Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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pression. Besides these dramas Mr. Smith wrote tragedy and
numerous petite comedies and farces. He composed, at the
request of Edwin Forrest, the tragedy of "Cains Marius,"
which was performed by that actor at the Arch street theater,
Philadelphia. While quite young Mr. Smith composed a novel
in two volumes, entitled the " Forsaken." In 1836 he published
two volumes, under the title of "The Actress of Padua and
Other Tales," which had an extensive sale. In the same year
he gave to the public "Colonel Crockett's Tour in Texas," a
pseudo autobiography which purported to have been written by
the gallant Tennesseean prior to the field of the Alamo. In the
course of a single year upward of ten thousand copies were sold
in the United States besides an extensive sale which the work
received in England. This book was the most popular of all the




BEECHLAWN.

RESIDENCE OF COL. R. PENN SMITH



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 467

writings of Mr. Smith, who died at Philadelphia in August,
1864.

His son, Colonel R. Penn Smith, of whom we write, was born
in the city of Philadelphia, May 9, 1837. He received his edu-
cation at West Chester college, Pa., after leaving which, in 1857,
he journeyed westward, becoming one of the early settlers of
Kansas. Here he engaged in mercantile pursuits, in which his
talent for business soon won him remarkable success, though
the territory at the time was overrun by a rough class of immi-
grants, some of whom were in search of homes but the majority
were adventurers. To add to the difficulties of the situation
Kansas at that time was engaged in the bloody Border Ruffian
wars. Mr. Smith became one of ten selected to march across
the prairie to Frazier's river and the extreme northwestern por-
tion of the republic in search of gold. In 1859 he crossed to
Denver city, then a rude hamlet, built mostly of adobe houses,
there being but six frame structures in the town. From Den-
ver, with a party, he started into the wild interior of the
Rockies, but was finally obliged to abandon the search, by
hostile Indians.

In 1860 he returned to his home in Philadelphia on a visit,
and while there became greatly interested in the political out-
look. Soon afterward Fort Sumter was fired on, and he im-
mediately concluded to enlist. Accordingly, on the 28th of
May, 1861, he was mustered into the service of the United States
government as first lieutenant of Company F, Seventy-first
Pennsylvania, better known as Baker's California regiment.
Mr. Smith's army career is well known to the American public.
His promotion was rapid, and he soon assumed command of
the regiment, Baker being killed at Balls Bluff. Colonel Smith
was recognized as the youngest colonel in either army, being a,
regimental and brigade commander. He participated in many
of the most important engagements of the war, among which
were the following : Falls Church reconnoissance and action at
Lewinsville, advance on Munson's hill, action at Balls Bluff,
relief of Banks, Savage station, White Oak swamp, Charles City
Cross roads, Malvern Hill, Siege of Yorktown, Fair Oaks or
Seven Pines, action at Fair Oaks, Peach Orchard, covered re-
treat at second Bull Run, Hyattstown, South Mountain, Antie-
tam, Dunker church, Fredericksburg, Banks Ford, Thorough-
fare Gap, Gettysburg, Auburn Mills, Bristoe station, action Bull



468 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

Run, Mine Run, Robertson's Tavern, Morton's Ford and Cold
Harbor.

At Fair Oaks, as lieutenant, he led the regiment into action,
a maneuver which was witnessed by General Sedgwick, who
recommended him as a h'eld officer. At Antietam he was
wounded at the cannon's mouth, and his services at the battle
of Gettysburg won for him the highest enconiums of military
men, historians and private citizens throughout the country, it
having been stated by more than one witness of the affair that
the action of Colonel Smith and his men on the eventful 3d of
July was the means of turning the tide of victory. The po-
sition occupied by him at this battle is known as the bloody
angle where Picket made his charge, and where the backbone
of the rebellion was broken. Colonel Smith succeeded in bring-
ing into use the dead guns recovered from the field of action on
the 2d of July, and with these he poured into the advancing
columns of Picket an enfilading fire, which effectually checked
his advance. On July 3, 1864, he was mustered out of the ser-
vice, with his regiment, and at once engaged in the manufactur-
ing business with General McCandless, of Pennsylvania Reserve
fame. At. length, however, he gave up his partnership with
McCandless and came to New York city, taking up his resi-
dence on Staten Island. Almost immediately he interested him-
self in the wholesale coal business, in which he rapidly ac-
cumulated a fortune. After a survey of the prominent points
in the trade, he saw that immense quantities of small coal,
amounting to millions of tons, capable of use in the making of
.steam, were being thrown away and wasted. He succeeded in
surmounting many prejudices against its introduction as a fuel,
and at last obtained the consent of the railroads to carry it,
since which he has devoted himself entirely to its sale. Through
the influence of Colonel Smith the small coal has become the
fuel of the age for steam.

