The Island in 1870

    By early 1870, the Chase family and the Town were ready for the Reverend Searles.
    Let’s take one final look at the Place called Prospect in 1870. Thanks to Ralph Duvall who in the 1920s wrote a tour of all Island houses that existed in 1870, we know: (See Peninsula in 1870, Illustration 3)
  • The old Chase Homestead, of course, overlooking Chase’s and Griffing’s Creek, is where the Widow Chase lived.
  • The Brinson Wiggins house. Squire Chase had purchased that farm in the 1850s, and in 1870, his daughter Margaret Walters lived there with her husband Lorenzo.
  • A small house on the lot Lydia Boardman sold to Robert McGayhey in 1864.
  • On the site of the present Michael Gray house on Summerfield Place was the home of a businessman, Mr. Cobb, who had lived there year-round. It was later occupied by his sister Mrs. Webb.
  • Albert Chase’s house.
  • On Chequit Point, Duvall reported that there was a small bungalow where Michael McCabe and Michael McCall lived.
  • Lydia Boardman’s house.


    Finally, let’s get a feel for the Island itself through the 1860 and 1870 Censuses.
    In the decade following Frederick Chase’s death in 1857, the population of the Island increased from 547 to 650, 103 people. This was a big leap, and the 1870 census information suggests that many of the farmers, the majority of landowners, were now hiring and housing day laborers.
        The railroad had arrived in Greenport in 1844, and occupations that had provided subsistence now offered markets. Farmers and fishermen could now sell their produce and catch in New York City.
    Benjamin Sisson was running a regular ferry to Greenport, and David Clark described himself as a ferryman to Sag Harbor.
    A number of men were fishermen, seamen, and mariners. Others were working in the fish oil and guano works. John Bowditch was the captain of an ocean steamer, and Thomas Preston was a vessel cook. William Dutcher was a ship carpenter, and Samuel Wood was a steam engineer.
    There were four school teachers, and a number of women were seamstresses, although most women were “keeping house.” There were several carpenters and stone masons, and Albert Havens was running a wholesale and retail lumber business.
    Martin Prince, Archibald Havens and Benjamin Cartwright were retail dry goods and grocery merchants. Joseph Congdon was the blacksmith. Louisa Bowditch was a telegraph operator. (You have to wonder if she went elsewhere, like Greenport, to do her work, or was there already a telegraph line under the Bay?)
    Isaac Downs was a basket maker. John Scott was a baker. Charles Fordham was keeping a boarding house. Thomas Harries was the Presbyterian Church minister.
    Black families on the Island included Henry Hempstead, a farm laborer working for Samuel Nicolls, his wife Sarah and their three children, and James Hempstead and his household, Naomi, Mary and Charles. Eva Patterson was a domestic servant in Sylvester Cartwright’s home, and Cornelia Faster, a domestic servant in the home of Joseph Bowditch.

An End Note:  One of four manuscripts written by Ralph Duvall in about 1927-1928 giving a tour of houses on Shelter Island in 1870, on file Shelter Island Historical Society.
        The Brinson Wiggins house was purchased by Smith Raynor and was moved to the City. According to Shelter Island House Trail: Houses Built Before 1870, revised in 2000 by the Shelter Island Historical Society, it is now located at 45 West Neck Road.
        The Cobb-Webb house, according to Duvall, stayed in place until at least 1875, but was finally dismantled and reconstructed at the top of Menantic Road. In the 1920s Duvall said it was “now the home of Kate Walther.” Alice and Richard Moser purchased the house and farm from Kate Walther in 1946. It was extensively renovated in the 1960s and is now known as Burro Hall.
        Albert Chase’s house was located on Lot 103 on the 1872 Copeland map and the lot was sold to William C. Booth in 1873 with a “dwelling on it.” A careful look at the present house suggests it is the original house with an addition: it was never in the shape of a cross as all early Prospect Grove houses were, and it has the lines of an early 19th Century farm house. There is little question in the minds of the authors that the house is the original.
        Lydia Boardman’s house sat on Lot 117 on the 1872 Copeland map. Duvall said in the 1820s that the house had been there a long time. The house is not in the shape of a cross. It is possible that after 1877, the original house was dressed up with gingerbread and a tower, which now leans, to fit into the neighborhood.
        The Homestead was torn down after it passed from the Chase family in 1907, and the disposition of the remaining houses is unknown.