Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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self by working at the compositor's case. When he was 18, he
started a newspaper, called the " Yankee" after his father's brig,
in Wiscasset, Me., soon after which he purchased theHaverhill
" Gazette."

In 1835, Mr. Brooks went to Washington, D. C., and became
the correspondent of a number of newspapers, an employment
in which he continued for sixteen years. He engaged as asso-
ciate editor of the "Jfew York Express " with his brother, James
Brooks, in 1840, and remained in this connection forty-one
years. During this time he passed through various experiences,
traveling in 1843 through Europe, and being wrecked off Sandy
Hook on his return; an accident in which he suffered the loss
of all his possessions. He published his paper almost single
handed during the cholera epidemic, when people fled from the
city, and he was among the first to use the telegraph for news-
paper reports. Mr. Brooks was fond of telling of his news
victories over rival journals, and some of these showed great
sagacity and enterprise. For many years he served as one of
the executive committee of the associated press, and was for
a considerable time its general manager.

His entrance into politics was rather forced on him than
sought, but once enlisted, he engaged with his whole heart in
this as he did in everything which he undertook. He was
elected to the state senate in 1853. Two years afterward he
rendered his position prominent by a controversy with Arch-
bishop Hughes relative to the limits to be set to the acquisition
of church property by the Roman Catholic church and the ex-
emption of property from taxation, he holding that, as its title
was vested in the priest, it should be taxed when it reached be-
yond a certain value. The controversy, first carried on through
the columns of the " Courier and Enquirer" finally went into
the state senate, of which Mr. Brooks was elected a member on
the know-nothing or American party ticket in 1853. This
controversy, which attracted attention all over the world, was
published in book form in 1855, under the title of "A Contro-
versy on Church Property." Tlie position he took led to his



344 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

being nominated by the know-nothings as a candidate for gov-
ernor in 1856. From that time onward, he was frequently in
public office, taking part in political conventions and serving
the state in the constitutional conventions and in the assembly
for a number of years. He became the leader of his party
and one of the more prominent and influential men of the bodies
in which he served.

Mr. Brooks was a man of great dignity and decorum. Having
been called on to preside over important public assemblies
through a long period, he had acquired habits of attention to
business and prompt decision which made him an admirable
executive. His acquaintance was extensive, and he knew the
character and adaptations of men, so that in the formation of
committees or the management of affairs he was of great use to
the cause which he served. He was conservative in his princi-
ples and a man of strong convictions of duty. He might have
had many more political honors than those which he won by
positive merit, had he been able to crouch or fawn, or make un-
worthy bargains with party leaders, but he was a high-minded,
upright man who served God and his own conscience first, and
party second. Hence he was often ignored by the politicians
who knew that he could not be used for their purposes, though
they sorely needed his ability and wisdom.

He was a most benevolent man. He was not rich, and there-
fore could not endow charitable institutions, but he gave what
was better than money, his personal service in their boards of
direction. He spent freely of his time, even in the busiest
period of his life, and gave careful and regular attention to the
management of such charities as the "New York Institution
for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb " and the " Nursery
and Child's Hospital." He visited the legislature in their be-
half, and attended frequent meetings to promote their interests;
through the press, and by personal influence he attracted at-
tention to their wants, and secured new friends for them.
When he took hold of any work he took hold " with both
hands earnestly." In the National Charities Association, in
the state board of health, in the national convention of deaf
mute instructors, as a trustee of Cornell University, in the In-
dian conferences, and in the constitutional conventions, he was
recognized as a man of wisdom and power, of profound convic-
tions, untiring industry and excellent judgment. In social life



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 345

he was a pleasant companion. He had lived so much in public
that his conversation abounded in reminiscences of the great
men of a past generation, and he could draw at will upon a full
and retentive memory to illustrate or adorn any subject of dis-
cussion. But his public life had not made him cold and care-
less of private and personal interests. He was too much of a
Puritan to be very demonstrative, but he made close and warm
friendships founded upon mutual esteem.

