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

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ful, the neighboring country school absorbing so much of his
time as was not devoted to farming. He continued to reside
upon the homestead until his marriage and subsequent pur-
chase of a farm at Prince's bay, near the light house, upon
which he resided until Rossville became his home.

Mr. Segnine was married February 15, 1830, to Harriet,
daughter of Andre Mille, the latter, who was of French extrac-
tion, having been a soldier under Bonaparte. Their children
are : Louise M., married to Henry S. Seguine ; Henry J., mar-
ried to Phebe A. Vail ; John J., married to Cordelia Vail, and
Andre, married to Catherine Jane Winant. Mr. Seguine hav-
ing retired from active business life, now enjoys the repose and
comfort which a career of industry has brought to him. He
has never been attracted by the excitement or rewards of pub-
lic life to enter the list as a candidate for office, though always
loyal to the principles of democracy. He has been for many
years a vestryman of St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal church
at Richmond. The grandfather of Mr. Seguine was James Se-
guine, whose son Henry married Jane, daughter of Judge John
G. Garretson, of Staten Island. Their two sons were John G.,
above mentioned, and Joseph H., who was both a farmer and
manufacturer, and prominent as a leading citizen of the county.

HENRY STEWART SEGUINE. The Seguine family, which has
long been prominent in Westfield township, is of Huguenot
antecedents. James Seguine, the father of Henry S., and the



son of James Seguine, married Mary, daughter of Joseph Guion,
of Staten Island, also descended from Huguenot stock. Their
children were : Catherine, wife of John Guion ; Joseph G. ,
James G., James S. and Henry S. The last-named son was born
near Annadale, on Staten Island, in 1812. The family residence
being located here much of his youth was spent at this point.
Joseph G. Seguine, his uncle, then resided at Rossville, where
he founded the mercantile interest still successfully conducted,
built the wharf, and engaged in public life as judge of the
court of common pleas. His nephew, Henry S., became a mem-
ber of his uncle's family, and ultimately inherited the estate,
which included the business as also the mansion in which the
family reside. He married January 7, 1857, Louise M., daughter
of John G. and Harriet Seguine, of Staten Island. Their chil-
dren are a son, Henry G., and a daughter, Harriet M. Mr.
Segnine's character and means gave him an influential position
throughout the county. Notwithstanding, he possessed all those
qualities calculated to endear him to men. In business transac-
tions he was strictly honorable and upright, possessing a kindly
nature and conferring substantial sympathy and aid when de-
served. His charities were of the practical kind and calculated
to bestow permanent aid as well as meet the present necessity.
His convictions of right were decided and firm, and maintained
with energy. No compromise was ever effected with wrong or
injustice. Faithful as a friend and true to his word, though a
positive man, he viewed the faults of others with charity.
Active and public-spirited as a citizen, his rarest pleasures
were found within the circle of his own home, where his hospi-
tality was dispensed with unsparing liberality. A member of
St. Luke's Protestant Episcopal church of Rossville, of which
he was warden, vestryman and treasurer, Mr. Seguine exempli-
fied in daily life the creed he espoused. He was in the fullest
sense of the term the Christian gentleman. His death occurred
on the 2d of July, 1884.

SHARROTT. Richard Sharet, the first of the name on Staten
Island, according to the family traditions and records, was a
Frenchman by birth, of Huguenot parentage, and for a short
period after his emigration resided in New England. He came
to Staten Island either just before or just after the commence-
ment of the revolution. Here he married a woman of German


parentage named Mary Heger. Their children were William,
Richard, John, James, Susan and Mary.

John married Mary Ann Burbank, October 9, 1789; their
children were Peter (died February, 1875, aged 86), John, Jere-
miah, Richard, Abraham, William Henry, Mary, Susan, Cath-
arine, Eliza and Louisa, some of whom are still living.

