|SHELTER ISLAND IN 1870
Attributed to Ralph G. Duvall
The Heights and State Road from North Ferry to South Ferry
We will begin at Prospect which has always seemed rather detached from the island proper, and sort of an annex to it. As most of us know the larger part of the property now known as Shelter Island Heights was owned by Frederick Chase or as he was more generally known Squire Chase. Squire Chase was not living in 1870 but the old Chase homestead, which was his home for many years was occupied by his widow, Rebecca Chase. The house stood on a bluff overlooking Dering Harbor, right hand side of the road as you go up the hill from the bridge. About 25 years ago this property was bought by Wilton Lackaye, the well known actor, and he had the old house demolished, intending to erect a modern cottage on the site. I have a picture of the house that was taken a few years before it was destroyed.
Near where the Oxford House now stands was an old fashioned dwelling know as the Brinley Wiggins house. At the time of which I am writing it was the home of Margaret Walters one of Squire Chase's daughters. Later, the Walters family moved into the Chase homestead and kept boarders there for many years. The Wiggins house was bought by the late Smith Raynot and moved to the "city" and is now occupied by Frank Ryder.
In the rear of the Prospect Hotel stands a house that has been known for the last 25 or 30 years as the John Corse cottage. This house was built some years before Prospect was known to the outside world, and was the home of Lydia Boardman, another Chase daughter. Mrs. Boardman later built the house now know as ìRobinís Nestî and kept boarders there in the early days.
Another house belonging to the Chase family was the one facing on Dering Harbor, near Conklin's boat dock and known as the "Groser cottage" This belonged to Squire Chaseís only son Albert Chase, a seafaring man.
On what is now the hotel lawn stood a little house in which lived Robert Mack and his family. During the summer of 1872 this house was used as a grocery store.
On the site of the fine Webster house stood an attractive residence that belonged to a retired business man by the name of Cobb. Mr. Cobb made this his home the year round and remained there a year or two after Prospect became a summer resort I believe. The house was later taken down and reconstructed, and is now the home of Miss Kate Walther on Menantic Road. In speaking of Mr. Cobb reminds me that he had a sister living with him who had married a man by the name of Webb, so after her marriage she was know as Mrs. Cobb-Webb.
On Chequit Point, near where the Belknap-Bittner cottage now stands, was a very small house that would probably be called a bungalow in these days. In fact I am not sure but what there were two of these small houses in this vicinity, for I have a dim recollection of hearing about two Frenchmen living here, one by the name of Michael McCabe and the other by the name of Michael McCall.
I believe that these were all of the houses that were on Prospect at this time except the little house know as the Small Scudder cottage that is located under the shadow of Prospect Hill near the bay. This was part of the Henry Wellsí fish factory property. Prospect then was indeed a wild, remote and most picturesque place.
Now we will begin at the North Ferry and take a glance at the houses that were standing along the State Road at that time. It was far from a state highway in those days, but rather a narrow wagon road, with plenty of hills and hollows, and a very dusty one in the summer and very muddy in the winter. The first from the ferry at that time as it is today was the house now owned by Clarence Wilcox. In 1870 if I am not mistaken, this house was owned and occupied by Samuel Clark, the father of the late Irving Clark. Capt. Clark was one of the ferrymen at that time, and owned half interest in the ferry. This house was built by Jonathan Preston, who was the first regular ferryman after the ferry was established at Dering Harbor. Before his time the ferry service was a haphazard, hit or miss sort of an affair. I might say that Jonathan Preston was long remembered by the people of the island as the most popular ferryman that ever sailed a boat into Dering Harbor.
Up the hill from the ferry is the little white house known as the Harlow or Farlow house. This was the home of Chas. Harlow, the partner of Samuel Clark in the ferry, and also one of the ferrymen. This house was designed and built by Gabriel Crook, who was one of the principal builders here at one time. The following houses were built by Mr. Crook on plans similar to this one. Namely
The house now owned by Mr. Burrell and for many years known as the McGill
place. This was built for my Uncle, William Duvall;
I think I can truthfully say that Gabriel Crook was the most rapid carpenter that ever pushed a saw or plied a hammer on Shelter Island. His work might not have stood the closest inspection, but when it came night you knew he had been on the job. He must have had some taste in architecture for these houses of his have been greatly admired.
The next house we come to is the Bowditch house. This was the home of John B. Bowditch, who at this time was the commander of a large Pacific Mail Steamer.
On the site where Moses Griffingís attractive house now stands was a small house belonging to his father, Nicholas Griffing. This house was moved from the spot where the Byron cottage is now located, and belonged to Jack Preston, a brother of Jonathan's. This building has since been moved to the center, and is now occupied and owned by Floyd Hallock. So you see it is a much travelled house.
We next come to the "Homestead". In 1870 this house did not have the verandas it has now, and as it had not been painted for a great many years. It looked very much weather-beaten, and its long shingles had turned to a pretty soft gray. Except for these changes and the addition of a laundry it appeared the same then as it does now.
As we turn the corner from the ferry we come to the house belonging to Clarence Johnston. At the time of which I write this was the home of Mrs. Frances Bowditch and her daughters. An interesting incident in connection with this house came to my notice recently. At one time this building stood on the Homestead property. In time it was bought by John Bowditch, who had it moved to its present location, and altered to meet his requirements. It seems that he employed Mr. Payneís father and uncle to do this work for him. Many years later Mr. Bowditchís son J. Blair Bowditch decided to make extensive repairs to the house and he employed Mr. E. Havens Payne to the work. To assist him with the work Mr. Payne employed his father and uncle. Some seven or eight years ago when Mr. Johnston was having some work done on the house a shingle was found by one of the mechanics with this inscription on it: "E. W. Payne and Joshua Payne moved this house on the present site 41 years gone and now are repairing the same April 12, 1878." So it seems that Mr. Payne's father and uncle moved this house from the Homestead to its present site in 1837 or 90 years ago. The shingle had been lying there for 40 years when it was discovered.
In the rear of the Bowditch house at this time stood a small house in which lived Samuel H. Congdon, the father of Isabel and Chas. Congdon. This house was built by Stratton Havens as a home for his mother, who was also the mother of Mr. Congdonís wife. It was destroyed by fire and with it went one of the old landmarks of the island.
As we have already seen the Cambell house was built for Maltby Payne who with his wife made this their home for many years.
