Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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was, we are not informed further than that they met with a
favorable reception.

The papers which were " subscribed " were petitions in favor
of the two condemned men ; the people of Westchester also
sent a petition for the same purpose, but the council did not
recognize the right of petition in such cases ; therefore some
were cited to appear before that body, while others were im-
prisoned as promoters of "riots and disturbances."

During Dongan's administration, Leisler, having imported a
cargo of wine, had refused to pay the duties thereon to Matthew
Plowman, the collector of the port, because he was a papist.
He was, however, compelled to do so, and ever thereafter was
a bitter enemy of Plowman. During his brief arbitrary admin-
istration, to gratify his spite, he charged Plowman with being a
defaulter to the government ; and learning that he was the
owner of a quantity of beef and pork stored at Elizabethtown,
he ordered Johannes Burger, a sergeant at the fort, to proceed
to Staten Island, and compel such individuals as he might re-
quire to go with him and assist in the removal of the provisions.
Burger obeyed the order, and the property was brought to
Leisler in New York, who sent it to Albany for the use of
the soldiers he had sent to that place. After Leisler's exe-
cution, Plowman prosecuted all who were concerned in the
removal of his property, to recover its value. Among the
number were thf following residents of Staten Island, viz.,
" John Jeronison, Thomas Morgan, Lawrence Johnson, John
Peterson, Dereck Crews (Cruser), Chauck (Jaques) Pollion and
John Bedine." These individuals, soon after the arrival of
Major Richard Ingoldsby, as president of the province ad-
dressed an " humble Peticon," to him and the council, in
which they admit having assisted in the removal of Plowman's
property, but that they did so under compulsion, believing that
they were doing a service to their Majesties; that they consid-
ered it unjust to compel them to pay for the provisions when the



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 101

whole country had the benefit of them; they therefore pray
that they may be relieved from the whole responsibility, or if
that may not be done, that every person engaged in the removal
be compelled " to pay their equall proporceons of the same."
This petition was presented by Plowman himself, who thereby
recognized the justice of their cause, but what the result of the
a ppli cation was does not appear.

We must here suspend, for a little, the order of onr narra-
tive, to notice a matter which had its origin a few years before,
and its final settlement nearly a century and a half after the
time of which we are writing. We refer to the claims of New
Jersey upon Staten Island.

When it was known in England that New Netherland had
been reduced, and was now actually in the possession of the
English, Lord William Berkley and Sir George Carteret, two
of the royal favorites, induced the Duke of York, probably in-
fluenced by the king, to give them a patent for the territory
west of the Hudson and the bay, and as far south as Cape May;
this they named Nova Csesarea, or New Jersey. With thirty
emigrants, English and French, Capt. Philip Cartaret, a cousin
of Sir George, and governor of the new territory, sailed for
New York, but by stress of weather was driven into the Chesa-
peake. While lying there he forwarded despatches to Bollen,
who was commissary at the fort in New York, and also to
Nicolls. This was the first intimation the governor had received
of the dismemberment of the extensive territory over which he
ruled; he was both astounded and chagrined; he had already
conveyed several parcels of land within the limits of the new
grant, and regarded the whole as the best part of the duke's
domain. He remonstrated, but his remonstrances came too late,
the duke evidently thought he had been too precipitate, but as
he could not well retrace his steps, he suffered matters to re-
main as they were. Cartaret arrived in New York about mid-
summer, 1665, and immediately took possession of his govern-
ment. He chose Elizabethtown as his capital. It is said that
when he first landed on the soil of New Jersey, he carried a hoe
upon his shoulder, in token of his intention to devote his at-
tention to the promotion of agriculture.

