Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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planers

:16 : To one high way from the koirb of John hendrikesone
alongst the water side To Clais Laseleare

This is atrew Record by the order of the Coarte of seshones
"Entred & Recorded by mee

" JACOB CORBETT : Cla : "



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 143

In compliance with a similar order of the court of sessions
March 4, 1700, relating to the inhabitants of the north division,
the following roads were laid out in that quarter and recorded
the 17th day of March, 1700 :

" 1 : To one highway along the front of Karels neck Six Rods
in breadth & so along royl land where oswald ford liveth

: 2 : To one high way between the Land of Christian Corsson
& Segir gerritse running to Coecles Town Six rodd in breadth."

There is a tradition that the Richmond road is the oldest road
on the island, but at what date it was opened we are not in-
formed. Very probably it follows the course of a pre-historic
Indian trail. It is said that it was originally laid out eight
rods in width. The object of this was to prevent as much as
possible the danger of Indians lying in ambush and attacking
travellers unawares, by giving a chance for clear vision some
distance ahead.

A road from Betty Morgan's house to Dongan's lower mill
was closed and another opened in its stead April 8, 17oS. The
latter ran from the road that connected Karle's neck and Rich-
mond, beginning on that road at a point on John Betty's land,
thence past Betty Morgan's house, taking on its way the course
of the "gully running to Mr. Totten's Bridge," and other lines
and paths till it reached Colonel Dongan's lower mill.

A road from Darby Doyle's ferry to Billop's ferry, and
another from the Narrows or Simonson's ferry to meet the other
at the school house of Garrison's were laid out March 14, 1774.
A road from the soldiers' lots to John Bodine's was laid out at
the same time.

From a publication in London, dated 1760, we abstract the
following description of Staten Island at that time :

" Staten Island at its east end has a ferry of three miles to
the west end of Long Island ; at its west end is a ferry of one
mile to Perth- Amboy of East Jersies ; it is divided from East
Jersies by a creek ; is in length about twelve miles, and about
six miles broad, and makes one county, called Richmond, which
pays scarce one in one and twenty of the provincial tax ; it is
all in one parish, but several congregations, viz., an English,
Dutch, and French congregation ; the inhabitants are mostly
English ; only one considerable village called Cuckold's-town."

Professor Kalm, a French traveller, made the journey from
Philadelphia to New York, by way of Staten Island, on horse-



144 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

back in 1748. The party of which he was a member left Phihi
delphia October 27th, and came by way of Bristol, Trenton,
Princeton, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, Elizabethtown and
Staten Island. From his accounts of the places on his route
we make the following extract.

" At night we took up our lodgings -At Elizabethtown, Point, an
inn about two English miles distant from the town, and the
last house on this road belonging to New Jersey. The man who
had taken the lease of it, together with that of the ferry near
it, told us that he paid a hundred and ten pounds of Pennsyl-
vania currency to the owner.

" October the 30th. We were ready to proceed on our jour-
ney at sun rising. Near the inn where we had passed the night,
we were to cross a river, and we were brought over, together
with our horses, in a wretched, half rotten ferry. This river
came a considerable way out of the country, and small vessels
could easily sail up it. This was a great advantage to the in-
habitants of the neighboring country, giving them an oppor-
tunity of sending their goods to New York with great ease ; and
they even made use of it for trading to the West Indies. The
country was low on both sides of the river, and consisted of
meadows. But there was no other hay to be got, than such as
commonly grows in swampy grounds ; for as the tide comes up
in this river, these low plains were sometimes overflowed when
the water was high. The people hereabouts are said to be
troubled in summer with immense swarms of gnats or musque.
toes, which sting them and their cattle. This was ascribed to
the low swampy meadows, on which these insects deposite their
eggs, which are afterwards hatched by the heat.

