Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Did Thomas Pell Act on Pangs of Remorse After Witchcraft Persecution Involving His Family?


Pelham youngsters will celebrate Halloween tomorrow.  What better time to consider monsters, witches, ghosts, and their relation to Pelham History?  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog addresses 17th century witch hunts and their relation to Pelham History.  Yesterday's posting described a local sea monster known by some as the City Island Sea Serpent.  Tomorrow's posting will relate yet another account of a classic Pelham ghost story.

By the 1650’s a preoccupation with the supernatural and hysterical efforts to root out those who “covenanted” with the spectral world had swept through the Colony of Connecticut – home of Thomas Pell.  Sadly, Thomas Pell’s family members were not immune from the hysteria. 

In 1653, Pell's wife, Lucy, and his step-daughters (Elizabeth and Mary) were involved in a witchcraft persecution that led to the execution of Goodwife Knapp barely a year before Thomas Pell acquired the lands that became Pelham and surrounding areas.  

For those interested in learning more about these sad events, see:  

Fri., Jul. 07, 2006:  The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp.  

Bell, Blake A., The Involvement of Thomas Pell's Family in the Witchcraft Persecution of Goody Knapp, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Jan. 23, 2004, p. 11, col. 1.



June 10, 1692 Hanging of Accused Witch,
Bridge Bishop of Salem, Massachusetts.

Although Pell's wife and stepdaughters were heavily involved in the persecution of "Goody Knapp," there is no evidence of Thomas Pell's direct involvement.  Thomas Pell, however, cannot escape culpability for what happened to Goody Knapp.  First, his family's participation in the events that led to the hanging of Goody Knapp cannot be ignored.  Second, clearly Pell's wife, Lucy, kept him apprised of her involvement in the travesty of justice.  Indeed, there is a record of testimony in which Lucy Pell testified that regarding her efforts to force Goody Knapp to confess to being a witch, she told no one "but her husband."  Third, since Pell's wife and stepdaughters were present at the execution of Goody Knapp, it is not far-fetched to surmise that Thomas Pell likewise attended -- as did other Fairfield citizens.  In short, Thomas Pell, his family, and other Fairfield citizens at the time each bear a portion of the blame for the murder by hanging of poor Goody Knapp.

There is fascinating evidence from which it may be surmised that Thomas Pell may have had pangs of remorse regarding the execution of Goody Knapp.  It is, of course, impossible to gauge Pell's state of mind given that he left no record of his true intent.  Yet, one development late in Pell's life suggests that it is at least possible that he may have felt some guilt over the unfortunate end of Goody Knapp.

Thomas Pell owned a vast swath of land totaling about 50,000 acres that became known as the Manor of Pelham.  Among the lands he owned was Great Minneford Island, known today as City Island.  It appears that about a year before Pell's death in 1669, he may have provided refuge to Ralph Hall and Mary Hall of the Town of Seatalcott (later Setauket, now Brookhaven, Long Island).  Ralph and Mary Hall were dragged before the Court of Assizes in New York in 1665.  The charge in the indictment against Ralph Hall was that he:

"'upon the 25th Day of December [1663], being Christmas last was twelve Months, and several other Days and Times since that Day, by some detestable and wicked Arts, commonly called Witchcraft and Sorcery, did (as suspected) maliciously and feloniously practise and exercise, at the Town of Seatalcott [since Setauket, now Brookhaven], in the East Riding of Yorkshire, on Long Island, on the Person of George Wood, late of the same Place, by which wicked and detestable Arts the said George Wood (as is suspected) most dangerously and mortally sickened and languished, and not long after, by the aforesaid wicked and detestable Arts, the said George Wood (as is likewise suspected) died.' Also it was alleged, in the same Indictment, that an Infant Child of Ann Rogers, Widow of the aforesaid George Wood, had, 'some While after the Death' of Wood, sickened and died, and that its Death was caused by the said Hall. The same Indictment was also recited against the Wife of Hall, and then a Bundle of Depositions was read to the Court (no Witnesses appearing in Person), and the Accused called upon by the Clerk to hold up the right Hand, and the substance of the Charges were reiterated. They pleaded not Guilty, and their Case was committed to the Jury. In due Time the Jury rendered a Verdict, to the Effect that they 'found some Suspicions of what the Woman was charged with, but Nothing considerable of Value to take away her Life; but in Reference to the Man, we find Nothing considerable to charge him with.'"

The Court sentenced the couple as follows:  "[Ralph Hall] 'should be bound Body and Goods for his Wife's Appearance at the next Sessions and so on from Sessions to Sessions, as long as they stay in this Government. In the mean While to be of good Behaviour.'"  The Court's message was clear:  "GET OUT!"  By August 21, 1668, the couple was living on Great Miniford's Island," part of the land owned by Thomas Pell.  Source:  Drake, Samuel G., Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States from their First Settlement Drawn Up from Unpublished and Other Well Authenticated Records of the Alleged Operations of Witches and Their Instigator, the Devil, pp. 125-27 (NY, NY: Burt Franklin 1869).

I have written of Ralph and Mary Hall before.  See Fri., May 12, 2006:  Possible Evidence that Residents of the Manor of Pelham Were Acquitted in Rare 17th Century Witchcraft Trial in New York.  

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this series of events is that it raises a question that can never be answered with certainty.  Did pangs of remorse over his family's involvement in the witchcraft persecution of Goody Knapp prompt Thomas Pell to give refuge to Ralph and Mary Hall ion a portion of Pell's land known today as City Island following their persecution for witchcraft on Long Island?

