Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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respective successors in the said offices, forever in trust, for the
purpose of maintaining aged, decrepit and worn out sailors.
He also expressed therein his desire that the said trustees
should apply to the legislature for an act of incorporation, if
his intent could thereby be better executed. Such an act of in-
corporation was passed February 6, 1806.

It was Captain Randall's intention, as expressed in the will,
that the Sailors' Snug Harbor should be located on the estate
conveyed; but with the delay incident to a sufficient increase of
income properly to conform with his stipulation that the pro-
ceeds of the said estate should be sufficient to " support fifty of
the said sailors and upwards" the changes attending the



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 653

growth of the city and other " impervious circumstances," ren-
dered it advisable in the judgment of the trustees to address a
memorial to the legislature in February, 1817, for authority to
locate the institution elsewhere; suggesting a site at the entrance
of the harbor or on the margin of the bay, and representing
that they were tendered gratuitously for such purpose a lot of
land not less than ten acres situate on the bay between
Fort Diamond and the quarantine ground. This generous
offer was made by his excellency Governor Daniel D. Tompkins,
who aided General Hamilton in the drawing of the will of Cap-
tain Randall. Notwithstanding repeated applications to the
same effect, amendment to the act of incorporation enabling
the accomplishment of this design was not obtained until April
19, 1828. The death of Governor Tompkins in the meantime
rendered his proffer unavailable.

In March, 1830, the last of the many suits which had been
pressed by alleged heirs of Captain Randall was finally settled
by the supreme court of the United States. The harass and
anxiety to which the trustees had for a quarter of a century
been subjected was forever ended, and the legal acumen of the
great lawyers who drew the will was demonstrated.

After visiting many proposed sites on Long Island and on
Staten Island, Captains John Whetten and William Whitlock,
president and vice-president of the Marine Society, having been
duly authorized, selected the present location, and in May, 1831,
concluded its purchase. Proposals for the erection of buildings
thereon were at once advertised for, and the work of construc-
tion began. October 21, 1831, the corner stone of the Sailors'
Snug Harbor was laid with appropriate ceremonies, Chancellor
Walwortli delivering the address.

August 1, 1833, the dedicatory services took place and the
institution was formally opened. Thirty seamen were then
installed as inmates, and addressed by Reverend Doctor
Phillips, Captain John Whetten, of the board of trustees, then
being the governor in charge.

The opening by the city authorities of Eighth street through
the Randall property, rendered it necessary to remove Captain
Randall's remains from his chosen resting place, and on June
21, 1825, they were conveyed by the trustees to St. Mark's
church and there deposited in a vault, to await the selection of
a h'nal place of burial. August 21, 1834, they were removed



654 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

thence to Staten Island, where they were awaited by the inmates
of the " Harbor," who, uniformly clad in blue jackets and white
trousers, followed them in silent procession to the marble mon-
ument erected to his memory in front of the center building of
the institution, beneath which they were deposited and now re-
pose. The following is a copy of the inscription on this memorial
stone, which was added in the following year :

North side.

" The Trustees of the Sailors' Snug Harbor erected this monu-
ment to the memory of Robert Richard Randall, by whose
munificence this institution was founded."

East side.

"The humane institution of the Sailors' Snug Harbor con-
ceived in a spirit of enlarged benevolence with an endowment
which time has proved fully adequate to the objects of the donor,
and organized in a manner which shows wisdom and foresight.
The founder of this noble charity will ever be held in grateful
remembrance by the partakers of his bounty."

South side.

" Charity never faileth ;
Its memory is immortal."
West side.

" The Trustees of the Sailors' Snug Harbor have caused the
remains of Robert Richard Randall to be removed from the
original place of interment and deposited beneath this monu-
ment on the 21st of August, 1834."

Great praise is due for the excellent judgment evinced in the
choice of the site for the institution. It is a situation as health-
ful as it is beautiful, and commands by day a constantly
changing view of the waters of the Kill Von Kull and the har-
bor, and at night is in sight of the lights of the great bridge,
which, like a string of Hashing diamonds, unites the two great
cities of New York and Brooklyn ; while that of the adjoining
country affords a sense of peaceful quiet in delightful contrast.

