Richard Mather Bayles.

History of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time online

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Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 10 of 72)
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hind Kol [Achter Kol.] We learned immediately that there
was a boat upon this creek loading with brick, and would leave
that night for the city. After we had thanked and parted with
Pierre le Gardinier, we determined to walk to Elizabethtown, a
good half hour's distance inland, where the boat was. We slept
there this night, and at 3 o'clock in the morning set sail."



Erection of Richmond County. Arrival of Huguenots. Division of Richmond
into Towns. The Claims of New Jersey. Patents and Land Grants.
Establishment of the Colonial Government. Administration of Justice.
The Time of the French War. Colonial Description. Colonial Customs.


IT seems convenient and appropriate in treating this subject
to regard the colonial period proper as beginning with the
administration of Governor Dongan, although it had in many
respects begun several years before. In 1683 Colonel Thomas
Dongan, having received the appointment of governor, took the
position on the 27th of August. He came with instructions
from the duke to call a general assembly of the people's repre-
sentatives. This he did, and the first assembly of the colony of
New York convened in the city on the 17th of October, 1683.
This assembly adopted a ' ; bill of rights," repealed some of the
most obnoxious of the duke's laws, altered and amended others,
and passed such new laws as they judged the circumstances of
the colony required. During the session an act was passed
abolishing the ridings, and organizing in their stead the counties,
with some alterations in the constitution of the courts.

The " Act to divide this province and dependences into Shires
and Counties," dated November 1, 1683, contains the following
in reference to Staten Island:

"The county of Richmond to conteyne all Staten Island,
Shutter's Island, and the islands of meadow on the west side

The county at this time contained some two hundred families.
It was allowed two representatives in the colonial assembly, and
the next year, for the first time, a county tax was imposed,
amounting to fifteen pounds.

The colonial assembly met again in October, 1684. Among
the acts passed at this session was one by which the court of


assize was abolished. The election of a new assembly took
place in September, 1685, and in the following month it was
organized. Only two or three unimportant acts of this as-
sembly remain on record, and it is probable that whatever other
acts it may have passed, if there were any, were never enforced.
On the death of Charles II, the Duke of York ascended the
throne of Great Britain with the title of James II. He now
abolished the colonial assembly of New York, and re-estab-
lished the governor as the supreme head of the colony, subject
only to such instructions as the king himself might from time
to time dictate.

We now come to a period in the civil and religious history of
Staten Island of great and even romantic interest ; the arrival
of the French Protestants or Huguenots. Years before, it is
true, some had emigrated with the Dutch from Holland, but
now they landed on these shores in considerable numbers,
bringing with them useful arts, a knowledge of gardening and
husbandry, and above all, their own well known virtues, with
a pure, simple, Bible faith. Many of the descendants from this
noble stock now remain to honor the island of their birth with
the sterling character which they have inherited from their an-

Though the Protestants of France had, under the famous
"Edict of Nantes," enjoyed the free exercise of their religion
for a time, yet after the death of Henry the Great the merciless
fires of persecution were once more kindled the rack, the gib-
bet and the galley again began their sanguinary work all over
the country, and with increased fury. The "Edict of Nantes "
was formally revoked, when the Hiignenots had now presented
to their choice three things : to go to mass, sacrifice their lives
and their property, or fly from their homes. Too true and in-
dependent to do otherwise they chose the latter expedient, and
half a million of them left beautiful but bigotted France for
foreign lands. Every Protestant kingdom in Europe received
them with open arms, where they soon became the most valu-
able citizens, and many imitating the example of the Puritans,
embarked for an asylum of safety to the new world, and to
this island.

These settlers were celebrated for their industry and frugal-
ity, and commenced the cultivation of the earth. Brave and
independent, they imparted the same excellent traits all around


them, and above all things else they cherished their religious
duties and pious customs. It is a pleasant fact in the history
of Staten Island, that the ancestors of the present population,
whether from Holland, France or England, each were careful to
maintain pure and evangelical principles in their families. Their
churches were established here at an early period. The follow-
ing record pertaining to the Huguenot church is so much of a
curiosity that we take the liberty to insert it in full, as it ap-
pears on one of the earliest books of record of the county.

