Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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Lane, and was a resident of Port Richmond, as was also his
brother, Charles F. Cox, secretary of the Canada Southern

Some of the leading names of the world in science belong to
Staten Island. Dr. John William Draper, one of the most ma-
jestic minds the world has known, whose researches revolu-
tionized many departments of knowledge; who gave to man-
kind the art of photography; who during half a century's
laborious investigation freely gave the public, without seeking
patent or other monopoly, the fruits of his toil and study; who
set forth, in books of wide circulation, facts commonly deemed
dry with language that fascinated the reader; who handled the
history of Europe with skill that from an adverse critic (the
Westminster "Review" 1 ) extorted the confession that "what
Buckle attempted for England, Draper has done for Europe;"
who for more than forty years daily instructed large classes in
chemistry, physiology, botany, geology and kindred sciences;
who helped to found the New York University Medical College,
and as its secretary and president built it up to a great institu-
tion. Doctor Draper, while making the discoveries and writing
the works which first gave him European as well as American
celebrity, lived in a modest house on Cherry lane, not far from
the Hatfield farm. His sons, Dr. John C. Draper, successor to
his father's university chairs, in that father's lifetime professor
of chemistry and mineralogy in the New York City College, and
of analytical and practical chemistry in the university, author
of several scientific works; atid Dr. Henry Draper, also author
of a number of scientific works, builder of a silvered glass re-
flectory telescope which eclipsed that of Lord Rosse; first pho-
tographer of the moon, photographer of the sun through the


telescope, surgeon and captain in the war of the rebellion,
author of numerous papers, articles and books on scientific sub-
jects, resided in boyhood in the Cherry lane house with their

Alexander Del Mar. author of "A History of the Precious
Metals," a '' History of Money in Ancient Times," " The Science
of Money," and other works, probably the greatest ever written
on political economy, and certainly the ablest and most labor-
ious ever written by an American, lived both at New Brighton
and Stapleton. At one time he was financial editor of eight
different journals, and founded also the flourishing " Commer-
cial and Financial Chronicle and New YorJc Daily Bulletin.''''
As director of the bureau of statistics he reorganized the United
States commerce and navigation returns so as to make them re-
liable, which was a herculean task; and by one sharp exposure
he prevented, in 1868-9, the plunder of the United States treas-
ury to the extent of one hundred millions of dollars. As orig-
inator and officer of the United States monetary commission of
1876, he brought the country back to the use of both silver and
gold as currency, and thus greatly aided to prevent the threat-
ened disaster ef a vast paper inflation.

Dr. Samuel Mackenzie Elliott, whose discoveries in occulism
largely advanced that art and brought him an income of
$30,000 a year, also founded the settlement along Bard avenue
which still bears his name; built, and for years maintained, an
astronomical observatory, whose dome may still be seen on the
roof of his former residence, on the hill above Stapleton. Under
his care at Elliottville, among many remarkable cures, sight
was restored to Professor Edward L. Youmans, whose enthusi-
astic lectures and writings on chemistry and kindred branches,
delivered to audiences all through the country, widely spread
the knowledge and interest on these subjects which are now
common. He founded the " Popular Science Monthly" made
that great thinker, Herbert Spencer, known to Americans, and
saved his wondrous system of philosophy from suppression.

Dr. John Swinburne, too, whose discoveries in the art of
healing broken bones and dislocated joints, and whose success-
ful application of those discoveries to thousands of sufferers in
civil life, in the war of the rebellion, and in the siege of Paris
(1870), earned for him unnumbered blessings and amazed the
skilled surgeons of France; who as health officer saved New


York from a plague, and who was elected mayor and congress-
man in Albany by large majorities in a community strongly op-
posed to him politically, was long a resident of Tompkinsville.

Dr. Carl C. Schmidt, publisher of the " Leipsic Medical An-
nual," and other valuable publications, a scholar and physician
of unusual attainments and singular dignity and beauty of
person, driven from Germany in the revolution of 1848, settled
at Willow Brook in Northfield, and there ended his days.

Dr. Frederick Hollick, whose books and lectures on physi-
ology did much a generation since to spread knowledge of that
science in America, has long been a resident of the island, as
has Dr. A. L. Carroll, formerly editor of the "Medical
Gazette" translator and author of several scientific works,
and secretary of the state board of health.