Mr. Brooks believed in reforming and elevating society by
personal effort with individuals, and not by schemes and reso-
lutions ; and so, while he was a true philanthropist, he was what
is better still, a true Christian. He believed in God, and served
him first and always, and was known and respected as a religi-
ous man. Like the late Governor Seymour, who was his inti-
mate friend, he honored religion and was esteemed and trusted
by men of the church, as well as by men of the world who knew
his staunch integrity, and by men of the state who knew his
political virtue. He was a simple, humble Christian, who
often opened the meetings of boards where he presided \vith
prayer, and who, though firm in his own opinions, had charity
and kindness for those who held different ones. His life was
long honored and useful, his name will be cherished by many
whom he has befriended, and will be recorded among the edit-
ors, the statesmen and the benefactors of this century in the
state of New York and in the United States of America. His
last public service was in connection with the Indian conference
at Lake Mohonk in October, from which he returned seriously
ill, and his last literary work was a review of that conference
which he wrote for the "New York Observer." Mr. Brooks
died November 25th, 1886. His loss was deeply felt, not only in
his family and the community in which he lived, but through-
out the whole country. The newspapers, of which he was so
thorough an advocate, were filled with eulogistic articles tak
ing up the story of his life anew. With his death passed from
the stage of action one of the noblest and brightest examples
of old fashioned statesmanship and patriotism. Staten Island
had in him a true citizen, and its society profitted by associa-
tion and acquaintance with him.

* This life of Mr. Brooks, with slight modification, appeared in the " Neiv York
Observer,'' Dec. 9th, 1886.



346 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

CORNELIUS A. HART. Perhaps no young man in Richmond
county has so distinguished himself for his energy and busi-
ness ability as has the present county clerk, Cornelius A Hart.
Born under no advantageous circumstances surrounded by
none of those conditions which usually foster ambition and
create desire to shine, he has yet, though but thirty seven years
of age, succeeded iu gaining for himself a sound and practical
education, the possession of ample fortune and a popularity
second to that of no other individual on Staten Island.

Mr. Hart was born in New Brighton in 1851. After a pre-
liminary course at the public school in that village he attended
the academy conducted by Dr. Scheck in the building now
known as "Belmont Hall." In 1868 he commenced a course
of study at the New York Commercial College, which he left
to enter the importing house of James Reid & Co., of New
York city. Here in a short period of time he succeeded in
raising himself from the lowest to the highest position in the
employ of the firm, passing through every grade in the office
and having nine clerks under his charge at the time of his leave
taking.

Mr. Hart's father, Patrick Hart, had been for many years a
prominent and successful contractor on Staten Island. It was
he who laid out Bard avenue and many of the principal streets
in the neighborhood of New Brighton, and his son, influenced
by his example, left the firm with which he was employed to en-
gage in the same business. His remarkable success in it is well
known to the people of Staten Island.

Mr. Hart's connection with the laying out of new streets and
with improvements generally, has induced him to make
numerous and large investments in real estate which he is
constantly improving and reselling in lots to suit purchasers.
In 1884, he bought a large tract of land in New Brighton
through which he has opened seven avenues, Forest, Hart,
Sharon, Oakwood, Greenwood, Laurel and University place.
The whole is divided into three hundred and fifty city lots and
situated in one of the most attractive localities on the island.
Mr. Hart is one of the largest tax-payers in the town of Cas-
tleton. He has also recently purchased other lots in New
Brighton, a large plot of ground in West Brighton and the
residence and grounds of the late Commodore Sloat, com-
mander of the United States Navy. His extensive advertise-



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 347

ments in the New York " World" and other New York daily
papers are rapidly bringing him into prominence as a real estate
speculator and owner.

