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, September 22, 2005

1905 Poem About the Devil's Stepping Stones Off Shores of City Island

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On June 22, 2005 I published a Blog posting about a cabinet card photograph showing an early view of the brick Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse that stands in Long Island Sound off the southern coast of City Island which, when the lighthouse was built in 1877, was part of the Town of Pelham. See June 22, 2005: Cabinet Card Photograph Showing Early View of Devil's Stepping Stones Lighthouse Is Uncovered.

Tradition has it that the story of the Devil's Stepping Stones comes from an ancient Native American legend. While researching Pelham history, I recently ran across a poem written about the Devil's Stepping Stones legend. The article that included the poem, published in 1905, appears in its entirety below.


The irregular reefs that stretch out from the base of Great Neck on the north shore of Long Island toward the mainland across the Sound are known as the Devil's Stepping Stones from an almost forgotten Indian legend.

A sky of gold, a sea of blue,
A drowsy day of naught to do:
In pleasant waves our lines we threw
At anchor as we lay

Where, reaching through the gentle
Manhasset rears a wooded mound,
And Schuyler, grimly cannon-crowned,
Disputes the narrow way.

Eight merrily our angling throve!
Ere noon we sought a sheltered cove
Where, plunging joyously we clove
The waters clear and cool.

Our feast we spread, our songs we sung,
Then, pipes a-light, at ease we flung
To hearken while our skipper's tongue
Rehearsed a tale of old.


In rugged lines that vainly strive to reach
the northern side.
The shell-grown ledges rear their heads
above the ebbing tide.
There blackfish haunt, and sea bass love
the lavish flow that drones
Among the clefts -- but sailors shun the
Devil's Stepping Stones.
Long, long before the White Man came,
Pequot traditions tell.
Habbamocko, the Evil One, that spirit
wild and fell.
Strode forth through fair Connecticut,
and, casting flame around.
Waged war to gain the fertile vales that
skirt the Northern Sound.
Twelve days the Demon strove with men,
and all the sky grew red
With blazing shaft and hurtling brand,
At length the Tyrant fled.
Still battling, east along the strand in
hissing flame and spray
To younder jutting spit of land that pierces
Pelham Bay.
Here, harassed by a hundred foes, the
baffled Fiend forbore;
Across the wave-worn Stepping Stones he
reached Long Island's shore.
In that far time no boulders rude be-
spread the fertile main.
But through Long Island shattered crags
were thick on hill and plain.
At Cold Spring Bay the vengeful Fiend
heaped high a lofty pile
Of all the gathered bones of Earth that
strewed the sandy Isle.

Loud laughed the fierce Habbamocko as
laughs the angry gale!
Across the Sound with mighty arm he
hurled the craggy hail.
On shore and hill the shadowed stone
were flung with crashing din
To load with sterile bonds the land his
prowess failed to win.


And since that day of flaming shocks,
And fierce, infernal revel,
Connecticut has all the rocks --
Long Island has the Devil.

Source: The Devil's Stepping Stones, N.Y. Times, Feb. 17, 1905, p. 8.

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