Richard Mather Bayles.

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

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the island and New York from the middle of the last century.
November 10, 1755, the ferry was "continued to be kept by


Oths Van Tyle at Statten Island and Abraham Bockee at
Whitehall," they having three boats for the purpose.

The first steam ferry boat running here was the " Nautilus."
She began running November 29, 1817. The following an-
nouncement was made in the newspapers on that day:

"The new Steam-Boat, intended to ply regularly between
this city and Statten-Island, commenced running this morning.
She is to start daily from White-Hall Dock, at the hours of 7,
10, 1, and 5. We understand that she carries Passengers this
day without charge."

Ten years later two steamboats were in operation on the
ferries here, during a part of the year at least. They were the
"Nautilus," Captain Robert Hazard, and the "Bolivar,"
Captain Oliver Vanderbilt. They advertised to leave Staten
Island at 7, 8 and 10 A. M., and 12.30, 2.30,4.30 and 6 P. M.
Returning they left New York at 8 and 10 A. M., and 12.30,
2.30, 4.30, 5.30 and 7 P. M. The fare then was 12 cents. During
the winter season trips were not made so often and the fare
was 25 cents. The " Marco Bozzaris " was then a new steam-
boat, and she plied between the city and the quarantine
grounds every two hours.

One after another during the following years improvements
were made, and facilities for comfortable, rapid and frequent
passage between the island and the city augmented as the de-
mand seemed to increase. In 1860 the steamers " Thomas
Hunt" and "Flora" were making six trips daily, on the
^North Shore ferry, the fare being six cents. Boats on the
East Shore ferry were making trips every hour during the day,
from 7 A. M. to 5 P. M. The Huguenot line was running be-
tween Mariners 1 Harbor and New York four times a day, the
boats employed being the " Red Jacket" and the " Kill Von
Kull." About that time the " Westfield," " Clifton," " Thos.
P. Way," " Southfield," "Hunchback," "Josephine" and
"Sylph" were also employed on these ferry lines. Some of
them were sold to the government in 1861, to be used as trans-
ports in the war.

The management of the ferry to New York from Castleton
and Northfield had been unsatisfactory to the people fare too
high, boats old and slow, number of daily trips insufficient, of-
ficers and employees rude and unaccommodating. The North
Shore Staten Island Ferry Company was formed in the spring


of 1860, and obtained a charter as a stock company. The peo-
ple from New Brighton to Mariners' Harbor took stock in the
new company, and manifested a lively interest in its success.
Large and enthusiastic meetings were held, thirty thousand
dollars were subscribed, the steamboats ''Flora" and "Thomas
Hunt" were purchased, and the " People's Line " was placed
in successful operation, with the fare at six cents. The capital
stock was subsequently increased to sixty thousand dollars, the
number of owners holding shares being something over three
hundred. The steamer "Pomona" was built for the route and was
at the time the pride of the company. On the organization of the
new company the old management reduced its fare from twelve
cents to three cents, but the new company was the child of the
people, and received their support. In 1864 the capital stock
was raised to one hundred thousand dollars.

Within a few years past the project of building a bridge across
the sound or Arthur kill has been frequently and vigorously
agitated. It has been argued that such a bridge was desirable
to afford some trunk line railroad from the south and west an
outlet to tide water in the vicinity of New York city. A bill
authorizing the construction of such a bridge has repeatedly
been before Congress, and it is said that it has the approval of
the war department. The senate reached a vote on May 20,
1886, and passed the bill by a large majority, notwithstanding
the state of New Jersey and the Pennsylvania railroad were
strongly opposed to it.

This bridge no new scheme. As long ago as June
10, 1812, the state of New York, by its act of legislature, incor-
porated a company for the object of building a bridge across
the sound from New Jersey to Staten Island, at some point to
be decided on by commissioners appointed for the purpose.
The act named Joseph Ferine, David Mersereau, Jacob Croch-
eron, John V. D. Jacobson, Jesse Oakley, James Guion, Sr.,
Tunis Egbert, John Garrison and John Hilliker. The capital
stock was to consist of two thousand shares of fifty dollars
each, and the commissioners appointed to designate the site of
the bridge were John C. Vanderveer, William Furman and
John Lefferts, of the county of Kings, and Gabriel Fiirman and
John Vanderbilt, Jr., of the city and county of New York, who
were to act with an equal number to be named and authorized
for the purpose by or on the part of New Jersey. The bridge


was to be not less than twenty-six feet wide, and to have a draw
of not less than thirty feet over the sound to allow the passage
of vessels. The toll for the passage of two horse pleasure car-
riages over the bridge was seventy-five cents, business wagons
fifty cents, man on horseback twenty-five cents, and foot pas-
sengers six cents.