To speak of Mr. Hart's political career is bat to repeat what
is already known throughout, the whole of Richmond county.
From his boyhood days he took an interest in politics and his
connection with the democratic party has resulted in benefit
both to it and himself. In 1876 he was elected trustee of the
village of New Brighton by the largest majority ever given a
candidate from the Second ward. In 1878 he was elected county
clerk by a phenominally large majority, was reelected to the
position in 1881, his antagonist receiving but 278 votes out of a
total of about 7,000 cast, and was again elected in 1864, when he
ran 1,000 votes ahead of the Cleveland majority, in itself the
largest ever received by a presidental ticket in the county.
When he first entered the clerk's office at Richmond he found
books and papers scattered about in confusion, and the most
valuable historical documents in process of slow destruction
from want of the most ordinary care. He immediately set him-
self to work with that determination and will which character-
ized all his actions, and in a short time, to the great relief of
the legal fraternity with whom he has most of his dealings,
had so thoroughly straightened affairs as to draw down upon
himself the enconiums of the entire county press irrespective
of party. The lack of partiality which he has shown in all
his dealings has not been the least noticeable feature of his ad-
ministration at Richmond, and his pleasant word for all policy
has greatly added to his popularity as a man.

He numbers among his friends and adherents both democrats
and republicans, rich and poor, young and old. His benevo-
lent and charitable disposition is widely known and appreciated,
and his brilliant parts are constantly attracting to him the notice
of substantial and thoughtful business men. This is shown by
the fact that he was chosen by the Rapid Transit Railroad Com-
pany to represent their cause at Washington, which he did with
ability and with success.

Mr. Hart was married, June 23, 1875, to Miss Hannah Bowman
of New Brighton, whose exemplary life won for her many friends,
and whose sad death, July 25, 1882, was deeply felt through-
out the entire community. Mr. Hart is a member of St. Peter's
church, New Brighton, and is liberal in his gifts toward its sup-



348 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

port. He is also connected with many clubs, societies and
social organizations. In his tastes he is domestic, though he is
fond of athletic sports, especially of hunting and fishing,
which he frequently travels long distances to enjoy. He is on
intimate terms with many of the foremost newspaper men in
the country, and extracts in the daily papers referring to him
are numerous, some coming even from California. The many
incidents and laughable stories relating to him which have been
published will long be remembered, and the popularity which
he has acquired by his fine social qualities is built on a lasting
foundation. We take pleasure in presenting this short sketch
of his life, especially to his many young friends on Staten
Island. His history strikingly illustrates the truth of the fol-
lowing lines from a poem which he has preserved in a scrap book
containing many allusions to him, now in the author's posses-
sion.

"There is no chance, no destiny, no fate
Can circumvent or hinder or control

The firm resolve of a determined soul.
*****

Let the fool prate of Luck. The fortunate

Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves,

Whose slightest action or inaction serves

The one great aim. Why, even death stands still

And waits an hour sometimes for such a will.''



CHAPTER VIII.



CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS.



The Dutch Reformed Churches. The Episcopal Churches. Baptist Churches.
Methodist Churches. The Moravian Church. The Roman Catholic Churches.
The Church of the Huguenots. Unitarian Church. Presbyterian Churches.
Lutheran Churches. Y. M. C. A.



FOR a large part of the history of the Dutch Reformed de-
nomination on the island we are indebted to the vener-
able pastor of the church at Port Richmond, Rev. James
Bro \vnlee, D. D., who enjoys the very unusual honor of a pas-
torate of more than fifty years' duration.

There is evidence enough to prove, in an unbroken chain, the
identity of this church, from the time when the little band of
Waldenses first settled on these shores and established the wor-
ship of the Redeemer for whom they had suffered so much.

It would be a matter of great interest to us now to know
more of the way in which our ancestors worshipped ; their dif-
ficulties, and struggles, and successes. Even their names,
standing on the record, would be of interest to their descend-
ants. Many of these, indeed, we have, in an old register of
baptisms in the Dutch language, from 1696 onward, and many
names of families also which have no living representatives on
the island. This record will be found in another part of this
work.

