Saturday, March 28, 2009

Take Me Back to Manhattan

John Fowler finishes his 1830 visit to Long Island

When Englishman John Fowler stayed with a relative in Whitestone, New York, in
1830, the immediate area was mostly agricultural. Thirty years later, in 1860, its
population was only 630, so would have been considerably smaller when Fowler
arrived. The area got its name for a rock down by the boat landing. Fowler’s first
two full days there, August 6th and 7th, were spent visiting neighboring farms.
He took a great many notes, mostly regarding Long Island itself, which at this time
consisted of King’s (or Brooklyn), Queens and Suffolk counties.

Roads on the island are quite good, although sandy; most leading to Brooklyn, where
ferries and steamboats for Manhattan, capable of transporting wagons and carriages,
are readily available. With such a large market just to the west, farmland prices are
probably among the highest in the state. A visit to one of the bays convinces Fowler
that fishing is abundant in the area. And lobsters “I myself saw the claw of one which,
when fresh, I am satisfied would have weighed from seven to nine pounds.”

That second day, one in which the temperature reached 85 degrees, when the two men
return, it’s to learn, from one of the New York papers, that England’s King George IV
has died on June 26th. The Duke of Clarence has succeeded him as William IV.
Fowler turns in but finds it difficult to drift off, since the temperature is still high and
he's had to close his windows – those damn mosquitoes again!

The next day, August 8th, Fowler decides to head inland from the East River a bit,
visiting the village of Flushing, to the south. Contrary to what some of you might
think, it was corrupted from the name of a Dutch village, Vlissingen. Between the
two settlements he notes the aftereffects of the tornado that had struck a few days
earlier. Flushing was more developed than Whitestone. Fowler describes an actual
village, with houses, stores and churches. Spafford’s Gazetteer had summed it up as,
“quite a place of resort for the butterflies of fashion, at least for a part of the year.”

Fowler and his relation head back for Whitestone late in the afternoon. After dinner he
takes the steamboat back to Manhattan, getting ready for his trip upstate. While he’s
winding up his affairs there we’ll take note of a few more 1830 Long Island happenings.

Back in February Elias Hicks, founder of a schismatic branch of the Quaker religion and
an early abolitionist, died in his home in Jericho, a dozen mile to the east of Whitestone,
at the age of 81. A little further to the east of that, on Long Island Sound, Port
Washington residents got stage service into the city. Down on the south shore, also
back in February, William Hutchinson and C. F. Le Fevre began publishing The Long
Island Telegraph and General Advertiser
, the island’s fifth newspaper. In November of
1831 it will be renamed The Hempstead Inquirer by new owner Morris Snedeker.

One change would be made to island place names, within the town of Hempstead, as a
temperance movement swept through the area. An early settlement, known as Rum
Point (for its many taverns) was renamed Greenwich Point. Later it would have
another new name – Roosevelt, for Teddy.

© 2007 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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