TheStaten Island Railroad, extending from Vanderbilt's land-
ing to Tottenville, is thirteen miles in length, and its original
cost was about $300,000. The first meeting of citizens to discuss
the practicability of constructing the road, was held in the
village of Richmond, on the 2d day of August, 1851, at which
articles of association were submitted, discussed and adopted,
and filed in the office of the secretary of state, on the 18th day
of October, 1851. On that day an election was held for the first
board of directors, and resulted in the election of the following
gentlemen, viz.: Joseph H. Seguine, Joel Wolfe, Edwin R.
Bennet, Stephen Seguine, Henry Cole, Henry I. Seaman, Henry
Van Hovenberg, Peter C. Cortelyou, John G. Seguine, William
Totten, George White, William King, and Cornelius White.

Joseph H. Seguine was elected president, Stephen Seguine,
treasurer, and George White, secretary. The first annual re-
port was made to the state engineer and surveyor on the 30th
day of September, 1852. Numerous obstacles presented them-
selves to prevent the speedy completion of the road, not the
least of which was the difficulty of securing a right of way over
the lands of several landed proprietors, and in January, 1855,
it became necessary for the company to apply to the legislature
for an extension of time to construct their road. The first re-
ceipts from passengers were on the 32d day of April, 1860,
the trains running only a part of the way, but on the 3d day of
June, of that year, the formal opening of the road took place.
The road became the property of the Staten Island Rapid
Transit Railroad Company, July 31, 1884, and its destinies
since that time have been in common with those of the hitter

A line of telegraph was erected from quarantine grounds
along the shore to the railroad, and then along the railroad to
Amboy in 1863.

A horse railroad from the Narrows around the shore to
Mariners' Harbor was proposed in November, 1863, and it was
then expected to be running by the early part of the following


spring. A company was formed and a charter obtained, under
the title of the Staten Island Shore Railroad Company, with a
capital of $350,000. The following were the first directors
chosen : Minthorne Tompkins, S. B. Coles, Henry A. Morrison,
George Catlin, Thomas Colgan, John C. Burling, Cornelius Mc-
Ardell, Alfred Hornby, Joseph G. Ward, Earl K. Cooley,
John Ellard, P. H. Ward, and George Sexton. The first offi-
cers were Joseph G. Ward, president; George Catlin, vice-
president; C. McArdell, secretary and treasurer. While it. was
in process of construction (March, 1864) various opinions
were expressed concerning it, as to whether it would prove a
benefit or an injury. But few living immediately on the line
were disposed to favor it, but those residing off the street
through which it was laid generally advocated it. Its general
patronage by the people shows it to be a thing of approved
public utility. It makes hourly trips. Its western terminus has
not as yet been carried over the causeway to Port Richmond.

The ''North and South Shore Railroad" was projected to
run from Elm Park, in the town of Northfield, to Seguine's
point, in the town of Westfield. The company was organized
in 1882, with W. R. Soutter as president and R. Penn Smith
and others as directors. The route was surveyed under the
direction of the company, and ground was broken at Elm Park
on Tuesday, November 28, 1882.

The plan of this road was to run from a point near the steam-
boat landing at Elm Park to Graniteville; thence through the
lands of James Bennett, John Hall, Charles E. Racy, John M.
Ferine, Nicholas D. Egbert, Abram P. Tyson, Samuel White,
Isaac Winant, estate of C. Merrill, James Davidson, Mrs
Thomas Lisk, - - Qninlan, Charles Simonson, John Blake,
Decker B. Merrill and Jacob Housman, at Bull's Head, where a
depot was to be located; thence passing on through lands of
the heirs of Joseph Simonson, deceased, John Blake, John
Hath'eld, Mrs. Hiram J. Corson, John H. Garretson, Hiram
J. Corson and Arthur Frail, it reached Springville, where
another station was to be located. Its course thence
lay through lands of Harriet Whitney, Jacob Simonson,
David Simonson, Mrs. Daniel Blake, Matthias Simonson, Sam
uel Decker, Barnet Depuy, Peter Van Buskirk, Richard La-
tourette and the heirs of Harriet Wheatley, at Richmond.
Here the course of the road described a horseshoe, approaching