After the Duke of York had conveyed the territory of New
Jersey to Berkley and Cartaret, a doubt arose whether Staten
Island was not included in the grant, by the terms of the char-



102 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

ter. Cartaret, the governor, not the proprietor, laid no claim
to the island; on the contrary, he tacitly admitted that it did
not belong to his jurisdiction, by accepting a conveyance for a
tract of land on the island from Nicolls, the Duke of York's
agent; this he would scarcely have done, had he considered his
brother the proprietor. In 1668 the island "was adjudged to
belong to New York," becauseoneof theoutletsof the Hudson
river ran around the island; while Berkley and Cartaret, by the
terms of their patent, were bounded by the river and bay. The
Dutch always appear to have regarded the inner bay or harbor
as a mere expansion of the river, and the Narrows as its mouth.
In their documents, Staten Island is frequently described as
lying in the river. If this view was correct, the island evi-
dently belonged to New Jersey, because it was embraced with-
in its limits. The Duke of York himself appears to have had
his doubts about the matter, for it is said, that when the ques-
tion of jurisdiction was first agitated, he decided that all islands
lying in the river or harbor, which could be circumnavigated in
twenty-four hours, should remain in his jurisdiction, otherwise
to New Jersey.

Christopher Billop, being then in the harbor in command
of a small ship called the "Bentley," which it is also said he
owned, undertook the task of sailing around the island, and
accomplished it within twenty-four hours, thus securing it to
the duke, who, in gratitude for the service rendered hi7n, be-
stowed upon Billop a tract of 1163 acres of land in the ex-
treme southern part of the island, which was called the
" Manor of Bentley," after the ship which had accomplished
the task.

In 1684 the question of the proprietorship of Staten Island
was again agitated, and many of the landowners became appre-
hensive of the validity of their title, and some of them, among
whom was Billop, were desirous of selling, but as no pur-
chasers could be found for a dubious title, the property re-
mained in the family. Dongan was directed, if the Billop
estate was sold, to find some purchaser for it in New York, and
not to suffer it to pass into the possession of a resident of New
Jersey.

There is still preserved in the secretary of state's office at
Albany the copy of a letter written by Governor Dongan, whose
country residence was on Staten Island, to Sir John Werden,



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 103

Earl of Perth, and dated February 18, 1684-5. From this letter
the following extracts will be of interest:

" The Island had been in the possession of his R'll Highss
above 20 years (except ye little time ye Dutch had it) purchased
by Gfov. Lovelace from ye Indyans in ye time of Sir George
Carteret without any pretences 'till ye agents made claime to it ;
it is peopled with above two hundred ffamilyes. *

" The Quakers are making continued pretences to Staten Is-
land, which disturbs the people, and one reason given for hold-
ing it is that if his Royal Highness cannot retrieve East Jersey
it will do well to secure Hudson's River and take away all claim
to Staten Island."

The proprietors of New Jersey had complained to Dongan
against his encroachments. Dongan himself does not seem to
have been perfectly satisfied with his title, for when he obtained
his own patent from the Duke of York for a large tract upon
the island he strengthened it by securing another patent from
the East India proprietors, who had been the previous owners.
This took place about the time when the province of New York
was divided into counties.

NewYork claimed jurisdiction, and exercised it over the waters
as far as low water mark on the Jersey shores, when the latter
province opposed this exercise of public authority. New Jersey
argued that the original grant gave that province jurisdiction to
the middle of the Narrows, and therefore she owned Staten Is-
land. New York, on the contrary, pleaded long possession, and
the controversy produced great excitement between the two par-
ties. The agitation of the question continued at intervals all
through the colonial period, sometimes being revived with great
bitterness, and extended for half a century into the state period.

In 1807 commissioners were appointed from both states to
settle the dispute, New Jersey insisting that Staten Island was
within her border. Nothing, however, was accomplished by
this interview, and it terminated in angry discussion and bad
feelings. For several years a border excitement was kept up,
until the deputy sheriff of Richmond county, while serving a
process on board of a vessel near the Jersey shore, was arrested
and imprisoned for violating her territory, the state authorities,
however, avowing that this was done only to test the question
of jurisdiction.

In 1827 new commissioners were selected to settle the dispute,



104 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

but they separated as before, without accomplishing anything.
At length, in 1833, the dispute between the two states was
amicably arranged by concession. New York obtained the ac-
knowledged right to Staten Island, with the exclusive jurisdic-
tion over a portion of the adjacent waters, by conceding to New
Jersey a like privilege to other portions. New York thus se-
cured this legal claim to most of the Lower bay, quite down to
Sandy Hook ; and in return New Jersey obtained the same
rights over the waters on the west side of the island, as far as
Woodbridge creek, in the neighborhood of Rossville. Thus
was settled in an amicable manner a subject which once threat-
ened a serious disturbance of the harmony between the two
sister states.

