library and Museum, from
his rich inherited or acquired collections, whatever
seemed likely to minister most directly to the wants of
other less fortunate scholarly men. He did it all, too,
with a quiet modesty as engaging and memorable as
was the generosity which it accompanied. As long as
the Library shall continue to be the resort of those pur-
suing the researches which it is established and intended
to assist, they will be largely indebted to him for the
breadth of its range, for its liberal hospitality to all
forms of human thought, and all the records of human
work, as well as for the many important works directly
contributed to it by him. Even in the recent years,
while failing health has detained him from our meetings
and confined him closely to his own house, his interest
in the Library has been undiminished, and his gifts to
it have been frequent and large. He will have upon
our shelves, and in our alcoves, which he has helped
richly to fill, that monument of himself which we cannot
but feel that he would most have desired, until human
history ceases to be written.

Of the personal qualities of Mr. Brevoort, as mani-
fested in all his relations to this Board, and to those
individually associated in it, as well as to those assist-
ing in the Library, it is not possible for us to speak
in terms surpassing the claims of the truth. Always
courteous, modest, amiable, wise in counsel, kindly in
spirit, graceful and conciliatory in manner, with a mind
open to all suggestions, and a clear discernment of what
promised to advance the highest welfare of the Society,
he has had a place in our esteem peculiar to himself,
and will continue to occupy such a place in our memory

while for us the years go on. It is with a keen sense
of grief and loss that we recognize the fact that we are
henceforth to miss from our earthly circles this culti-
vated gentleman, this delightful associate, this generous
helper in good works, this beloved and honored per-
sonal friend.

Resolved — That this Minute be entered in full on our
permanent Records, and that a copy of it, certified by
the President and the Librarian, be sent to the family
of Mr. Brevoort.


The Board of Directors of the Long Island Historical
Society has had the pleasure of receiving an official
notice of the bequest of ten thousand dollars
[$ 10,000] made to it by the will of Mrs. Urania Battell
Humphrey, for many years an honored resident of
Brooklyn, who died in New- York on the 19th of
November last. The husband of Mrs. Humphrey,
Hon. James Humphrey, who for several years repre-
sented one of the districts of this city in Congress, and
the memory of whom is still fresh among all who knew
him, had been from an early date a member of this
Society, and one of its Councilors. His scholarly
tastes were naturally strongly attracted to it, and he
entered into its plans and efforts with earnest interest.
Only his early death prevented him from becoming one
of its most useful and eminent Directors.

After his death Mrs. Humphrey, in fulfillment of a
wish which he had expressed, gave to our Library the
admirable portrait of Chief Justice Marshall, which her
husband had possessed and justly prized, and which
has been since among the chief ornaments of our rooms.
She added, also, a large number of rare and valuable
volumes which had been collected by her husband, and
which were given as a memorial of him. When our
present building was erected she gave two thousand

dollars to the Building Fund; to which she afterward
added six hundred and fifty dollars for supplying a
special alcove with biographies of women, or with books
written by women, together with a choice collection of
works on music.

She has now crowned the series of her eifts to the
Library by the largest bequest which the institution
has thus far received ; and the Directors are sure that
all members of the Society will feel a keen gratification
at the fact that after years of absence from Brooklyn,
and of the wearying pain and weakness of an invalid
life, this lady, for many years brilliant and distinguished
in the social life of the city, should have so generously
remembered the institution in which her husband and
her brother had taken deep interest, and the benefits
of which her own educated intelligence and literary
tastes enabled her fully to appreciate.

It is a noteworthy fact that the only two bequests
which the Society has hitherto received, of which this
is the larger, have come to it from ladies. It shows
how near the Society stands to the best life of families,
as well as to the minds of scholars ; how strong is its
attraction for all who feel in themselves, and who desire
for others, the beauty and the blessing which come from
access to a rich Library ; and it furnishes an incentive,
the force of which will not cease to be felt, to make the
Society always more worthy of the affectionate regard
and the liberal assistance of such as those whose gifts
it has gratefully received and recorded.