FRANCIS GEORGE SHAW was the oldest child of Robert Gould
Shaw and Eliza Willard Parkman. His father was an eminent
merchant of Boston, in which city Mr. Shaw was born on the
23d of October, 1809. He was fitted for college at the Boston
Latin school, and entered Harvard University in 1825. He left
college in 1828, before his graduation, to enter his father's
counting room, and engaged actively in business. In 1839 he
passed a year in Europe, and he married in 1835 his cousin
Sarah Blake Sturgis. In 1841, with health impaired by unre-
mitting attention to business, Mr. Shaw withdrew from active
participation in it and removed to West Roxbury, near to
"Brook Farm," where an experiment in associative life in which
he was interested had begun under the leadership of the Rev.
George Ripley. After a few years his friends abandoned their
enterprise. But although experiments in associative and co-
operative life have been often failures: although benevolent and
reformatory agencies, originating in kind hearts and keen intel-
lects, have as yet little diminished the evils they seek to remove;
and although the immediate outlook often seemed to him dis-
couraging, Mr. Shaw never lost his faith in an ultimate happy
future for the human race in this world. He rejected the
familiar doctrines of political economy that brutalizing poverty,
vice and crime are necessary as footholds in the march of prog-
ress; that one portion of the race must be trodden under foot
in order that another portion may advance, leaving no hope of
compensation to the sufferers save in the future of another ex-
istence. He believed that " the right of eminent domain" over
land could be wisely carried much further than the law now ap-
plies it; and he held that it would yet be possible for society,
without wronging any man, to secure to the use of all men the
land, which is the only source from which man can derive his
sustenance, and access to which is as necessary to his normal de-
velopment as the air he breathes.

In 1847 he left West Roxbury on account of Mrs. Shaw's
health, and after living for more than three years upon the


north shore of Staten Island near the Sailor's Snug Harbor, he
went again to Europe with his family. After four years he re-
turned in 1855 to Staten Island where, in the same neighbor-
hood to which he had first come, he resided until his death.

Upon coming of age Mr. Shaw acted with the whigs in poli-
tics, taking part in ward and other meetings until 1840. Mean-
time the anti-slavery movement had begun, and interested him
profoundly, so that he withdrew from the whig party and did
not vote again upon national questions until 1856, when the re-
publican party was formed, of which he was a liberal and active,
but always an independent, member. He was one of the dele-
gates from the island to the first republican convention in 1856,
which nominated General Fremont, and he was deeply inter-
ested in the election of that year and in that of 1860. Although
not personally engaged in the war of the rebellion he was earn-
estly devoted to the cause of the Union, giving freely of his
time and labor, and counsel and money, and his only son,
Robert Gould Shaw, fell in the assault upon Port Wagner at
the head of his regiment of colored troops. Without per-
sonal political ambition, Mr. Shaw had the highest sense of
public duty, and he was pre-eminently a public spirited citizen.

While living at West Roxbury he was a member of the school
committee and one of the overseers of the poor, a justice of the
peace and president of the first common council of Roxbury
when that town became a city. He was also foreman of the
jury of Norfolk county which first proposed the establishment
of the State Reform School for Massachusetts. During his resi-
dence on Staten Island he was a trustee of the village in which
he lived, a trustee of the Seaman's Retreat and of the S. R.
Smith Infirmary, treasurer of the American Union of Associa-
tionists and of the Sailor's Fund, president of the National
Freedman's Relief Association and of the New York Branch of
the Freedman's Union Commission, and connected with vari-
ous local organizations. He was also a hereditary member of
the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati.

Bred a Unitarian under the preaching of the Reverend Drs.
Channing and Parkman, Mr. Shaw, with his wife, shortly after
their marriage, became a member of the Boston Society of the
New Jerusalem, to which the Reverend Thomas Worcester
then ministered. After his removal to West Roxbury he joined
the congregation of the Reverend Theodore Parker. Subse-


quently, during his sojourn in Rome, some of the Italian
friends of his then recently deceased brother, Joseph Coolidge
Shaw, who had been a Catholic priest and a Jesuit, manifested
great interest in his behalf. But, after passing through many
" phases of faith," he remained extremely "liberal" or, per-
haps more, justly, "radical" in his opinions upon theological
questions, happy that he was never led to doubt the existence
of a divine power which works for good.