The original tract contained one hundred and thirty acres, to
which, within a few years, thirty-live acres more were added,
and still more recent acquisitions have increased it to about one
hundred and eighty acres, furnishing a present frontage of
nearly two thousand feet. Thirty acres on the front are en-
closed by a substantial iron fence with granite coping, within
which are erected the buildings, thirty-five in all. There are



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 655

eight large dormitory buildings, capable of accommodating one
thousand men, a hospital with beds for two hundred patients,
which compares favorably in all respects with the best in the
land, a church, dwellings of officers and employees, laundry
and clothesrooms, machine shop, with engine room attached,
blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, with steam sawing and plan-
ing machines, paint shop, boiler houses, ice house of six hun-
dred and fifty tons capacity, constructed with refrigerating
and meat rooms, kitchen buildings, morgue, hot houses, lodges
and barns ; also sheds for building materials.

In the central building are located, on the ground floor, the
governor's suite of offices, the reception rooms, library and
reading rooms, all opening out of the grand entrance hall,
which rises to the full height of the building and is surmounted
with a dome. This hall and the principal rooms are handsomely
embellished in fresco and stained glass ; the designs, though
varied in subject, are mainly of a nautical and astronomical
character. Facing you, upon entering, stands the marble bust of
the founder. In the reception room hang the portraits in oil of
the former governors of the institution and other paintings. This
hall, about fifty feet in depth, is bisected by another, which ex-
tends east and west through the entire chain of the five con-
nected buildings; about five hundred feet from which there is
an entrance to the chapel for morning and evening service. This
is also tastefully and appropriately decorated.

These live buildings are connected by two wide corridors and
a covered way with three rear main buildings. These corridors,
suitably furnished, serve as recreation and sitting rooms. The
central rear building contains the four dining-rooms, steward's
office and store-rooms, and from this a corridor connects with
the main kitchen below, and the matron's office and clothes-
rooms above. The face of the five front edifices is of marble
with massive columns, and the hospital is of granite of similar
style; otherwise the buildings are of brick with stone or iron
trimmings. The yards and courtways adjoining the buildings
are neatly kept and pleasing views are gained from the win-
dows. A continuous lawn, elegant in the wealth of its grand
elms, extends across the entire front.

About fifty thousand gallons of water per day are furnished
from springs at the rear of the property, and a reservoir with
a capacity of five hundred thousand gallons is available in



656 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

case of fire or other emergency and also serves for washing pur-
poses.

On May 30, 1884, occurred the unveiling of a heroic statue
in bronze of the founder, by Augustus St. Gaudens. Addresses
upon the occasion were made by the Hon. Algernon S. Sullivan
and Hon. Erastus Brooks. It is erected upon a pedestal of
polished granite and located upon the lawn between the main
buildings and the governor's residence, upon a slight elevation
which commands a pleasing view of the surrounding and ad-
jacent lawns and the park beyond.

Looking southward on a June day the eye traverses a plain of
beauty, picturesque and rare. Gravel walks intersect the green
expanse, the limits of which, rendered deceptive by the artistic
grouping of varied and ornamental shrubs, and serve as rambles
past beds of radiant rhododendrons and fragrant azaleas to the
little lake beyond, whose glittering surface mirrors shadows of
surrounding beauty, and serves as the arena for contesting
miniature yachts constructed and sailed by the inmates. The
lake is fed by an artificial brooklet springing from a rocky bed,
spanned by a rustic bridge, which forms a link in the path
which encirles the lake and connects with the driveways from
the southern and western gates. But perhaps some of the
loveliest and most diversified views upon this beautiful island
are obtained from the upper wards and balconies of the hospital.

Beyond the limits of the grounds proper, the land of the in-
stitution is devoted to the production of milk, vegetables, and
supplies for the inmates. In providing for their other numer-
ous requirements, it may be said that, in the fullest sense,
everything needful for their comfort is furnished in a liberal
and thoughtful manner. Suitable workrooms and facilities are
available to such inmates as desire to engage in light employ-
ments, like the manufacture of baskets, useful and ornamental
mats, hammocks, nets, and miniature craft of all rigs, which
are disposed of for their own benefit. This is a feature of the
institution interesting to visitors. The regular religious services
are conducted in the Presbyterian form, but Roman Catholics
are permitted to attend churches of that faith. Beneficiaries
of the institution must be of the class denominated by the
founder: "aged, decrepit and worn out sailors," who have
sailed at least five years under the flag of the United States.