" As soon as we had got over the river, we were upon Staten
Island, which is quite surrounded with salt water. This is the
beginning of the province of New York. Most of the people
settled here were Dutchmen, or such as came hither whilst the
Dutch were yet in possession of this place. But at present
they were scattered among the English and other European
inhabitants, and spoke English for the greatest part. The
prospect of the country here is extremely pleasing, as it is not
so much intercepted by woods, but offers more cultivated fields
to view. Hills and vallies still continued, as usual to change
alternately.

v ' The farms were near each other. Most of the houses were



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 145

wooden ; however, some were built of stone. Near every farm-
house was an orchard with apple trees ; the fruit was already
for the greatest part gathered. Here, and on the whole jour-
ney before, I observed a press for cyder at every farm-house,
made in different manners, by which the people had already
pressed the juice out of the apples, or were just busied with
that work. Some people made use of a wheel made of thick
oak planks, which turned upon a wooden axis by means of a
horse drawing it, much in the same manner as the people do
with woad ; except that here the wheel runs upon planks.
Cherry trees stood along the enclosures round corn-fields.

" The corn fields were excellently situated, and either sown
with wheat or rye. They had no ditches on their sides, but (as
is usual in England) only furrows; drawn at greater or less dis-
tances from each other.

"In one place we observed a water mill, so situated that
when the tide flowed the water ran into a pond : but when it
ebbed the floodgate was drawn up, and the mill driven by the
water flowing out of the pond.

" About eight of the clock in the morning we arrived at the
place where we were to cross the water, in order to come to the
town of New York. We left our horses here and went on
board the yacht : we were to go eight English miles by sea ;
however we landed about eleven o'clock in the morning at New
York. We saw a kind of wild ducks in immense quantities
upon the water : the people called them Slue bills, and they
seemed to be the same with our Pintail ducks, or Linnaeus' s
Anasacuta : but they were very shy."

Without any especial attempt at order in arrangement or
date we shall now review such of the customs and habits of the
people of this period as the sources of our information afford
us a glimpse of.

In colonial times the people used wooden trenches and pew-
ter platters and other dishes at their meals, the poorer classes
using the former and the more wealthy using the latter. They
were very fond of pewter mugs and porringers, which were a
kind of round bowl with a handle prettily carved, and was
used more particularly for drinking chocolate, that beverage
being then more common than tea or coffee. Chocolate was the
common drink for supper. Coffee and tea were little used,
though it is said coffee was introduced here about 1650. When
10



146 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

tea was first introduced here there seems to have been some un-
certainty as to what was its most appropriate use, An amus-
ing story is told of one Mr. Crocheron, who, having heard of
the new herb called tea, bought a pound of it and took it
home. When he wished to boil a ham he thought the aromatic
qualities of the tea would improve it, so he strewed his pound
of tea over the ham and boiled them all up together. To have
her pewter ware scoured clean and bright, and well arranged for
display on the shelves of her kitchen was the pride of the in-
dustrious housewife. Feather beds were in common use, sum-
mer and winter.

The general breakfast of rich and poor was suppaun and
milk. Toast and cider was a very common article of diet, the
bread being toasted and put, into the cider, and sometimes the
cider was substituted by chocolate. They often had four meals
a day. After the breakfast described above came dinner in the
middle of the day, at which a favorite dish was "samp-por-
ridge," a kind of soup made with meat, potatoes, turnips and
the like. Between daylight and dark they took a light lunch,
with, perhaps, a cup of tea, then had supper about nine o'clock.
This consisted of suppaun and milk, or bread and milk, or
toast and cider again. Thus it will be noticed that though
they had frequent meals their bill of fare was a very plain one
and was not remarkable for its variety.

To ride on horseback was a much more common method of
travelling than it is now. It was indeed then the most com-
mon one in use. A man took his wife and a young man took
his girl, on the same horse with himself, the lady riding behind
her cavalier. Sometimes a pillion was used, but they generally
rode bare-back. Vehicles were very rare, and consisted almost
entirely of farm wagons and carts, which were used for pur-
poses of pleasure as well as business. Carpets on the floors
were then almost unknown, but the tidy housewife of those
times kept the floors of her living rooms well scrubbed, bright
and clean, and then sprinkled white sand over them, distributing
it in frescoes over the floor by artistic flourishes of the broom.