" This following deed of Gifte was recorded for the french
Congreygashone Residing with In the Countey of Richmond
on statone Island the 22 day of may Annoque dom : 1698.

" To all Christiane peopell To whome Theas present wright-
ing shall Come John bevealle Seanior of the Countey of Rich-
mond and provence of new yorke weaver and hester his wife
sendeth Greeting In our Lord God Eaver Lasting now know yee
that wheare as Townas Ibbosone of the Countey of Richmond
yeoman did by his certen wrighting or deed pole under his
hand & sealle bearing date The seaventh day of feberary and in
the third yeare of the Reign of our souvring Lord william the
i hird by the Grace of God of England Scotland france & Irland
King annoque dom 169f Grant bargone sell and convay unto
John belvealle of the Countey of Richmond & provence of new
yorke weaver his heirs Exekitors Admsi 09 And asignes A serten
trakt or parcell of Land sittiate Lying and being on the west
side of statones Island neare the fresh killes begining by the
medow and strechig in to the wood by the Lyne of fransis
oseltone dyrekt south three hundred Rood from thence west six
degrees & northerly thirtey six Rood thence dyrekt north by
the Lyiie of Abraham Lacmone three hundred Rood thence
East thirtey six Rood Containing In all sixtey arcres as by the
Recited deed pole Relashone theareunto being had doth and
may more fully and att Large Appeare Now Know yee that the
said John belvealle of Statone Island And provence of New
Yorke and hester his wife Testified by her being A partey to
the Ensaling and delivery of thease presents for the Reaell
Loufe and Afeccone that they beare to the ministrey of Gods
word and the savashone of yeare soules do firmley by theas
presents firmley freeley & absolewtly Give Grante Rattih'e &
Confirme un to the french Congereygashone or Church upon
Statones Island within the Countey of Richmond wone Arcer of


up land Itt being parte and parcel! of the afore Recited Trackt
or parcell of Land Containing sixtey arcers sowld by the
said Townes Ibbosone itn to the said John belvealle which
arcer of Land being Laid out on the south & by East
side of the brige halfe an acer of the fore Recited Arcer
Lying on the south side the highway and the other halfe of the
fore Recited arcer of Land now Given by the said John belvealle
and hester his wife Lying and being on the north side the high-
way opesett against the other halfe arcer To have and to hold
the fore Recited trackt and parcell of upland containing won
arcer to the french Congreygashone now Residing with in the
Countey of Richmond To Ereckt and bnild A Chnrch upon the
same for the ministrey of the Gospell and the maintainence of
Gods holey word and ordinantsies and for noe other yowse nor
purpose unto The frensh Congreygashone their heirs Exiekitors
Admin rs: for Eaver and the said John belvealle and hester his
wife doth covinante promise and Grante to & with the overseers
of the frensh Congreygashone that they the said John belvealle
and hester his wife their heirs Exekitors Admin rs and asigues
shall and will for Eaver warend and defend the fore said frensh
Congreygashone Their heirs and sucksesors for Eaver in the
quiett and peacebell poseshone of the afore Recited wone arcer
of Land aforesaid against the said John belvealle and hester his
wife or from any other persone or persones what soe eaver Law
fnlley Clayming aney Estate Right titell or interest of in or to
the same. In testimoney of the same wee the said John Bel-
vealle and hester his wife have heare unto sett their hands and
h'xed their seales this twelfth day of Aprell and in the tenth
yeare of the Reighen of our Souvring Lord williame The third
by the Grace of God of England Scotland france and Irian d
King defender of the faith Annoque dom: 1698.
signed saled and delivered The marke of

In the presents of John 1 B belvealle O

JACOB CORBETT The marke of

D.LUCAS hester $ H belvealle O."


