Frederick Chase was deeply devout, well liked by his neighbors, hard working, an astute businessman, a poet, and a man with big dreams.
Chase was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1784 -- in the middle of the Revolution -- and married Rebecca Champlin Cartwright, also from Westerly, in 1807 on Block Island. The Reverend John Gordon Worden officiated. Both families were Sabbatarians who created their own colony at Ashaway about four miles from Westerly. As a young man, Chase had been, by commission, an ensign, a lieutenant, and a captain.
By 1811, Frederick Chase had purchased about 7 1/2 acres from Jeremiah Young. We think this is an area near White Hill on the peninsular -- which is now The Heights. There is no deed recorded for this transaction; however, his ownership of this land is referenced in an 1811 deed and mortgage. In 1811, Frederick and Rebecca purchased 38 3/4 acres more on the northern tip of the peninsula for $480 from Augustus Griffing and his wife Lucretia of Oysterponds. Lucretia was the daughter of Mary Tuthill who inherited a share in West Neck Farm and received 63 acres on the peninsula upon the partition of the Farm in 1806. The Griffings held a mortgage on Chase’s purchase and the Young property for $520.
That December, the young couple with their two small daughters in the homestead that faced the Creek, now called Chase Creek, experienced a 100 year storm, also known as the Christmas Storm. A year later, the British brought destruction to the East End -- a bitter reminder of the horrors suffered during the Revolutionary War.
In 1813, Chase remortgaged the 38 3/4 acres with Thomas J. Ripley of Sag Harbor for $224.
On November 6, 1816, Frederick and Rebecca purchased an additional 27 acres from Augustus Griffing. In turn, in 1817, he mortgaged the entire 70 acres with Benjamin Conklin of Shelter Island. (Acreage at that time was “more or less.” Surveying was not yet a fine art.)
Although Chase was an Seventh Day Adventist, the young family fit comfortably into the small Presbyterian community of farmers and fishermen. He was a deeply religious man and wrote spiritual poems. He was often seen working on Sunday, because his Sabbath was Saturday. He and Rebecca had 9 children:
In 1819, as constable, Frederick Chase inventoried the possessions of Richard F. Nicoll for his estate. To Benjamin Nicoll, he handed over chattel valued at $205 and to Richard H. Nicoll, valuables worth $321.
From 1820 to 1823 Chase was Town Supervisor.
In 1820, the Town of Shelter Island was 90 years old. The population of the Island was about 360. There was one known free black family, that of David Hempstead. Also listed as a free black man was London Ward.
Some familiar names of Chase’s contemporaries are Benjamin Nicoll, Moses Griffing, David Harlow, Anderson, Edward, and David Cartwright, Sylvester Dering, Jeremiah and Phineus King, Oliver Mayo, Ezekiel Havens, Joseph, Gillum, Jacob, and Jeremiah Case, Samuel Lord, William Bowditch, and Henry Sherman.
When Chase was supervisor, the Town’s men met once a year, on the first Tuesday in April, to elect the supervisor, clerk, assessors, constable, collector of taxes, overseers of the poor, fence viewers, commissioners of schools, and school inspectors. They determined how much to raise to support the poor and for heating and repair of the school house. The poor were generally widows, orphans, and the elderly without any other visible means of support. In the early 1800s, as had been true from 1620, every town was responsible for its poor; the first tax was the poor tax.
A note about “fence viewers.” There was a time when every town had two or three men assigned to this important task. Their job was to arbitrate between owners when a fence was to be built or repaired on property boundaries. They determined where the property lines were and who was responsible for the costs. Although there are no fence viewers on Shelter Island today, this job still exists in some New England, mid-Western and Canadian towns.
In 1821, when Chase was supervisor, Esther Sarah Dering, widow of Sylvester Dering who had died after the census was taken in 1820 at the age of 61, dower owner of what is now known as Sylvester Manor, and owner in her own right, after the partition of West Neck Farms in 1806, of the land that encompassed Weck’s Pond to Ice Pond, presented a petition to the Town officers to manumit, or emancipate, her slave London, age 26, according to the New York State Law entitled “An Act Concerning Slaves and Servants” passed April 8, 1801. This law allowed owners to free slaves if they were under 50 years old and able to provide for themselves. The law also provided that all slaves were to be freed by 1825 except old people who could not fend for themselves. In April 1822, the Town officers certified London’s status as a free man. (This appears to be the same London Ward who was counted as a free man in the 1820 census. This action may have been her desire to clear up loose ends from her husband’s estate.)
In 1827 the Village of Greenport, across the bay, was laid out. Ten years later it had 15 houses, 5 stores, a warehouse, mechanical shops and two whaling ships, and a number of smaller vessels employed in fishing and coastal trade.
Acting as justice of the peace, in 1822, Chase found for the plaintiff Phineas King against the defendant John Sherman in an action to collect a debt.