Ten years ago Colonel Smith purchased seventeen acres of
ground on the Clove road, at West Brighton, on which he
erected the handsome residence at present occupied by him.
Essentially a domestic man, he spends much of his time at his
home, and he is widely known and highly esteemed in social
circles both on Staten Island and in New York city. Mr. Smith
married Miss Lucy P. Woods, of Pittsburg. He has four child-
ren: R. Penn. Smith, Jr., Mary F., Morton W. and Edward G.,
all of whom reside with their parents.




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CHAPTER X.



THE PROFESSIONS OF LAW AND MEDICINE.



The Bench and Bar.* Henry B. Metcalfe. AlvinC. Bradley. Tompkins Wester-
velt. Lot C. Clark. Robert Christie. John and William H. Anthon.
Theodore C. Vermilye. List of Practising Attorneys. Augustus Prentice.
Richmond County Medical Society. I. K. Ambrose. Herman Beyer. Alfred
L. Carroll. Ephraim Clark. Alva D. Decker. Henry S. Earl. Joseph
Feeny. JohuL. Feeny. R. Henry Colder. Edwin A. Hervey. George C.
Hubbard. Robert M. Ames. F. E. Martindale. James J. O'Dea. S. A.
Robinson. Robert Rogerson. Henry W. Sawtelle. Samuel Russell Smith.
Walker Washington, Jr. J. Walter Wood. Notes of Quarantine Superin-
tendence, etc.



RICHMOND county, owing to its being, as a matter of fact,
simply one of the many places of habitation for the
business men of the city of New York, whose business is done
in the city and by city lawyers and before city courts, has not
in the past become the residence of any great number of the
most eminent members of the bar.

In the distribution of judicial districts and departments
Richmond county is attached to the Second judicial district and
department, and in the selections of judges for the higher state
courts " little Richmond," by which appellation the county is
known, has never been honored. Although lawyers have never
been wanting competent and willing to fill the position of county
judge and surrogate, such was the universal respect for and
confidence in Judge Metcalfe that he held the position from the
adoption of the constitution of 1846 until his age precluded
him from further service. Judge Tompkins Westervelt and
Judge Stephen D. Stephens, his successors, are noticed in
sketches subjoined. The writer is unable to recall any litiga-
tions of great public importance in the county, excepting the
quarantine riot investigation (1859) and the murder trial of
Polly Bodine (1844). The county has not, however, been lack
ing in litigations of more than ordinary interest, such as

*By Sidney F. Rawson.



470 1IISTO1JY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

the will case of Mrs. Gardiner (the mother-in-law of President
Tyler), the Seguine will case, the ferry litigations between Cor-
nelius Vanderbilt and George Law, John H. Starin and Erastus
Wiman, and the late William T. Garner and the North Shore
Ferry Company.

We append sketches of the lives of some of the more promi-
nent of the legal fraternity.

Hon. Henry B. Metcalfe was born January 20, 1805, at Johns-
town, then Montgomery, now Fulton county, N. Y., and died
at his residence in the town of Southfield, Richmond county,
February 7, 1881, and was consequently in his 77th year at the
time of his death. Judge Metcalfe was one of the seven chil-
dren of George Metcalfe, who was at one time a man of consid-
erable prominence in this state, having been appointed in 1796
assistant attorney-general under Governor Jay, and having held
the office of district attorney in this county of which he be-
came a resident in 1816, when his son Henry was 11 years old.
The Metcalfes were of English extraction, the progenitor of the
family having come to this country from England in 1765. The
family in England was one of some note. Henry Bleeker Met-
calfe studied Jaw with his father, and at his arrival at majority,
in 1826, was admitted to the bar, a special examination having
been accorded to him by the chancellor, in order that he might
be admitted as an attorney, so as to become eligible to hold the
office of district attorney, made vacant by his father's death.
He was also appointed a master in the court of chancery, which
latter office he held until the abolition of that court in 1846.
He held the office of district attorney until 1833 between that
time and 1830 he was employed by the Staten Island Ferry Com-
pany. In 1840 he was appointed county judge and in the same
year he became a United States boarding officer at quaran-
tine, which latter place he held until 1843. In 1847 he was
elected (that being the first election to that office under the
constitution of 1846) county judge and surrogate of this county,
which office he held continuously till 1875, at which time he re-
signed to take his seat as a member of congress for the first
congressional district of New York, in the forty-fourth congress,
to which he had been elected.