the village from under the hill on which the old fort stood, and
turning at a point about ten minutes' walk from the court house.
On this bend it was intended to locate a depot, and thence a
street was to be opened to the village. From this point the
road lay in the direction of Green ridge, through the lands of
Cyrus McVeigh, Douglass Turner, James Lake, Herbert B.
Brewer, H. S. Samuels, Mary Metcalfe, Byron H. Beal, the
heirs of T. C. Benham, Lawrence H. Cortelyou, George White,
Mrs. Edward Bancker, and heirs of - - Stuyvesant, where it
crossed the Staten Island Railroad, and took a direct line for
the shore, passing through the lands of John Dempsey, B.
Kreischer and Henry T. Niles to the farm owned by the com-
pany, where a large hotel was intended to be built and other
improvements applied for making a seaside resort.

Work upon it continued till late in the summer of 1883, when
the grading of the road bed was nearly completed, and ties
were purchased and on their way to the island. There seemed
to be some mystery connected with the building of the road.
Added to this the rumor gained circulation that the Standard
Oil Company intended to erect buildings at the terminus on the
Perkins farm. The work was then abandoned.

The " Richmond County Railroad" is a street railroad, run-
ning from West New Brighton steamboat landing to Castleton
Corners. Its charter was granted by the state legislature in
March, 1885, and work upon it began May 11 following. The
road was completed, and the formal opening took place July
18, 1885. The route lies from the steamboat landing up Broad-
way, Castleton avenue, Columbia street and Manor road, end-
ing at Eckstein's brewery. The first directors were John Mc-
Donald, Monroe Eckstein, Hiram Dixon, Robert Moore, Clar-
ence Delah'eld, H. D. Leslie and E. A. Moore. The first officers
were: Hiram Dixon, president, Monroe Eckstein, treasurer, and
H. D. Leslie, secretary.

The scheme of concentrating the ferry traffic into one line of
boats running to one point on the island, that point being the
one nearest, to New York city, and connecting with arms of
railroad which should reach out and deliver passengers along
either shore, was for some time in process of development be-
fore it assumed definite shape and tangible existence. A com-
pany was organized in 1883, and incorporated under the general
railroad law of the state, having a capital of five hundred thou-


sand dollars, which was fully paid. Surveys were then made
for the prospective line along the eastern and northern shores
of the island. Captain A. L. King was for a time president of
the company, but in Setember, 1883, he resigned, and J. Frank
Emmons was elected to the position. Messrs. C. T. Barrett,
Horatio Judah and T. C. Vermilye were appointed commission-
ers to appraise the damages caused to land through which the
road was to pass. They began their work in the latter part of

The work of grading began, and during the spring of 1884
was pushed forward with such energy that by the end of July
the road was graded and the track laid between Clifton and
Tompkinsville. The first locomotive and train passed over this
section of the road on July 31, 1884. It contained the man-
agers and officers of the road, a few invited guests and several
passengers who had come up on the train as it came on its regu-
lar time from Tottenville. With the caution necessary to a
train for the first time moving over a new road, the run was
made from Vanderbilt landing to the Tompkinsville landing in
three and a half minutes.

The Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company now
effected a ninety-nine years' lease of the property of the Staten
Island Railway, and under this arrangement the railroad to
Tottenville and all its appurtenances became, on the day last
mentioned (July 31, 1884), a part of the rapid transit system.

Work was now pushed on with vigor toward the completion
of the road, many obstacles, some of discouraging magnitude,
appearing to impede its progress. Over much of its course the
line followed the shore, under the bluffs, where ground had to
be made upon which to build the road. State laws were not
able to grant the right to run a railroad through the property
of the United States; hence the grounds of the light house de-
partment just above Tompkinsville, presented a serious barrier.
The company, however, secured an act of congress permitting
them to push a tunnel through the hill a short distance back
from the shore. The grant was surrounded with restrictions
that made slow progress in the construction of the tunnel an
unavoidable sequence. The tunnel is about five hundred and
eighty-five feet long, and is wide enough to allow the passing of
two trains at once. It is protected by massive walls of masonry
on the sides, and an arch of brick two feet in thickness over-

Clifton, N. Y.