Prof. N. L. Britton of Columbia College, a native of West-
field, though still a young man, has made a name among scien-
tists by several works on topics in natural history.

Sir Edward Cunard, American manager of the singularly
careful and successful ocean steamship line which bears
his name, long lived on the hill overlooking the Narrows, where
he could see from his window every vessel of his line come in
sight of New York and disappear thence.

William H. Aspinwall, long a leader in developing trade with
California, and for whom the city of Aspinwall in Panama is
named, was long a dweller at New Dorp.

M. B. Brady, the famous photographer, long dispensed a
generous hospitality to distinguished guests from many climes,
at a residence on Grymes hill.

Daniel B. Allen and Samuel Barton, agents of Commodore
Vanderbilt's steamship lines; Jeremiah Simonson, a prominent
shipbuilder; Bernhard Westermann, the leading German book-
seller of America, have also been residents of Staten Island.

George Cabot Ward, American agent of the famous banking
house of Baring Brothers & Co., dwelt on Bard avenue, as did
Robert B. Minturn the younger, of the widely known house of
Grinnell, Minturn & Co., and president of the American Free
Trade League.

At Clifton lived John A. Appleton, of the immense publish-
ing house of D. Appleton & Co., and Nathaniel Marsh, presi-
dent of the Erie railroad ; at New Brighton Daniel L. Apple-
ton, of the celebrated Waltham " American Watch Company,"


and at different times president of the Mercantile Library and
of the New England Society ; at West Brighton Hiram H.
Lamfort, president of the ubiquitous Continental Fire Insur-
ance Company ; on Grymes hill George Law, who succeeded
Cornelius Vanderbilt as the leading steamboat owner of the har-
bor, and after Law's death John J. Cisco, the banker, for years
United States assistant treasurer; Hugh J. Jewett, president of
the Erie Railroad ; Roderick W. Cameron, of the Australian
steamship line ; Erastus Wiman, head of the original mercan-
tile agency, which reaches all over the country, and promoter
of other business enterprises ; William T. Garner, head of the
great Cohoes Mills, and commodore of the New. York Yacht
Club. The list of Staten Islanders who have been commercially
distinguished is far too long for insertion here.

Gen. Antonio Lopez Santa Anna, styled the ablest of Mexican
generals, and the wiliest of Mexican politicians, repeatedly
president and dictator of Mexico, and as often expelled from
that country, during his last exile lived fora considerable time
at West Brighton, on the Manor road, just north of Cherry

Gen. Richard Delafield, of the United States army, was long
stationed at Fort Tompkins, and as colonel of engineers had
charge of the construction of Fort Wadsworth. Gen. Joseph
G. Totten, chief engineer of the army, is said to have been a
resident of Tottenville.

To the navy Staten Island has contributed: Alban C. Stimers,
chief engineer, who took personal charge of the engines of the
"Monitor," in her fight with the " Merrimac ;" Commodore
Stephen Decatur, the younger, who, struck with blindness
through the terrible blunder of a physician at the outset of a
fine career, resided long at Elliottville, in the vain hope that
Doctor Elliott's skill might succeed in undoing the injury; and
Commodore A. Golden Rhind, whose daring exploits in the cap-
ture of New Orleans, and the ascent of the Mississippi by Far-
ragut and Porter, made him renowned. Commodore James Mc-
Intosh was also long a resident of Clifton. William W. Win-
throp, judge advocate, general of the army, was for some time
a resident of West Brighton.

To the revolutionary volunteers Northfield contributed Capt.
Joseph Mersereau ; to the tory forces Westfield furnished Col-
onel Billop. It also contributed to the side of liberty the de-


voted patriot, Mrs. Disosway, of Tottenville, who refused to
urge her brother to cease his attacks on the British, though
promised the release of her husband from oaptivity if she
would do so.

To the war of 1812 Richmond county, so far as known, did
not supply many prominent actors; but Capt. Benjamin Wood,
who raised and largely equipped a company for the defense of
New York, becoming captain in the Twenty-seventh regiment,
United States infantry, as such boarded, in 1815, the British
frigate (at Sandy Hook, where he was stationed) that brought
the news of peace, being the first American to receive this glad
news ; who mounted and fired the first gun placed on Port La-
fayette at the Narrows ; was twenty years (1821-41) revenue
boarding officer at the quarantine station, a resident of Tomp-
kinsville, and a leader in county affairs.