Shortly before the revolution, tradition asserts that the people
were unusually superstitious. A number of stories of witches
and strange apparitions are handed down. One tells of a child
that was seen at night all clothed in red on a certain rock at
Springville which lay across the road from the school house,



II [STORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 147

but has since been blasted. Another tells us of a mysterious
black dog as large as a horse that used to frequent a spot called
" the signs," and at night would appear beside horseback riders
and trot along with them. One negro who was riding with a
broad-axe in his hand, had the boldness to strike a terrific blow,
but the dog vanished from beneath it and the axe fell to the
ground. Another tells of a negro slave who ran away and a
well disposed witch brought him back and placed him in his
bed at night. But he was so much exhausted from the
rough handling of the witch that he could not get out of bed
for three or four days. There were also the " Haunted Woods,"
on the road to Old Town, and the " Haunted Bridge," on the
road to Amboy, each of which had its tale of supernatural
mystery. Had the sage of "Sunnyside" pitched his tent for
awhile on Staten Island he might have embalmed some of them
in the charms of classic literature, where perchance they would
have been rivals for " Sleepy Hollow " or " Rip Van Winkle."

In the time of which we are speaking flax was raised here,
and linen manufactured from it in the families of the farmers.
"Flax bees" were social merry-making occasions on which
labor was combined with entertainment. The flax having been
properly rotted was " crackled," "hatcheled" and otherwise
prepared for the more tedious work of spinning and weaving.
After the work of the evening was done girls and boys would join
in a dance for a considerable part of the balance of the night.
And who shall say that the sturdy youths and ruddy faced
girls of that day, in their plain home-spun clothing, after an
evening's vigorous toil and surrounded by the rustic appurten-
ances of the homes in which they were assembled, did not en-
joy the sweets of social intercourse just as fully as the beaux
and belles of to-day with all the dainty luxuries of modern
dress and surroundings.

Nearly all the farmers had slaves in those days. These were
uniformly well treated. It was customary for them to live, eat
and sleep in the kitchens. After their household duties for the
day were accomplished the black women were commonly en-
gaged in spinning linen or twine. The men also would spin with
an instrument called a " haspel" the yarn for ropes, to be taken
to the rope-walks to be made up.

A list of the names of slaves, male and female, above four-
teen years of age owned in the north division of Staten Island



148



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.



in .1755, is still preserved. We give the list, with the names of
their owners, as it appears.

"A List of The Names Male and Female belonging to



Thomas Dongan



Males. Females.

1st Thomas Tice

2d Ceaser

3d Jack

4th Jack Mollato

5th Joe

6th Eobbin

7th Parris

Jacob Corssen Ceneor

1: Japhory
2: Sam
3: Jupeter

Jacob Corssen Juner

John Vegte
1: Tom
2: Primes

Gerardus Beekman

1 Bristo

In the Care of G. Beekman and
Belonging to John Beekman in New York.

1: One Negro Na. Sam

2: One Negro Na. Jo

3: One Negro Na. Warwick

Antony Watters

1: One Negro Na, Sam

2: One Negro Na, Will

Henry Cruse

1 One negroNa Charles



1st Philis

2 Peg

3 Hanna



1: Mary
2: Nanne

1 Rose
2: Nans

1: Bette
2: Jean

1 June



1: One W Leana
2: One W Phillis



Cornelius Cruse
Simon Simonson

1: One Negro Na Napten

Johanis de Groet

1 : One negro Na Jack



1: One W Na lade
2: One W na Dina
3: One W na Sary
1: One W na Dina



1: One W. Na Susanna



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

Joseph Rolf



149



1: One negro Na, sam



1: One W, Na Jude
1: One W, Na Sary
Cristeiaen Corssen
1. One Negro Na, Jack
2: One Negro Na Nenes

Josuah Merseral
1: One Negro Na Flip 1: One W, Na Darkis

John Deceer
1: One Negro named Jem

Garret Crussen



1: One W, Na Jane
1: One W, Na mat
1: One W, Na bet



1: one Negro Na Bos.
1 one, Na Jack
1. one Na. forlen

1. one Na Sam
one na Bink

1 Negor N harry

2 Dto N John

1 Negro Tom

1 Negro Na Quam

1 Negro Na Jack

2 Dto Na Tom

1 Negro Na Ben
1 Negro Na kos
1 Negro Na Kinck

1 Negro Na Tom

2 Dto Na Cornelias

3 Dto Na harry



Garrit Post

John Roll Junr

Barent marteling

Richard merrill

Otto Van tuyl

Bastian Ellis
John Veltmon
Abraham Prall

Charles Mecleen

Margret Simonson

Joseph Lake

John Roll



1. One W, Na flore
1: One W Na Sary



One W Na Title
One W Na Sary

1 W Na Jane

2 W, Na Jude



1 Wench Na Hage

2 Dto Na Jane

3 Dto Na Bet



1 Wench Na floar
1 Wench Na Peg
1 Wench Na Sary



150



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.



