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.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

1881 Description of Repairs to Ship on Premises of Pelham Shipwright Located on City Island

Before its annexation by New York City effective in 1896, City Island was part of the Town of Pelham. City Island, of course, has a rather ancient maritime tradition.

As a consequence of a litigation that arose in the early 1880s, there is a series of rather famous maritime law judicial decisions regarding a schooner named The B. F. Woolsey. Those decisions reveal much about the activities of an early Pelham shipwright named John P. Hawkins.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog Posting transcribes text from one of the judicial decisions released on May 5, 1881. It describes Hawkins's business and the way he repaired the schooner named The B. F. Woolsey. It is quoted immediately below:

"the libellant occupies certain premises adjoining a wharf at City Island, in this port, as a ship-yard for the repair of vessels. The premises are partly his own and partly belong to the Town of Pelham, constituting a public or town dock. By an arrangement between him and the town authorities he uses this part of the town property for his own purposes. On his own part of the premises is a railway on which he hauls vessels out of the water. This vessel was brought to the place by Terrell, the master and owner. She came to anchor, and afterwards was hauled to the premises ordinarily used by libellant as a ship-yard, being moored at first on that part belonging to the town. She was afterwards hauled out on the railway, and again taken off the railway and moored in her former position. I am satisfied by the evidence that the owner surrendered the actual care, control, and custody of the vessel to the libellant. The crew were dismissed, except the cook and the mate, whom the owner wished to retain for future service. The owner and the cook and mate helped the libellant in his work. The cook and the mate slept on board the vessel all the time the repairs were going on, except a short time when the condition of the vessel made it impracticable, and then they slept in a building of libellant adjoining the wharf. The owner stayed by the vessel and slept on board most of the time, but on Saturdays he went to his home in Brooklyn, returning on Monday morning. The libellant took his directions from the owner as to what repairs were to be made. It is clear from the testimony that the parties understood that the libellant was responsible for the care and safety of the vessel. His men moored her, hauled her on and off the railway, tended her lines, and looked after her safety in bad weather. If the master and owner had remained, or kept the cook and mate there, for the purpose of retaining the possession or custody of the vessel. Their acts upon and about the vessel were alio intuitu -- to help on and hasten the repairs, and lessen the expense."

Source: The B. F. Woolsey, 7 F. 108, 111-12 (S.D.N.Y. 1881).

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