Judge Metcalfe was also a prominent member of the Masonic
fraternity, and for many years was the active manager (in
his office of secretary) of the Richmond County Mutual Insur-



HISTOUY OF IUCHMOND COUNTY. 471

ance Company. The above is a brief record of Judge Metcalfe's
official career. His life was an exceptional one, having held
almost uninterruptedly, fora period of almost fifty-three years,
some public office, and for all his adult life some place of trust.
He was more favorably known to the people as surrogate
than in any other capacity. His unvarying kindness to all
who came in contact with him, his readiness at all times to
render aid, give advice and otherwise help those who in sorrow
and adversity sought his counsel, made him probably the most
popular man in this county, and secured his election from time
to time, sometimes without any, always without substantial,
opposition. With one exception Judge Metcalfe held the of-
fice of county judge and surrogate longer than any other officer
in this state. As county judge he was more noted for his good
sense and endeavors to get at the right of such matters, civil
and criminal, as came before him, than he was for his knowl-
edge of abstruse and intricate legal questions. He was the pre-
siding judge of the court of sessions when, in 1856, several pub-
lic officers of this county were indicted and convicted, as he was
in 1872 when similar results were obtained. In their prosecu-
tion Judge Metcalfe held the scales evenly balanced neither
popular prejudice nor personal friendship being allowed to inter-
fere with the due course of the law and when at the time of the
quarantine riots several parties were brought before him on the
serious charge of arson, Judge Metcalfe discharged the prison-
ers, and took strong ground against the right of the city of New
York to cast her infected dead and dying upon the shores of
the island. In congress his most notable vote was perhaps that
given for the creation of the electoral commission, for which he
was somewhat criticised by his party friends, but his judgment
was that the danger of anarchy and civil war which threatened
were far greater than any harm that could come from a peace-
able solution of the then pending question.

He was the owner of a farm a short distance from Richmond
village, where he passed the latter years of his life, and where
he peacefully passed away, surrounded by his family and
friends.

Judge Metcalfe's memory was honored at a bar meeting held
at the Richmond county court house October 9, 1881, Hon. Cal-
vin E. Pratt presiding. A suitable memorial, presented by
Ex-District Attorney Sidney F. Rawson, was entered upon the



472 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

minutes of the court, and addresses were made by Hon. T.
Westervelt, E. B. Merrill, Esq., and others.

Among the many lawyers who have from time to time made
their homes on Staten Island none have been more worthy of
an enduring monumentby the use of the " art preservative of all
arts " than the late Alvin C. Bradley, who died at his residence
near Castleton Corners, on Wednesday, February 23, 1881,
aged 70 years and 7 months.

Mr. Bradley was not a native of Richmond county, having
removed hither from the western part of the state about 1851.
He purchased the fine farm of Mr. Garrett Martling, located
partly in Middletown and partly in Castleton, and removed
into the farm house upon the premises. After residing there
a few years, he erected a very commodious and tasteful man-
sion upon another portion of the farm from designs which were
made under his personal direction. In this very comfortable
and agreeable home he resided till his death.

During the time of his residence on Staten Island, he con-
tinued the practice of law in the city of New York, in which he
had been engaged for a number of years previous, and which
was of an important character, bringing him often very promi-
nently before the public. He took part in many interesting
trials and was engaged in arguments of much moment in the
higher courts. One of the many cases in which he appeared
was that of referee as to the alimony question in the great For-
rest divorce case, a matter of great moment to the parties in
the suit and involving a large amount of money. He was a
lawyer of superior ability and was possessed of an acute and .
subtle mind, to the cultivation of which he had brought very
extensive reading.

