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, March 26, 2010

Captain Joshua Leviness Defies the New York Legislature and Dredges Oysters with a Steamer in 1878

I recently have enjoyed researching the 19th century oyster industry in waters off City Island.  It seems apparent that Joshua Leviness was the "Dean" of City Island oystermen who consistently was involved in each and every development that affected the industry for the most important decades of its development. 

It seems that in 1878, Leviness decided to use a steamer to dredge oysters despite the legislative prohibition against it. Based on everything I have learned of Joshua Leviness, he was aware of the law . . . . .

Below is a news column published in The Chronicle of Mount Vernon on December 20, 1878.  The transcription is followed by a citation to its source.

"City Island and Pelham. 

A meeting of the Republican Association of the town of Pelham is called for this (Friday) evening, at the store of Waterhouse Bros., City Island. 

The bell for the new M.E. Church, on City Island, arrived on Wednesday last.  It weighs 800 pounds and bears the following inscription:  'Presented by Samuel P. Billar and Lucinda Reynolds, in memoriam of Drake W. Billar.'  It also bears the name of the pastor, T. N. Laine.

The work of extending the dock at Carll's yard is nearly completed.  A large job is expected daily.

The schooner Eclipse, of New York, is to be rebuilt at Hawkin's ship yard.  The timber for the work arrived this week.  Mr. H. is rebuilding the schooner Two Marys.

Mr. James Weaver is erecting a brick house, 22x30 feet, on Prospect street.  Messrs. Chas. Baxter and A. Wilson are the builders.

Some new buildings of a good class are in course of erection in Pelham Manor.  This is a good indication of the revival of business. 

Died -- at Bartow Station, on Saturday, Dec. 14, James P. Odell, aged 52 years.

Complaint having been made against Capt. Joshua Leviness, for dredging oysters by steam in Long Island Sound, we have been requested to republish the law on the subject, as passed by the last legislature.

CHAP. 302.

AN ACT in relation to the taking of clams, oysters and shell fish within the waters of this State, and dredging for the same. 
Passed May 21 1878, three fifths being present. 

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.  It shall not be lawful for any person or persons who are not at the time actual inhabitants and residents of this state to rake or gather clams, oysters or shell-fish, either on their own account and for their own benefit, or on account of or for the benefit of their employers, in any of the rivers, bays or waters of this State,., on board of any canoe, flat scow, boat or other vessel; but the provisions of this section shall not be so construed as preventing any actual resident and inhabitant of this state from employing persons to rake or gather clams, oysters and shell-fish, for the use and benefit of said actual resident and inhabitant of this state.

SEC. 2.  It shall not be lawful to dredge for oysters, clams or shell-fish with a dredge operated by steam power, in any of the bays, rivers or waters of this State.  No dredgeds to be used exceeding thirty pounds in weight, for catching oysters, clams, or other shell fish.

SEC. 3.  Every person offending as aforesaid, shall also be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by such a fine as the court may deem just and proper, but not to exceed one hundred dollars; or by imprisonment in the county jail, work-house or penitentiary, not exceeding six months; or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.  Any court of special sessions, in any county where said offense shall be committed, shall have jurisdiction to hear, try and determine any case arising under this act. 

SEC. 4.  This act shall take effect immediately."

Source:  City Island and Pelham, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, New York], Dec. 20, 1878, p. ?, col. 5 (page number not published at top of page). 

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