Under the Dutch and early English governors a number of
land grants were issued. But very few of those issued
under the former dynasty held under the latter. The import
ant ones of that class have already been noticed. Occupants
of lands under Dutch patents were doubtless required to take
out new patents or confirmatory grants under the English rule.
All these patents were granted to individuals, and the most of
them were for comparatively small parcels of land. These we
cannot notice in detail. There are two, however, which, partly
because of their magnitude and partly because of the historic
persons and associations connected with them stand sufficiently
prominent to warrant a somewhat extended notice. These are
the Dongan patent and the Billop patent. The time of their issue
was about the period of which we are writing, but in giving an
account of them we shall be compelled to anticipate other
periods and disregard the orderly progression of our general
history.

To the first of these two patents then let us turn our atten-
tion. Though not the first to receive a royal patent yet the first
to be occupied by the proprietor for whom it was named was
the Billop patent. Definite statements are wanting to fix the
time when Christopher Billop first received actual possession of
the tract which fora long time bore his family name. At the time
when the Duke of York seemed to be wavering in opinion as to
whether Staten Island belonged to the jurisdiction of New York
or New Jersey, and finally decided the matter for himself by
declaring that all islands lying in the river or harbor which
could be circumnavigated in twenty-four hours should remain



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 105

in the former, and others should be counted in the latter juris-
diction. Christopher Billop, as has before been stated, accom-
plished the task of sailing around the island within twenty-four
hours, thus securing it to the duke, who bestowed upon Billop
a tract of 1163 acres of land in the extreme southern part of
the island. Here Billop built his manor house, which has with-
stood the storms of more than two centuries, and is said to be in
good condition at the present day. Another account says that
Billop received the plantation as a douceur from the Duke of
York for his gallantry in some naval office.

In 1674 the Duke of York, by permission of the king, organ-
ized a company of infantry of one hundred men; of this com-
pany Christopher Billop was commissioned second lieutenant.
He had served his king before his arrival in America, but in
what capacity is not known; his father, however, was not well
spoken of. In 1677 Billop, while residing on his plantation
on Staten Island, was appointed by Governor Andros, who had
succeeded Lovelace, commander and sub-collector of New York,
on Delaware bay and river. While occupied with the duties of
these offices, he "misconducted" himself by making "extrava-
gant speeches in public;" but of the subject of these speeches
we are not informed; they were probably of a political character,
and must have been peculiarly offensive, for Andros recalled
him the next year, and deprived him of his military commission.
This action of the governor was approved by the duke, who
directed that another should be appointed to fill the vacant
lieutenancy.

Billop now retired to his plantation on Staten Island, there to
brood over the ingratitude of princes, or perhaps over his own
follies and indiscretions. We hear nothing more of him for
two years, when he again appears as one of a number who pre-
ferred complaints or charges against Andros, to the duke, some
of which must have been of a serious nature, as the duke
thought it necessary to send an agent over to investigate the
matter, and on receiving his report, Andros was summoned to
to appear in person in England to render his accounts. This
was probably in 1680 or 1681, when Brockholst succeeded An-
dros; in 1682 Dongan succeeded Brockholst. Here we lose all
farther historical trace of Christopher Billop; tradition says
that in the latter part of the seventeenth, or the beginning of
the eighteenth century, he sailed for England in his ship, the



106 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNT'S.

"Bentley," and was never heard of after: he left no male issue,
but he had at least one daughter. While he remained on
the island, however, he obtained a patent for his plantation
from Governor Dongan, which bore date on or about June 6,
1687.

There was also a Joseph Billop residing on the island about
this time. He was a justice of the peace in 1702-3 and a judge
of the county in 1711. In 1704, April 25th, he received a con-
veyance of a parcel of land from the " Right Honble. Thomas,
Earle of Lymrick," the laud in question being described by
boundaries "beginning at a Blacke Oake by the burying place
Agst. Abrah: Lackman's House." There was also a Middleton
Billop living in the city of New York, who died in October,
1724. Whether these men were near relatives of Christopher
or not we have not discovered.

