Mementos of the Olden Time Part I

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A Duel

September, 1713, A duel was fought near New York by Dr. John Livingston and Mr. Thomas Dongan which resulted in the death of the former. Mr. Dongan was tried for murder and found guilty of manslaughter.

The Seasons

1718, January 15. The ice from the rivers had disappeared and the frost was out of the ground. For three weeks previously the weather had been like the spring, and peas, beans, etc., were planted. But a week had scarcely elapsed ere severe cold weather set in and the rivers were filled with ice.

An Earthquake

November, 1727. Two shocks of earthquake were felt in New York in one day. Crockery fell from shelves and the clocks in all parts of the town ceased the vibration of their pendulums.

The Commercial Marine

1730. The number of vessels that entered the port of New York was 211, viz.: From Jamaica 30, from Boston 28, from Barbados 14, from Bermuda 13, from Curacao 12, from Antigua 11, from London 7, from Rhode Island 7, from North Carolina 6, from Bristol 5, from Dover 5, from South Carolina 5, from Newfoundland 4, from Philadelphia 3, from Surinam 3, from Madeira 3.

Small Pox

1731. This disease raged fearfully in New York. Inoculation, which was then a novelty, was tried with success. But the safest course was believed to be to retire from the locality where it prevailed. The trade of New York suffered greatly from this cause at this as well as other periods when the epidemic prevailed. In one week fifty persons died of small pox. The disease set in about midsummer and continued its ravages until Christmas, during which period about six hundred persons fell victims to its ravages.

First Fire Engines

December, 1732. The first fire occurred at which fire engines were used. Two fire engines had recently been imported from England, and companies were formed which became the foundation of the New York Fire Department. Their efficiency was found greatly to exceed the former method of lines of bucket men passing the water from hand to hand from the nearest wells or from the river.

Hard Times

1735. Political troubles and high taxes and imposts drove many people from the city to seek more advantageous places of residence. No less than 158 dwellings were to be let at one period. The wealth of the people was freely drawn upon to sustain the merchants of the Mother country and her officials in this province. Philadelphia was a favorite residence, the more especially as it was a free port.


1735. A vigorously contested election for representative of New York city in the Provincial Assembly took place. At no period, had party spirit run so high. The candidates were two leading merchants, Adolph Philipse and Cornelius Van Horne. The electors appeared in the fields (now the Park) about 9 o'clock with colors flying and drums beating. Apparently, by the show, the friends of Mr. Philipse, who were the principal merchants and gentlemen, were in the majority, but a poll was demanded, and thereupon the candidates and electors repaired to the City Hall where the poll was carried on all day till about 9 o'clock at night with the greatest warmth on both sides, the drums and music going about during the time. Between 9 and 10 at night the polls closed and the votes were for Philipse 413, for Horne 399. It was agreed that a scrutiny should be had on the following Monday. The zeal of the friends of the candidates was so great that it was supposed every voter in the city was brought out. One gentleman used his chariot in bringing up voters of all sorts, so that the poor women cried out: "These are fine times when car men and chimney sweeps ride in coaches."

Burning of the Archives of Trinity Church

February, 1750. A fire broke out in the new Free School-house kept by Joseph Hildreth, Clerk of Trinity Church. The church was frequently in danger but was saved. All the records of the church were consumed.

The Oyster Pasty Battery

In May, 1751, some workmen digging down the bank of the North river in the rear of Trinity Church discovered a stone wall four or five feet thick and nearly eight feet under ground. It was supposed at the time to be the breastwork of a battery, but the oldest person then living could give no account of it. We are more familiar with the city antiquities than the residents a century ago, and know from the records which have been published that this was at or near the locality of the fortification at the North river end of the city wall, called "Oyster Pasty Mount."

Whales in the North River

December, 1755. Two whales were struck south of the Highlands.

Wild Pigeons

April, 1759. In one day 75,000 wild pigeons were brought to the market in the city, selling at fifty for one shilling.

Sale of Slaves

November, 1762. "To be sold at Cruger's Wharf, on board the sloops Rebecca and Joseph just arrived from Arrambo in Guinea, a parcel of likely young slaves, men, women, and boys."

Pillory and Cage

September, 1764. The new pillory, with a large wooden cage behind it, was erected between the new Jail (the present Hall of Records) and this Work-house (the site of the City Hall) the cage being for disorderly boys who publicly broke the Sabbath.

King George's Statue

August, 1770. An elegant equestrian statue, the first of the kind in this city, of his Majesty George III, was erected in the Bowling Green in presence of a large concourse of persons and amid music and a discharge of ordnance. It remained six years but was destroyed by the Liberty boys in 1776, and its material (lead) cast into bullets.

