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.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Biography of Jacob Smith of City Island, Proprietor of the Macedonian Hotel

City Island once was part of the Town of Pelham. New York City annexed much of the Town of Pelham including City Island in the 1890s. For much of the 19th century, however, a large segment of the population of the Town of Pelham resided on City Island.

One of those who lived there was Jacob Smith. For years he served as the proprietor of the Macedonian Hotel. Portions of that hotel supposedly were constructed from part of the English frigate Macedonian. Commodore Stephen Decatur (at the time, a Captain) captured that frigate during the War of 1812 to wide acclaim.

Within the hotel (now a restaurant on today's City Island) there is a plaque with an inscription that reads:

"This house is the remains of the English Frigate 'Macedonian,' captured on Sunday, October 25th, 1812, by the United States Frigate 'United States' Capt. Stephen Decatur, U.S.N. The action was fought in Lat. 24° N., Long 29°30' W., that is about 600 miles N.W. of the Cape of Verde Islands off the W. coast of Africa and towed to Cowbay in 1874."

This legend attracted curious visitors from far and near to the little hotel on City Island. However, the information turned out to be entirely wrong. It turns out that the structure includes material that is not from the original remains of the Macedonian captured during the War of 1812. It is constructed in part from the remains of a second ship also named "Macedonian" that launched at Gosport, Virginia, in 1836, rebuilt in Brooklyn in 1852 and broken up in 1874 at Cow Bay, Long Island.

See Jenkins, Stephen, The Story of The Bronx From the Purchase Made by the Dutch from the Indians in 1639 to the Present Day, pp. 431-32 (NY and London: The Knickerbocker Press 1912). See also Cook, Harry T., The Borough of The Bronx 1639-1913 Its Marvelous Development and Historical Surroundings, pp. 133-35 (NY, NY: Published by the Author, 1913).

Source of Photograph: Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. IV, Between pp. 242-43 (NY and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1907).

The Pelletreau book cited immediately above contains biographical data for Jacob Smith as well as a photograph of him with his extended family. The text and photograph appear below.


Jacob Smith, a patriotic and enterprising German-American citizen of City Island, borough of the Bronx, where he has become well and favorably known as the preserver of the old frigate sloop 'Macedonia,' which has become a matter of considerable local historic interest. The English frigate 'Macedonia,' captured on Friday, October 25, 1812, by the United States frigate, 'United States,' was commanded by Captain Stephen Decatur. The action was fought in latitude 24 north and longitude 29' 30" west; that is about six hundred miles northwest of the Cape De Verde Islands, on west coast of Africa; was towed into Cow Bay, 1874.
Jacob Smith was born at Kaisers Lautern, in the Rhine Pfalz district, kingdom of Bavaria, Germany, February 11, 1841, son of Frederick William and Rosanna (Wail) Schmitt, [Page 240 / Page 241] and was one of a family of eight children, six of whom emigrated to the United States and took up their residence in New York city, and two of whom died in the Fatherland. The six children who emigrated to the United States were as follows: 1. Wilhelmina, married William Seltzer. 2. William, died in New York city at the age of sixteen years. 3. Jacob, of this review. 4. Annie, who married Charles Steger. 5. Nicholas, married Sarah Frank. 6. Peter, married Margaret -------. The mother of the aforementioned children came to the United States in 1850 and died in New Rochelle, Westchester county, New York, in 1868. Her husband, Frederick William Schmitt, passed away in the Fatherland in 1847.
Jacob Smith, of this review, came to the United States in 1850 and with the family took up his abode in New York city, where he received his elementary training. Upon attaining to manhood years he learned the machinist trade, which line of occupation he followed for some time. In 1872 he came to City Island and there continued to follow his trade until 1888. That year, after having received permission from the United States government to undertake the task of restoring the old frigate sloop 'Macedonia,' he did so and added an annex to the same, using it for living purposes and also as a family and picnic resort, which has become popularly known as the Macedonia Hotel. During his residence at City Island, Mr. Smith has at all times taken an active interest in the material welfare of the neighborhood. He is an active member of the Mt. Vernon Singing Verein and such other organizations as have for their object the advancement of the social interests of the community.
He married, in New York city, December 6, 1864, Sarah Ann Hyde, born May 28, 1840, daughter of James K. and Clara (Jennings) Hyde. Of this marriage were born the following children: 1. Jacob P., born March 14, 1866, married Louise [Page 241 / Page 242] Lockyer. 2. Sarah L., horn November 5, 1868, married John P. Hawkins, Jr., of City Island. 3. Phoebe E., born November 19, 1870, married Captain John Crawford. 4. Elizabeth J., born November 17, 1872, married John Stradinger, of Van Ness, borough of the Bronx. 5. Joseph, born December 12, 1874, married Decie Mayer. 6. Mary H., born September 26, 1876, married Thomas Coltart, of City Island. 7. Isaac, died at the age of five years. 8. Frank Harrison, who lost his life by drowning at the age of nineteen. 9. Martha, died at the early age of one year. The mother of the aforementioned children died December 2, 1894; she was a consistent christian lady and a member of the Episcopal church."
Source: Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. IV, pp. 240-42 (NY and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1907).

Source of Photograph: Pelletreau, William S., Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Family History of New York, Vol. IV, Between pp. 240-41 (NY and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company 1907).

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