The principal part of the original tract passed through the
hands of successive generations of his descendants till the close
of the revolution. In 1704 he sold a small parcel to John, Peter
and James Le Counte, sons of Peter Le Counte "late of said
island.''

Captain Christopher Billop married a Miss Farmer, by whom
he had one daughter, Eugenia, born in or about the year 1712.
Mrs. Billop was probably a sister of Thomas Farmer, who was
prominent on Staten Island, where he was a judge of the court
of sessions in 1711. He removed hence, however, during or
soon after that year, and afterward became a judge of the su-
preme court of New Jersey and representative of Middlesex
county in the assembly of that state. The oldest son of this
Thomas Farmer, his name likewise being Thomas, married his
cousin, the daughter of Christopher Billop, and succeeded to
the inheritance of the manor of Bentley. In order to satisfy
the ambition of the family to perpetuate its name young
Farmer adopted the name of Billop.

Thomas Farmer Billop and his wife occupied the mansion and
estate during the latter years of the first half of the 18th cen-
tury. From them it fell to the possesion of their son Christo-
pher, while they were "gathered to their fathers." The old
family cemetery in which their remains were deposited was
situated some three hundred yards to the east of the old manor
house, in a cultivated field and beneath the shade of a few large
trees which once stood there. It contained but a few graves,



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 107

and only the graves of the two persons last mentioned were
honored by headstones containing inscriptions. These inscrip-
tions were as follows:

"Here Lyes y e Body of Evjenea y e Wife of Thomas Billopp.
Aged 23 years Dec' 1 March ye 22d 1735."

"Here Lyes ye Body of Thomas Billopp Esq r Son of Thomas
Farmar Esq r Deed August y e 2d 1750 In ye 39th year of his
Age."

These stones are now lying in the barn yard near the Billop
house and are more or less broken to pieces. For more than a
century they marked the graves to which they belonged. The
spot is now marked by a single cedar tree. Several years since
the crumbling bones were removed thence, by order of the pro-
prietor of the ground, and the stones of the graves thus dese-
crated, which themselves, it would seem, possessed value as
historic relics sufficient to warrant their careful preservation,
were broken and ruthlessly consigned to the rubbish pile as we
have seen.

Christopher Billop, the only son of the above of whom we
have any knowledge, though he had a sister Sally (who married
Alexander Ross of New Jersey, in 1775), was born about the
year 1735, and rose to a position of great prominence in the
county. We are informed that he was twice married, but who
his first wife was we have been unable to learn. His second
wife was Jane Seaman, daughter of Judge Benjamin Seaman,
of this county. Besides being a gentleman of character and
property, he was a member of assembly, and on the eve of the
revolution commanded a corps of loyal militia which was
raised in the vicinity of New York city, and was during the
revolutionary period actively engaged in military duty. At
the outbreak of the war he was a steadfast opponent of the
measures that led to a rupture with Great Britain. By the in-
tensity of his loyalty to the British crown he made himself
conspicuously obnoxious to the whigs of Staten Island and New
Jersey. He held the commission of a colonel in the British
army, and at one time, in 1782, had the title of superintendent of
police of the island. Communication between the island and
New Jersey had been prohibited by the British authorities, and
he was very active in enforcing the prohibition. The patriots
of New Jersey were exceedingly bitter in their hostility to him,
and on two different occasions made him prisoner. Amboy is



108 HISTORV OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

in sight, and upon one of these occasions he was observed by
some Americans, who had stationed themselves with a spy
glass in the church steeple of that town. As soon as they saw
him enter his abode, they ran to their boats, rapidly crossed the
river, and he was soon their captive. The British, then in pos-
session of New York, had confined in irons several Americans
who had been made prisoners ; and to retaliate for this measure
Colonel Billop was taken to Burlington jail. We have copied
the mittimus, as a matter of curiosity, and as showing the
method of doing such things at that eventful period.

