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, May 28, 2014

Description of City Island in the Town of Pelham Published in 1868

Before its annexation by New York City in the mid-1890's, City Island was part of the Town of Pelham.  The area that included City Island, surrounding islands and the mainland adjacent to the area was considered one of the most magnificent and beautiful areas anywhere near New York City.  With the creation of Pelham Bay Park, much of the area has been preserved in a lovely, pristine state.

I have written on many occasions about City Island and various aspects of its history.  I have included a lengthy list of such postings with links at the end of this brief article.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an article that appeared in the Eastern State Journal on September 18, 1868 describing City Island.  At the time, the bucolic island had a population of about 800 people -- the vast majority of the entire population of the Town of Pelham.

Map of Town of Pelham with Inset of City Island, 1868.
Source:  Beers, F.W., Atlas of New York and Vicinity, p. 35
(NY, NY:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, 1868).


This neck of land, which projects from the main land at Pelham, is one of the most pleasant and desirable locations of the many which abound on the shores of Westchester County.  There is a population of eight hundred souls, two churches, public schools, one hundred dwellings, three hotels, two shipyards, with railways for hauling out vessels, and all the necessary appliances for building or repairing vessels, of which there is a good deal done.  It was at the yards on the Island that the celebrate yacht, Vesta, was built; and the Henrietta, the property of James Gordon Bennett, Jr., was lengthened previous to her famous ocean race.  It is from this Island, also, that our famous Saddle Rock oysters are brought, and for which the inhabitants of New York and the surrounding country are indebted.  

The approach to the Island from the main land is from New Rochelle, or Mount Vernon Station, a distance of about four miles, through a magnificent country, studded with some of the most beautiful farms in our State, and forms a most desirable drive of fifteen or twenty minutes, which to those visiting the Island from the city, more especially, is a pleasant relaxation from the heat, dust, and inconvenience of the cars.

Until the present year, the means of access to the Island from the main shore was by a boat or a large barge, which was propelled by means of ropes, stretched from one shore to the other, and by which the boat was drawn forward and back; but the more enterprising and public spirited citizens of the Island have recently formed a stock-company, and have constructed a bridge, of a solid and substantial character, thus affording the islanders and those visiting them a rapid and safe means of transit, and at a small cost -- for of course it is a toll bridge.

The dimentions [sic] of the bridge are a span of one thousand feet, twenty-four feet in width, with a draw of one hundred and twenty-eight feet, leaving a passage-way for vessels of forty-two feet in width.

The directors of the Bridge Company are Messrs. George W. Horton, Stephen D. Horton, David Carll, Joshua Leviness, and Benjamin Hegeman -- names which are a sure guarantee for the proper official management of the Company.  The bridge has been erected at a cost of nearly or quite thirty five-thousand dollars.

After crossing over to the Island you have before you a splendid shell road, running the length of the Island -- to which the famed Coney Island road, that our neighbors of the City of Churches speak so proudly of, will hardly compare, for the making of fast time.

The Island consists of two hundred and seventy acres, is one and a quarter mile long, by from one quarter to a half mile wide; and the soil is said to be rich and productive to a great degree.  The steamboat Meta plies to and from New York city, daily; and the Neversink touches at the Island on Sundays.  To these means of access there is about to be added a railroad from Harlem Bridge to New Rochelle, which will run within three-fourths of a mile from City Island Bridge, and where a depot will be built for passengers vising the Island.

To say of our readers in search of a day's pleasure, or desiring a relaxation from the cares of business, or those fond of the beautiful, the picturesque, and the romantic, we would recommend to them a visit to the shores of City Island, and its hospitable inhabitants, for besides being the principal harbor on Long Island Sound for wind-bound vessels -- as many as one hundred and fifty having been there at one time -- is it not there where you can find good bathing on hard sand -- in salt water!  There are plenty of boats, fish, fishing-tackle, clams, oysters, and many good things to enjoy and consume, which make a trip like this so enjoyable; to say nothing of the bass-fishing and the duck-shooting in the Fall and Winter.

Heretofore the residents owning property on the Island have not been disposed to sell, prefering [sic] to enjoy their inheritances in apparent seclusion; but as several Summer residences have been erected during the present year, a disposition for still further improvement has shown itself, and we learn upon inquiring that some choice building sites will be offered for sale during the coming Spring."

Source:  CITY ISLAND - ITS RESOURCES - ATTRACTIONS - AND THE NEW BRIDGE, Eastern State Journal [White Plains, NY], Vol. XXIV, No. 21, Sep. 18, 1868, p. 2, cols.  4-5.

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Below are links to a host of prior postings that address, in one fashion or another, aspects of the history of City Island.

Mon., Apr. 07, 2014:  History of A Few of the Earliest Public Schools in the Town of Pelham

 Tue., Feb. 04, 2014:  Pelham: Once Oyster Capital of the World.

Thu., May 13, 2010:  More on the Early History of the Pelham and City Island Horse Railroad.  

Thu., Apr. 29, 2010:  City Islanders Complain and Force the Operators of Their Horse Railroad to Agree to Replace Antiquated Cars in 1908.  