His energetic temperament prevented him from permitting
leisure to stagnate into idleness, and to his various local ac-
tivities he added the literary labor of translation. He trans-
lated and published "Consuelo," and other tales of George
Sands; "Zchokke's History of Switzerland,'' the "Swiss Fam-
ily Robinson,'' "Life of Charles Fourier," and other books.
Toward the end of his life he withdrew more and more into the
retirement of his home, and devoted himself more exclusively
to the management of his own affairs. But his interest in pub-
lic affairs was not relaxed. The immortal youthfulness of his
spirit asserted itself always, and after an illness, which, as he had
wished his last illness to be, was very short, he died on the 4th
of November, 1882, and was buried in the Moravian cemetery.

This recapitulation of a few facts in the life of Mr. Shaw
serves only as a preface to the true portraiture of the man. which
was drawn by his friend and neighbor of many years, Sidney
Howard Gay, who knew him intimately, who greatly loved and
honored him, and whose faithful and most affectionate deline-
ation, with all its warmth of feeling and felicity of phrase,
does not exaggerate in any degree a remarkably noble, manly
and beautiful character.

" Were we to preach a sermon its text should be from those
desponding words, ' The good man is perished out of the earth;
there is none upright among men ;' an assertion, which, how-
ever true it may have been in the time of Micah, is not true
in our time. How untrue it is every man and woman in this
community will bear witness in the death of a good man among
us, who, in a long life of seventy- three years, has never known
a fellow creature except as a friend, and whose single aim in
living has been, that when he went out of the world he might
leave it a little better than he found it. Not that it ever oc-
curred to him that his ways and wishes differed from those of
many other men of like opportunities ; not that he ever could


have said we do not believe that he ever once assumed in
thought that any special purpose belonged to his life ; thai
he was called to any exceptional duty, or that he was pecu-
liarly faithful to that duty. The modesty that distinguished
him made any such self-consciousness impossible. There are
men who are born saints, and men who are saints by education
through much travail and sorrow. The great difference is that
the born saint never knows that he is one ; he has no measure
of himself between what he wants to be and what he is not by
gift of nature. He is as God made him, and he can no more be
or conceive of being anything else, than he can be or conceive
of being a man of another race in some far-off country.

"Let this not be understood as mere words of eulogy, for it is
meant to be a simple statement of the fundamental truth in
regard to this one man who has just perished out of the earth.
His life should not be permitted to fade away from us without
a recognition of its character, its beauty, what there may be in
living, and of what a man may be to his fellow men. The
elders, indeed, may not need to be reminded of it, but the
younger should be taught to understand and remember it.

"In one of the many notices of Mr. Shaw's death it was said
that there was in him a singular mixture of modest}' and man-
liness, as if there were something incompatible in those quali-
ties. Rather, it should be said, he was singularly modest
because he was singularly manly. Probably never in his life was
he outraged by a single word or look of insult, for his perfect
self-command and self-respect could never irritate or provoke
resentment. He honored manhood, and as he maintained his
own, so he respected it in others, and kept anger at bay, if
there were occasion for anger. Not the humblest would lie
permit to outdo him in personal courtesy, not from any pre-
tense of humility on his part, but from spontaneous reverence
for human nature. If he was ever impatient of anything it was
of servility as a respect paid, not to the man, but to accident of
position. It was almost a personal humiliation to him that
any man should forget that first of all he was a man. ' Mr.
Shaw,' said one who has long been in his employment, 're-
spected every man who respected himself.' For himself, could
he have chosen his path in life, it would have been one where,
whatever he might be, whatever should be bestowed upon him
of honor and of wealth, would not have been due to fixed cir-


cumstances, but to his own manliness and his own energy. His
modesty, in the original sense of that word, was in the accurate
measure he took of his own powers, making no mistake as to
what he could do and what he could not do ; neither over-esti-
mating himself nor under-estimating others. Had no pre-
arranged good fortune fallen to his lot, he would, doubtless,
have achieved it, as certainly he would have been glad of the
chance of trying.