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sea Serpent of City Island: Sea Serpent Sighted in 1877 Returned on Many Occasions


"It is hardly possible for any sensible person at all acquainted
with the fauna of the sea and literature generally to approach
the subject of sea serpents with an open mind.  It is like the
matter of ghosts, one that is mixed up so much with pure
superstition, personal bias, human weakness of mind, and
credulity, that it seems impossible to get a reasonable account at all.
Frank T. Bullen, F.R.G.S.
Author of The Cruise of the "Cachalot"

With Halloween fast approaching, the Historic Pelham Blog postings for the remainder of this week will be devoted to monsters, witches and ghosts.  As always, of course, each such legend and story relates to the history of Pelham.  Today's story is about monsters -- Sea Monsters, to be exact.

Loch Ness, Scotland has nothing on the little Town of Pelham, New York.  The City Island Sea Serpent has been sighted off Pelham shores on many more occasions and clearly is a much fiercer beast that has tossed ships out of the water and even taken on steamboats in the waters of the Sound.  After one sighting, the beast was described in terms that make clear that dear Nessie of Loch Ness must be a doting, slow, and gentle distant relative of the fierce City Island Sea Serpent.  

According to three members of the United States Military who sighted the City Island Sea Serpent in 1895, the massive beast had a head covered with "a big shock of hair."  It could lift that massive head out of the water on a long neck that writhed in the air.  Its neck was "at least four feet in diameter" and had skin that was scaly and "spotted white in places."  The face of the beast had green whiskers and a "mustache [that] was at least two feet long."  It had a green beard and bright blue eyes with big flippers that it used to propel itself along.  Most frighteningly, when the beast dove into the depths of the Long Island Sound, its tail would shoot upward into the air "clad in rattles exactly like a rattlesnake."  When the tail reached its highest point out of the water, the rattles would begin to clang before the beast disappeared into the deep.  Take that, Nessie. . . . .

Despite such a fanciful and frightening description as that above (quoted in one of the full articles transcribed at the end of this posting), the waters of the Long Island Sound off the shores of Pelham long have been the source of sightings of a mysterious sea serpent.  Oddly enough, many of the sightings are surprisingly credible and suggest that those respected citizens and members of the military who saw the Sea Serpent of City Island may, in some instances, have actually seen some form of living creature, be it a whale or, as the journal Scientific American hypothesized in 1879, a very large cephalopod.  (A cephalopod is a member of the Cephalopoda class of marine mollusks that include the octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus. They typically have a large head, large eyes and tentacles. They have been known to grow to very large dimensions.)  



Depiction of Sea Serpent of City Island Sighted in Waters
Off Pelham's Shores in 1877.  Source:  Scientific American, Dec. 27, 1879.

I have written before about the Sea Serpent of City Island and its appearance off the shores of Pelham and surrounding areas in 1877.  (See below.)  I have never written, however, about the fact that the Sea Serpent of City Island returned to the area for many years thereafter, including in 1895 and again in 1902.  Perhaps, if one watches the waters carefully today, the serpent or its progeny may yet be seen . . . 

To read about the serpent's many appearances in 1877, see:

Bell, Blake A., The Sea Serpent of the Sound:  Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIV, Issue 29, July 29, 2005, p. 9, col. 1.

Wed., Jun. 29, 2005:  The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part I)

Thu., Jun. 30, 2005:  The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part II).

Fri., Jul. 01, 2005:  The Sea Serpent of the Sound: Spotted in Pelham Waters in 1877 (Part III)

The City Island Sea Serpent and its Appearances for Several Years Beginning in 1877

An enormous beast, it was.  Witnesses described it as "large around as a hogshead, with an enormous head which stood up straight 15 or 20 feet out of the water, and as making a queer hissing noise and a roaring sound".  It was the Sea Serpent of the Sound and was spotted in waters off of Pelham during the summer and autumn of 1877.  

In the latter part of July, 1877, the serpent reportedly was seen in the Sound. It was seen off Nahant, Norwalk, Watch Hill, Greenwich and Port Chester. In late August, however, the serpent reportedly prowled the waters off of City Island (then part of Pelham).  The monster continued to appear in local waters for the next several years.

There were so many reports during that two or three year period in the late 1870's that the respected scientific journal Scientific American collected, analyzed, and published  eyewitness accounts of one well-documented encounter with the beast off Sandy Hook and provided a plausible explanation for the sighting. In addition, the journal published an artist's rendering of the "beast" created from eyewitness accounts.  (A detail from that image appears above, taken from the December 27, 1879 issue of Scientific American.)

The City Island Sea Serpent and its Many Appearances in 1895

The City Island Sea Serpent made additional appearances during the summer of 1895.  It appeared off the shores of City Island.  It also appeared several times within a short distance of City Island:  twice near Eaton's Neck, once off Cold Spring Harbor, twice in Hempstead Harbor, once at Oyster Bay, once near New London, once off Matinecock light and once off Northport.

The sightings of the sea monster in 1895 were surprisingly detailed and numerous.  Occasionally, the sightings were surprisingly credible.  For example, sightings in Hempstead Harbor were so credible that The Brooklyn Daily Eagle had an artist create renderings of what various respected citizens saw.  (See below.)  The rendering resembled the rendering of the creature seen in 1877 as depicted in Scientific American.  The artist's depictions of what turned out to be very, very credible reports of a sighting of a sea serpent are most fascinating.  They seem to show something like a very, very large snake lying in the water near the catboat sailing ship from which the creature was seen.  