The Battery

July, 1735. The first stone of the platform of the new battery on White-hall rocks was laid by his Excellency the Governor (Cosbgy) who named the battery after his son-in-law the "George Augustus Royal Battery." At the close of the ceremonies one of the cannon burst by which three persons were killed, viz., John Symes, Esq., High Sheriff, Miss Courtland, daughter of Colonel Courtland, one of the members of His Majesty's Council, and a son-in-law of Alderman Romer.

The Dutch Church in the Fort

June, 1790. While engaged in the work at the Government-house on the site of the old Fort, a flat stone was taken up from under the ruins of the chapel which formerly stood there, on which was found to be the tablet of the Dutch church erected within that enclosure in 1642. It had upon it the following inscription:

Kieft, Dr. Gi. Heeft
de Gemeenten Deese
Temple doen Bouwen"

Translation, "Anno Domini, 1642. W. Kieft, Director-General, hath caused the congregation to erect this temple."

Pirates and Privateers

July, 1723. Captain Peter Sigard, commander of H.M. Ship Greyhound, the station ship of this Province, on a cruise on the coast, on intelligence given him pursued and overhauled two pirate sloops commanded by one Low, a "notorious inhuman pirate," after much resistance, capturing one and shattering the other, which, however, escaped in the night, whereupon the freedom of the city was presented to the gallant officer.

The Windmill on the Commons

December, 1723. The land lying near the windmill formerly of Jasper Nessepot, near the Commons of the city, was surveyed, with the view of laying out at regular width the high road now known as Chatham street.

The City Fathers

1728. The members of the City Government generally personally attended to the laying out of the public lands, and on such occasions a fine collation was served at the public expense.

Beekman's Swamp

1728. Ten lots sold by the City 25x120 for L100.

The First Public Library

July, 1729. The Rev. Dr. Millington, Rector of Newington, in England, bequeathed to the Society for Propagating the Gospel 1642 volumes of miscellaneous works, which became the foundation of the present Society Library.

Negroes and Slaves

1731. The law for regulating required that no negro or Indian slave above fourteen years should appear in the streets south of the Fresh Water Brook (Pearl and Chatham streets) in the night, after an hour succeeding sunset, without a lantern by the light of which they could be plainly seen, or else to be in company with a white person.

Captain Kidd
Assembly Journal, Saturday the 18th of April 1691.

Gabriel Monville Esq.: and Thomas Willett, Esq.: are appointed to attend the House of Representatives, and acquaint them of the many good services done "to this Province, by Capt. William Kidd, in his attending here with his vessels, before his Excellency's Arrival, and that it would be acceptable to His Excellency and this Board, that they Consider of some suitable Reward, to him for his good services.

Per Order
David Jamison Clerk of the Council.

Thursday 8 o'clock A.M., May 14, 1691.


That his Excellency be addressed unto, to order, the Receiver General, to pay to Capt. William Kidd, One Hundred and Fifty Pounds, current Money of this province, as a suitable Reward, for the many good services done to this Province.

Classical School
Assembly Journal, Oct. 3, 1732.

Ordered, That leave be given to bring in a Bill for encouraging a public School, to teach Latin, Greek, Arithmetick, and the mathematicks, in the City of New York; and that for the encouragement of a School master for that purpose, the inappropriate Money, to rise by the Act for licensing Hawkers and Peddlers, until the first Day of December 1737, be applied for that end; and that the said City make up the Income of that Fund Annually, during that Time, to the sum of___pounds; and that in consideration thereof, the said School Master shall be obliged to teach gratis, the number of ___children.

Road To Harlem
Assembly Journal, Oct. 4, 1740

A petition of Several Inhabitants and Freeholders, of the Out Ward of the City of New York, was presented to the House, and read, setting forth, That the King's Road or Highway, is laid out to Adrian Hogland's House, and no farther, so that those who live or reside thereabouts, are obliged to go about Eleven miles round in going to Harlem; whereas, if the King's Road or Highway, be laid out from Adrian Hogland's House, to the King's Road or highway, at Harlem, it will be no more than three Quarters of a mile; and therefore pray that a King's Road at Harlem, which will be of great ease to the Inhabitants there settled, as well as to Travelers:

Ordered that the petitioners serve the Owners of Such Land who may be affected by the prayer of the said petition, with a Copy of this petition. After which, both Parties may attend if they think fit.


Website: The History
Article Name: Mementos of the Olden Time Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York; Joseph Shannon; 1869
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