As a meeting house was spoken of in 1695 as already ex-
isting, it must not be supposed that the acre above granted was
the site of the first house of worship on the island. The site


of the acre referred to is upon the estate of Henry J. Seaman,
Esq., about one mile from the village of Richmond, and near
the road to Rossville which runs along the north side of the
field in which the interesting spot is situated. It was described
a few years since as being in the third field of the Seaman resi
dence. The direction of the road was changed in 1831 so that
it no longer serves to mark the position of the acre of upland
referred to in Belville's deed. The bridge there mentioned was
removed by Mr. Seaman in 1849, but another was placed by
him on the same site, which was in- the northwest corner of the
same field, and from which the old road, after crossing the bridge,
ran southeast diagonally partly across the field, and then re-
turned joining the present road again near the northeast corner
of the field. The church stood on the half-acre which lay on
the south side of the highway. Some vestiges of its founda-
tion remained till the beginning of the present century. It oc-
cupied the northern slope of the rising ground to the south of
the old road, and about two hundred feet in the same direction
from the present road. The dimensions of the church were
about 32 by 45 feet, and the building stood due north and south.
A small stone dwelling house, probably built for a parsonage,
stood to the east of it. South of the church was the repository
of the dead. These graves were once marked by rough stones,
bearing no inscriptions, but of which as many as two hundred
could at one time be counted. The only inscriptions that have
been read upon stones found in this ground are those of
Tennis Van Pelt, died 1765, aged 65 years; Mary, his wife, died
1762, aged 59 years; another from which the part bearing the
name was broken off, but the date of which was 1784; and an-
other bearing the initials J. L. and date 1784.

This interesting spot commands a prospect of a soft and peace-
ful character. From its gently swelling knoll the spires of
Richmond are seen upon the right, and glimpses of the white
edifices of the quiet village may be caught through the trees.
Directly in front the meadow of Fresh kill spreads its level
surface, backed by the woods and rising grounds of Carl's neck,
while its meanderings may be traced, glistening in the sunbeams
or indicated by the mast of some tiny craft, till the mountains
of New Jersey bounded the scene. Such is the spot where
those noble exiles, the Huguenots of Staten Island, erected the
first edifice for the free and untrammeled exercise of their wor-


ship. Should pilgrims be attracted to the sacred place by this
notice of it Staten Islanders perchance, who can trace their
families to this illustrious source let them, as their footsteps
press the hallowed soil, recall a Huguenot Sabbath of a century
and three-quarters ago. Let imagination picture that humble
house of God, rustic in its appearance but sublime in all its as-
sociations. Mark those groups of devout and honest men, of
high souled women, the dark-eyed sons and daughters of
France! List to the foreign accents of the preacher's voice,
and as it dies away and their solemn anthem swells upon the
air, then give them their meed of praise! We grudge not the
Puritans their share of honor. Break relics, if you will from
the rock of Plymouth, but let not the Huguenots of France,
the Huguenots of Staten Island, be forgotten! By their own
children, if by no others, should the great and good be remem-
bered and revered.

But we must leave these musings and return to the thread of
our narrative. In March, 1688, Richmond was divided into
four towns Castletown, Northfield, Southh'eld and Westfield.
The town of Middletown was not organized until 1860. Before
the legal division of the county into towns, it was divided into
three precincts, the North, South and West: Castleton was not
included in any of the precincts, but was designated "The
Manor." The limits of the precincts were about the same as
those of the towns as established by law on the 7th of March,
1688. Castleton derived its name from the Palmer or Dongan
patent, in which the manor conveyed was called Cassiltown,
corrupted into the present name, and the corruption legalized
by repeated acts of the legislature; the other towns were named
from their position in the county.

Great political changes were now taking place in the province
of New York. The attempt of James II to restore the Catholic
church had made him odious to the British nation. In New
York the citizens were mostly Protestants and bitterly opposed
the Roman Catholic faith. Dongan had exhibited the greatest
religious toleration, which judicious policy displeased his
royal prince, and the wise and politic governor was recalled.
Sir Edmund Andros having been appointed governor of all the
provinces of New England received the seal of the province of
New York from the retiring governor in July, 1688. Andros


appointed a deputy governor over New York in the person of
Francis Nicholson.