Only a few days after this credible sighting of the sea serpent, a twenty-five foot long snake thought to be a boa constrictor floated out of the Sound and onto the shores of an island near Hell Gate.  One paper (quoted in full below) reported as follows:

"last night a dead snake 25 feet long floated down from the Sound through Hell Gate.  It went ashore on Blackwell's Island, and was hauled out of the water there.  It is said to greatly resemble a boa constrictor, and is covered with scales.  The snake's back was badly torn and it had evidently been killed by the paddle wheel of a steamer." 

While the inexplicable appearance in New York waters of a boa constrictor might seem a somewhat remote, but plausible, explanation for the sightings of the City Island Sea Serpent during the summer of 1895, it can't explain everything.  Two weeks after the dead snake floated ashore, the fishing steamboat Montauk was struck by the City Island Sea Serpent.  The force of the collision was so great that it broke the flange from the paddle wheel.  The captain of the ship reported that the sea monster was nearly one hundred feet long and "the head of the monster was the shape of a hog, and that it had large eyes, and that when it turned over in the water he noticed it had small legs."

The City Island Sea Serpent and its Appearance in 1902

The City Island Sea Serpent reappeared during the summer of 1902.  A jaded Hell Gate Pilot named Alexander S. Banta was not a believer in sea serpent stories.  After his own experience that summer, however, he became "a confirmed believer that some sea monster has its haunts off City Island."

Captain Banta was rowing a small boat off the waters of City Island shortly before daylight on an early August morning in 1895 on his way to meet a vessel that he was scheduled to guide through the treacherous waters of nearby Hell Gate.  Out of nowhere, a giant black creature with "big black eyes, which gleamed like dark lanterns" and that made a noise that "resembled that of a big steamer turning about in midstream" rose from the deep and struck his boat, raising it out of the water and nearly capsizing it.  Captain Banta dropped his oars and held onto the sides of the boat for dear life.  

The sea monster dove beneath the waters for a short time, then came up again, striking the boat a second time and lifting it out of the water again.   According to Banta's account, the monster seemed to notice a nearby steamer moving along through the Sound and took off toward the passing steamer.  In the meantime, Banta's little boat sprang a leak where it had been struck.  Captain Banta headed for shore to keep the boat from going down in the middle of Long Island Sound.

*          *          *          *          *

Below I have transcribed the text of a host of articles describing the Sea Serpent of City Island.  Each is followed by a citation to its source.  

"SEA SERPENT TALE OUT OF GEER.
------
Captain of the City of Lowell Solemnly Avers He Saw the Monster in the Sound.
-----
PASSENGERS BEAR HIM OUT.
-----
Forty of Them Shuddered as They Gazed on the Awful Maritime Misfit.
-----
AND THE BAR WAS CLOSED.
-----

He was a maritime misfit.  He had a stomach like a dining extension and a head like a rhinoceros.  He had -- this sea serpent which staggered at the wake of the City of Lowell Monday -- two pairs of fine and a strabismic leer.  

He whitened the Sound with the stroke of his tandem fins, and sent cold shivers running over the observers with every roll of his hard boiled eyes.

He was no good on earth.  He was no better in the Sound.  The City of Lowell sighted him on her way to New London.

SIGHTED THE MONSTER.

Her bar was clsoed, and she was going after a deck load of Christian Endeavor delegates.  When opposite Stratford Shoals the officers of the vessel saw a great commotion in the water, as though the fountains of the deep were being broke up and sent out of business.  Then an ugly head appeared above the froth, and the passengers heard an 'ominous growl.'

When they were able to differentiate between the growler and the froth they saw a horned head, set with 'wicked, vengeful eyes.'  The creature was forty feet long.  He had a forked tail, and his body was like that of a snake.

He was not goodly to loop upon.  He was not good enough looking for a summer resort sea serpent.  He was a Weary Waggles of the deep.  He slowly paddled along several cable lengths from the vessel, as though he were going nowhere in particular.

AND THE PASSENGERS SHUDDERED.

The passengers crowded to the rail, looked him over through spy glass and lorgnette and shuddered.  

Some of them didn't know whether they had seen him or not.  They went down below and looked reproachfully at the closed bar.  Others kept silent for an hour and then made cautious inquiries.  

There is no doubt that the City of Lowell's passengers saw something very like a sea serpent.  Captain Geer, who certainly ought to know, says that it was a monster of the deep, and forty of the passengers bear out the story.  The creature when left behind was lashing the water violently.  

The same monster, it is believed, was seen a day or so before by the yacht Agnes, whose Captain, J. Norton Winslow, reported it at New London upon his arrival.  

Captain Geer, when I saw him yesterday shortly after the City of Lowell's return from New London, said that there was no doubt that the creature was as real as the blood sweating behemoth of Holy Writ."

Source:  SEA SERPENT TALE OUT OF GEER, N.Y. Herald, Jul. 17, 1895, p. 7, col. 5. 

"SAW THE SEA SERPENT.
-----
Soldiers of the Regular Army Had Brief Glimpses of the Monster.

Captain Hatfield, Sergeant Horton and Corporal Miller, of the United States Army, landed at City Island to-day and stated that while they were cruising in the yacht Madge off Eaton's Neck the saw an extraordinarily large fish or sea serpent floundering in the water.
Captain Hatfield and his companions said that as the yacht approached it the monster disappeared, only to make its appearance again in a few minutes.  It did this three times and was not seen again.  

Captain Hatfield and his comrades think it was the same sea serpent that was reported as being seen off Cold Spring Harbor about a week ago.

The time that Captain Hatfield and his companions claim to have seen the sea serpent was soon after daybreak this morning [Saturday, July 27, 1895]."

Source:  SAW THE SEA SERPENT -- Soldiers of the Regular Army Had Brief Glimpses of the Monster, The Evening Telegram [New York], Jul. 27, 1895, p. 2, col. 5.