To the volunteer service in the rebellion the island contrib-
uted, besides those heretofore named: Robert Gould Shaw, of
Bard avenue, colonel of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts colored
regiment, who fell, with scores of his command, at the storming
of Fort Wagner, and whose remains lie with those of the dusky
comrades whom he led, his generous parents deeming that com-
panionship their fittest sepulture ; and Major Theodore Win-
throp, the explorer, novelist and orator, whose country saw him
last by the flashes of musketry against the black night of a
Virginian forest, standing on a gun, striving to rally the Union
troops whom surprise had confused and disordered, and who,
while going to his death, wrote to a companion of his country
walks, "Ah, me ! in these sweet, balmy May days I miss my
Staten Island."

When the Union army set out to reach Richmond. Va., by
way of the James river, Mariners' Harbor furnished a hundred
skilled pilots, who knew every foot of the way, selected from
its oyster fleet by Capt. John J. Housman. Before the war Gen.
Francis C. Barlow, said to be the bravest man in the Army of
the Potomac, afterward attorney general, secretary of state and
United States marshal, was a tutor in a private family of Staten

In literature, besides those heretofore mentioned, there are
many, too many to specify all; but above all stands George Wil-
liam Curtis, author of the " Nile Notes," which soon after its
publication became a text book in Oxford for students of a pure


English style, and whom Charles Dickens declared to be much
the finest speaker he had ever heard ; author of other notable
books, such as " Prue and I," and "Trumps." As orator,
journalist and statesman, ever unselfishly striving to lead pub-
lic sentiment toward justice and purity, no man since the days
of Governor Tompkins has so won the hearts or aroused the
pride of his fellow islanders. In this connection, too, must be
remembered the scholarly, eloquent and kindly Erastus Brooks,
forty years editor of the "New York Express,'" and longer
than any other man the representative of Richmond county in
the state legislature.

Richard Adams Locke, author of the famous "Moon Hoax''
in the "New York Herald" which, before the days of transat-
lantic steamers and cables, led Americans to believe that Sir
John Herschel, peering with his great telescope through the
clear air of South Africa, had discovered men and women in the
moon, lived long at Tompkinsville. Mrs. Laura Winthrop John-
son, the poet-sister of Theodore and William Winthrop; Chris-
topher Pearse Clanch, one of the most exquisite of American
poets and artists; Gabriel P. Disosway, author (in the columns
of the " Stolen Island Union'"} of the first history of the
island, and of other historical works; his daughter, Miss Ella
Taylor Disosway, the novelist; and many others mentioned in
other connections, form an army of literary workers of which
Richmond county may well be proud.

Charles Mackaye, the well-known English poet, was for some
years a resident of Clifton, and of Dr. Elliott's observatory cot-
tage on Grymes hill. Mrs. Catherine N. Sinclair, long a prom-
inent actress under the name of Mrs. Forrest, lived a long time
in the opposite cottage with her brother-in-law, Mr. Henry
Sedley, of the New York " Times.'''' Henry D. Thoreau, author
of " Walden," etc., an uncommonly able writer and thinker,
who was for some time tutor in the family of Judge William
Emerson, brother of Ralph Waldo Emerson; Clarence Cook,
the author, journalist and critic; Maria J. Mclntosh, the novel-
ist; Rev. John F. Hurst, since president of Drew Theological
seminary and now bishop of Iowa, who published his " History
of Rationalism" while pastor of Trinity Methodist church,
West Brighton; Richard L. Dugdale, author of the famous
work on crime and pauperism called "The Jukes," for a long
time assistant secretary of the Prison Association, also secre-


tary of the Society for Political Education, the Civil Service
Reform Association and the Sociologic Section of the New York
Association for Advancement of Science, and treasurer of the
New York Liberal Club, much of whose closing years were
passed on Bard avenue; may be added to the list.

Among painters may be mentioned William Page, delineator
of "Venus" and many other skillful pictures; and among
musical men, Max Maretzek, the effective manager, resided
here. Among inventors should be mentioned William F. Gas-
ton, deviser of the "Night Signals" system used by the gov-
ernment ; Prof. John M. Hawkins, contriver of vivid and
startling optical effects of the " Thaumascope"; Horace Board-
man, inventor of the Boardman boiler; and Antonio Meucci,
one of the early contrivers of the telephone and the host of
Garibaldi in that hero's exile.

