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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More About "Mammy Goose" of Goose Island

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On Thursday, March 10, 2005, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "Mammy Goose of Goose Island". In it I described one of the most eccentric characters ever to live in Pelham. Her name was Abigail Tice. Everyone knew her as "Mammy Goose". She lived on "Goose Island" in the middle of East Chester Creek only a few hundred yards from what was then known as "Bartow-on-the-Sound", a small hamlet within the Town of Pelham.

The Image Above Shows A Detail from Plate 35
of Beers Atlas of Westchester County Published
in 1868. The Red Arrow Points to Goose Island

At the time I published the item, I thought it unlikely that anyone had ever written about Mammy Goose. Recently, however, I ran across an item prepared in 1959 by J. Gardner Minard, then the Village Historian of the Village of North Pelham. He attributed the story he told to an item that appeared on the first page of the New York Sunday Mercury on an unspecified date.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog relates Minard's account of "Mother Goose" of Goose Island.

"Pelham's Bard Spins Gothic Tale Of Life And Death On Goose Island When Snow Storm And Gale Attack


Mother Goose Makes Vain Attempt To Secure Aid Only 1,000 Feet Away, When Father Goose Is Stricken Ill On Night Of Heavy Snow Storm And Elements Isolate Goose Island.


By J. Gardner Minard

Just how long the old couple had lived on Goose Island perhaps will never be known; but my dad first visited them in the summer of 1869 and said they were firmly established there then. If memory serves it was during the winter of 1883-4 that tragedy overtook Goose Island.

I am indebted to the N. Y. Sunday Mercury for the story. It appeared in a full column on the first page and mother kept that copy for several years.

November saw the finish of the fishing season. Father Goose had laid in his stock of provisions for the winter. The big bins were filled with enough fire wood to last several months. The row boat was drawn up above the high water line, painted and stored for the winter. Goose Island was officially closed until spring.

There came a cold snap and the mercury hovered around zero. Thick ice formed around the shore of Goose Island with a shelf of thin ice extending almost to the center of the channel. Similar ice formed along the main shore and only the strong ebb and flow of the tide prevented ice forming in the main channel. Goose Island was now isolated from the outer world.

One evening a heavy snow with a gale of wind struck. Father Goose was taken violently ill. Mother Goose had always been able to care for mild cases, but this was beyond her. It required a doctor. The nearest building was Blizzard's hotel a thousand feet away. She knew the odds were against her being heard, but going outside she shouted and screamed in that direction. The wind not only outhowled her but carried her voice in the wrong direction. She became too hoarse to continue and coming inside saw her husband getting worse.

Unconventional Distress Signal

There was a small flag pole on the island, and as a drowning man grasps at a straw, she got out her red flannel petticoat and hoisted it up, knowing full well that it could not be seen at night nor even in the daylight with the air filled with snow. Daylight came and the storm showed no sign of abating. About ten o'clock it blew itself out and the sun now shone on a desolate world.

Two of Blizzard's patrons were standing at the entrance to Pelham bridge when one noticed the ragged red cloth handing from the top of the pole. They went into the hotel and called the others. Blizzard himself came out. They shouted and whistled but got no response. They blew a horn and rang a bell but to no purpose. There was trouble at Goose Island.

The old couple was too highly respected to be ignored. John P. Holler had an ice pond and ice houses on Boston Turnpike near Steve O'Dell's hotel. He served Blizzard during the summer. They hitched up a horse and cutter and drove over Pelham bridge to the Shore road; through Pelham Manor and Boston turnpike; over Lockwoods bridge to Hollers.

Holler was in his office. They told the story. Holler operated a fleet of delivery wagons including two open ones that were used in the winter for delivering cakes wholesale. You could take off the wheels and attach runners to the axles. Holler told his son, Dave, to hitch a team to one of them, take two each of ice saws, ice axes, slicing bars, pikes and tongs and also two men.

The Rescue

[They] drove to Baychester and started cutting a channel in the ice from Blizzards to the island. When they reached the solid ice around the island, they jumped out and ran to the cabin. The door was open. The inside was cold as an ice box. They found Father Goose frozen stiff in bed and his wife, semi-conscious and numb with the cold, sitting at his bedside holding his frozen hand. They tried to take her away but she resisted. While one remained behind to build a fire, the rest returned to the mainland.

There were no telephones in Baychester at the time but the station agent at Baychester was [a] Western Union operator and he sent a telegram to the coroner of Westchester County. The latter came on the Harlem river branch to West Mount Vernon, walked to the New Haven station First street and Fourth Avenue and bought a ticket for Baychester. He got off at New Rochelle and changed to the branch road getting off at Baychester. From Blizzard's he was ferried over to Goose Island.

Mother Goose was now thawed out and in a husky whisper told her story. Permission was given to remove the body. I do not recall the Mercury telling what became of Mother Goose or where the body of her husband was buried. One thing is certain; she packed up her few belongings and was brought ashore and never returned to the island.

Just where his body was buried became the subject of a dispute. Some say it was taken to City Island and buried in the cemetery there. Others claim he was buried in the public section of old St. Paul's church in Eastchester; but others declared the men returned to Goose Island with picks, shovels, sledge hammers and wedges and dug a grave in the frozen ground and buried him there. Several vowed they could point to the very spot in the garden.

I met three of those persons individually and went with them to the island and each pointed to a different post and not one of the places showed any sign of the ground having been disturbed. It is my believe that Father Goose is buried in the public section of St. Paul's graveyard.

This is the second and concluding chapter of Mr. Minard's tale of how he came to leave Mount Vernon for residence in Pelham and the colorful people he knew in those days."

Source: Account Prepared for Publication as "Pelham's Bard Spins Gothic Tale Of Life And Death On Goose Island When Snow Storm And Gale Attack", The Pelham Sun, Jul. 16, 1959.

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At 7:19 PM, Blogger jon arnow said...

Abigail Tice a.k.a. Mammy Goose was married to my great grand uncle, Ogelsby Stinnard. An old record book I spotted many years ago said that he was , indeed, buried on the Island.

New York City Marriages, 1600s-1800s Record
about Ogilsby Stinard
Name: Ogilsby Stinard
Spouse Name: Abigail Tive
Marriage Date: 14 Jun 1851
Marriage Place: New York City, New York, New York
Source: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (quarterly), 1932, selected extracts
Comments: On microfilm at Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The New York Times reported that they were married June 11, 1851 in Pelham , New York by the Reverend Henry E. Duncan.


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