Rules and regulations tending to good order and the comfort



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 657

and welfare of all the inmates, are assented to by each upon
entering the institution, as conditions of enjoying its privi-
leges.

The total number admitted up to June 1, 1886, is 3,175, of
whom 805 were those remaining, including twenty in asylums
for the insane, where they are provided for at the expense of
this institution. The mortality of the inmates is about ten per
cent, per annum.

In the numerous departments necessary to the proper con-
duct of the affairs of this little municipality is everywhere
evidenced that systematic and harmonious action due to care-
fully devised method and wise administration. The prudence,
sagacity and fidelity which has uniformly characterized the
management of the trustees, which is, perhaps, without a
parallel in the history of public charities, is forcibly indicated
by the fact that in addition to the vast amount expended in
bringing this institution to its present condition of excellence,
and in fulfilling every requirement of the trust, the annual in-
come, which, in 1806, was $4,243, is now increased one hun-
dred fold.

Men sometimes build even more wisely than they plan, and
the marvelous growth of New York has made Captain Ran-
dall's bequest valuable beyond his thinking; yet the form of
his bequest displays a wisdom commensurate to all possible
growth and contingency. Familiar with the characteristics of
seamen, the vicissitudes of their lives, knowing their helpless-
ness as a class when deprived of their accustomed vocation,
and in full sympathy with their needs, his one great object was
to provide "for aged, decrepit and worn out sailors." The
elaboration of a plan for the fulfilment of this purpose, which
circumstances and events impossible to foresee would be likely
to frustrate, was wisely avoided; but with his purpose clearly
indicated he selected representative men, who by their posi-
tions and professions, would be best qualified to administer the
trust. His will is dominated by a settled idea; it is not the
chance disposal of a fortune he knew not what to do with, or
the mere good-natured befriending of the sailor in response to
some chance suggestion. No man was in a better position than
himself to know the desirability of such a charity. The man
who generously dedicated his fortune to this purpose, and
wisely directed its husbanding until the plan could be applied

42



658 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

on a reasonably large scale, had the qualities of heart and head
to devise it.

The Sailors' Snug Harbor is itself the most appropriate
monument to the memory of a man who deserves in the highest
degree the gratitude of his beneficiaries, and the admiration
of the world at large. It is grander and larger, perhaps, than
its founder dreamed of, yet in its greatest development it is
but the culmination and completion of the general purpose of
Captain Randall. Had the property not increased so remark-
ably in value, the same instruments would have been the best
to conserve and administer the more humble estate. But great
or small, the gift was a noble one, the object was a worthy one,
the manner was wise, and with all credit to those who have so
well fulfilled the trust imposed in them, the man who is, and
will be, and should be commemorated by this unique and benefi-
cent institution is Robert Richard Randall.

The officers and managers of the institution in 1886 were as
follows :

Board of Trustees :* William R. Grace, mayor of the city of
New York; Frederick Smythe, recorder of the city of New
York; James M. Brown, president Chamber of Commerce;
Ambrose Snow, president Marine Society of N. Y. ; Edward G.
Tinker, vice-president Marine Society of N. Y. ; Rev. Morgan
Dix, D.D., rector of Trinity church; Rev. Richard D. Harlan,
minister First Presbyterian church.

Officers of the Board. Ambrose Snow, president; Thomas
Greenleaf, secretary and controller; Richard Luce, agent.

Resident Officers : G. D. S. Trask, governor; Henry D. Joy,
resident physician; S. V. R. Bogert, consulting physician;
Charles J. Jones, chaplain; Joseph K. Clark, steward.

Subordinates : Charles A. Decker, builder; J. H. Miles, chief
engineer; Hugh Clark, farmer; Mrs. A. G. Hammond, matron.

The governors of the institution have been since its establish-
ment, Capt. John Whet ten, from August, 1838, to September,
1844; Dr. S. V. R. Bogert (acting), from September, 1844 to
September, 1845; Capt. A. F. Depeyster, from September,
1845, to November, 1867; Capt. Thomas Melville, from Novem-
ber, 1867, to March, 1884; Capt. G. D. S. Trask, from March,
1884, the present incumbent.