" With these qualities went naturally the highest kind of
courage. It was not merely the courage of his convictions,
which is common enough, but the courage of coming to con-
clusions of his own without regard to either private or public
opinion. One might be sometimes almost impatient with him,
because he did not seem open to conviction. In one sense lie
was not; but it was because he was so singularly faithful to the
obligation of coming to an impartial judgment of his own and
then adhering to it. He stood alone in the court-room of his
own conscience, and the conclusion he came to was the conclu-
sion as between right and wrong, as it was given to him to see
it. Then he was immovable till he moved, if at all, on his own
motion for an appeal to his own court. Then he admitted no.
argument of counsel, no personal bias, no consideration of self
interest, no dictates even of affection to plead a cause.

" It was impossible not to respect his opinions, however one
might differ from them; for it was impossible not to see that he
maintained them simply because he thought them true, and not
because he thought they were his. With those who did not
agree with him he could not be resentful, and he was rarely im-
patient for a moment, even with the most vapid foolishness.
His modesty never let him forget the limitations of human in-
telligence, and that no man is entitled to set up his opinions as
wiser and better than those of all other men. That perfect in-
tellectual freedom which he maintained as his own right, he re-
cognized to the full as the right of others. His own unbiased
judgment and conscience were guides infallible to him; but he
no more set them us as guides for other people than he would
accept their judgments and consciences in place of his own.

" One who thought so much for himself must needs do a good
deal of thinking, for second-hand opinions were of no use to
him. . He shirked no responsibility lest he might have to lift
the burden alone; nor was he ever afraid of intellectual or


moral solitude. The problem of human society was by
no means satisfactorily settled for him, because in the lottery
of life Ms ticket had turned up a prize. He early put to him-
self the question, why should the few, himself among them,
have all that worldly prosperity can give, while the many, com-
paratively almost all, are sunk from the beginning to the end
in the slough of poverty, wretchedness, ignorance, darkness and
crime, from which no struggle of theirs, even when they know
enough to struggle, promises any release? He believed too
much in man to believe this state of things as the will of God.
He was confident, never more confident than in the seventy-
third year of his age, that there was somewhere a law divine, if
only we could be wise enough to see it, and good enough to live
up to it, whereby all men would become equal inheritors of the
earth and the fruits thereof, whereby the gifts of genius, of in-
dustry, of energy, and of forethought should contribute to the
common welfare and happiness of all men, not to be hoarded for
the benefit of their possessors only, and so often to the injury of
almost all the rest.

This was not in him as with so many for whom the lottery of
life turns out nothing but blanks a blind and resentful instinct
that would pull all down to a common level; but a sublime faith
that all may be lifted to the highest point of culture, of com-
fort and of material happiness that humanity has reached in
certain classes, or ever can reach: He saw a promise of it in his
earlier years, in the philosophy of Fourier, and spared neither
labor nor zeal nor fortune so long as hope lasted. He saw it
lately in the doctrine of Henry George upon land tenure; and
that he upheld with all the enthusiasm and devotion of his
earlier years, and died in the hope that therein was found the
divine law. All good causes, the help of the poor, the ignor-
ant, the criminal and the enslaved, had always his ready
sympathy and his hearty support, as partial remedies for misfor-
tune and wrong; but underneath them all he was always seek-
ing for the great remedy that should strike at. the root of all the
evils, and inequalities, and suffering which the world inherits
from generation to generation. Whether he was right or wrong
in his profound belief, whether the establishment of any such
order of human society as he hoped for be possible, this is not
the place to discuss; but this, at least is true that he who lived
out more than the allotted term of three score years and ten,



and for fifty of those years governed his life and relations to
his fellow- men by a faith so pure, so beneficent as that, was
one whose memory should not die, for it will be indeed ill for
the world when the good men have so ' perished out of the
earth' that 'none upright.' such as he, can any more be