James II did not long wear the crown. He was deposed dur-
ing the same year, and deserting his own children, became a
refugee in France. William, in compliance with the popular
wish, was proclaimed king, and the great Protestant revolution
was effected. A rumor spread in the province of New York
that the friends of the deposed monarch intended to massacre
the disaffected. A tierce popular excitement followed. The
New Yorkers, while recognizing generally the sovereignty of
William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, a small party
remained who insisted that the colonial government was not
overthrown by the revolution. They contended that it still
remained vested in the lieutenant-governor and his council.
Nicholson was the deputy governor, and known to be an ad-
herent of the Catholic church, with many of his friends; and
this fact increased the distrust of the people. A mob paraded
the streets of New York. Five militia companies, the entire
force, surrounded the house of Jacob Leisler, a merchant of the
city and captain of the militia, and demanded that he should
seize the fort at the Battery, which was done. Nicholson, de-
prived of his authority, sailed for England. The distrust of
the people, however, was not allayed. A rumor spread that
an attack was plotted on the church in the fort, and that pos-
session of the government was to be taken and the standard of
King James set up. These rumors, however extravagant, ex-
cited a general consternation. The people of Long Island sent
a large body of militia to New York " to seize the fort and to
keep away French invasion and slavery."

The apprehensions of the people on Staten Island culminated
in a panic. Fear reigned supreme for a while; they dared not
remain at night in their own dwellings, but in the deepest re-
cesses of the forest they constructed temporary shelters, to which
they resorted after dark, that they might not be observed and
their retreats discovered; they preferred to encounter the perils
of the darkness and the forests rather than trust themselves to
the tender mercies of their fellow men. Some took their families
upon the water in boats, which they anchored a short distance
from the shore, and thus passed the nights; and various other
expedients were resorted to for concealment and security. Re-
ports of various kinds were spread, which added fuel to the


flame and kept it burning for some length of time; among these
were, that a number of papists who had been driven out of
Boston had been received into the fort at New York and had
enlisted as soldiers; that the papists on the island had secretly
collected arms, which they kept concealed and ready for use at
a moment's notice; that Governor Dongan's brigantine had been
armed and otherwise equipped for some desperate enterprise,
and the refusal of the commander of the vessel to permit it to
be searched was not calculated to allay the alarm. He admitted
that the vessel had been armed, but not for the purpose alleged,
but, as she was bound on a voyage to Madeira, she was in
danger of being attacked by the Turks, and she had been
armed for the defense of her crew and cargo. However plausible
this reason might have been it was not generally credited. The
excitement at length subsided, and not a Protestant throat had
been cut.

Tradition says that several pieces of cannon were afterward
found in the cellar of the governor's mill, which it was sup-
posed had been concealed there, to be in readiness when they
might be required. This mill stood on the south side of the
recently constructed public road in West Brighton, called Post
avenue, which is in fact part of an old road reopened, for, prior
to the construction of the causeway which now connects West
New Brighton and Port Richmond, the only communication
between Castleton and Northfield, near the shore, was round
the head of the cove or pond now known as the mill pond.

It is not to be wondered at that the French Protestants here
were most sensitive about their religious rights and safety. At
this very time their brethren in France were suffering. The
Indian wars had been renewed in Canada, and the French wanted
to cut a path to the Atlantic ocean. This had been resolved
upon including the reduction of Albany and New York on the
way. This, in the language of the French general would be " the
only means of firmly establishing the religion throughout all
North America." Louis issued his regal authority for the under-
taking. All faithful Catholics were to remain unmolested,
whilst the French refugees particularly those of the pretended
reformed religion must be sent back to France. These cruel
instructions were given, too, about four years after the memora-
ble revocation of the "Edict of Nantes." What wonder then



that the Huguenots should be alarmed when such a direful fate
seemed to menace them.