The house in the woods back of the Cambell house and now owned by Patrick McManus was then the home of an old couple by the name of Stephen and Ellen Weber, some times pronounced Weaver. Stephen was German and Ellen was Irish and probably neither would have been in favor of the Volstead Act, but they seemed to get along very happily together.
The house to the east and now owned by James McManus was the home of Margaret Graham, the mother of Thos. M. Burns who was a well known builder here for many years. I think that this house was built in 1870 but am not quite sure.
Coming out of the woods and continuing to the east we find a cozy little cot that so stood on a knoll near where the Wedig house now stands. This was the home of James Ryder, who was more widely known as Squire Ryder. Mr. Ryder was one of the interesting characters of the island and was noted for his original sayings. He used to say that he liked the situation of his place because it was located right in the center of gravity. Miss Horsford painted a very pretty picture of this house when she was a young lady.
Across the road from the Ryder place were two large white gate posts. These marked the entrance to the Sylvester Manor at that time. The driveway then ran in a straight line from the road to the house. The appearance of Sylvester Manor is somewhat different now than it was in the period of around 1870s. It was enlarged and the front veranda removed and two side verandas added. But except for these few changes it stood for nearly 200 summers and winters grand and dignified.
The farm house at Sylvester Manor in which Abbott Sherman now lives was then occupied by Daniel Thomas and his attractive family. Mr. Thomas was the manager of the Horsford farm.
The very small house in which Oscar Sherman now lives was occupied about this time by two families.
The little house on the creek opposite the Homestead has been the residence of a great many different people, and the birthplace of a number and was also used as a school house at one time. In 1870 I think it was occupied by John C. Wells, the father of George B. Wells.
As we come out of the Manor grounds and turn the corner on the way to the center, we come to the house now occupied by Mr. McDermott, the garage man. If I am not mistaken this house was built for Henry Ryder, a son of Squire Ryder. At least he owned it in its early history, and lived there for many years. Whether he was living there in 1870 I cannot say, for he was the caretaker at Sylvester Manor for some time.
The dwelling known as the Horsley house or Dew Drop Inn was the house at this time of Joseph Congdon, the village blacksmith. His shop was the long building that stands in the rear of Chas. MacDonaldís residence, and as a school boy I remember stopping to see him at work, as the children did in Longfellowís celebrated poem The Blacksmith shop was the only building standing in that vicinity then.
Across the road in the shade of the old apple trees that now stand on the school ground was a building that at one time was used for a store and later as a residence. Soon after the public school became a high school this property was bought by the district and the house was sold to William Flagg and was moved to its present location in the rear of Mrs. Otis Payne's residence and is now owned by John Whitman. I think at the time of which I am speaking it was occupied by Timothy Griffing who was a merchant on here for many years and at one time was Miss Horsford's miller.
The next house in the Center was the parsonage. In 1870 the pastor of the Presbyterian Church was the Rev. Thomas Harries, the grandfather of the late David H. Young, and so he was occupying the parsonage at this time.
Below the parsonage on the opposite side of the road was Mrs. Flagg's house, which is now owned by Luther D. Halsey.
The house now owned and occupied by Alonzo King was the home of Capt. James Ward, now one of our oldest citizens.
The large square house on the corner, now owned by Bruno was the home of one of the most respected and beloved men of his time, Archibald D. Havens. Mr. Havens was a merchant here for many years, and was the first Postmaster that Shelter Island ever had. I think he held this office for 56 years, and at the time of his retirement it was said he was oldest postmaster in point of service in the U.S.
On turning the corner and going south we come to the house that recently belonged to J. Graham Reevs which was then the summer home of Chas. Loper, a retired builder of New York City. Mr. Loper was a great, great uncle of Miss Lillian Loper, the Historical Society Secretary.
The house next to this on the south and now owned by Mrs. Lucy D. Burns was the home of Martin L. Prince, a partner of Archibald Havens in the store business. Mr. Prince because of his musical talents and his enthusiasm as a temperance advocate was a power for good in the community for many years.
Next to Mr. Prince's on the south and now the property of Frank Chiaramonte was the home of James Sherman, the father of Abbott and Phebe Sherman. On account of a technical flaw to the title of this property at the time he bought it Mr. Sherman was compelled to pay for his farm a second time, which was a great injustice.
Opposite the Sherman farm was the country home of Asher C. Havens of New York, known for many years as "Heartsease". While this place was mellow with age even in 1870, the house having been build more than 125 years before this time, yet under the excellent care of Mr. Havens it was kept so well groomed that it showed no signs of decay, but was regarded as the show place of the island. As a boy I can remember how even the weather cock on the barn used to glisten in the sunshine. To my mind the place represented prosperity and comfort.
On the next corner below the Haven's place lived another Haven, Havens Payne. In this home Mr. Payne spent his boyhood days, and the years of his young manhood with his parents and his brother and two sisters. Mr. Payne followed in the footsteps of his father, both being carpenters and both being musical.
The house opposite the Payne house and now owned by Mrs. Laracy was the property of Benj. P. Conklin, but I cannot say who lived there at this time. Mr. Conklinís home was then with his mother and brother Frank in the house that is located on low ground just this side of Miss Esther Sara Havens'. The Conklin house was once the home of Sineus Conklin, an uncle of Roscoe Conklin, who was to my mind one of the most brilliant statesmen this country has ever produced. Miss Havens was then living with her sister Mrs. Tindall in the same house she is now occupying. She was a teacher in our school for many years, and no doubt can count her former pupils by the hundred.
I have already spoken of the next two houses, namely those of Sylvester Cartwright's and that of Gabriel Crook's.
Just to the north of Gabriel Crook's was a little gray shingled house which was the home of his father Abram Crook.
At the end of a lane that leads off from the State Road to the east was the home of Chas. T. Chester. Mr. Chester, who was the grandfather of our postmistress Eleanor C. Griffing served as a deacon of the Presbyterian Church for many years. This house is still standing
On the corner of the State Road and the road leading to the Ward Farm was the home of Capt. Thomas Beebe, the father of John Beebe. John Beebeís home at this time was located a few rods to the south of his father's and both of these houses have since been taken down. In our next paper we will speak of Capt. John Beebe's present home.
In the little house that belongs to Thomas McNamara lived Wm. Hopper, the father of Fred Hopper.
The summer residence of F. M. Smith, the Borax King, was then the home of Captain Maltby Cartwright, who was one of the most successful whaling captains that ever sailed out of Sag Harbor.