A view from Fox Hill.











head. The cost of building it was about one hundred and
ninety thousand dollars.

Another obstacle which offered resistance to the progress of
the road was a contest in litigation, in which the company were
involved, in gaining a passage across the cove at the mouth of
Palmer's run. Another obstacle was found in passing across the
front of the Sailors' Snug Harbor, where it was necessary to
erect a heavy stone wall at a cost of about twenty-five thousand
dollars. But the projectors of the enterprise were encouraged
by seeing these obstacles, one after another, give way before the
steady and resolute forces which they brought to bear upon

At St. George, the northeast point of the island, an area of
several acres of ground has been made out from the shore to
afford room for terminal facilities. Piers have been erected,
extending some six hundred feet into the water, and terminat-
ing in two large ferry slips. The expense of the improvements
at this point, including piers, ferry houses, depots, and the
like, is estimated to exceed 100,000.

The history of this enterprise would not be fairly stated if
the fact were omitted that Mr. Erastus Wiman has been, from
its inception to its consummation, the moving spirit of the
rapid transit railroad and ferry scheme. Without consulting
that gentleman, we make the statement here that the future of
the island owes a lasting debt of gratitude to him for the per-
severing energy with which he has pushed forward an tinder-
taking which promises to open a new era of prosperity to the
island, against many discouraging circumstances, perhaps not
the least of which has been the prejudice with which those who
were to be benefitted by the scheme opposed it. Should the
modesty of Mr. Wiman censure us for this expression, our
apology is that the truth demands it.

The Rapid Transit Railroad was opened for passenger traffic
February 23, 1886. It was a jubilee day along the north
shore. Trains ran as far as Elm Park, making the time be-
tween that point and the city thirty-nine minutes, instead of
about an hour and a half, as had been common under the old
ferry system. The usual demonstrations of public rejoicing were
made in the display of the national colors all along the line,
and the cheering of the multitudes who gathered at the sta-
tions to greet the coming of the trains. The other wing of the


system was completed, so that on the eighth of March trains
commenced running on both the north and east shores of the
island from the ferry at St. George.

A few statements, showing the magnitude of this improve-
ment, are compiled from a city newspaper of the following
day. When the rapid transit scheme was fii^t agitated, the
ferries made only twelve trips a day between New York and
Staten Island. The number of trips made is now increased to
thirty-four. A decided improvement in the time required was
also apparent. Port Richmond had before been one hour dis-
tant from the city, with only hourly boats. To-day it can be
reached in thirty-six minutes, and boats run three times in an
hour. The time to Clifton had previously been forty-seven
minutes. It was now reduced to thirty minutes, with trains
every twenty-five minutes.

LEWIS HENRY MEYER, who has been for more than thirty
years a resident of Staten Island and who is widely known in
business and social circles both on the island and in New York
city, was born in October, 1815, at Bremen. He was the son of
Theodore Meyer, a prominent ship owner of New York, who at
the time of his son's birth was engaged in the operation of a
line of packets between that city and Bremen. At the age of
five months Mr. Meyer came to America on a ship under com-
mand of Captain, afterward Commodore Perry, then in his
father's employ. The passage was accomplished in the extra-
ordinary short period of one hundred and seven days, twenty-
one days shorter than any previous voyage, a fact which the
owner at the time attributed to reckless sailing.

Mr. Meyer attended school in New York city till 1828, when
he again crossed the ocean, remaining in Bremen till 1836. While
there he finished his student life and spent some time in an of-
fice in that city. In 1840 he engaged in business in New York,
remaining in it till 1857-8, under the firm names of Meyer, Hupe-
den & Co., Theodore Meyer, Sons & Co., Meyer, Schoene& Co.,
and Meyer & Stucken.