When the New York draft rioters of 1863 came to be tried,
the foreman of the jury which convicted them, Hugh Auchin-
closs, was a former Staten Islander.

Caleb Lyon, at one time representative in congress and after-
ward governor of Montana, was for a time resident of Rossville.
Judge George C.Barrett, just unanimously re-elected to the bench
of the supreme court for another term of fourteen years, was
for a time a resident of West Brighton. Frederick Law Olm-
sted, whose architectural and landscape engineering skill trans-
formed a mass of shanties, pigsties and rocks into the resplen-
dent beauty of the Central park, and also turned the capitol
grounds at Washington into charming surroundings instead of
the eyesore and public disgrace they had been, author of "A
Journey Through the Seaboard Slave States," and other able
works, was long a resident of the south shore. Dr. Bedell,
Episcopal bishop of New Jersey, was a native of Staten Island.
Besides all these, there is a class of Staten Islanders whom
we should hold especially dear, because their efforts were sig-
nally directed to abolishing oppression and wrong, and to pro-
moting virtue and freedom. TheLatourettes, Dupuys, Freneaus
and other Huguenots and Waldenses, who bore imprison-
ment for conscience's sake, took part in the heroic defense of
Rochelle and other points in France, more than two centuries
ago, and afterward left their homes forever, rather than lose
their liberty, should always have a place in our hearts.
As the writer once stood on the walls of the ancient strong-


hold Perpigman, with the Pyrenees towering behind and on
either hand, while before stretched away the sunny plains of
France, it seemed for a moment the world had rolled back two
centuries, and from those plains rose the sad sound of the
lament of many exiles who afterward became Staten Island's
colonists :

" Alas ! we must leave thee.

Dear, desolate home.
To the spearmen of Uri,

The slavelings of Rome ;
To the serpent of Florence,

The vulture of Spam,
To the pride of Anjou,

And the guile of Lorraine.

" One look, one last look,

To the streams and the bowers,
To the fields and the trees,

To the cots and the towers ;
To the church where the bones

Of our fathers decayed,
Where we fondly had hoped

That our own should be laid.

" Farewell to thy fountains,

Farewell to thy shades,
To the song of thy youths,

And the dance of thy maids;
To the cool of thy garden,

The hum of thy bees,
And the long, waving line

Of the blue Pyrenees.

" Farewell, and forever,

The priest and the slave
May rule in the halls

Of the free and the brave;
Our hearths we abandon;

Our lands we resign :
But, Father, we kneel

To no altar but thine."

General John C. Fremont, who saved California from the
curse of slavery, was one of its first senators, and in 1856 bore
the banner of free soil as candidate for president, was at the
latter time, as he has repeatedly since been, a resident of
Staten Island.

Joseph Karge, a Polish nobleman, for seeking the liberty of
his country, was condemned by the Russian government to


death. Escaping to America, he found a home at Elliottville;
in the war became a general of cavalry, and later a member of
the faculty of Princeton College.

When Louis Kossuth, driven from Hungary for defending
his country's liberty, found a refuge in America, Staten Island
was the first American soil he trod, and a Staten Island regi-
ment gave him his first welcome. Gustav Struve, the colleague
of Frederick Hecker in establishing a republic in Baden in
1848, driven from Germany, and afterward from Switzerland,
found a home, and opportunity to write his " History of the
World," on the Northfield plankroad near G-raniteville. Many
yet living recall his venerable and dignified form, and the
electric eloquence and wonderful mastery of English where-
with he advocated the election of Lincoln. Delia Tudor Stewart
Parnell, daughter of Admiral .Charles Stewart (commander of
the famous frigate "Constitution," who bore the name of " the
bravest man in the American navy "), wife of an Irish country
gentleman, seeing the misery of the people of her adopted
country, trained her son Charles Stewart Parnell to become the
leader of his countrymen in peaceful, legal and resistless move-
ment toward self government; and when his great work in the
house of commons began, she, with her daughters, whom she
had reared in the same noble spirit, traveled, spoke and per-
formed enormous labor in organizing and teaching the great
Irish population of America to co-operate with the great work
which her son was guiding. In the thick of this work, mother
and daughters resided for some time at New Brighton.