Resolved — That this Minute be entered in full on our
Records, and that a copy of it, duly certified, be sent to
the executors of the will of Mrs. Humphrey.


Our Society is called to the sad office of recording
the death of the Hon. John Greenwood, — suddenly, at
his home, on the afternoon of Sunday, the nth inst.
He was one of five gentlemen of this county who called
the first meeting on March 3d, 1863, to organize the
Society, and of those five, he is the third who has
already " paid the debt to nature." At an adjourned
meeting a week afterward, as chairman of a special
committee, he reported the draft of a constitution and
by-laws which were at once adopted. At the next
meeting, on the 30th of the same month, on his motion,
a committee of seven was appointed with power to
" prepare a proper certificate of incorporation, and
cause the same to be filed according to the Revised
Statutes," and thus the organization was completed.

He was born in Providence, R. I., in 1798, and on
the 6th of November last entered the 90th year of his
age. Few men have been so long well known, respected
and honored in our city and State.

He was a diligent and accomplished classical scholar,
thoroughly proficient in the best English literature,
and in good measure familiar with the French and Ger-
man languages. He was fond of Natural Science. But
his ardent love of his profession was paramount to all
else, and he made all other knowledge subserve that.


Thus he became a profoundly versed lawyer and jurist.
Sagacious, logical, earnest, he was always effective as
an advocate before a jury, or in argument and appeal
to the Bench. On the Bench himself, he was dignified,
courteous, patient, conscientiously upright ; learned,
luminous, showing fine analytical power, and firmness
in his decisions, yet always strictly impartial. Before
a popular assembly, though never uttering a sentence
for the mere sake of applause, he held the gratified
attention of his audience by the unaffected elegance
and purity of his style, and the aroused and admiring
interest he was sure to attract to his subject.

Our lamented associate was public-spirited and al-
ways alive to the welfare of our beloved city. To his
persistent, personal efforts, through the press, by pop-
ular appeal, and argument before the State Legislature
are we in large measure indebted for the charter, orig-
inally drafted by his own hand, which made Brooklyn a
city, and insured its rapid and wondrous prosperity
and growth to the position of third in the Republic.
At a period earlier than this he had been appointed by
Governor Bouck Judge of our County Court of Com-
mon Pleas ; and under the charter he was elected, in
1842, ** Corporation Counsel," and in 1849, the first
•' City Judge." In all these offices his legal and juridical
reputation was made prominent and enhanced ; and
when he resumed private practice, that followed him
there to assured success, and in later years his known
qualifications made him often Referee in very important
cases. His career to the end was accompanied by a
general appreciation of his influence and character;
and of his readiness to serve whatever might promote
the growth of true refinement, a pure and cultured
taste, the love of literature, good education and philan-


thropy in our great city. Hence we find him one of
the founders and long the President of the Hamilton
Literary Association, — the First Vice-President of the
Philharmonic Society, — a Director from the beginning
and one of the Executive Committee of the Academy
of Music. These last, from his indigenous love and
knowledge of music in general, while his hearty love
of sacred music in especial prompted him, an accom-
plished amateur as he was, with a rich repertoire of his
own collecting of the works of the best masters at his
command, to volunteer in its early consecration several
years' admirable service at the organ of his chosen
church. He had also been a very useful member of
the Board of Education, and an active trustee of the
City Hospital. But the officers of this Society would
emphasize by this Minute on its permanent Records
their grateful recognition of his important services as
one of its founders, and for eleven consecutive years,
from its formation, its first Vice-President, and one of
its Councilors to the last. They miss the urbane and
attractive manner of their departed associate, and the
pure and elevated tone of life and conversation which
marked him as a Christian gentleman. For Judge
Greenwood was a religious man, a devout Christian,
an active and faithful member of his own church, but of
broad and generous sympathies with all of every name
who "loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and