In politics, Mr. Bradley belonged to the old whig party dur-
ing its existence, and at one time ran for member of assembly
on that ticket in this county. He afterward united with the
republican party and continued a very ardent member of that
faith. About 1873 he was elected supervisor of- the town of
Middletown and served for one term. With him from the other
towns were gentlemen of much public spirit and intelligence,
and the board which they composed was called the " Reform
Board," and accomplished very much in the way of regulating
the affairs of the county, and bringing matters to a condition
wherein the laws were more strictly observed by public officers.



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 473

Mr. Bradley gave himself almost without intermission to the
duties of his office and performed an immense deal of hard work
in connection with it, for which the public were exceedingly
grateful and are still enjoying the benefits of the same. The
deceased was an invalid for three years, but found enjoy-
ment during his enforced retirement in reading the books
contained in his large and valuable private library. At a
meeting of the members of the bar shortly after Mr. Bradley' s
death, at which Hon. Calvin E. Pratt, justice of the supreme
court, presided, a memorial on the life of Mr. Bradley was pre-
sented and ordered entered upon the minutes of the court. Ed-
ward B. Merrill, Esq. (now of the New York bar, then of Rich-
mond county), delivered a very able address, and remarks were
made by Hon. Tompkins Westervelt, George J. Greenfield, Hon.
Theodore Frean, Sidney F. Rawson, Isaiah T. Williams, and
others and a letter was read from Charles O'Connor, saying
that " his brethren not only recognized the able lawyer but the
true and honorable citizen, and as such they deplore his loss
and honor his memory."

Hon. Tompkins Westervelt was the son of Doctor John S.
Westervelt and Hannah, his wife, the latter being the
daughter of Hon. Daniel D. Tompkins. He was born and
always resided at New Brighton, Staten Island. He graduated
at the age of 21 years at Columbia College; was almost im-
mediately admitted to the bar and continued in practice to the
time of his death.

He was a courteous gentleman and able lawyer, and perfectly
upright in all his transactions. He was for several terms trustee
of the village of New Brighton; was a vestryman in St. John's
Protestant Episcopal church at Clifton; one of the founders of
the S. R. Smith Infirmary; a director in the Staten Island Sav-
ings Bank and for many years its counsel. In 1871 he was twice
a candidate for the office of district attorney but was defeated
each time. In 1875 he was elected county judge, which office
he held with honor and distinction for six years. Judge West-
ervelt died April 20, 18S2, aged 52 years. At the term of the
supreme court held in Richmond county in May, 1882, Hon.
E. M. Cullen presiding, a meeting of the bar was held and a
committee consisting of County Judge Stephens, Ex-District
Attorney Rawson and George J. Greenfield. Esq., presented
the following resolutions on the death of Judge Westervelt :



474 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

" Whereas, Tompkins Westervelt, a native of this county,
who for fifty years resided therein, and who for thirty-one of
these years was a practising lawyer, and who was honored by
the people of his neighborhood and of the county by being
placed in many positions of trust and responsibility, notably
that of County Judge and Surrogate, has recently died, and

" Whereas, During all those years, Judge Westervelt has led
a blameless life, and has left to his family and friends a precious
legacy in his record as a Christian gentleman, an able lawyer,
an upright Judge and an honorable citizen; now, therefore,

"Resolved, That the members of the Bar of Richmond
County, and the profession generally, have in the death of
Judge Westervelt lost an honored friend and an able member
of their body;

'Revolved, That the people of this community have sustained
a great loss in the death of Judge Westervelt, inasmuch as he
was in every respect a good citizen, having at all times in his
private, as well as in his public capacities, the best interests
and welfare of the community at heart;

"Resolved, Also, that in the Christian life of Judge Wester-
velt we find the true attributes of manhood, and that we may
all profit by his example;

"Resolved, Further, that the Court be requested to order
these resolutions to be entered at length upon its minutes."

Eulogiums were pronounced by Mr. Greenfield, Mr. Ravvson,
Judge Stephens and others.

