Historical Sketch of Staten island

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The island contains about 49.280 acres; the greatest length is a little over 13 1/2 miles and the greatest breadth is 200 feet over 7 3/4 miles.

The Indian name was "Aquehonga Man-ack-nong," meaning the place of the high, sandy banks; in some old documents it is called "Eghqua-hons," which has the same meaning.

Morris quotes Schoolcraft as giving the meaning "the place of the bad woods."

Previous to the coming of the White man, the island was occupied by the Raritan's, a branch of the Delaware's, under tribute to the Mohawks. Traces of the shell heaps made by the Indians are found in various parts of the island.

With the coming of the European, the history of Staten island is wrapped up with that of the neighboring territory.

Verrazano discovered the island in 1524. On September 2, 1609, Henry Hudson anchored in the Lower Bay and first saw the island, which was named "Staaten Eylandt" as a memorial to the States General of the Netherlands under whose direction he was sailing.

The first settlement was at "Oude Dorp" (old town) early in the period of the Dutch colonization. Among the first settlers were the Rapaelje family, who were connected with the first white inhabitants of Long island.

The Indians sold the island repeatedly; first to Michael Pauw in 1630, the first patroon, who called his grant "Pavonia." The Indian claim was finally extinguished in 1670 by Gov. Lovelace. In 1639, David Peterson de Vries, having obtained a grant from Governor Van Twiller in 1636, introduced some settlers. In 1641, Cornelis Melyn was made a troon and the third attempt to settle the island was made at Oude Dorp. The Indians destroyed this village in 1641 and again in 1655, after which it was never rebuilt.

In 1652 the Waldenses founded a village at Stony Brook which lasted until the middle of the eighteenth century, when it crumbled away. The latter part of the seventeenth century saw the Huguenots settling at Marshland, now Greenridge. During Kieft's misrule, the island suffered with the adjoining territory the ravages of the Indians.

The English settled on the island in Stuyvesant's time and finally, in 1664, it came with other Dutch possessions under the British rule of Governor Nicolls, his first act being the capture of a block house on Staten Island. The setting off of the island from New Jersey was due partly to the difficulty of collecting the taxes; the Duke of York, to whom his brother, the King, had previously given New York, on this account decided in 1668 that all islands in the harbor, that could be circumnavigated in twenty-four hours should belong to New York, otherwise to New Jersey. Captain Billopp successfully accomplished the feat in the prescribed time and the island was adjudged to New York. A tract of land was awarded to him and he established the manor of Bentley, at what is now Tottenville. New Jersey disputed this decision and the question was satisfactorily settled only in 1833. In 1673 the island was retaken by the Dutch, but was finally restored to the English on February 9, 1674. In 1679, the Labadists visited the island, and it is from them that so much of the everyday life of the colonists is known. The island was made into Richmond County in 1683; in 1688 it was divided into the towns of Northfield, Southfield,
Westfield and Castleton; Middletown was established in 1860. Cucklestowne, now Richmond, was made the county seat in 1729.

As headquarters of the British during the Revolution, the island was under martial law; many of the inhabitants were lukewarm to the patriot cause.

General Sir William Howe brought his forces here July 3, 1776; making his headquarters at New Dorp. His brother, Admiral Lord Howe, commanded the fleet here. The British erected forts at various places: at times the Americans attempted to oust the British, and on their part the British made excursions from the island to the neighboring country. The British troops vacated the island on November 25, 1783, when many of the American Loyalists moved to various parts of the British Empire.

By act of legislature, slavery was abolished on July 4, 1825, when the fact was much celebrated. The island was governed by about seventy different boards until 1898, when it became the Borough of Richmond of Greater New York. It now feels the same impulses that exist in the other boroughs.

NOTE: Mr. John H. Innes thinks that Oude Dorp was not built until 1662-63 by Stuyvesant, on the order of the West India Company to fortify points on either side of the Narrows. In 1661 he informed the Company that all the houses in Staten Island had been destroyed during the Indian wars. Later he wrote that the village had been built about one-half hour's walk from the Narrows, there being no convenient place nearer the water. it was visited by the Labadists in 1679, when there were seven houses, three only inhabited, the people having removed on account of the poor soil to "Niewe Dorp."

He doubts that the Rapaelje family ever settled in Staten Island, or that Waldenses founded Stony Brook, there being no documentary proof of these statements extant.


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Historical Sketch of Staten island
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY:  Historical Guide to the City of New York; Anonymous, New York., F.A. Stokes Co, 1913.
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