" It was in accord with this faith that Mr. Shaw should have
held wealth as an estate in trust. No one knows and no one will
ever know, among all of those whose hearts are sorely bruised
at his death for love of the man, how many there are who also
mourn the loss of a benefactor: for literally his left hand knew
not what his open right hand did. And in this, as in all things
else, he was guided by that calm judgment and eminent sense
of justice which distinguished him. He could turn his back
promptly, and squarely and peremptorily to any appeal,
whether for private aid or for a public purpose, that did not
commend itself to his own judgment; regretting perhaps that he
might grieve a friend by a denial, but never giving a thought
to how much he might shock public opinion. So, also, he was
never in danger of wasting his possessions in his zeal for pro-
gress. Earnest as his hopes and labors were that the world
should be better and happier, he was too wise to suppose that
the breakers in which the ship was tossing could be stilled by
throwing overboard his little cask of oil. He put it to a wiser
purpose, caring generously for his own, recognizing as a first
duty that nearest at hand, and enjoying and making the best
possible use of his own prosperity as an unquestionable per-
sonal right, the sacrifice of which would not advance one jot
the general good he had so much at heart. But he was what is
considered, perhaps a little too devoutly, the highest type of
civilization, 'a good business man,' who knew how to draw
exact limitations and how to abide by them. His disposition of
his income was systematic. Undoubtedly the number of wealth}'
persons who believe wealth has its duties is increasing; but there
are still very few who, like Mr. Shaw, believe that they are
entitled to a moderate proportion only of that in their hands,
and that the rest should be held as a trust fund to be conscien-
tiously and wisely used on behalf of those less fortunate than

" Of his amiability and equanimity of temper, his charming
personal presence, the uniform courtesy, the unvarying kind-


ness of manner and of speech, little need be said in a com-
munity where he was so universally knmvn to both old and
young. The pleasant smile, which was in his eyes as well as
upon his lips, was not merely a greeting; it was a benediction.
One could hardly meet him and not feel the better for it, almost
without knowing why. This inborn grace of a noble and
kindly nature ' made his face to shine' with an uncommon
beauty in the morning of his days; so in the evening of his
years it was as the golden sunset. He was indeed unworthy
from whom it could be averted. If we read aright this was
the lesson of his life a profound reverence for human nature;
a profound belief in man's high destiny; and an untiring de-
votion to what he accepted as his duty to his fellow creatures.

"He died willingly, even gladly; no more questioning than he
would question that day shall follow darkness, that he was
about to join a heavenly company of loved ones who had gone
before, and that beyond the grave he should rind that king-
dom of heaven which he had hoped might come on earth, and
the way to which he had sought so diligently and so long."

SIMONSON. Willem, the founder of the family on Staten
Island, came from Holland in a vessel, the " Fox," in 1662. His
descendants have become so numerous on the island that it is
impossible to trace the different branches. They have been
large freeholders, and many of them at the present time are
prominent in the political and church affairs of the island.
Aert (Arthur) in 1721 purchased an estate of one hundred and
sixty acres at Carle's neck, now called New Springville, and
the larger part of this land, with the old homestead, is still in
possession of his family, having passed from father to son in
each generation. The house is a picturesque old stone struc-
ture shaded by a magnificent elm, probably the largest in the
county. David Simonson, a direct descendant and the present
owner and occupant, is one of the largest freeholders on the
island. Isaac, a grandson of Aert, was an officer of the old
Dutch Reformed church at Port Richmond, and in 1795 signed
the call of the Rev. Thomas Kirby as pastor.

John, a grandson of Isaac, served in the war of 1812, and
was noted as a man of deep learning and the possessor of a fine
library containing many rare and ancient books.

Jacob, a grandson of Isaac, purchased part of the original
estate and erected a handsome residence upon it. He lived


there for the greater part of his life, and bequeathed the same
to his children at his death. He served as supervisor of the
town of Northtiekl from 1833 to 1840, and in 1840 he was elected
sheriff of the county, and was again elected supervisor of his
town in 1849. He died April 4, 1883, in his 85th year. His
children are: John, William, who died in 1882; Isaac J., a flor-
ist in Barclay street, New York; Jacob, a dentist in Newark,
and Eliza J. Waters, residing in New York.

John W., son of Jacob and Ann E. Bedell, his tirst wife, was

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 56 of 72)