And now we come to Clarkville at the South Ferry. In this group of houses now standing I think the only one then was the Clark homestead where Donald Clark now lives. At that time Donaldís great grandparents were occupying the house. I think it was shortly after this time that Samuel and David Clark, the two brothers, built the double house that now stands between Mrs. Clarkís boarding house and Clifford Clarkís. Speaking of these two men I wonder if you have ever thought in what parallel lines these brothersí lives ran. They lived together in the same house until they were married, they each courted and married a daughter of Stratton Havens, they built a house jointly and one lived in one side and one in the other, they each had one child and that was a son, they each died and left a widow and son to mourn their loss. I do not know if such is the case, but it would be very proper and fitting if they were buried in the same plot in the cemetery. I wonder if we would not all be happier if we could spend our lives in as quiet, serene and peaceful way as they spent theirs. But that is not of our choosing, for we are ruled in a large measure by our temperaments, and what would make one happy would make another miserable. And when I think of the South Ferry at the present time I cannot but marvel at the irony of fate. In the early days Samuel and David Clark tended the ferry on this side. The charge for crossing the ferry at that time was 12¢. How often the Tindalls would row across the ferry in the winter barehanded, and jump into the water as they neared the shore, and one of them take you ashore on his back. And all for the sum of 12¢. Now the ferrymen jump into their cars at their houses and ride to the landing; go into a comfortable pilot house and jingle the bell and in five minutes they are on the other side, and collect maybe $20.00 perhaps for the trip. But I for one am not envious of the good luck of the owner of the lucrative business, but am glad that such good fortune has come to one who is so worthy of it.
East of the State Road
We were at the South Ferry when I closed my last paper. We will now take a trip across Clark's cove to Sachemís Neck and begin with the Nicoll homestead. The large three story house that Miss Annie Nicoll now occupies as a summer home was not standing in 1870, but was built a few years later. The Nicoll homestead was a low, gray, unpretentious looking house, and stood a little nearer the water than the present building. At that time it was the home of Dr. Samuel B. Nicoll, a brother of Miss Annie Nicoll.
Dr. Nicoll made Shelter Island his home for the larger part of his life. After his graduation from college, he studied medicine. He never practiced as a lawyer and only a short time as a physician. No doubt that both of these professions lost an able practitioner in Dr. Nicoll. Being a man of means, aristocratic, educated and cultured, he was easily Shelter Island's first citizen. Although he was a strong Democrat, in the strong Republican town, yet the people of the island elected him as Supervisor for many terms. And at the county seat, on account of his prominence in the county, and the wide reputation of his family, he was usually chosen chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
The Nicolls have written their names high in the annals of this state. The first governor of New York was Richard Nicoll, an ancestor of Dr. Nicollís, and his nephew Dr. Matthias Nicoll is now the efficient Commissioner of Health of this state.
Dr. Nicoll had the old house torn down after the present dwelling was erected. There were two tenant houses on this property, one which is still standing, and the other was destroyed by fire long ago.
Just outside of the Nicoll estate, near an arm of Coeckles Harbor, was a group of four houses. Only one of them is standing at the present time, the house is now occupied by Mrs. Phebe Conklin. This was then the home of Darius Dennis, a seafaring man. Mr. Dennis had a son by the name of William S. Dennis, who, from the time that he was a small boy, was well known for his cleverness in sailing a boat. In time Captain Dennis became one of the most skillful skippers of sailing yachts in the country, and his name was known far and wide in yachting circles. In his boyhood the writer went on the water with Captain Dennis for six months.
On the site where the Harold Price house now stands was a house belonging to Frederick Bushnell. This was burned some time in the early seventies.
A short distance north of the Dennis house was a little gray shingled house belonging to Calvin M. Griffing, the grandfather of Robert and Richard Griffing.
In the lot south of the Dennis property was a small house which was the home of the two very eccentric old maids by the name of Haynes. I remember Hannah Haynes well, but have only a dim recollection of her sister Mary. Mary was well known for her wonderful memory for dates, and for her ability to repeat many of the discourses she heard spoken in public. It was said that after listening to a sermon in church, she could come home and repeat nearly the whole of it verbatim. People of the island would amuse themselves by asking her the date of their birth. She would close her eyes in what seemed like a sort of trance and tell them the exact day of the week, month and year in which they were born.
In leaving this group of houses and coming toward the Centre, we come to the large old fashioned house now owned by Floyd Sherman. This was the Timothy P. Congdon homestead, and the broad acres of the Congdon farm extended north from this house to Burns Avenue, and as far east as Coeckles Harbor. Mr. Congdon was a man of fine intellect, and was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church for many years.
The building now known as the Fresh Air Home was then the home of Marcus B. Duvall, a son-in-law of Timothy Congdon, and whose memory is still green in the minds of most of us.
Near the edge of Lily Pond was a cosy little cottage that was the tenant house of Chas. Loper. At this time it was occupied by Mrs. Flowers, who afterwards married Stratton M. Havens.
Not many of the houses now located on Burns Avenue were standing in 1870. At the foot of Burns Avenue was a fish factory owned by King and Beebe, and on the shore at Pierce's Parkway was a large factory belonging to Horton and Fithian of Southold. This factory was moved later to Napeague Harbor.
The house belonging to the Shaw estate was then owned by Edward Jennings, and was occupied by Captain George Duvall, the father of Mrs. Robert Griffing.
The house in which Walter King now lives was then the home of Isaac Downs.
The old gambrel roofed house which has recently been restored and very much improved, was then the home of Samuel B. Jennings, a war veteran and uncle of Gilbert S. Jennings. This is one of the oldest houses on the island, and was the first manse connected with the Presbyterian Church. It always reminds me of the old Manse that stands near the Concord Bridge, where the Revolutionary War began, and which Hawthorne made famous by his "Mosses from an Old Manse."
Across the road from the Jennings homestead was a little white house that was the home of Medina Preston, the father of Thomas and Jesse Preston. Mr. Preston was the sexton of the Presbyterian church, and one of his duties in that capacity was to toll the bell when any one died on the island. And the number of times the bell struck denoted the age of the deceased. As a boy I remember listening to the tolling of the bell and wondering who had passed away on our little island.