"SEA SERPENT SEEN
-----
This Time by Army Officers Off Eaton's Neck.
-----
WORKING ITS WAY WESTWARD.
-----
The Same Monster Reported by Christian Endeavor Delegates, Perhaps.
-----

When a band of Christian Endeavor delegates reported having seen a monster sea serpent in the Sound even those who are most given to doubting the existence of abnormally developed denizens of the deep in general and Sound dwellers in particular were inclined to stop and consider.

In almost every instance where history tells of the appearance, or reported appearance, of deep-water bugaboos the circumstances surrounding the cases were such as to suggest a pleasant bit of fiction or a condition that would plunge the accuracy of the vision of the chroniclers in grave doubt.  

Neither objection applies to the Christian Endeavor sea serpent, for the earnest band of delegates were returning from a convention so devout in its exercises that the minds of the delegates were receptive only for truth.  Only the doubters and chronic destroyers of character could venture to doubt the accuracy of the combined vision of the delegates.

THREE MEN IN A BOAT.

That the earnest Christian Endeavorers were right in their original story was made evident yesterday by the corrobative tale told by three reputable army men.  Captain Hatfield, Sergeant Horton and Corporal Miller are responsible for the story that the sea serpent was in the Sound yesterday morning, not far from Eaton's Neck.

Early yesterday the three army men were cruising in a small yacht off Eaton's Neck, when their attention was attracted by a violent agitation in the water quite near their yacht.  They bore down upon the then unseen sea dweller and succeeded in bringing it to the surface, but only momentarily.

Not satisfied with the limited view obtained, the yacht was put on the port tack and a stern chase was begun.  The course taken by the monster was made evident by the ruffling of the water wherever it went.

THE MONSTER APPEARS.

Eventually the efforts of the yachtsmen were rewarded, and for a brief period the long, repulsive body of as hideous a reptile -- if reptile it is -- was visible.  Their curiosity having been in part satisfied, the army men put about and made all haste for City Island.

Thoroughly excited, they told their story to the equally astonished residents of the fishing village.  It is worthy of note that the story was related immediately after a landing was made, so that no local influences, no matter how potent, were permitted to in any way color the tale.

NO DIMENSIONS GIVEN., 

The army men decline to place any estimate upon the probable length of the monster, and they disagree in detail as to the exact shape of its head.  The latter was submerged almost entirely, although enough was seen to warrant the belief that the serpent has eyes not unlike those of a stingray, a foul fish peculiar to sub-tropical countries.  

The monster was last seen in the neighborhood of Cold Spring Harbor, and it is generally believed along the Sound by men who know a thing or two about sea serpents that it is working its way toward the lower bay, and may even pass Hell Gate some time to-day."

Source:  SEA SERPENT SEEN -- This Time by Army Officers Off Eaton's Neck, The Press [NY, NY], Jul. 28, 1895, Vol. VIII, No. 2,797, p. 1, col. 3.  

"SEA SERPENT OFFICIALLY SEEN.
-----
United States Army Officers Sight Him and Will Make a Report to Washington.

The sea serpent has at last received the official indorsement [sic] of the United States Government, a testimonial he has heretofore lacked.  The serpent was seen in Long Island Sound yesterday by three army men, and they are preparing a report on the matter to the Secretary of War.  

The men in question are Capt. Hatfield, Sergt. Horton and Corporal Miller, who are quartered at the Government post at City Island.  None of them ever saw a sea serpent before, and never really believed in him.  

According to the story they were cruising off Eaton's Neck, in the yacht Madge, when their interest was aroused by a great agitation in the water.  Waves were being kicked up at an alarming rate and they marvelled [sic] at it, because there was neither wind nor ground swell.  Presently they saw that something was lashing the water into a fury.  They housed their spinnaker, eased off the sheets and stood by to see what would happen.

Presently the sea serpent rose from the waves and confronted them.  His head, which was covered with a big shock of hair, such as is.  He shook the water off his face and writhed in the air for several minutes.  His neck was at least four feet in diameter and his skin, which was scaly, was spotted white in places.

The wild-eyed marine reptile saw the boat, but considered it apparently beneath his contempt.  His eyes were fixed upon some distant point.  Presently he gave s snort and dipped his nose into the water and vanished.

Capt. Hatfield says that the serpent remained submerged for half a minute, and that then his tail suddenly shot up into the air.  To their astonishment, the soldiers saw that it was clad in rattles exactly like a rattlesnake.  When the tail reached its highest point out of the water the rattles suddenly began to clang.  The soldiers feared that this was a symptom of alarm, and supposed that in his rage he might demolish the yacht, but they concluded later that it was a signal addressed to some other sea serpent in the immediate vicinity.

'The thing had green whiskers,' said Corporal Miller, 'and his mustache was at least two feet long.  I have read all the descriptions of the sea serpent as he has appeared in the Sound, and I am convinced that he is the same one that was seen at New London and other places.  It is the first sea serpent I have ever seen.  The contrast of green beard and blue eyes is most uncanny.  He had big flippers, too, and he used them to propel himself along."

Source:  SEA SERPENT OFFICIALLY SEEN -- United States Army Officers Sight Him and Will Make a Report to Washington, The World [New York], Jul. 28, 1895, p. 3, col. 5.

"SAY THEY SAW THE SERPENT
-----
Army Officers Declare They Had a View of the Marine Monster . . .
-----
Special to the Inquirer.
THE INQUIRER BUREAU.

NEW YORK, July 27. . . . 

They Think They Saw the Sea Serpent.

