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, March 17, 2010

Report of September 13, 1884 Tour of Oyster Beds by Captain Joshua Leviness of City Island

On September 13, 1884, City Island oysterman Joshua Leviness served as pilot of the steamer "Lookout" that carried Eugene G. Blackford on a tour of the oyster beds owned by Captain Leviness.  Mr. Blackford subsequently published a brief report of the tour.  I have transcribed below an excerpt containing that portion of Blackford's report that describes the tour off the waters of City Island in Pelham.  Additionally, beneath the excerpt, I have provided links to other recent postings dealing with 19th century oystering in the waters off Pelham. 


I have the honor to submit the following report of the work in the oyster investigation with the steamer Lookout, which you so kindly placed at the disposal of the New York State Oyster Investigation Commission:

During the thirteen days from September 12 to September 24, inclusive, that the steamer Lookout was at my disposal for the purpose of rendering assistance in our State oyster investigation ten trips were made with her to various points in the immediate vicinity of the city of New York, and along the north shore of Long Island as far east as Northport Harbor. The trips, which were very satisfactory in their general results, were made in the following order: City Island, Perth Amboy and the south end of Staten Island, Cold Spring Harbor, Hempstead Harbor, Little Neck Bay, Manhasset or Cow Bay, Execution Lighthouse Rock, Port Chester and Rye Beach, Northport Harbor, Princess Bay, and Spuyten Duyvel Creek.

During each trip one or more dredgings were made upon both the planted and natural beds of the vicinity, and specimens of the oysters of the beds were selected and preserved from each haul of the dredge. Notes were made as to the general condition of the beds, as shown by the proportion of oysters and shells taken at the different hauls, and the presence or absence of the various enemies of the oyster; also all information, which could be gained in so short a time in regard to the general working of the beds and the industry in that particular locality.

September 13.—The first trip was made to City Island, which lies northeast of the city near the entrance into the sound. Capt. Joshua Leviness was taken on board as pilot. He owns about 150 acres of oyster territory near the island, and was the first person to set stakes for oyster-planting in the East River. Originally all the land under water about the island was natural oyster ground, but at present most of it has been taken up and staked off for 'plants.'  Before the staking off took place much of the territory had become exhausted from overworking by the oystermen, and some of the land has been ruined by the dumping of garbage. The first dredge was made upon Captain Leviness' planted ground. The dredge was down one minute, and came up with 198 oysters and a few mussels, clams, and scallops. There were not many shells and only a few drills. The second dredging was made on a natural bed, and resulted in 16 small oysters and quite a number of shells. The planted oysters were of good size and fine flavor. There was no set of young oysters on either the planted or the native oysters, but the captain stated that the set was generally good. The water is from 2 to 12 fathoms over the beds, and dredges are used in working the beds. The dredges on the north shore of the island are limited to 30 pounds in weight, and probably the greater number of them are without teeth on the drag-bar. In the shallow water along the shores and in the coves tongs are used in taking the oysters from the bottom. The principal enemies of the oyster in this locality are the drills, Urosalpinx cinerea, but now and then the beds are troubled with starfish. The seed for the planted ground is taken either from the native beds or brought from Connecticut. . . . .

*  *  *  *  *  

Most of the natural beds examined during the trips made with the steamer show unmistakable signs of unscrupulous working and little care for the preservation of the beds. They are littered with rubbish of every kind, particularly with old and slimy shells, and appear in too many cases to be the general dumping ground for all sort of garbage from passing vessels. They need a thorough clearing and careful supervision afterwards in order to make them yield what they are capable of doing.

New York, N.Y., October 18, 1884."

Source:  Blackford, Eugene G., "Report of the Work in an Oyster Investigation with the Steamer Lookout" in Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, Vol. V for 1885, pp. 52-57 (Washington, DC:  Government Printing Office 1885).

Tue., Mar. 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., Mar. 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.

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
Located at http://www.historicpelham.com/.
Please Click Here for Index to All Blog Postings.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home