Having between 1850 and 1857 sold large amounts of Ameri-
can securities in European markets many of which failed to
pay interest, Mr. Meyer turned his attention in 1858 to the pro-
tection of European friends. Besides bringing numerous suits
against repudiating cities and counties and compelling the
same to respect their creditors, he succeeded in placing several


railroads in the hands of receivers and reorganizing them after
foreclosure. This he did with the Milwaukee & Mississippi,
later Milwaukee & Prairie Du Chien now owned by the Milwau-
kee & St. Paul, the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago Railroad,
now Pittsburgh & Ft. Wayne Railway Company, and the Chi-
cago & Missisippi, now Chicago & Alton.

He also represented large interests in the Ohio Central, Scioto
& Hocking Valley, Alabama & Tennessee River, Atlantic &
Great Western, Kansas Pacific, Mississippi, Kansas & Texas,
Steubenville & Indiana, New Orleans & Mobile, and others, most
of which he was also instrumental in foreclosing and reorgani-
zing. He is now president of the Ft. Wayne Railway Com-

Mr. Meyer was the organizer of the Staten Island Savings
Bank and was for ten years its president. He takes a lively in-
terest in all Richmond county matters and was formerly presi-
dent of the village of Edgewater. His residence, of which this
volume furnishes a cut, is one of the handsomest on Staten Is-

Mr. Meyer is a public spirited and courteous gentleman. His
immense business interests and frequent travels have brought
him a large acquaintance both in Europe and America, and he
is equally respected both at home and abroad.

ECKSTEIN NORTON, one of the most influential and success-
ful men identified with the vast railroad interests of the country,
is the son of William Norton. He was born at Russell ville,
Kentucky, December 16, 1831, and educated in his native
place. At the age of fifteen he entered a store as clerk, receiv-
ing a dollar and a half per week for his services, and continued
for two and a half years thus employed, when he embarked in
business in the same town. In the fall of 1851, having sold his
interest to a partner, he removed to Paducah, Kentucky, and
joined his brother, W. F. Norton, who had been for fifteen
years a merchant at this point, in mercantile ventures. In 1852
Mr. Norton purchased the interest of his brother, and continued
with success until 1854, when the Illinois Central Railroad hav-
ing completed its line to Cairo, began the construction of a line
to Chicago, which was finished a year later. Having effected
an advantageous contract with this road, Mr. Norton removed
to Cairo as the receiving and forwarding agent for all its freight.
An excellent offer for the business and good will thus well es-


tablished induced him to sell, and again he made Paducah his
residence, engaging with his brother in the banking business,
under the firm name of Norton Brothers. Early in 1864 he re-
moved to New York, established the banking and commission
house of Norton, Slaughter & Co., and later that of Ex. Nor-
ton & Co., of which he is sole partner. In 1868 Mr. Norton,
purchased the Paducah & Gulf Railroad, afterward consoli-
dated with the Mississippi River Railroad, the two forming the
Paducah & Memphis Railroad, of which he became president.
He also participated actively in the construction of the Eliza-
bethtown & Paducah Railroad, these two roads (Padncah &
Memphis and Elizabethtown & Paducah) now forming the
Chesapeake, Ohio & Southwestern Railroad.

In 1884 it was discovered that a large amount of the funds of
the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company had been lost in
speculation and mismanagement, and a considerable floating
debt created. The credit of the company was impaired, and
grave doubts entertained as to the possibility of its rescue from
bankruptcy. A large majority of the stock was held in Europe,
and the foreign stockholders, on discovering the irregularities
in 1884, sent an agent to the United States to reorganize the
company. Many of the directors resigned, the board was re-
organized, and Mr. Norton asked to become one of its members.
He remained a director until the ammal meeting in October,
1884, was then elected vice-president, and assumed charge of
the company's finances. Less expensive offices in New York
city were secured, and an economical management of affairs in-
augurated, thus saving forty thousand dollars per annum in
the New York office. As a result, confidence was restored, and
the credit of the company greatly improved, the beneficial re-
sult being apparent on the whole system. In 1886 Mr. Norton
was elected president of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad,
which, by lease and ownership, controls nearly four thousand
miles of road running through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida, and is
one of the most important of the great railroad systems of the
country. The remarkable business qualities which Mr. Norton
possesses, embracing sound and unerring judgment, keen in-
sight, and a firm and comprehensive grasp of the details of an

Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 67 of 72)