Here is still another report regarding the sea serpent:

Captain Hatfield, Sergeant Horton and Corporal Miller, of the United States Army, landed at City Island today and stated that while they were cruising in the yacht Madge off Eaton's Neck, they saw an extraordinarily large fish or sea serpent floundering in the water.

Captain Hatfield and his companions said that as the yacht approached it the monster disappeared, only to make its appearance again in a few minutes.  It did this three times and was not seen again.

Captain Hatfield and his comrades think it was the same sea serpent that was reported as being seen off Cold Spring Harbor about a week ago.

The time that Captain Hatfield and his companions claim to have seen the sea serpent was soon after daybreak this morning."

Source:  SAY THEY SAW THE SERPENT, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jul. 28, 1895, p. 3, col. 5.  

"SEA SERPENT OF SEA CLIFF,
-----
It Was Seen Last Evening for the Second Time.
-----
WAS AT LEAST 75 FEET LONG.
-----
Schuyler C. Burrows and Thomas Stokes of Brooklyn Went a-Sailing With Several Friends -- To Them Appeared the Submarine Monster, at Least Five Times -- A Detailed and Corroborated Account.
-----

HIS is a story of the famous Sound sea serpent.  It comes from Sea Cliff, that charming village on Hempstead harbor, which is a favorite resort for Brooklynites during the summer months.  Told by Brooklyn men, it is iron bound by authenticity and steel riveted with corroboration.  Men of unimpeachable characters and of spotless reputations stand willing to make affidavits that the sub-marine monster has been seen twice in Hempstead harbor [a few miles East of City Island] within the week.  Evidence comes from independent sources and tallies exactly.

Its latest appearance was last evening [Tuesday, July 23, 1895].  Here are the facts, as gathered by an Eagle reporter:

Schuyler C. Burrows, a provision broker in the produce exchange, living at 134 McDonough street, this city, and stopping at the Chelbourg cottage, Sea Cliff, which his father has rented for the summer, and his great friend, Thomas Stokes of Madison street, in this city, went a-sailing in the latter's cat-boat.  Aboard were half a dozen or so young fellows, whose acquaintance Messrs. Burrows and Stokes had made.  The wind was light and rather puffy, and it took the cat some time to get beyond the long dock on her way into the sound.  

When about one thousand feet beyond the steamboat dock and headed toward the Glen Cove breakwater, one of the party saw a long black object, something like a great log, about thirty feet astern.  He called the attention of the others to it.  As it was between them and the shore, it could not be seen with great distinctness, but, by close observation, it was seen to be no log at all.  A succession of parts were in view, each slightly curved and with water between.  From one end of the first of these floating objects to the end of the last was apparently from seventy-five to one hundred feet.  

Greatly excited, and with stories of recent appearances of the sea serpent in their minds, the young men put the boat about.  

There was a swirl of water, a splash, a wriggle of the whole immense length and the monster disappeared.  The cat was kept right in the vicinity, its amateur sailors being anxious to get another glimpse of the serpent. 

Five minutes later it slowly appeared above the surface about forty feet off the starboard bow.  This time it was between the boat and the sound.  The night was bright, lighted by the stars.  The water was like a mirror, reflecting every detail.  At the distance of forty feet objects could be seen distinctly.  

The most skeptical man in the little vessel was unable any longer to doubt the evidence of his eyes.  It was certainly the sea serpent.  The mysterious monarch of the ocean moved rapidly along and was followed by a slight wake.  Now one portion of its hundred feet of length would be curved on the surface of the bay.  The next minute it would be out of sight.  

Three times more did the modern representative of some antediluvian species appear to the excited crew of the cat, now off the port and now on the starboard side.  The last appearance was the most distinct.  A small schooner had entered the bay and had come to anchor and the light from the lantern at the masthead shone directly upon the glistening sides of the sea serpent  only ten yards away.  It was then lying motionless upon the surface extended at full length.  At least a foot out of water was its back.  Those who saw it are convinced that it was at least seventy-five feet long.  As the cat neared it, it darted out in the direction of Long Island sound and disappeared in the darkness.

Mr. Burrows corroborated these details in conversation with an Eagle reporter.  He discussed the matter very intelligently.  

'I am positive,' he said, 'that we saw some extraordinary specimen of marine life -- a sea serpent if you will.  Until last night, I thought little of such stories.  Now I know better.  It was impossible for us to have mistaken anything else for the serpent.  I have been sailing for years and am familiar with those things which might be mistaken in this way.  It was not a school of porpoises, for they jump to the surface rapidly, their tails make the water eddy and their breathing makes a sound which can easily be heard.  It was not a school of any kind of fish, for they form in large, irregular circles, in which there is constant motion and splashing.  It could not have been a log or a line of logs, because it had rapid and independent movement and disappeared at will below the surface.  We were convinced that it was the sea serpent because of its length, its shape, its rapidity and the sinuous movement of its convolutions.  Every one in the boat saw it and no one doubts.'

Messrs. Burrows and Stokes are not the only Sea Cliff people who have seen the same Anomaly.  H. L. Lewis and R. P. Speed, who are yearly residents in the pretty village, told the reporter that on Thursday evening last [Thursday, July 18, 1895] they were on the top of the bluff or cliff which gives the place its name.  The light was good.  Looking toward the beautiful Sands Point shore, which makes one side of Hempstead harbor, their attention was attracted by a peculiar movement in the water.  Out toward the middle of the bay, between the steamer dock and that of the Sea Cliff Yacht club, they saw the sea serpent.  It was moving slowly toward the harbor entrance with a gracefully sinuous motion.  About fifty feet of its length was visible.

Messrs. Speed and Lewis are positive that it was a sea serpent and nothing else.  'It was so distinct,' said the latter, 'that we could not be mistaken.'