A short distance west of the Preston house, on the opposite side of the road, stood the house now belonging to Father Thomas. This was the home of Captain Marcus Griffing, or Captain Mark, as he was generally called. Captain Mark was noted for his wonderful energy and activity. He was one of the most successful menhaden fishermen in these waters. Often Captain Markís vessel would be seen on the fishing grounds in very rough weather when the other boats would be at anchor in the harbor. About thirty years ago this house was moved from its original location to its present site and greatly altered.
Beginning at the corner of the road below the Post Office and going North we come to the house now owned by Franz Salimen. This was the Manwaring homestead, and belonged to Chas. Manwaring, the grandfather of Mrs. Frances Beebe. Mr. Manwaring and Archibald Havens married sisters and they formerly lived in Lyme, Conn. They came here together from Gull Island where they were engaged in keeping the light house. This house always reminds me of a typical New England farmstead.
Continuing along this road to the north, we come to the group of houses that are sheltered by the woods in the Horsford property. Most of the houses were standing in 1870. The one just north of the Benjamin house, which was the home of Captain George Duvall, was built a little later than this I think.
The one north of this was the home of Thoe. Reeve, the father of Chas. W. Reeve.
The next one was the home of John D. Sherman, a brother of Henry D. Sherman.
Thomas Preston I think was then occupying the same house in which he now lives.
An entire paper could be devoted to the E. W. Edwards house if one should attempt to tell of the different people who have occupied it. It seemed to be the popular abode for the people who came to the island for a temporary stay, and it has probably sheltered a larger number of families than any house on the island. For that reason it was known for a long time as the Receiving Ship. It was built by the late Henry H. Preston for a store and dwelling. Like Mr. Payne, in 1870 Mr. Preston had recently returned from the war with a severe wound which incapacitated him for many duties, so he turned his attention to the grocery business. At this time he was engaged in business at this location, but later built a house at the Centre now owned by [the] Town Clerk, Mrs. Congdon and had a store on the corner.
In the little house at the end of the lane which is now owned by William O. Badger lived Chas. Webb Jennings, the father of Gill Jennings.
One of the very oldest houses of the island is the one in which Captain John Beebe now lives. You will notice that this house turns its back to the street, for probably no one thought that a road would be laid out there in those early days. In 1870 this was the home of Mrs. Lucretia Cartwright, and her son Captain George Cartwright. Mrs. Cartwright, or Aunt Lucretia as she was generally called and I have a right to call her that, as she was my grandmotherís sister, was a very remarkable woman. Her maiden name was Conkling, and her family was one of the oldest that settled in this part of Long Island. John Conkling, her ancestor came to this country in its early history, and his remains lie buried in the Southold Cemetery. Aunt Lucretia retained the customs and ideas of a former generation as to her mode of conduct and speech. She was very precise in her manner of addressing one, and her letters, even to a sister, were written in a formal but affectionate style. When the young people made her an afternoon call they felt as if it was quite a formal and solemn occasion. She remained active to a good old age, and as a boy I can remember her teaching a class in the Sunday School when she was then very old. Her son George was an interesting character and in his younger days he was a seafaring man, but in later life he carried on the sail making trade in a little shop near his house. He was [of] a retiring disposition, and took very little part in public affairs, but spent his leisure along the shores, fishing and guning. He was a keen observer of nature and had a wonderful memory for all details. He could not only recall the dates of certain events, but could give full particulars as to the condition of the weather at the time, whether it was clear or cloudy, from what direction the wind was blowing, whether the tide was flood or ebb, and even the time of day in which any changes might have occurred. It is with regret that we note the passing of such characters as these.
The little house next to the Beebe's was the Havens homestead, and as
Mrs. Beebe was a Havens, she spent her girlhood days there. In 1870 this
was the home of the late G. R. Havens and sisters.
The house now owned by Miss Loper was then the home of her grandparents Mr. and Mrs. John S. Tuthill and their daughter Essie, the mother of Miss Loper. Miss Loperís mother was one of the Librarians of our public Library when it was founded in 1885. She was a woman of literary tastes and not only a great reader, but used to write articles and stories for the local papers.
As we turn from the road leading to Ram Island and go east we come to a collection of houses that used to be know as Cartwright Town but now called Coeckles Harbor. The first one we come to that was standing in 1870 is the home of George P. Cartwright. This was built and occupied by Captain Samuel Lester, who came here from New London.
Another New London man who came here about the time of Captain Lester was Capt. Richard Beebe. He built the house now owned by Gilbert Rogers. The Lester and Beebe houses were very similar when they were first built, and both men chose very pleasant locations for their homes. None of the first or second generations of these two families are now living on the island. Mrs. Eugene Fuller is a granddaughter of Captain Lester.
The house now occupied by Mrs. Addie Flagg was then the home of Joseph Sherman or Uncle Joe as he was familiarly known. In his time this was a small low roofed house, very cosy and homelike. Of all his large family of children only one now living on the island, Henry D. Sherman.
The little white house now owned by Raymond Cullum was the home of Richard Cullum, the father of Mrs. Clarence Cartwright. Mr. Cullum was considered one of the best carpenters on the island in his day.
The old gray shingled house now belonging to Mrs. Crispell was the home of William Cartwright, or Billie Cartwright as he was often called. He was the father of Roscoe Cartwright who now lives in Easthampton.
Of the group of houses located along the road connecting Burns Avenue with Coeckles Harbor, I think the only one standing in 1870 is the small house belonging to Joseph Maury, which has been hidden from view nearly by a larger house. This was then the home of Joseph Sherman, Jr., or Young Joe Sherman as he was called to distinguish him from his father.
Passing along Willow Lane we come to an old time place which has the "Home" written all over it. I am quite sure if John Howard Payne had seen it before he saw Home Sweet Home in Easthampton, he would have chosen it as the inspiration for his immortal song. To my mind there is no place on the island to compare with the Willows for situation. In 1870 this was the home of one of the best known men in these parts, Benjamin Conkling Cartwright or Captain Ben as he was known to his fellow townspeople. It is difficult to condense in a few sentences any adequate description of a man of whom so much might easily be written. Captain Cartwright was the son of George and Lucretia Cartwright. He was of the Lincoln type, a hardy, rugged, self-made man, built of the material which makes the successful pioneers, and like Lincoln he inherited many of his sterling qualities from his mother. At an early age, he went to sea and in time became the captain of a whaling ship. In the early history of the menhaden industry, he entered into that business and built a factory on Ram Island, near the mouth of Coeckles Harbor. Later he was part owner and manager of a factory at Bunker city. He was regarded as the leading business man of the island and many came to him for advice and assistance in time of need. He was interested not only in his own enterprises, but took an active part in the affairs of town and church. For many years he served as the Supervisor, and the church as an elder. He was [of] the kindly genial nature, and although the father of a large family yet he took a fatherly interest in all of the townspeople. In 1870 the Cartwright family was the largest and most prominent one on the island, and being of a hospitable spirit many were the guests that were entertained under the friendly roof of the Willows. Captain Cartwright, like his mother Aunt Lucretia, lived to a ripe old age, which seems to be a Conkling trait.