But of all the lofty and heroic souls who have hallowed our
island's soil, who will deny the first place to him who for his
country's weal refused a crown, and gave away a realm, and
whose life and sword were ever at the call of freedom, in his
own or other lands? Forced to leave his native soil by the
pressure of organized numbers wielded by despotic hands; in
exile and poverty, the house of a compatriot at Clifton afforded
a refuge and home to Joseph Garibaldi. In the dwelling of
that friend, the faithful Antonio Meucci, hangs still a portrait
painted then; and the worn, weary face, the sunken, melan-
choly eyes and the well nigh despairing expression, tell a
touching tale of the sufferings the hero had borne, and of his
feelings in that terrible hour, when throughout the European
continent liberty was crushed by armed hosts; while the look of


fearless and immovable resolve bespeaks the leader who within
ten years returned at the head of conquering armies, drove out
tyrants, and made Italy united and free. When Garibaldi died,
how new the world must have seemed to him, with justice and
self-government everywhere growing up, compared to what it
was when he wandered through Clifton's groves beneath our
summer skies.

Truly, "Freedom's battle, once begun, though baffled oft, is
ever won." America may be proud to have given Garibaldi an
asylum, and for ages to come Italia' s sons and daughters shall
revere his name as that of one of the noblest in her long line of

The truth is that Staten Island's soil has been trodden by
numbers of men and women whose lives and deeds have done
them honor, and made this ground historic. Our air is full of
memories of worthy souls and acts; and these memories should
nerve us all to equal and outdo the characters and achievements
that make these men and women remembered and admired.






The S. R. Smith Infirmary. The Seamen's Fund and Retreat. Home for Desti-
tute Children of Seamen. County Poor House. Staten Island Diet Kitchen.
Cemeteries. Staten Island Water Supply Company. The Crystal Water
Works. The Sailors' Snug Harbor. The Police and Fire Department.

BENEVOLENT movements of all kinds have ever found
hearty supporters on Staten Island. Whether in time of
peace to provide succor for the unfortunate or distressed, or in
time of war to provide for the destitute, and supply the lan-
guishing with what comforts human aid can provide, the people
of the island have proved themselves ready to sympathize with
their suffering fellows, and to take a hand in whatever benevo-
lent work may from time to time present itself for their atten-

In this connection we are prompted to speak of an item which
appears in a number of an old paper, printed in 1828. From
that we learn that the ladies of Tompkinsville met at the school
house on Monday, March 5, 1828, " to purchase and make up
clothing for the suffering Greeks," and a few weeks later the
" New York Greek Committee " acknowledged the receipt of
one hundred and seventy -three garments from the inhabitants
of Tompkinsville. But it is more particularly of the home
charities that we wish to speak in this chapter. Some of
the most prominent institutions of this kind we shall notice.

The S. R. Smith Infirmary grew out of a need that appeared
at the outbreak of the late war, in a then prospective increase
of the call for means and facilities for the care of the sick poor,
and for the reception of casualties, which it was anticipated
would follow the departure of so many heads of dependent
families to the defense of the country.

The suggestion came from the Richmond County Medical So-
ciety in April, 1861. This society had maintained a dispensary


for the relief of out-door poor, but were convinced that the
charity should be placed on a broader basis in order to meet
the increasing demands upon it. They accordingly placed be-
fore the public the proposition to establish an infirmary for the
reception of the indigent sick, to be called the Samuel R. Smith
Infirmary, making the name an appropriate tribute to the mem-
ory of a well known and highly esteemed citizen and distin-
guished physician, whose reputation for activity in the line of
benevolence which the proposed institution should follow, sug-
gested his name for this honor. The constitution provided that
the payment of $5 should make any one a member, and $25 a
life member. The affairs of the infirmary should be managed
by seven trustees, four of whom should be members of the
medical society, who should be elected at the annual meetings
of the members. The attendance at the infirmary was to be
under the charge of the medical society.

An organization was more perfectly effected at a meeting
called for the purpose, at the Lyceum, on the 28th of April,
1864, when the following directors were elected: Messrs. Shaw,

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 62 of 72)