Those of the Sea Cliff summer and annual populace who are conversant with the facts told above are talking of taking active steps for the capture or destruction of the marine monster.  One idea is to put a harpoon gun upon a large naptha launch or a small steam yacht.  There would be danger from the lashing of the serpent's tail if it were wounded, but this might be guarded against by having the harpoon attached to a long whaling line.  Not only would it be exciting sport for these adventurous souls, but would be in the interest of science.

Mr. Burrows is confident that the monster can be found, with the exercise of a little patience, right there in the harbor.  His idea is that he comes in with the tide in search of fish for food.  Some of the old baymen agree with him for several reasons.  One is that it has been in Hempstead harbor twice within a week.  The other is that of his six appearances, two have been in the harbor itself and three have been within a radius of comparatively few miles, once at Oyster Bay, once off Matinicock light and once near City Island.  The other appearance was off Northport."

Source:  SEA SERPENT OFF SEA CLIFF, It Was Seen Last Evening for the Second Time -- WAS AT LEAST 75 FEET LONG, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul. 24, 1895, p. 2, cols. 1-2.  

The article quoted immediately above included several artist's depictions of the serpent as seen by the men in Hempstead Harbor.  Those images appear immediately below, followed by citations to the source,



Artist's Rendering of the City Island Sea Serpent Sighted in Hempstead
Harbor on July 18, 1895 and July 23, 1895.  Source:  SEA SERPENT
OFF SEA CLIFF, It Was Seen Last Evening for the Second
Time -- WAS AT LEAST 75 FEET LONG, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
Jul. 24, 1895, p. 2, col. 1.


Artist's Rendering of the City Island Sea Serpent Sighted by Crew of
Catboat Sailing in Hempstead Harbor on July 23, 1895.  Source:  SEA SERPENT
OFF SEA CLIFF, It Was Seen Last Evening for the Second
Time -- WAS AT LEAST 75 FEET LONG, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
Jul. 24, 1895, p. 2, col. 1.


Artist's Rendering of the City Island Sea Serpent Sighted by Crew of
Catboat Sailing in Hempstead Harbor on July 23, 1895.  Source:  SEA SERPENT
OFF SEA CLIFF, It Was Seen Last Evening for the Second
Time -- WAS AT LEAST 75 FEET LONG, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle,
Jul. 24, 1895, p. 2, col. 1.

"'SEA SERPENT' SURE ENOUGH!
------
Dead Body of a Snake Twenty-five Feet Long and Covered With Scales Floats Ashore.
-----

New York, July 31.  -- For several weeks past the officers and passengers on boats plying the sound have reported seeing a 'sea serpent,' and last night a dead snake 25 feet long floated down from the Sound through Hell Gate.  It went ashore on Blackwell's Island, and was hauled out of the water there.  

It is said to greatly resemble a boa constrictor, and is covered with scales.  The snake's back was badly torn and it had evidently been killed by the paddle wheel of a steamer."  

Source:  "SEA SERPENT" SURE ENOUGH!, Buffalo Evening News, Jul. 31, 1895, p. 4, col. 5.  

"THE SEA SERPENT AGAIN.
-----
A Score of 'Sober' Men are Said to Have Seen It.

The periodical appearance of the sea serpent was a little late this season, but that does not detract from the interest that some people manifest in the fiction.  Last year, as seen, the sea serpent of the Sound seemed to be a monster reptile with a head like a beer keg.  It sported on the waves, and altogether behaved itself like a monster of the feudal ages.  This year however, the 'animal,' 'reptile' or whatever it may be called disports itself in a different way.  This may be owing to the fact that it is seen through different kinds of glasses, though the authority of the last discoverers is vouched for and are said to be men who 'never drink.'  There is a qualification of the two words that must be understood before drawing deductions.

The sea serpent this time is said to have been seen from the steamer New Hampshire, near the Falkner Islands, 'in the wee sma' hours.'  In the last words lies the secret of the apparition.  It is in the 'wee sma' hours' that men are likely to see snakes.  It is 'in the wee sma' hours' that men have their most desperate struggle in shutting their sight from snakes.  It is said that the noise of the serpent was such that the Captain of the New Hampshire, looked over the bow of the boat to see what had produced a sound like the 'frou-frou' of silks.  It may not be necessary to say to the reader that 'frou-frou' is the French term expressive of the rustling of silks.  This would convey the belief that the sea serpent of '95 is a fashionable Trilby, and the belief is borne out by the evidence of the Captain, who says that in looking down he saw something that looked like a filmy lace.  Now it is well known that all men who see snakes have a sort of film over their eyes, and are as likely to believe that it is lace as the glossy coating produced by corn juice.  Continuing, the narration says, the Captain discovered that what seemed lace, was foam which was being lashed to snowy whiteness, by the squirming and wriggling of a mighty sea monster.  This is the exact imagination of a man that sees snakes.  The foam is present without 'any lashing or squirming.'  That comes later, and the monster is magnified according to the stage of the disease.  The apparition may be of snowy whiteness but it culminates into a ball of fire that is lace like in its infinitesimal divisions  The culminating point of the story takes the delapidated linen off the bush.  The Captain says that the 'powerful' tail of 'the creature,' threw the water over its head, like the gauzy skirts of a roof garden dancer.  It will be seen that in the second stage of the delusion 'the monster' had melted into 'a creature,' and the Captain imagined himself on a roof garden, watching a Dutch girl decry a half moon with her skirts.  In his vision the 'lace' and 'froth' had melted into water, that was spurted over 'Trilby,' the 'creatures' head like the purling stream from a North River fire boat.  Again the Captain relapsed, and he likened the 'froth' to a wilderness of lace.  It is impossible to conjure snakes without a wilderness so the imaginative Captain produced it.  Continuing, it is said the Captain turned on his search light and 'the effect was most sensational and startling.'  The search light of a man who sees snakes is most wonderful.  The most minute lizard becomes a monster alligator, and his imagination is so enlarged that everything is sensational and startling to his sight.  The description of the Captain's sea serpent follows:

