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 19, 2010

The New York Legislature Stepped Into the Oyster War on Long Island Sound in 1895

Regular readers of the Historic Pelham Blog know that I recently have been collecting research regarding the oystering industry off the waters of City Island in the Town of Pelham during the 19th century.  Recent postings on the topic are collected at the end of this posting.

It turns out that in the late 19th century, oystermen all along the Long Island Sound were battling over rights to harvest natural oyster beds and rights to stake out areas for seed beds.  Finally, the New York Legislature stepped into the picture.  The article below describes the development and its implications for certain City Island oystermen.

The Alleged Pirates Will Raise a Fund of $2,500 to Fight With.

GLEN COVE, L.I., April 30.--A fund of $2,500 is to be raised by oystermen who dredge in the Long Island Sound to test the right of the Legislature to ratify leases of natural-growth ground of oyster beds made by the Fish Commissioners.

This decision is the outcome of the recent oyster war waged by oystermen from City Island and other points on the oyster beds of the Matinnecock Oyster Company of Oyster Bay and was arrived at yesterday when one of the alleged oyster pirates, Augustus D. Merritt of City Island, was arraigned before Justice Henderson, in this village, on a charge of poaching on the oyster beds of the Matinnecock Company.  Merritt admitted the charge, but set up the claim that the beds are what is known as free ground.  He was willing, however, to reimburse the company for the oysters taken and the case was adjourned and will be settled outside of the court.

A meeting of the oystermen was held, and it was decided to take steps to carry the dispute to the United States courts if necessary, although the general feeling is that the Matinnecock Company will relinquish its holdings at the expiration of its present lease. 

It was shown on the survey made by Engineer Ford of the State Commissioners that the company had not encroached outside the grounds defined in the lease.  The company asserts its deterimination to defend its claim."

Source:  Oystermen to Appeal to Law, N.Y. Times, May 1, 1895, p. 3.

For other recent postings in this series, see:

Thu., March 18, 2010:  1859 Town of Huntington Record Reflecting Dispute with City Island Oystermen.

Wed., March 17, 2010:  Report of September 13, 1884 Tour of Oyster Beds by Captain Joshua Leviness of City Island.

Tue., March 16, 2010:  More on 19th Century Oystering in Pelham - Descriptions of Oyster Beds Off Hart Island, City Island and in Pelham Bay Published in 1887.

Mon., March 15, 2010:  More on 19th Century City Island Oyster Industry - City Island Oystermen Complaint of Pollution.

Fri., March 12, 2010:  Early History of Oystering in the Waters Off City Island in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., March 11, 2010:  The "Great Oyster War" Between City Island and Tarrytown in 1877 and 1878.

Mon., July 30, 2007:  1885 Report Notes Decline of Oyster Industry Near City Island in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., July 26, 2007:  Pelham's City Island Oystermen Feud with Long Islanders in 1869.

Fri., July 27, 2007:  Possible Origins of the Oyster Feud Between City Islanders and Huntington, Long Island.

Fri., April 13, 2007:  Oystermen of City Island (When It Was Part of the Town of Pelham) Pioneered Oyster Cultivation.

Mon., September 18, 2006:  A Brief Description of Oystering in Eastchester Bay and at Pelham Published in 1881.

Fri., January 26, 2007:  A History of the Early Years of City Island When it Was Part of the Town of Pelham, Published in 1927.

Thu., December 3, 2009:  Pelham News on May 30, 1884 Including Allegations of Oyster Larceny and Meeting of the Pelhamville Improvement Association.

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