At the south of this homestead and belonging to it was a small tenant house. This was occupied from time to time by families who came here from Block Island to live. They remained in the little house until they got their bearings and secured a home of their own. Just which one of the many tenants was living there in 1870 I cannot say.
Lower West Neck Road and the "City"
In my last paper on "Shelter Island in 1870", which was written about a year ago, I left you at the "Willows" on the pleasant shore of Coeckles Harbor. Of all the pretty nooks on Shelter Island I do not think I could have left you in a more charming place than this, where by day you could gaze on the peaceful waters of Coeckles Harbor and the sparkling waves of beautiful Gardinerís Bay beyond, and by night you could see the warning lights of several light-houses and the twinkle of the numerous lights of that pretty little village of Orient that is tucked away between the bay and the sound. Now we will take a short ride to another part of the island. In these days it will take us about three minutes by auto, but in the days of which I am writing it was considered quite a long distance.
We are now at the corner of the State and West Neck Roads at what was known for many years as "Thorneís Corner", as it was here that Mr. and Mrs. Chas. E. Thorne built an attractive house in 1897 which was known as ìThorne-Haven.î The place, as you know is now owned by Mr. C. D. Wood. Of course the Midway Road that now runs between the Wood and Havens places was not laid out at that time. In 1870 an old gentleman by the name of Peter Dickerson, who owned the Jas. R. Johnston place, had a right of way from his property to the West Neck Road. At the entrance to this private road were bars or fence rails, and the place was marked by a large thorn tree, so you see the name ìThorne Cornerî was doubly appropriate for this intersection.
A familiar sight along this private road-way on week days was Mr. Dickerson driving slowly in his farm wagon with his big bay house named ìCharlieî. On Sundays Charlie would be hitched before an old covered carriage taking Mr. Dickerson and his family to church. Mr. Dickerson, who was the grandfather of our popular garage man Nathan Peter Dickerson, was one of the interesting characters of the island. He was a quiet, serious looking man, but under his sober exterior he had a [great] deal of dry humor. I think the following story shows his sense of the humorous. He was driving along the road one day and upon meeting a friend he stopped his horse, and in a very impressive tone said to the man ìCan you keep a secret.î Naturally the person thought he was about to hear something very startling, so he quickly responded that he could keep a secret. Mr. Dickerson, in the same serious tone replied ìAnd so can I,î and then drove on. The Dickerson homestead was a cozy little place nestled near the edge of the woods. The house at that time was much smaller than it is now, and it used to stand near the Prospect ice pond. Originally it belonged to our family, and my mother, and her sisters and brothers, with the exception of her brother Nicholas, were born in it. Mr. Dickerson was the father of a number of quite remarkable sons.
One of them, Nathan P. Dickerson, whom most of you probably remember, I will speak of later. Another son named John went out west and in time became the owner of a large ranch. For years he did not let the home folks know where he was, and his parents mourned him as dead. After their deaths Nathan received a letter from his brother John, revealing the fact that he was living in Texas, and that was about all. Nathan answered the letter, and asked his brother to let him know how he was prospering in the world. The reply he received was very unsatisfactory, for John gave very few particulars as to his affairs. Not being satisfied with his brotherís letter Nathan wrote to the Postmaster of the place asking if he knew John Dickerson, and if so what sort of a man was he, how much of a family did he have, how large a farm did he own, and other questions of a similar nature. He enclosed 50 cents in stamps for a reply. In due time he received an answer to his letter in which the Postmaster wrote that he knew John Dickerson, that he was a very good citizen, that he had a nice family, that he owned one of the best bottom land farms in that section of the state, and Nathan said the Postmaster closed his letter by saying, ìAnd you brother John can talk as loud and fast as any man in Texas.î
Another son, Edward, rose to the rank of lieutenant in the navy during the Civil War.
Another son, Daniel, became a lawyer. For years very little was known by the family of this brotherís whereabouts. When I attended the Eastman Business College at Poughkeepsie in 1885 I met Daniel Dickerson and his wife, as they were living in that city then. I spent a good many pleasant hours with them, and it was interesting to hear Mr. Dickerson talk of his boyhood days on Shelter Island.
Another son named Jonah was the father of the present George Dickerson,
and lived in the house that George is now occupying. Jonah Dickerson was
an invalid for many years, and for that reason perhaps did not seem as
prosperous as the other brothers.
A few rods south of the Smith place is the house know to most of us as the Bateman place. In writing these papers I am forcibly reminded of the brevity of human live, how quickly we pass from these familiar scenes, and how little we leave behind to remind any one that we ever existed. In 1870 the Bateman house was occupied by Mrs. Arabelle Sherman and her three daughters, Mary Ludlam, who was better know as Luddie, Julia and Bell Brandon. Luddie, the oldest daughter was just out of her teens at this time, Julia was about sixteen and Belle had not entered her teens. No doubt but Mrs. Sherman had made many plans for the future of her three fine daughters. In 58 short years this entire family, so full of life and hope has passed away without leaving a son or daughter or grandchild to represent it. The place as been sold to strangers, and the funds received from the sale of the property has been divided among numerous cousins. The blotting out of a family like this reminds one of that poem that Lincoln was so fond of repeating
Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud.
The maid, on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye,
Tis the wink of an eye, tis the draught of a breath,
Julia Sherman, and her cousin Edith Bowditch were considered the prettiest young ladies on the island, in their time. Miss Bowditchís beauty was so pronounced that it attracted attention even on the streets of New York City.