'The scales were iridescent.  They changed with kaleidoscopic rapidity, with every throb of the agile body.  Now green, now blue, now the color of a secluded mouse, they fascinated the eye of the beholder as nothing which I had ever seen before.  Under the glare of the powerful search light, which brought out every shade and line, the mysterious creature seemed to take a pride in its antics and exhibited an agility which I deem unparalleled.'  It will be seen the old sea salt was true to his vagaries.  He saw the oft changing body, varying as the colors of the rain bow, and then again 'the color of a secluded mouse.'  The last apparition is true to men who see snakes.  They see rats, toads, mice and everything that a powerful searchlight reveals, and he vows it is something that fascinates and exceeds all parallels.  After indulging in the skirt dance and the rainbow hues, the Captain confesses that he was chained to the boat's deck after what he had seen.  This is the old story, after the fit is over, the victim imagines that he is chained to something, so weak and used up is the body from the powerful energy used in casting the searchlight on the 'snake,' 'lace,' 'foam,' &c.  To give force to his story, the Captain said 'the particular snake' he was wrestling with was 150 feet long.  Imagine a snake with a tail and body as long as three lengths of hose, throwing water over 'her' or 'his' head to form the effect of a 'roof garden skirt dancer.'  The powerfulness of the Captain's searchlight is most manifest in the last confession, and in his last wrestle with the snake he says:  'the serpent gave a Letty Lind flirt of the watery draperies and disappeared.'  The story is corroborated by the Captain of another steamer, who says that he saw 'the leviathan,' and that 'she' was thoroughly exhausted.  It may be just to say that the Captain was of the same line of steamers, and it is possible his beverage did not vary from that of the first sailor.  But as long as there are illegal stills in the mountain regions, or stills in more legal localities, men will see snakes, and the results of their visionary wonders will be given to the world.  The sea serpent is not new, others have seen it and others will see it in the future."

Source:   THE SEA SERPENT AGAIN -- A Score of "Sober" Men are Said to Have Seen It, The Port Chester Journal, Aug. 1, 1895, p. 2, col. 7.

"SEA SERPENT HITS STEAMBOAT
-----
This Time the Terror of the Seas Has a Hog's Head, Big Eyes and Small Feet.
-----
FORCE OF COLLISION BROKE A FLANGE IN THE WHEEL.
-----
Captain Burns' Truthful Tale Places the Length of the Monster at One Hundred Feet.
-----

Captain Burns, of the fishing steamboat Montauk, ran into City Island this morning, and told the latest sea serpent story.

He said that while the Montauk was on a cruise yesterday afternoon, bound west, when three miles east of Eaton's Neck, the boat ran into a big sea serpent.

Captain burns said that the force of the collision broke the flange from the paddle wheel.

He said the head of the monster was the shape of a hog, and that it had large eyes, and that when it turned over in the water he notice it had small legs.

Captain Burns estimated this latest sea monster to be nearly one hundred feet in length.  

Captain Burns added that the members of his crew were all sober men, and that they would all confirm his statement."

Source:  SEA SERPENT HITS STEAMBOAT, The Evening Telegram [NY, NY],, Aug. 16, 1895, p. 3, col. 6.

"SEA SERPENT'S LATEST TRICK.
------
Capt. Burns Tells the Story and Yachtsmen Will Search for the Monster.

Capt. Frank Burns, of the fishing steamer Montauk, says he does not drink.  His friends say he is cool-headed and always sane.  Read the yarn he spun yesterday at City Island:  'We, on board of the Montauk, were yesterday afternoon sailing west.  About three miles east of Eaton's Neck the boat run foul of some large substance in the water.  The force of the collision broke a flange from a paddle-wheel.  The obstruction, to the best of my knowledge, was a sea serpent fully one hundred feet long, with a flat head about six feet broad and eyes as big as large saucers."

Source:  SEA SERPENT'S LATEST TRICK, The World [NY, NY], Aug. 17, 1895, p. 4, col. 4. 

"SEA SERPENT HITS HELL GATE PILOT
-----
Big Black Monster, Larger Than a Whale, Bumps His Boat Very Hard.
-----
HAS BIG EYES THAT GLEAM
-----
While Tossing Skiff Out of the Water It Makes Noise Like That of a Steamship.
-----

Captain Alexander S. Banta, an old Hell Gate pilot, has never been inclined to place much confidence in sea serpent stories, but he had an experience yesterday which has caused him to change his opinion.  He is now a confirmed believer that some sea monster has its haunts off City Island.

Captain Banta's encounter with the monster occurred before daylight.  He was off City Island on his way to meet an incoming vessel and take her through Hell Gate and was resting on his oars, when a big black creature, which, he says, was larger than a whale, came up under his boat and struck it with such force that it was raised out of the water and nearly capsized.  The strange monster had big eyes, ,which gleamed like dark lanterns, and the notes made by it as it ploughed through the water resembled that of a big steamer turning about in midstream.  

Captain Banta was horror stricken.  He dropped his oars and held to the side of the boat.  The monster went down and came up a second time, striking the boat on the side and sending it out of the water.  Then it suddenly struck out toward one of the Sound steamers which was passing.  While the small fish in its wake were so scared that they kept flopping out of the water for several minutes.  