Negro Na Lue



1 Negro Na Tom
1 Negro Na Sambo

1 Negro Na harry
1 Negro Na frank
1 Negro Na Harry



Elenor haughwout

Abraham Crocheron

Barnit De Pue

John Crocheron

David Cannon
Aron Prall

Charyty Merrill
Joseph Begel



1 Wench Na Bet
1 Wench Na Mary
1 Wench febe



1 Wench Na Bet



Cornelias Korsan



1 Wench Na Philis
Wench Na Susanna

" A list of the Negroes of my division in the
North Compeny of Staten Island.

" JACOB CORSSEN Jur "

While we are speaking of slavery the following copy of an
advertisement dated July 5, 1756, will throw some light on the
customs of the time in regard to the subject:

" Run away the 2d Instant July, from John Decker, of
Staten Island, a negro Man, being a short chubby Fellow, with
extraordinary bushy Hair, is bare foot, and has a Soldier's
red Great Coat on. Also run away from the Widow Haugh-
wout, of the said Island, a negro Wench, of middle Size, is with
Child, and speaks broken English, and has a Bundle of Clothes
with her. It is supposed they went together. Whoever takes
up the said negro Man and Wench, and secures them so that
they be had again, shall have Forty Shillings Reward, and
Charges paid by the Owners, John Decker and Widow Haugh-
wout."

As the life of a slave was doomed to be one of labor, intellect-
ual cultivation was deemed unnecessary ; some few, however,
were taught sufficiently to enable them to read the Bible, and
as they were admitted to be responsible hereafter for the deeds
done in this life, religious Instructions in pious families were
not neglected. It was not unusual to see master and slave
working together in the fields apparently on terms of perfect
equality, but there were lines drawn, beyond which neither



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 151

males nor females dared to trespass. In the kitchen, especially
in the long winter evenings, the whites and blacks indiscrimin-
ately surrounded the same huge fire, ate apples from the same
dish, poured cider from the same pitcher, and cracked nuts and
jokes with perfect freedom.

The dwellings of the early settlers were unavoidably rude
and more or less uncomfortable and inconvenient. As the so-
ciety ripened into the Colonial period, however, some improve-
ment was made. At first necessity compelled them to erect
their houses without regard to anything but that. Log cabins
were built by almost every family, and when properly con-
structed, were comfortable and durable. They were one story
high, with wooden chinmies and thatched roofs. In process of
time, as their means increased, many of them erected spacious,
and in some instances costly houses of stone, some of which
may still be seen in various parts of the island, but they were
almost without exception in the Dutch style of architecture
long, low and massive. The kitchen, which was usually a sep-
arate structure, but connected with the main house, was fur-
nished with a spacious fire-place in some instances occupying
one entire end of the apartment. It is said that some of these
kitchens were furnished with doors, in front and in rear, large
enough to allow a horse and sleigh loaded with wood, to be
driven in at one door (the wood to be unloaded into the fire-
place) and driven out at the opposite, but we will not pledge
our historical veracity for the truth of the assertion. Usually
a " back-log," of green wood, too large to be managed without
the aid of bars and levers, was rolled into the house and placed
against the back wall of the fire-place, then smaller materials
were built up in front of it and ignited, and soon a bright and
glowing fire was kindled, giving heat, and at night, light enough
for ordinary purposes.

The materials for these houses were abundant on almost every
man's farm ; stones were either quarried or found on the sur-
face ; timber grew in his own woods, where it was felled and
dressed ; shingles were cut and split in the same place, and the
boards and planks were sawed at some neighboring mill. Of
these saw-mills there were several on the island ; the ruins of
one or two of them are still to be seen. The nails were made
by the hands of the neighboring blacksmith. Lime of the best
quality was made by burning the shells, which were found in



152 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

many places near the shores in large quantities, deposited there
by the aborigines. It required much labor, and occupied much
time to build a house of this description, but it was built to be
occupied by generations. In the construction of houses of the
better class, the chimneys were made of bricks imported from
Holland, frequently as ballast, but when it was discovered that
an article quite as good could be manufactured from American
earth, importation ceased. Ovens were usually built outside of
the house, and roofed over to protect them from the weather.
The barns were low in the eaves, but very capacious, and some
farmers had several of them, according to the size of their
farms.

