Bits of History About Richmond Before Consolidation 1898


Staten Island was the first land Hendrik Hudson set foot on when he reached the shores of America in his ship the half Moon in the fall of 1609. Re-embarking with but short delay he continued his explorations up the bay and into the waters of the broad Hudson. But though the Dutch in his company made their first landing there it was sixteen years later when the first permanent settlement was founded by men of like race from New Amsterdam. The Great West India Company had by this time been organized and sent a colony to Manhattan island.

The Indian tribes on Staten island, though numerous, were friendly, and this land, as almost all held by the Dutch, was acquired by purchase from them. The early Indian settlements were along the south shore, at what are now Prince's Bay and Tottenville, where even today their graves are to be found and relics are occasionally upturned.

The Dutch colonists thrived on the island and by the time of the British conquest it was an important settlement. With the British rule came British colonists, who had their part in the subsequent development, and in the eighteenth century the population became still more mixed by the advent of a company of French Huguenots, who settled the present Village of Huguenot and added their labors to the tillage of the soil and the general prosperity of the island.

Staten island in the early stages of the Revolution played an important part. There were the headquarters of the American Army previous to the Battle of Long island, one result of which was the capture of Staten island by the British. The Patriots crossed to fight the Battle of long island in boats from a spot nearly identical with the p resent village of Clifton. There is still standing at Concord an old house which, tradition says, was Washington's headquarters for a time.

Early in the present century Staten island's wooded shores and beautiful sloping heights began to hold forth attractions for the wealthy families of new York City, many of whom acquired tracts of land and erected summer houses, considered in those days of great elegance. In time this element formed a distinct social structure and Staten island became noted as a fashionable summer resort. meanwhile the whole island was incorporated and became a county of the state, divided into five townships, Castleton, Middletown, Northfield, Southfield and Westfield, all of which exist to the present time. Richmond, as the county, was known officially, was enabled to retain its exclusiveness through its difficulty of access from both new York and Long island. Until well along in the present century, there was no regular ferry affording intercommunication with the mainland, transit being haphazard and infrequent. This need was first practically recognized by the late Commodore Vanderbilt, who was a native of the island, and he found the remedy by first putting into operation a line of oyster sloops, which, in 1850, or thereabouts, were superseded by the establishment of the first regular ferry service. Some of the boats then used have come down to recent days.

The old Vanderbilt homestead is at new Dorp and on it still stands the old farm house of the first of the family, built in the seventeenth century. In the same village in the Moravian Cemetery is the Vanderbilt mausoleum, which contains the bodies of most of the family who have passed away.

During the civil war the island was the scene of many mob outbreaks and draft riots to quell which troops were sent more than once from New York. Since war times the changes have been immense and in some respects deplorable. With the introduction of improved ferry facilities and rapid transit on the island it has lost almost wholly its former beauty. No longer are its shores skirted with handsome residences and wide spreading lawns. These have given way to thickly settled villages and a commercial life that have dispelled the whole charm of the place for those who knew it in former days. The island has today become a land of cheap, suburban homes and factories with a consequent immensely increased population which for the most part finds its scene of activity in New York.

Despite these many changes, however, there still remain many old places of romantic interest and historical charm. Garibaldi lived for years on a farm which is yet pointed out as the home of the great patriot. There, too, George William Curtis had his home, while down ion the shore overlooking the Jersey Kills stands the Sailors' Snug Harbor, the refuge of hundreds of battered and worn-out men of the sea.

Up to a decade ago Staten island was a great oyster market and feeding ground, but the beds were almost destroyed by the pollution of the water by large industrial establishments located near by.

Staten island's future is bright and long years of development are still required to make all her private possibilities realities. She has a rich soil, a vigorous and public spirited population and a position which should eventually give her vast influence in the commercial world and make her one of the most important of the greater city's political sub-divisions.

In Richmond Borough, the County Clerk, Register, County Treasurer and Sheriff will be located in the Court House at Richmond. The District Attorney will be quartered at Fort George.


Website: The History
Article Name: Bits of History About Richmond Before Consolidation 1898
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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