He was possessed of very warm and tender feelings,
and was a faithful and constant friend. In social life,
through his large intercourse with men, and many of
them men of mark, his wide reach of study, his stores
of anecdote, his careful, thoughtful observation of the
times, and his conversational gifts, — he was a delight-


ful and instructive companion. In his domestic relations
he was exemplarily faithful, affectionate, and fondly-
loved. Nothing, too, could be more charming or beau-
tiful to witness than, in his immediate household, how,
with no jars or disquiet, his own tolerant and gentle
temper kept its various members, Romanist and Prot-
estant as they were, and the latter of various names
and forms, " in the unity of the spirit in the bond of
peace" — "forbearing one another in love." The last
Sabbath morning of his life on earth was spent with his
fellow-worshipers in his wonted house of prayer, the
Church of the Saviour, on Pierrepont Street; and with
the parting benediction yet vibrating on his ears, on
the very threshold of his home, the mortal stroke came;
and in a few hours peacefully, gently, with the setting
sun, his soul went to its God.


At a meeting of the Society held March 8, 1888, the following
Minute was adopted :

Mr. Alfred S. Barnes, who died at his residence in
this city on the 1 7th of February, had been a member
of this Society from a very early period in its history,
and a Director of it for twenty-one years, since 1867.
He had been also a member of its Executive Committee
since 1876, and his contributions to it had been re-
peated and liberal ; of $500 to its early Library fund, of
an equal amount toward the purchase of the lots on
which its building was subsequently erected, and of
$3000 toward the building itself

Those who have been associated with him in the
Board of Directors in this institution will always re-
member, as will those similarly connected with him in
other institutions, his wisdom in counsel, his habitual
kindness of feeling and word, his attractive and spon-
taneous courtesy of manner, his hearty interest in the
good work to which he gave, not money alone, but time
and thought, with earnest care, his enlightened public
spirit, and his conscientious faithfulness in the discharge
of all duties committed to him. Those who enjoyed
the privilege of a more intimate personal acquaintance
with him will also delight to recall his exemplary purity
of character and of action, his loyal affectionateness of
spirit, and his sincere and energetic Christian faith.


As the head of a large publishing-house he was care-
ful that nothing should go from its presses which did
not tend, in his judgment, to the true intellectual and
moral education of those before whose eyes it should
come. As for many years a leading citizen of our rapidly
growing community his influence was always strenu-
ously exerted for what he deemed its highest welfare ;
and while he can have left no enemies behind him, he
has left multitudes of attached and honoring friends to
recall with gladness the fine and strong traits and
powers which bound them to him, and to mourn the
event which has taken him from them.

It is a rich and beautiful inheritance which any recent
and sympathetic community, rapidly increasing in num-
bers and power, receives from the character and life, as
well as from the gifts, of those who take part with con-
tinuing enthusiasm in establishing its institutions of
culture, of charity, or of Christian worship. Their gifts
of moral impulse and guidance are of even higher value
than their pecuniary offerings. Unconsciously, per-
haps, they set the standard toward which others are
lifted ; and the city itself, as well as the immediate
household of one so intent on the public welfare, becomes
to him a constant debtor. Its oblio-ations to him con-
tinue while its history goes on. On the list of those
who have thus made themselves permanent benefactors
of the city in which we are glad to live, they who have
known it during the more than forty years' of Mr.
Barnes's residence in it, will heartily join in giving to
his name its place of honor.

Resolved — That the foregoing Minute be entered in
full on our Records, and that a copy of it, certified by
the President and the Librarian, be sent to the family
of Mr. Barnes.


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Online LibraryLong Island Historical SocietyProceedings of the Long Island Historical Society in memory of Hon. James Carson Brevoort, Mrs. Urania Battell Humphrey, Hon. James Greenwood and Alfred Smith Barnes → online text (page 1 of 1)