One of the most important of a farmer's out-of-door arrange-
ments was his hog-pen ; the number of swine which he fattened
annually was proportioned to the number of the members of
his family. Beside swine, every farmer fattened a "beef," and
when the season for slaughtering came round, which was in the
fall, after the weather had become cold, there was a busy time
both without and within doors : what with the cutting up and
"corning" of the meat, the labor of making sausages, head-
cheese, rollitjes, and many other articles, even the names of
which are now forgotten, both the males and females of the
family were occupied for a fortnight or more. After the work
of "killing time" was over, the long fall and winter evenings
were devoted to the manufacture of candles, "moulds" and
"dips." Every farm had its smoke-house, in which hams,
shoulders, pieces of beef, and various other articles of diet, were
hung to be cured with smoke. With his corned and smoked
meats, his poultry, mutton and veal, the farmer's family was
not without animal food the year round. Game of various
kinds abounded in the forests for a long time, and was usually
hunted by the younger members of the family.

With few exceptions, the people were agriculturists, and
their method of cultivation did not differ materially from that
of the present day. Their implements of husbandry were
usually brought from the old country, and, compared with
those of the present day, were clumsy and ponderous. Prior
to the introduction of harrows, which is of comparatively recent
date, branches of trees were used in their stead.

Every house was furnished with two spinning wheels: a large
one, for the manufacture of woolen thread, and a small one for



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 153

linen. A thorough, practical knowledge of the use of these
instruments was deemed an indispensable part of a young
lady's education; let her other accomplishments be what they
might, without these she was not qualified to assume the care
of a family. After the thread had been spun it was dyed;
sumach, the bark of the black oak, chestnut, and other trees
furnishing the materials for that purpose. Large families had
looms of their own, with which the cloth for family use was
woven, though there were professional weavers, whose skill was
in demand when bed-spreads and other articles with fancy pat-
terns were required to be made. Girls, at a very early age,
were inducted into the mysteries of knitting, and were the re-
cipients of many a boxed ear for " dropping stitches." Provi-
dent familips were well supplied with woolen and linen gar-
ments, and quantities of cloth of both materials laid aside to be
manufactured into household articles when they might be re-
quired. The prudent housewife made it her care to provide, an
ample supply of clothing, not only for the living, but she had
also laid aside grave clothes for the members of the household
to be ready at hand when they might be required.

There were itinerant tailors, who went from house to house,
spending several days at each, making overcoats and such
other garments as the women of the family could not make; and
itinerant shoemakers, who, once each year, went on their circuit,
making and repairing boots and shoes.

People sometimes lived at great distances from each other,
yet social intercourse was not neglected. On Sundays they met
at church, and, both before and after service, family and neigh-
borhood news was communicated and discussed. On court
days the men from all parts of the county met at the county
seat, where they talked over their agricultural experiences, and
other matters of interest. But the most cheerful of all social
assemblages, especially for young people, took place in the
winter when the sleighing was good; then it was that those who
were yet unmarried sought each other's society, and met at
Richmond to indulge in the merry dance until the waning
hours admonished them to return to their homes. The attrac-
tions of these meetings have proved too powerful to be entirely
abandoned, and they are still continued by the same class in
society.

The early Dutch settlers on Staten Island, though not a



154 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

literary, were a pious people ; the greater part of them were
able to read and write, as the Dutch family Bibles, and the
beautiful chirography in many of them testify. The Walden-
sian and Huguenot elements which amalgamated with them,
served to intensify their religious sentiments; indeed, it could
not well be otherwise, for it was to enjoy the peaceful exercise
of their religion that these latter had forsaken the homes of
their childhood and the graves of their fathers, and cheerfully
submitted to the inconveniences and sufferings of a life in the
wilderness; religious duties had a claim paramount to all others,
and long before they were able to erect churches for themselves,
their dwellings were thrown open for the accommodation of
their neighbors, when the ministers from the city periodi-
cally visited them. The language of Holland was, of course,
the first in use. The Huguenots brought their French with them,



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 15 of 72)