We will now retrace our steps to the West Neck Road, and continue our journey west. The house now owned by the Burrell family was then owned and occupied by Capt. Nathan T. Wilcox and family. Capt. Wilcox was a native or Rhode Island, and it was through the menhaden fishing industry that he came to Shelter Island as a young man. Capt. Wilcox was a tall, straight, swarthy, dark complexioned man, quite striking in his appearance. At the time of which we are writing the waters about here were white with the sails of fishing boats. Steamers were not then used in the fishing business. Of all the fishing captains that hailed from these parts undoubtedly Capt. Wilcox was the most skillful of them all. For years he commanded a fast sailing sloop named ìAnnie Homanî, and when the vessels came sailing into port after a weekís fishing, the first questions always asked was ìWho is high-hook this week,î and invariably the reply would be ìCapt. Wilcox of the sloop Annie Homan.î It was very gratifying to the people of the island to have the most skillful captain of the leading industry of those times to hail from here. In 1876 Capt. Wilcox sold this place and moved to the house at the North Ferry that is now occupied by his son Clarence and family.
Continuing west we come to the house now owned by George Jennings. This house is in the suburbs of the section known for a great many years as ìThe Cityî. In the old times when an islander spoke of going up to the city he did not refer to New York, but to the little settlement that lies across the road from the Prospect golf links. A long time ago, when there were about a half dozen houses in this locality someone no doubt in fun named it the city. The name seems to have clung to it, for even now you hear people speak of it as the ìCityî. There used to be a well in the hollow back of the Ketchem store, that seemed to be sort of a community well something like the one we read about in the Bible that was visited by the woman of Samaria. Once when there was a temperance meeting being held here a woman from the City took a pitcher of water up to the speakerís stand and said to the lecturer ìHere is a pitcher of good cold water right from the north side of the ëCity Wellíî. Returning to the Jennings house in 1870 this was occupied by Mrs. Lydia Case and her daughter Kate. At that time the house was a small one and a half story building, neatly white-washed, and with a row of large cherry trees along the road front. As a boy the most striking thing about the place to my mind was the parrot that lived there. It was one brought from the tropics by one of Mrs. Caseís sons-in-law who was a sea captain. It was the most fluent talking parrot I have ever heard. When passing the house, and hearing loud talking and laughing, I never felt sure whether I was listening to Mrs. Case or her parrot. Mrs. Case was the mother of a number of daughters, all of whom, except Kate, married and settled on the island. The oldest daughter, Arabelle, who married Capt. Samuel Sherman, I have already spoke of. Mary Case married Capt. John Bowditch, the commander of a large Pacific mail steamer. She was the grandmother of Miss Belle Bowditch, and Capt. and Mrs. Bowditch for many years lived in the house the Bowditch family is now occupying. Josephine married Capt. Davis C. Osborne who was a whaling captain, and who later in life built the store now occupied by Elmer Gray, and for a number of years conducted a general store in that location. Capt.Osborne was the father of Mrs. Fred N. Dickerson. Julia Case married my uncle William R. Duvall, the father of the present Wm. R. Duvall of Riverhead. My uncle built the Burrell house and lived there during the life-time of his first wife. Hannah Case married Maltby F. Payne, a farmer, who used to own the place which is now the property of Mr. and Mrs. St. John Cambell.
There is a saying that ìWestward the course of empire takes its way.î So on my return in the spring we will continue our course westward.
The "City" and Further on West Neck Road
When I brought my last paper to a close we were just entering the "city". We will now continue westward through the city and on to West Neck.
For a moment let us leave the West Neck Road and go along the Menantic Road for a short distance, as there are two houses located on this road that were part of the original city. I refer to the house now owned by Mrs. Sophie Reese, and one belonging to the Erastus Raynor estate. If I am not mistaken the Menantic Road did not exist in 1870, but was opened a few years later. The Reese house in 1870 belonged to Stratton M. Havens, who was a member of the famous Havens family that played such an important part in the history of Shelter Island. Mr. Havens was one of the substantial farmers of the island. For his first wife he married a Miss Chester, who was a sister of Elder Charles Chester. He had two sons and several daughters. One of his sons, Charles Havens, became a minister, and was the pastor of several churches in Massachusetts. As far as I know Charles Havens was the first native son of Shelter Island to become a minister. Later his cousin, Nelson B. Chester studied for the ministry, and had a church in Caldwell, N.J. and occupied the parsonage that Grover Clevelandís father occupied when he was a minister in Caldwell, and in which Grover Cleveland was born.
In the Raynor house that stands across the road from the Reese house lived about this time the one for whom our museum was named, Willis W. Worthington. He and his mother lived here for several years before they moved to the house which Mr. Worthington now owns. I wonder if we fully realize what an original and unique character Mr. Worthington really is. Perhaps he is as near a genius as our island has produced. He is as unlike other men of his town as if he lived in another age, with different customs and habits. From a boy he has devoted his time and attention to only a few subjects, and has not allowed other matters to distract his interest from these. For many years he has concentrated his mind on the study of birds, and being a keen observer and a wide traveller, he has become a very proficient ornithologist and taxidermist. He is not only acquainted with bird life in this section of the country, but has visited South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, the West Indies, Lower California and Mexico to study and collect birds. In one of his trips he discovered a new specie which has been named for him, the Worthington Warbler. While most of us have been engaged in prosaic and commonplace duties, Mr. Worthington has been roaming the woods and fields collecting birds, and studying their habits. He somewhat resembles Thoreau the naturalist in his interest in natural history, in his keenness of observation, and in his indifference to the opinions and ways of other men.
Returning to the West Neck Road and continuing our way westward we come to the house now owned by Mrs. Gussie Brewer. In 1870 Mrs. Lucretia Case and her two sons Henry and Willard lived here. These two sons were unusually gifted, as they were humorous, good mimes and musical. They were the life of many an entertainment and company in the years gone by. It was about 1870 that Henry left the island and went out to Panama, and from there to California. He remained away for seven years, and when he returned it seemed to me as if he had been gone almost a life-time. There was another brother, George, who served as a lieutenant in the Civil War, and after the war settled in New Orleans, and remained there in business for many years.
A next door neighbor to Mrs. Case was Edward Raynor. Mr. Raynor owned the house in which his daughter, Miss Adrianna Raynor now lives. Originally this house was nearly a duplicate of the Case house. Mr. and Mrs. Raynor moved to the island from Manor, or what is now called Manorville. There was a large family of children, being three sons and six daughters. The Raynor family were the kind of people that would have made good pioneers, as they were so ingenious that they could make most anything that was needed, both for the farm and for the house. They were known for their honesty and thriftiness.