* By the new constitution of the State of New York, adopted November, 1846,
the office of chancellor was abolished from and after the first Monday of July,
1847.



HISTOKY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 659

The general arrangement of the various buildings and grounds
at the "Harbor" proves conclusively that, from its conception
to the present moment, its destiny has been guided by the hand
of refinement and judgment. Its marble and granite blocks,
which adorn the prominent portions of the main buildings,
stand out in bold relief, and aid to form the picture, which is
completed by the beautiful surroundings. Gracefully curving
walks and drives wind their way through the velvet lawns,
which are tastefully dotted by rare and fragrant flowers, and
shaded by broad elms that have become a pride to those who
look upon the "Harbor" only in the light of home. The little
silvery lake, whose pure and silent water reflects the soft green
shadows along its rugged edge, adds a dreamy fascination to
the scene, and furnishes material for reflection to those brave
old seamen who have come here to await their summons to em-
bark upon the waters of eternity.

It is while contemplating this scene that one can appreciate
the hallowed motive of him whose heart and mind laid the
foundation of this institution, and whose beneficence gave a
home to brave men that will live on through the generations to
come, embalmed, as it were, with their prayers and gratitude
and thankfulness. Growing, as it does, each year, in import-
ance and usefulness; fostered, guarded and beloved by one
faithful trustee after another, as time and death enter their
little circle, it seems impossible to contemplate the limit of its
usefulness, or the ending of its power to alleviate the sufferings
of those who have "gone down to sea in ships," and at last,
homeless and decrepit, have anchored safely in this protecting
harbor.

There is a mystic tradition that Michael Angelo, the greatest
of artists, at one time determined to make the grandest effort of
his life to place upon canvas a painting that would live on and
on, as a monument to his memory. But, after spending a
number of years at the task, death came to him, and the work
was left unfinished. More than one artist undertook the task
of completing the picture, but each attempt only proved a fail-
ure. It requires no imaginary effort to place the Sailors' Snug
Harbor beside the great painting of Michael Angelo. The noble
work was begun by Captain Robert Richard Randall, no doubt
with equal pride and ambition; but other hands were called to
render it complete. How beautifully have their efforts been



660 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

crowned ! How noble and grand is its mission ; for it stands
to-day without a peer without a rival in the world.

POLICE AND FIRE DEPARTMENTS.

In 1867 the law placed Staten Island within the jurisdiction
of the Metropolitan police force of New York city. A small
force of men were enlisted and detailed for the express duty of
patrolling the island. Criminals arrested by those officers were
taken before police justices within the limits of Edgewater and
New Brighton, and throughout the remainder of the county
they were disposed of by justices of the peace.

In 1870 a law was enacted by the legislature which made
Richmond county a separate police district, and gave it power
to establish a department with its essential duties and pow-
ers. The act placed the control of the department under three
commissioners, who are elected by an appointing board, con-
sisting of the county judge and the live supervisors of the
county. These commissioners must be residents of the county,
and are elected for three years, the term of office of one of the
board expiring on the 10th of May annually; but shall hold
office until his successor is appointed and duly qualified. The
expenses of the department are provided for in the county
budget, adopted by the supervisors, and are collected from all
real and personal property subject to taxation.

On May 9, 1870, Messrs. William C. Denyse, of Middletown;
Abram C. .Wood, of Castleton, and Garrett P. Wright, of
iNorthfield, having been elected commissioners, met to organ-
ize. They "drew lots'' as to terms with the following result:
Mr. Wood, one year; Mr. Denyse, two years; and Mr. Wright,
three years. Mr. Wood was elected president; George H.
Hitchcock, chief clerk; John Laforge, captain; Dr. Isaac Lea,
surgeon; James J. Esterbrook, sergeant; Daniel Blake, rounds-
man; Edward Roe, Alexander Mcllhargy, Edward Brice, Robert
Lyons, James E. Brown, Stephen McEvoy, Alexander Young
and Edward F. Roy, patrolmen.

