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, October 03, 2014

1775 Statute Authorizing Construction of City Island Bridge

Benjamin Palmer was a son-in-law of Thomas Pell (referenced by members of the Pell Family as Third Lord of the Manor of Pelham).  In 1761, Palmer purchased from his brother, Joseph, the island then known as Minneford's Island (today's City Island).  Benjamin Palmer had grand plans to build a large port City on the Island (hence, "City Island") to rival the port of New York City as an international shipping hub.  In 1763, Palmer announced that City Island lots had been laid out and were being offered for sale.  On May 10, 1763, the first ferry was established between City Island and Rodman’s Neck.  Throughout the 1760's many of those lots were bought and resold by land speculators.

Shortly before the onset of the Revolutionary War, Samuel Rodman Sr. and Benjamin Palmer successfully lobbied the New York Lieutenant Governor, the Council and the General Assembly to enact a statute authorizing them to build a free draw bridge between Rodman's Neck on the mainland and Minneford's Island (known today as City Island).  The plans were part of Palmer's grand scheme to develop Minneford's Island into a major city seaport.  

The onset of the Revolutionary War dashed these plans.  The statute required that the bridge be built within seven years of its date of passage on April 3, 1775.  The War raged for the next eight years.  Thus, the bridge was never built and Palmer's grand plans for City Island were relegated to the trash bin of history.  

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes the text of the statute.  I have written about this statute before, but am providing today's transcription from a different source because it differs slightly from the text of the statute about which I originally wrote.  See Tue., Dec. 26, 2006:  1775 Statute Authorizing Samuel Rodman and Benjamin Palmer to Build City Island Drawbridge.  

Benjamin Palmer spent decades supporting efforts to expand settlement in the region northeast of New York City.  He was involved in early efforts to develop a free bridge connecting the Island of Manhattan with the mainland to the north as an alternative to the King's Bridge which was a toll bridge that was the only bridge connecting Manhattan with the mainland at the time.  While developing and constructing the free bridge (known as the "Free Bridge" and the "Farmer's Bridge") the British colonial authorities were so incensed that Palmer was "pressed" (i.e., drafted) twice in one year to be sent to Canada to fight in the French and Indian War.  Both times he hired substitutes to go in his place.  Palmer later wrote "Notwithstanding this I continued building the free bridge until finished."  

I have written of Benjamin Palmer and his exploits on a number of occasions.  Links to earlier such postings may be found at the end of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  

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).

"Chapter CXXV.
(CHAP. 78, LAWS OF 1775.)

AN ACT to enable the Persons therein named to build a free draw bridge over the Narrows from Mineford's Island to Rodman's Neck.

PASSED the 3d of April 1775.


WHEREAS a free draw Bridge over the Narrows from Rodman's Neck to Mineford's Island in the Manor of Pelham in the County of West Chester, will considerably shorten the Distance of the present Ferry from Rodman's Neck to Great Neck on Long Island, as the said Ferry may then with great Convenience be kept on Mineford's Island aforesaid; and will moreover afford a convenient and proper Station for taking great Quantities of fish with Nets and Fikes, which will give considerable Employment and Relief to the Poor in the Neighborhood of the said Bridge, and lessen the Price of that useful Article in the Markets of the City of New York [Page 210 / Page 211] 

Erection of Draw Bridge authorized.

Be it therefore Enacted by his Honor the Lieutenant Governor the Council and the General Assembly, and it is hereby enacted by the Authority of the same, That Samuel Rodman Senior, and Benjamin Palmer both of the said Manor of Pelham and County of West Chester shall be, and they are hereby impowered to erect and build a draw Bridge over the said Narrows from Rodman's Neck to Minifords Island aforesaid in such Place as they the said Samuel Rodman Senior and Benjamin Palmer shall judge most fit,

Manner of Construction.

Provided that such Bridge there shall be two or more Apertures of at least twenty five Feet each, for the Convenience of navigating the said River by small Boats:

Bridge to be a free bridge.

And the said Bridge when so built shall be and is hereby declared to be a free and public Highway for the Use Benefit and Behoof of all his Majesty's Subjects whatsoever.

Act, when to become Null and Void.

And be it further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That the said Bridge shall be erected and built in the Space of Seven Years after the passing hereof, or in Default thereof, that this Act and every Thing therein contained shall be Null and Void, any Thing herein before contained to the contrary thereof notwithstanding."

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