Wed., Apr. 28, 2010:  Efforts by the Pelham Park Horse Railroad to Expand and Develop a Trolley Car Line on Shore Road in 1897.

 Tue., Apr. 27, 2010:  New York City's Interborough Rapid Transit Company Sued to Foreclose a Mortgage on the Horse Railroad in 1911.  

Mon., Apr. 26, 2010:  Public Service Commission Couldn't Find Marshall's Corners in 1909.  

Fri., Mar. 26, 2010:  Captain Joshua Leviness Defies the New York Legislature and Dredges Oysters with a Steamer in 1878

Thu., Mar. 25, 2010:  Discovery of "The Great Oyster Bed" in Long Island Sound in 1859

Wed., Mar. 24, 2010:  The Oyster War of 1884 Between Glen Cove and City Island Intensifies.

Tue., Mar. 23, 2010:  Yet Another "Oyster War" in 1884; Glen Cove Officials Feud with City Island and Connecticut Oystermen.

Mon., Mar. 22, 2010:  77-Year Old City Island Oysterman Joshua Leviness Reminisces in Testimony Provided in 1884.

Fri., Mar. 19, 2010:  The New York Legislature Stepped Into the Oyster War on Long Island Sound in 1895.

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

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

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

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

Wed., Mar. 10, 2010:  1899 Article About City Island's New Bridge Describes History of Area and Includes Wonderful Images

Fri., Mar. 5, 2010:  Construction of the City Island Horse Railroad in 1887.  

Thu., Mar. 4, 2010:  Beginnings of Horse Railroad - News from Pelham and City Island Published in 1884.

Wed., Mar. 3, 2010:  1879 Advertisement for Robert J. Vickery's City Island Stage Line, A Predecessor to the City Island Horse Railroad.

Tue., Mar. 2, 2010:  1901 Report Indicated that The Flynn Syndicate Planned to Buy the Pelham Bay Park & City Island Horse Car Line.

Mon., Mar. 1, 2010:  Flynn Syndicate Buys the City Island Horse Car Line in 1907 to Incorporate It Into Electric Trolley Line.

Fri., Feb. 26, 2010:  1913 Decision of Public Service Commission to Allow Reorganization of City Island Horse Railroad for Electrification.

Thu., Feb. 25, 2010:  Photograph of Patrick Byrnes and Article About His Retirement of the City Island Horse Car in 1914.  

Wed., Feb. 24, 2010:  Attempted Suicide of City Island's Long-Time Horse Car Driver.

Wed., Feb. 3, 2010:  Early Information Published in 1885 About the Organization of the "City Island Railroad", a Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to City Island.

Tue., Feb. 2, 2010:  Information About the Pelham Park Railroad at its Outset.

Fri., Jan. 22, 2010:  1884 Account of Early Origins of Horse Railroad Between Bartow Station and City Island.
Mon., Jan. 4, 2010:  1888 Local News Account Describes Altercation on the Horse Railroad Running from Bartow Station to City Island.

Thu., Dec. 31, 2009:  1887 Election of the Board of Directors of The City Island and Pelham Park Horse Railroad Company.

Thu., Dec. 31, 2009:  Obituary of David Carll, Master Shipbuilder on City Island in the Town of Pelham

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

Wed., Dec. 2, 2009:  Accident on Horse-Car of the Pelham Park Railroad Line in 1889.

Tue., Dec. 01, 2009:  Brief History of City Island Published in 1901.

Mon., Oct. 05, 2009:  1878 Account of Results of Sloop Race Held Off the Pelham Shores

Fri., Sep. 18, 2009:  City Island News Published in January, 1882.   

Mon., Sep. 7, 2009:  More on the Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island

Tue., Sep. 1, 2009:  Pelham News on February 29, 1884 Including Talk of Constructing a New Horse Railroad from Bartow to City Island.  

Tue., Aug. 11, 2009:  News of Pelham Manor and City Island Published on July 14, 1882.  

Wed., Jan. 28, 2009:  Biography of Archibald Robertson, Another Resident of City Island When it Was Part of the Town of Pelham.

Fri., Jan. 23, 2009:  Biography of Jacob Smith of City Island, Proprietor of the Macedonian Hotel.

Mon., Jan. 07, 2008:  1878 Article Describing the "Attractions of Little-Known City Island" in the Town of Pelham.  

Wed., Dec. 05, 2007:  Photograph of the Old Wooden City Island Bridge.

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

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

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

Fri., Apr. 13, 2007:  Oystermen of City Island (When it Was Part of the Town of Pelham) Pioneered Oyster Cultivation.  
Thu., Apr. 12, 2007:  Advertisement Offering Lots on City Island Belonging to Peter Harrison for Sale in 1775

Tue., Jan. 30, 2007:  Interesting Advertisement for Sale of Land on City Island in the Town of Pelham in 1800.  

Mon., Jan. 29, 2007:  Palmer Family Offers One Thirtieth of City Island for Sale in 1785

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

Thu., Jan. 25, 2007:  A Brief Account of the Early History of City Island, Published in 1909.

Mon., Nov. 27, 2006:  The 19th Century Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island.

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

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