May 20th the various incorporated villages made a demand
upon the department for police as follows: Port Richmond, 7;
New Brighton, 7; Edgewater, 14, and Tottenville (which was an
incorporated village for about ten weeks), 2. The experiment
of having mounted police was made during the first month, but
was soon abandoned. One of the first general orders issued at



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 661

headquarters was the careful observance of the excise laws.
On the 28th of June a police station was established in Port
Richmond, opposite the park, in a building belonging to ex-
Chief Engineer Decker, of the old volunteer fire department of
New York city. During the first year the force was increased
to thirty men.

In May, 1871, the appointing board unanimously elected one
of its number, George W. Ellis, supervisor from Westfield.
Mr. Wood, the outgoing commissioner, earnestly protested
against the election; nevertheless Mr. Ellis took his seat as
commissioner and was made president of the board. The mat-
ter was strenuously fought in the courts, and was finally set-
tled, after a period of four months, in the court of appeals,
against Mr. Ellis. During Mr. Ellis' incumbency, however, a
number of changes were made in the department. Commis-
sioner Wright refrained from attending any of the meetings of
the board. Captain Laforge refused to obey the orders of Presi-
dent Ellis and was suspended, and notwithstanding an effort
was made by his friends to re-instate him at a later period, he
was unsuccessful, and Sergeant M. I. Holbrook was appointed
in his place. Chief Clerk Hitchcock also refused to obey orders,
and Peter H. Wandel was appointed to serve in his place. Mr.
Isaac M. Marsh was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by Mr.
Ellis' departure, and besides being president of the board for a
number of years was repeatedly re-elected until May, 1883, when
he retired, and was succeeded by Mr. Edward P. Barton. Under
the reorganization of the board Mr. Hitchcock was reappointed
clerk.

In May, 1872, Major Clarence T. Barrett, of Castleton, was
elected commissioner, and served until 1878, when he was suc-
ceeded by Mr. Philip Wolff, of Middletown.

At the October term of the court of oyer and terminer,
Judge Tappen took occasion to compliment the police depart-
ment of the island in very flattering terms for the efficient aid
it was rendering the courts in detecting and aiding to punish
criminals.

Mr. Wright served as commissioner until 1879, when he was
succeeded by Francis McQuade. In 1882, Mr. R. B. Whitte-
more, of Castleton, was appointed.

October 21, 1880, chief clerk Hitchcock resigned and Mr.
George W. Ellis was appointed to succeed him.



662 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

The organization of the department at present is as follows :
Commissioners Richard B. Whittemore, president; Philip
Wolff, treasurer; Gaston D. L'Hnillier, purchasing committee;
George W. Ellis, chief clerk; Isaac Lea, M. D., surgeon; Daniel
Blake, captain; Joseph Cobb and Paul Cornell, sergeants;
Thomas Drummond, Philip Sharrott, John H. Cook and Henry
Brand, roundsmen, acting sergeants.

There are forty-two regular patrolmen and about the same
number of special officers serving under the department au-
thority, but not di'awing pay from the county.

The headquarters of the department is at Station No. 1, Bay
street, Edgewater. Station No. 2 is a handsome new building
located on Richmond terrace, near Broadway, West New
Brighton. The stations at Port Richmond and Tottenville were
long ago abandoned. The last appropriation made for the
maintenance of the department was $54,000.

A second attempt to render the force more efficient by hav-
ing mounted patrolmen, was made during the winter of 1883-4,
when a number of good horses and necessary accoutrements
were purchased. The men selected to perform that branch of
the service unfortunately were not used to the saddle, and the
experiment was, after a brief trial, given up, greatly to the
regret of residents in retired parts of the island.

The force is a credit to the island, and is composed of men
who are directly interested in its progress and welfare, being,
probably, without an exception, real estate holders. The
strictest discipline is enforced, and the men have grown to look
upon their routine life in a similar light to that of regular
soldiers who know nothing beyond the straight lines of duty.

The Edgewater Fire Department was organized in 1871, with
Benjamin Brown as chief engineer. James R. Robinson and
James Garvey were afterward elected chiefs. The department-
was re-organized in 1879, with William Burbank as chief.

The following companies form the department : Niagara En-
gine Company, No. 5 (organized in 1873 as the Neptune Hose
Company, and re-organized in 1878 as an engine company);
Neptune Engine Company, No. 6, organized 1867; Protective



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 64 of 72)