"To the keeper of the common jail for the county of Burling-
ton greeting : You are hereby commanded to receive into your
custody the body of Col. Christopher Billopp, prisoner-of-war,
herewith delivered to you, and having put irons on his hands
and feet, you are to chain him down to the floor in a close room,
in said jail, and there to retain him, giving him bread and water
only for his food, until you receive further orders from me, or
the commissary of prisoners for the state of New Jersey, for
the time being. Given under my hand, at Elizabethtown, this
6th day of Nov. 1779.

ELISHA BOUDINOT,
Com. Pris. New Jersey."

The commissary at the same time regretted to Billop that
necessity made such treatment necessary, "but retaliation is
directed, and it will I most sincerely hope, be in your power to
relieve yourself from the situation by writing to New York to
procure the relaxation of the sufferings of John Leshier, and
Capt'n Nathaniel Randal."

He was finally released by order of Washington. During
the period of the war Billop disposed of some parts of his
estate. On the 10th of May, 1780, he sold to Joseph Totten a
tract of twenty acres, and another of three and a half acres in
the manor of Bentley, for 235 currency, and on the 29th of the
same month he sold to Benjamin Drake a tract of sixty acres
from his estate, for 600 currency. On the first of May, 1781,
he and his wife Jane, conveyed to Samuel Ward, of Eichmond
county, for 3,730 current money of the city of New York, the
tract opposite Amboy, known as the manor of Bentley, ''Con-
taining three hundred and Seventy-three Acres of Land and
salt meadow, be the same in Quantity more or Less, being-
Bounded Easterly by Land of said Albert Rickman Northerly



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 109

by the river or sound at Low water mark and westerly and
southerly by the Bay at Low Water mark." In this convey-
ance houses, barns, ferry-house and dock, out-houses and
stables are specified by name. From the tract is reserved for
the heirs of Billop sixty feet square for a burial place, the head-
stone of his father being the center of such reservation.

During the revolution the home of Colonel Billop was fre-
quented by men of distinction and rank in the British army.
After the war Billop with fifty-four other royalists in 1783 peti-
tioned Sir Guy Carleton for extensive grants of land in Nova
Scotia. Colonel Billop soon after went to New Brunswick,
where for many years he bore a prominent part in the adminis-
tration of the affairs of that province. He was a member of
the house of assembly, and of the council, and on the death of
Governor Smythe in 1823 he claimed the presidency of the
government, and issued his proclamation accordingly, but the
Honorable Ward Chipman was a competitor for the same sta-
tion, and was sworn into office.

Colonel Billop died at St. John, N. B , in 1827, being then
over 90 years of age. His wife, Jane, who was about twenty
years younger than himself, died in that city in 1802, aged 48.
He had a son, born on Staten Island in 1769, named John
Willett, and another son by the name of Thomas. They settled
in the city of New York, and had a dry goods store on Broad-
way in the vicinity of Trinity church. John never married,
but fell a victim of yellow fever at the time the city was
scourged by that terrible disease. Thomas, who had a family,
of whom, however, nothing is known, except that his wife was
a Miss Moore of Newtown, L. I., survived the fever, failed in
business, joined the expedition of the celebrated Miranda, in
which he received the appointment as captain, and was taken
prisoner by the Spaniards and afterward executed. Besides
these two sons Colonel Billop had four daughters. Louisa
married John Wallace, Esq., surveyor of the customs. Mary
married the Rev. Archdeacon Willis, of Nova Scotia, and died
at Halifax in 1834, at the age of forty-three. Jane became the
wife of the Hon. William Black of St. John, and died in 1836.
Ann, the youngest daughter, was a maiden lady, and was the
last of the family of whom any record appears of their visiting
the ancestral homestead. She visited the spot in 1824, and took
some flowers of an old trumpet creeper vine that was growing



110 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

on the house, and some nuts and wild cherries from trees that
were growing in the burial plot, and on her return carried them
to her father in New Brunswick. It is said that on beholding
them the heart of the old colonel melted with emotion and he
wept like a child.

We have neglected to say in a more appropriate place that
Colonel Billop had two daughters by his first wife, of whom
we only know that they married sons of Benjamin Seaman, one
of whom w r as Benjamin and the other Henry.

The large estate once belonging to Colonel Billop was confis-
cated and sold by Isaac Stoutenburgh and Philip Van Cort-
land, commissioners of forfeitures for the southern district of



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 11 of 72)