A short distance beyond the Raynor house and on the same side of the road, are two houses that were standing in 1870. The first one, which is now owned by Mr. Worthington, was then the property of William McGill, and the one next beyond was then owned and occupied by George Offer and family. For many years the lives of those two families seemed to run in similar grooves. Year after year George Offer and William McGill could be seen day by day working side by side with their horses and carts on the grounds of the Shelter Island Heights Association. For some time each of the families consisted of three daughters and a son. Later the Offer family was increased by the births of two more sons. One of the Offer daughters became a telegrapher, another a dressmaker, and the third a school teacher, while two of the McGill daughters became telegraphers and the third a dressmaker. Both of the sons left the island to go into business. After a time Mr. McGill sold his place in the city and bought the property now owned by Mr. Burrell, and after that it was not so noticeable that the lives of the two families ran in such parallel lines.
As we leave the Offer place and travel west we come to the house now owned by Carl Conrad. This was the home of Max Walther. Max was the son of Bernard Walther who owned the house on the hill just west of this, and which now belongs to Michael Sabolowski. When Mr. Walthers built this house it was nearly surrounded by woods, and could scarcely be seen from the road. There was a little opening in the woods, in the hollow between the two houses where there was a well which supplied water for both places. As a mere boy Max went to the war, and took part in several severe engagements. He was a native of Germany and came to this country with his parents when very young. The Walther family always seemed to me as being typical German people, honest, hard-working, frugal and home-loving.
Across the road from the Walther places was the home of Richard Payne. This is the house that was owned for many years by Mr. Gilbert the florist. Mr. Payne was one of the quaint characters of the island. He had four daughters, only one, Mrs. Mary Conklin, being now alive. In 1870 Mrs. Conklin was the teacher in the primary department of our school. She was the first teacher to whom I went to school. Both Mr. and Mrs. Payne lived to a good old age.
Across the fields from the Payne house, and facing on West Neck Bay was the house of Mr. Payneís daughter, Elizabeth, who was the wife of William H. Phillips, better known as Hull Phillips. This is the house now know as Hilo Inn . When Mr. Phillips bought this farm it was a very unpromising tract of land, and was called Irismanís Hills. But under his skillful management it because one of the most productive farms on the island. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips had only one child, a daughter named Annie, and she was not only a great help to her mother in the house, but rendered much assistance to her father on the farm. In time she married Bert Osborne of East Hampton, and won a wide reputation as the hostess of the Osborne House, which was one of the most popular inns on the east end of Long Island. The Phillips family accommodated a number of boarders in their home, among which were some very interesting personages. Isaac McLellan, who was a classmate of Longfellowís in Bowdoin College, was a guest of theirs for many summers. Mr. McLellan was known as the Sportman-Poet as many of his poems related to fishing and hunting. He built a little cabin on the hill back of the Phillips house, and during the summer he spent many hours there reading, and writing for the magazines, and shooting at a mark with his rifle. Another interesting character who stopped at this house was a Mr. Labam, a man of much culture, a fine performer on the violin, and a fluent talker. He afterwards moved to Greenport and built an attractive house on the sound shore at Rocky Point, now the home of Supervisor John Hoffman, whose wife was Mr. Labamís niece. Another guest was Mrs. Shepard who was a sister-in-law of Dr. Wood, a noted surgeon of New York. Mrs. Shepard was a superior woman, having travelled much abroad, and was well read. The Phillips place was later bought by Stephen C. Baldwin, the noted criminal lawyer of Brooklyn.For many summers this was the home of Faith Baldwin who has become well known as the author of popular novels, and fine poems.
Returning to the West Neck Road the next house we come to is the one now owned by William Johnston. In 1870 this was the home of John Payne and family. John Payne was the brother of Richard Payne, of whom we have just spoken, and also of Maltby Payne who used to own the place now belonging to St. John Cambells.This is a very old house, and was once known as the Red House, probably from having been painted that color. For his second wife John Payne married a widow by the name of Levine, who was an aunt of Lizzie Borden, whose father and mother were so mysteriously murdered in Fall River about 55 years ago.
At the head of West Neck Bay, near where the summer home of Dr. Courten now stands was an old farm house which most of you probably remember. In 1870 it was occupied by an odd character named Salem Conklin. While Mr. Conklin was a very peculiar man, yet was a most upright, honest citizen.
In 1870 that portion of the island known as West Neck looked very different from what it does now. At that time it was considered a wild, remote section of our island, and we thought it was quite a long trip to go there. Many years ago a large part of West Neck belonged to Richard Nicoll, who was an uncle of the late Dr. Samuel B. Nicoll, and of Miss Annie Nicoll. Richard Nicoll, who at one time a minister, was familiarly known to the people of the island as Priest Dicky. Later this farm became the property of Lawyer Wickham of Southold. It was in 1869 that Joseph Hance of Red Bank, N.J. bought this farm, and came here to live. That same year J. Eugene Parker came to the island and bought a farm at West Neck of Colonel Wickham, who was a brother of Lawyer Wickham. The house where the Hance family lived was located at the edge of the Nostrand orchard, near the spot where the Nostrand packing house recently stood. The Parker house is the large white house that stands across the road from J.W. Weberís fine summer home, and is now the property of Mr. Weber. A short time after moving to the island Mr. Parker married one of the Hance daughters, and for a number of years the Hance and Parker families owned adjoining farms. In the spring of 1874 both of these families moved to the farm house at Sylvester Manor, and for a great many years they worked the large Sylvester Manor farm for Prof. Horsford. Mr. Parker was a very intelligent and well-informed man, and could talk in an interesting manner on many subjects. He became quite prominent as a politician. In this county, and at one time was called before the Senate committee at Washington to give expert testimony as to the tariff rates that should be placed on some of the farm products in this section of the country. Right here I want to pay tribute to the Hance family. For many years they were neighbors of ours, and we always found them most agreeable and kind-hearted people. I shall never forget their many acts of kindness to us. They might truthfully be called the salt of the earth.