LotC. Clark, who died at his residence in Seventeenth street,
New York city, on February 11, 1880, in the 62d year of his
age, was well known and highly respected throughout Rich-
mond county. He was born in Chenango county, this state,
being the son of Lot Clark, a distinguished lawyer, and at one
time a member of congress. He was graduated at Yale, studied
law in the office of the late Nicholas Hill, at Saratoga springs,
and began his practice in Richmond county. Becoming district
attorney in 1841, he filled with distinguished ability the office
for eight years, during which time he prosecuted several noted
cases, among them that of Mrs. Polly Bodine, who was indicted
for the murder of her sister-in-law and her infant niece and for
arson. Three times was this case tried, the final trial resulting
in an acquittal, but during its continuance Mr. Clark won for
himself a lasting reputation as an energetic, well instructed and



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 475

able lawyer. Opposed to Mr. Clark in this case were Clinton
De Witt and David Graham, the latter of whom especially
became afterward recognized as one of the leading criminal
lawyers.

In 1856 Mr. Clark was married to Miss Frances Sutherland
Irving, a daughter of Rev. Dr. Theodore Irving, and grand-
daughter of the late Jacob Sutherland, a justice of the supreme
court. In 1870 Mr. Clark removed to New York city. He was
an active lay member of the Protestant Episcopal church, and
his funeral took place from Calvary church, New York city.
He was at one time at the head of the law firm of De Groot,
Rawson & Stafford.

Immediately after the decease of Mr. Clark the members of
the bar met at the court house in Richmond county. Honor-
able H. B. Metcalfe presided, Mr. George Gallagher was secre-
tary, and large numbers of the legal profession were present.
A committee, consisting of Honorable Tompkins Wester velt,
George J. Greenfield, Esq., and Ex-District Attorney S. F.
Rawson, was appointed to submit resolutions, and the following
were presented and adopted, viz.:

" Whereas, The Bar of Richmond County has just sustained
a severe loss in the death of Mr. Lot C. Clark, for many years
its leading member and brightest ornament, and

" Whereas, We desire to testify publicly our sense of this
loss and our estimate and appreciation for our departed
brother:

"Resolved, That the Bar of Richmond County have learned
with profound sadness that Mr. Lot C. Clark has departed from
the scene of earthly activity and usefulness; and recognizing in
this event the serious loss sustained by themselves and the legal
fraternity at large,

" Resolved, That in Lot C. Clark we see one who combined
all the best and highest attributes of the lawyer purity of life,
absolute faithfulness to the trusts confided to him, clear and
discriminating intellect, legal erudition, unwearied toil and con-
stant study, and great forensic ability; and added to these,
those qualities that mark the good citizen a dutiful son, a de-
voted husband and father, a warm and unvarying friend, a good
neighbor and a humble, devout Christian,

' Resolved, That the life and example of Lot C. Clark
should be studied and followed by his surviving brethren, who,



476 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

if they cannot reach the high rank which he held, can at least
do their duty by striving to attain it by the means which he pur-
sued, and can find in his course an encouragement to more
earnest efforts.

" Resolved, That these resolutions be presented to the court,
with a request that the same be entered upon the minutes:

" Jtesolved, That a copy of these resolutions be prepared, at-
tested by the chairman and secretary of this meeting, and trans-
mitted to the family of the deceased."

Eloquent addresses were made by Messrs. Westervelt, Green-
field, Metcalfe and Rawson and the resolutions unanimously
adopted. These addresses may be found in full in the Rich-
mond county "Sentinel" of February 21, 1880.

Among the lawyers of prominence in the profession who are
now deceased mention should be made of Hon. Robert Christie,
who was state senator from the First senatorial district in 1864-5,
and who was one of Richmond county's most active politicians
and prominent lawyers. He resided for some time at Clifton in
an elegant mansion and died there about 1873. He was a man
of imposing personal appearance and had great natural talent,
which, added to his legal training, made him one of the most
talented lawyers of his day.

The brothers John and William Henry Anthon (sons of John
Antlion, an eminent lawyer of New York city), were for many
years residents of Richmond county, and for a time controlled
a large part of the legal business therein. John became grand
master of the Masonic fraternity of New York state. William
Henry was member of assembly from Richmond county in 1851,
ami judge advocate general of the state of New York in the
early part of the civil war. Both of them were lawyers far
above the average. John died about 1873, and William H.
about 1875.

Theodore C. Vermilye, who died about 1879, was a lawyer of
considerable ability. He was member of assembly in I860,
counsel to the board of supervisors of Richmond county for
many years, was justice of the peace, town clerk and police



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 46 of 72)