Captain Banta upon examining his boat found it had sprung a leak where the monster had struck it, and he hurriedly put into the shore to save it from going down in the middle of the Sound.

Captain Banta says he is willing to make an affidavit that it was no hallucination."

Source:  SEA SERPENT HITS HELL GATE PILOT, N.Y. Herald, Aug. 11, 1902, p. 12, col. 2. 


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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Genealogical and Biographical Information Regarding George Washington Horton and His Family, Early Settlers of City Island in the Town of Pelham


George Washington Horton and his family were early settlers on City Island in the Town of Pelham.  As of 1818, most of the island was owned by Nicholas Haight and Joshua Huested.  On January 1, 1819, however, Nicholas Haight and his wife, Mary, sold to George Washington Horton 42 acres on the lower (southern) portion of City Island.  For the next sixty years or so, most of this land was owned by George Washington Horton and, later in that time, by two of his sons:  Captain Stephen Decatur Horton and Captain George Washington Horton, Jr.

As one might expect, the Horton family is forever linked with the early history of City Island, its development, and its maritime traditions.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham blog transcribes genealogical and biographical information published in 1907 for various members of the Horton family tied to City Island.  Included in today's posting is a fascinating photograph of the George Washington Horton homestead on City Island as well as portraits of Stephen Decatur Horton and his wife, Caroline Lucilia (Skidmore) Horton.

"George W. Horton was born February 21, 1786, died September 22, 1860.  He married Elizabeth Horton, April 24, 1813.  She was born April 6, 1794, died June, 1861.  The children of this marriage were:  Joshua, born September 29, 1814, died January 10, 1815.  Benjamin Franklin, born December 25, 1815, died March 20, 1867.  Sarah Ann Glover, born October, 1817, died June 30, 1896.  Andrew Jackson, born July 16, 1819, died May 3, 1899.  Stephen Decatur, born January 18, 1821, died October 23, 1900.  Phebe Jane, who married Matson S. Arnow, was born May 10, 1824, died March 5, 1905.  George W., born June 27, 1827. . . . 

George W. Horton, grandfather of Dudley R. Horton, resided in New York City until 1833, and was there engaged in the transportation business.  During the War of 1812 he enlisted in the United States Army.  He was the first of the Horton family to settle on City Island, where in 1833 he purchased a tract of land comprising about one-third of the entire island and thereon erected the old Horton mansion, which is still standing on Main street, at the lower end of the island.  He was an energetic and progressive citizen, and during his active career contributed materially towards the growth, development and building up of City Island, a most delightfully located and beautiful tract of land.

Stephen Decatur Horton, fifth child and third son of George W. and Elizabeth (Horton) Horton, and father of Dudley R. Horton, was born at City Island, Westchester county, New York, January 18, 1821, a reference to whose career will be found elsewhere.  He married, September, 1842, Caroline Lucilia Skidmore, born April 16, 1824, daughter of Hubbard and Caroline (Avery) Skidmore.  Her father, Hubbard Skidmore, and grandfather Thaddeus Avery, fought in the Continental Army, and her original ancestor, Captain John Underhill, was commissioned by the English Governor Sir Edmund Andross to punish the Indians for the massacre of the noted Ann Hutchinson and her family at Pelham Neck, a duty he zealously performed.

Captain Horton died at City Island, October 23, 1900, and his wife survived him until August 18, 1903.  She was known as a most worthy woman, possessed of many excellencies of character, and was beloved by all who knew her.  She was a consistent member of the Dutch Reformed Church for many years, but during the latter years of her life became associated with the Episcopal Church of the community in which she resided. . . . 

CAPT. STEPHEN DECATUR HORTON.

Stephen Decatur Horton, fifth child and third son of George W. and Elizabeth (Horton) Horton, was born at City Island, Westchester county, New York, January 18, 1821.  He was educated in the schools of City Island, and upon attaining to manhood engaged in boating and shipping.  After pursuing this line of work for several years, he gained sufficient experience to become a licensed pilot on the East River and Long Island Sound, technically known as a 'Hell Gate Pilot,' and continued the same for a period of nearly fifty years, during which time he became well known as a successful and careful navigator.  Captain Horton was held in esteem for his many excellent personal qualities.

He married, September, 1842, Caroline Lucilia Skidmore, born April 16, 1824, daughter of Hubbard and Caroline (Avery) Skidmore, and their children were as follows:  Gertrude, born October 17, 1844, married Nicholas William Abbott, December 21, 1899; her husband was born December 5, 1832.  Dudley R., born December 17, 1854.  Estelle Mary, born May 2, 1857, married Edward Woodin, August 9, 1877, and has children:  Edward Bruce, born May 29, 1878, died January 8, 1879, and Estelle Lucilia, born June 4, 1880.  Howard L., born October 10, 1861, married Louise Van Zandt.  Captain Horton died at City Island, October 23, 1900, and his wife survived him until August 18, 1903.  She was known as a most estimable woman, possessed of many excellencies of character, and was beloved by all who knew her.  She was a consistent member of the Dutch Reformed church at City Island throughout her life, but during the latter years of her life became associated with the Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal churches of the community in which she resided in the absence of a church of her own denomination.

Source:  Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions And Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. II, pp. 202-03, 205-06 (New York and Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907).  




"Old George W. Horton Homestead.
Foot of Main Street, City Island.  Borough of Bronx.  New York."
Source:  Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions And
Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. II,
p. between pp. 202-03 (New York and Chicago:
The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907).


"Stephen Decatur Horton" and "Caroline Lucilia (Skidmore) Horton"
Source:  Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions And
Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. II,
p. between pp. 204-05 (New York and Chicago:
The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907).

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