Perhaps the most interesting couple that lived on Shelter Island in
1870 was Major Daniel Hudson and his wife Mary Griffing Hudson. When comparatively
a young man Major Hudson moved here from Laurel, or what was then know
as Franklinville. The Hudson family was well known on the east end of Long
Island, for there was a large family of sons and daughters, and they were
unusually intelligent and gifted people. A number of Mr. Hudsonsís brothers
became professional men, and settled in various parts of the country, some
going as far west as the Pacific coast. Mr. Hudson bought about 100 acres
of land at West Neck, which is now owned by Mr. Brander, as is known as
Westmoreland Farm. While Mr. and Mrs. Hudson were very unlike, in many
respects, yet they were both unusually interesting talkers. Although living
remote from neighbors, and far from the center of outside activities, yet
they were always keenly interested in what was transpiring in the world,
and never lacked for topics upon which to converse. They had the faculty
of making every subject they talked about vitally interesting. They both
lived to a ripe old age, and both kept their mental faculties to the last.
To those of us who knew them well their passing on meant the loss of two
very interesting and unique characters. So endeth my fourth paper on Shelter
Island in 1870.
1870 to 1880
The whaling ships that for many years had been familiar objects as they sailed into Gardinerís Bay from long voyages had disappeared from these waters and the smaller vessels engaged in the menhaden fishery had taken their places. This industry had passed its experimental stage at that time, and the sails of many fishing boats could be seen sailing these waters in search of the finny tribes, while a number of large factories were scattered along the shores of our island, filling the air with their perfume. The smoke rising from a factory indicated the arrival of a cargo of fish, and when we saw smoke in the west we knew that Henry Wells had fish that day, and when seen in the east we would say that Horton or Ackerly or Captain Ben had fish. And when the fishing fleet would come in on Saturday the first question to be asked was . . . Who was high hook this week? Invariably, the answer would be Captain Wilcox of the Annie Homan. Later, when the steamers took the place of the sailing vessels Captain Mark Griffing would be apt to be high hook. The ferry to Greenport at this time was owned and run by these two worthy boatmen, Samuel Clark and Chas. Harlow. The mail for the island was brought over from the landing to the P.O. at the center, on his back by a boy.
The center of the island presented quite a different appearance then from what it does now. Across the street from the school ground was the farm of Joseph Congdon, and none of the buildings between the school property and Mrs. Horsleyís were in existence. then. At the south of the school was the Horace Manwaring farm, and there were no houses between the school building and the home of Edgar P. Baldwin. I wish I had the time to describe some of the old buildings at the center, as they appeared at this time. The old wind-mill was an important building in these days, and many were the grists that were carried there to be ground by Captain Baldwin. Smith Baldwin, father of Edgar. Capt. Baldwin, owned and ran the mill for a long time. The old Town Hall had ceased to do duty as a schoolhouse at this time but was used for church and town meetings, festivals, concerts, school exhibitions and various other purposes. The schoolhouse of 50 years ago still sits by the road, and the same western windows reflect the winterís setting sun, but how scattered are the scholars of the days. The grasses on some of the graves have been for 40 years growing. The school house then was a white, two room building, and is the south extension of the present building. W. E. Gordon was the principal of the school during a large part of this decade, an able and much beloved teacher, and a man greatly respected by the whole community.
The old store and P.O. needs a paper of its own to it justice. There were very few open roads on the island then, and if you strayed far from the main highway leading from the North to the South Ferry you were punished by being compelled to open countless numbers of bars.
Prospect at this time was an undiscovered wilderness, or at least appeared so to us children. A small footbridge led across the mouth of Chaseís Creek, and on the hill above the bridge was the site of the Chase Homestead (now the site of Dr. Currie's home). Among the few houses on Prospect was one built by Mrs. Boardman, a daughter of Squire Chase, and is not the cottage owned by John Corse, and is just at the rear of the hotel.
As children we used to venture over to Prospect occasionally, but we always felt that unknown dangers were lurking among the bushes, briars and woods of that wild and remote portion of the island. One of the terrible creatures we expected to attack us was an animal known as a badger. Just why we selected this particular animal to be afraid of I never knew. When a boat was seen on the beach we suspected either Greenporters or pirates had landed, and we feared one about as much as the other. Some time before this, Squire Chase, who owned a large part of Prospect, had a portion of it laid out into house lots, and named the proposed settlement The City of Sobrie. It seems a pity that he did not live long enough to see his dream come true.
Summer was a quiet season on the island at this time, and about the only ones who owned summer homes here were the Horsford and Havens families. It was quite an event in our lives when we say the Horsford barouche roll by drawn by a matched team of horses driven by a coachman sitting on a high seat. And we always knew when the Havens carriage was in close proximity, for Mr. Havens being deaf his family had to speak loud to make him hear, and it was always pleasant to hear them merrily chatting as they passed along. About this time Prof. Horsford was making efforts to draw the attention of the outside world to our Shelter Island, and he had a tower erected on the highest point of Prospect Hill, from which a fine view could be obtained.
It was in the fall of 1871 that a number of Methodist brethren from Brooklyn came here to select some property that would be suitable as a camp meeting ground. They chose Prospect, which comprised about 285 acres of land, for their purpose. Soon after the property was purchased three surveyors from Boston or vicinity came here to survey the land and lay it out in building lots, streets and so forth. These three bright, educated young men were like a fresh breeze blown in from the outside world. They entered at once into the social life of the community, and two of them succeeded in capturing wives from among Shelter Islandís most attractive daughters. And right here I want to pay tribute to my friend of by-gone days, the late C. H. Bateman, one of the surveyors just alluded to. Mr. Bateman was a power in the social life of the island for many years, and I doubt if many realize the time and energy he expended for the pleasure of others. He was fond of society, and enjoyed attending social gatherings and merry-makings, but he found more pleasure in trying to give a good time to others.
It was in the summer of 1872 that Shelter Island was launched on its career as a summer resort, for in that year the hotel and a number of cottages were built at Prospect. The next summer 1873 the fine large hotel known as the Manhanset House was opened, and then our quire little island achieved quite a reputation as a seashore resort. Camp meetings were held in the grove at Prospect every summer for about ten years, and crowds of people were drawn to the island during the time they were held. The tents of the campers were scattered about the hills and made a pleasing sight, and the smoke from their fires swirling gracefully up added much to the charm of the scene.
Those of us who are old enough to remember back 50 years have seen great changes take place in our island, but those who will be living here 50 years hence, and can remember the island as it is now will probably note as many if nor more changes then we have.
No doubt there is a great future in store for Shelter Island, for as long as there is a great city of New York continuing to grow, and as long as people are attracted by the beauties of nature, so long will it continue to draw the summer visitor to its shores.