The Rev. Samuel Drisins, who was one of the pastors of the
Dutch church in New York, then New Amsterdam, from 1652
to 1682, preached regularly once a month to the Waldenses on
Staten Island from about 1660 onward. It may be fairly in-
ferred from that fact, that there was a little church of that
noble and devoted people established here ; not a church build-
ing, perhaps, till later, but a little band of Christ's people, wor-
shipping in some spot where they found it most convenient ; it
might be in one of de Vries' buildings for the dressing of buck-



350 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

skin; it might be under some spreading oak of the primeval
forest at " Oude Dorp," where their first settlement was made.
Doctor De Witt, some years before his death, in a brief note to
Doctor Brownlee, says on this subject :

"During the Dutch Colonial government there was a settle-
ment of the persecuted French Vaudois, or Waldenses, on Sta-
ten Island, as early as 1660. The Rev. Samuel Drisius, of our
church in this city, crossed the bay once a month to preach to
them. There was a Huguenot settlement on the Island a short
time afterward, parties of these having fled to Holland to escape
from persecution, and having come over to New Netherlands in
company with their new friends. After a season the French
church and organization passed away, and the great body of its
members became blended with the Dutch inhabitants, in the
Reformed Dutch church. The fact of the settlement of a con-
siderable number of the persecuted Waldenses on Staten Island
is very interesting. They had fled from the dreadful persecu-
tions in the valleys of Piedmont, to Holland, and were sent, at
the expense of the city of Amsterdam, amply provided for, to
New Netherlands in America."

We may be certain that these martyrs for the faitli of Christ,
whose religion was everything to them, would not be long con-
tent without some regular church organization, and the stated
enjoyment of ordinances; and therefore we conclude that soon
after 1660, under the care of Dominie Drisius, this privilege
was secured by them.

In 1661 grants of land on the island were made to several
persons, among whom were some Waldenses, and also many
Huguenots, who had fled hither from La Rochelle. They
commenced a new settlement a few miles south of the Narrows,
near that of de Vries already mentioned, and built a little vil-
lage of twelve or fourteen houses, and a block-house with two
small guns and a garrison of ten soldiers, for protection against
the Indians. It was to this little colony, at their earnest re-
quest, that Dominie Drisius, who could preach in French, min-
istered once a month, dispensing the sacraments at regular in-
tervals, while the colony was too feeble to support a minister
of its own. The descendants of these Waldenses and Hugue-
nots are still numerous on the island, and bear some of the old-
est and most honored names among us. Many of them have
become connected with other denominations, partly from con-



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 351

venience of residence, but more on account of the persist-
ence of the Dutch church in the use of the language of the
Fatherland, long after English had become the prevailing
tongue.

In the year 1680 it is known that there were two churches,
with houses of worship on the island. One, and perhaps the
first built, was a church of the Huguenots at Fresh kill, on
what is known as the Seaman farm. The services in this
church for nearly forty years later were conducted in French,
and although all vestiges of the church building have disap-
peared, there is still the little grave-yard with a few dilapidated
gravestones to mark the spot were it stood.

Very soon after this there was another French church built
at Stony Brook, on the road from Quarantine to Amboy, not
far from what was long known as the Black Horse tavern. This
was built by the Waldenses from " Oude Dorp," whose num-
bers had increased and led them to extend their settlements.
All remains, save some stones of the foundation of this church,
have disappeared, but here, too, there are some graves of these
noble exiles.

About the same time (1680) there are traces of a church on
the north side, in which the services were in the Dutch language,
the Hollanders having settled in considerable numbers along
the kills.

As yet these churches had no settled pastor of their own.
Along with Dominie Drisius, Dominie Selyns, who was pastor
of the churches of Brooklyn, Bushwick and Gravesend, from
1660 to 1701 with an interval of some years, during which he
revisited Holland preached to the churches here at stated
times.

In 1682 and 1683, Dominie Tarchemaker, from the University
of Utrecht, supplied the churches on the island. He afterward
removed to Schenectady, and perished there in a massacre by
the Indians in February. 1690.

The Rev. Pierre Daille, who had been professor in the Col-
lege of Saumur, and who came to America in 1683, and was
colleague to Dominie Selyns from that year to 1692, preached
frequently to the Huguenots on Staten Island, and also at New
Rochelle, and elsewhere in the vicinity of New York. Domi-
nie Selyns, in a letter to the Classis of Amsterdam, speaks of
him as being "full of fire, godliness and learning. Banished



352 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

on account of his religion, he maintains the cause of Christ
with untiring zeal."