Jacob Leisler, a prominent character of that day, exercising
both civil and military authority, was intrusted by the magis
trates with the administration of affairs, after the departure
of Nicholson, and one of his first acts was to cause William
and Mary to be proclaimed in the counties of Richmond,
Westchester, Queens, Kings and Ulster, and the city and
county of Albany, and East Jersey ; the order to Richmond
was dated December 17th, 1689. On the 3<)th of the same
month, he issued an order requiring all persons who held
commissions, warrants, "or other instruments of power or com-
mand, either civil or military," derived from either Dongan or
Andros, forthwith to surrender the same to a justice of the
peace of the county wherein they resided, except the counties
of New York and Richmond, who were to surrender at the fort
in New York.

After the burning of Schenectady, and the massacre of its
inhabitants by the French and Indians, in February, 1690, he
issued another order to the military and civil officers of several
counties, Richmond county being one of the number, that
"fearing too great a correspondency hath been maintained
between y e s a ffrensch & disaffected P r sons among us," to secure
all persons reputed papists, or who are inimical to the govern-
ment, or who continue to hold any commissions from Dongan
or Andros, and bring them before him.

In 1689, Leisler commissioned the following civil and military
officers in Richmond county :

Ely Crossen, high sheriff. Jaques Puillion, Captain.

Jacob Corbett, clerk. Cornells Corsen, do

Obadiah Holmes, justice. Thomas Morgan, Lieutenant.

Jaques Poullion, do John Theunis Van Pelt, do

Thomas Morgan, do Seger Geritsen, Ensign.

Jacob Gerritse, do Cornells Nevius, do

Cornells Corsen, do

The following persons from Staten Island were members of a
company commanded by Captain Jacob Milborne, which was
sent to Albany to establish Leisler' s authority, the government
of that city having refused to recognize it, viz.: "Jean Marlett,
Francis Mauriss, Hendrick Hendricksen, Jean faefre, John Rob,
John doulier and Peter Henkesson."


There is no evidence that the people of Staten Island took
any decided stand with regard to Leisler's administration.
Generally, they submitted quietly to the authorities placed over
them. Further than commissioning some officers and issuing
some general orders, he does not appear in connection with the
history of the island. It must be admitted that Leisler had
many friends on the island, though they were not very
demonstrative. His appointments to office were usually from
among its best citizens, which operated in his favor; no decided
steps were taken in his behalf during his imprisonment and trial,
but after his condemnation petitions for his pardon were exten-
sively signed, which had no other effect than to bring upon the
signers the displeasure of the government, who regarded
the act as disloyal. Farther than the imposition of fines,
which appear to have been remitted, and the brief imprison-
ment of a few individuals, no punishment was inflicted on
the culprits.

On the 19th of March, 1691, Henry Slaughter, having been
appointed governor of the colony, arrived and demanded pos-
session of the fort and the reins of government. Leisler at first
refused to give up the post, but was compelled to do so, and was
afterward tried, condemned and hastily executed for high
treason. His execution took place May 16, 1691.

On the 28th of April preceding, a letter was presented to
the council in New York from the sheriff of Richmond county,
"Giving an Account of severall Riotts and Tumults on Staten
Island, and that they are subscribing of papers;" the sheriff
was ordered to secure the ring-leaders that they might be prose-
cuted. Thomas Stillwell, the sheriff, was not dilatory in obey-
ing the order, and arrested several of the citizens of the county,
among whom were John Theunison, John Peterson and Gerard
Vechten, each of whom he compelled to pay three pounds ;
others were obliged to execute bonds for the payment of that
amount, and one refused to do either, and him he imprisoned.
When information of the sheriff's proceedings reached New
York, orders were sent down to have the bonds cancelled,
whereupon the three individuals who had paid their money, de-
manded that it should be refunded ; the sheriff, probably con-
scious that he had exceeded his powers, promised that it should
be done, but delayed so long, that the aggrieved parties ap-
pealed to the council. At the same time, the same three indi-


vi'lnals presented a complaint against the assessors, who ex-
empted themselves and some others from the payment of the
tax for "negers," and that poor people who have no "negers"
must pay "as much accordingly like Them that Has many
negers. Therefore your petitioners humbly crave That your
Ex u y will be pleased To signify Them iff s<J negers should be Ex-
cluded ffor paying Tax." What the result of these petitions

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 10 of 72)