About this time, from 1687 onward, for nearly two years, the
church at Stony Brook was supplied by a certain Laurentius
Van den Bosch, or Van Bosen, as it was sometimes written.
His character seems to have been under a cloud, for he was
suspended from the ministry by Dominie Selyns and others,
who could not wait for the slow process of sending their pro-
ceedings to be reviewed by the authorities in Holland, which
in those times frequently consumed a whole year. Van Boseu
afterward went to Maryland.

From 1694 for about three years the churches were without
any stated supply. They were visited frequently, however, and
the ordinances administered to them by the ministers of New
York and Long Island. There are also frequent records of
baptisms by Dominie Batolvius, as it is written, and also by
Dominie Gilliam, whose i-esidence is not mentioned. It has
been ascertained that these names indicate the Rev. Guillaume
Bertholf, who was pastor of the churches of Aquachanonck
and Hackensack, N. J., from 1694 to 1724, and whose services
were much in demand on the island.

In 1697 the French church at Freshkill obtained the services
of a pastor of their own. The Rev. Dr. David Bonrepos, who
had been settled several years at New Rochelle, came to Staten
Island, and remained till 1717, preaching also to the church at
Stony Brook. In the latter year the good old pastor was com-
pelled by age and infirmities to j-elinquish his charge, and left
the island.

In 1714 a grant was made by Governor Hunter, to the repre-
sentatives of the "Reformed Protestant Dutch Church," to
erect a new house of worship at some convenient place on the
north shore, the place not specih'ed. The grant for a new
church implies an old one previously existing. The grant itself
is still extant, and in perfect preservation. It is signed by the
governor, and dated at Fort George, September 3, 1714.

Before 1717 there must have been a Dutch church in the vil-
lage of Richmond, although no record of it exists. In that
year, after the retirement of Dr. Bonrepos, the churches at
Freshkill and at Stony Brook united with the Dutch inhab-
itants, who had gradually become the preponderating element
in the population, and together built a new church in the vil-



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 353

lage of Richmond, which stood, probably, in or near a little
graveyard nearly opposite the court house.

About the same time as this grant from Governor Hunter, or
perhaps a year earlier, in the twelfth year of the reign of Queen
Anne, which would be 1713, St. Andrew's church in Richmond
was erected. The first accounts of the settlement of the Eng-
lish church, as it was then called, are interesting and character-
istic. There is a " Historical account of the society for propa-
gating the gospel in the British Colonies," by David Hum-
phreys, D. D., published in London. 1730. A copy is to be
found in the rooms of the Long Island Historical Society, in
Brooklyn.

It appears that the Rev. Mr. McKenzie was sent here as a
missionary in 1704, and met with a very kind reception from
the people, although scarcely one third of them were English.
The rest were Dutch and French. The French had a minister
of their own, and had built a church. The English had no
place convenient for divine worship, and the French generously
granted the use of their church to Mr. McKenzie, which he oc-
cupied for seven years, till St. Andrew's was built. That was
characteristic of the French and the Dutch, who were by this
time cordially blending in their worship, as their doctrines
were identical.

It is said that the Dutch were at first somewhat averse to the
English liturgy, but as it was taken for granted that their ob-
jections could only arise from their ignorance of it, Mr. Mc-
Kenzie sent to London for a good supply of prayer books in
Dutch, and distributed them freely among the people, after
which, it is added, " they found no fault with it, and began to
have a just esteem for our excellent form of worship." That
was a wise scheme, and accounts, in part at least, for so many
Dutch and French names in St. Andrew's church.

Then again Mr. McKenzie, who seems to- have been a very
zealous man, had the island divided into three precincts, and a
teacher was appointed in each, who was supported by a grant
from the society in London. These taught, of course, in the
English language, and also taught the children in the church
catechism, with the explanations, and taught them also to join
in public worship.

In 1712 " the Justices of Richmond County, the High Sheriff,
the Clerk and the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's militia



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 34 of 72)