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.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

More About the History of Goose Island, Once the Home of Mammy Goose

Goose Island is a tiny little island near Pelham Bridge in Eastchester Bay.  The island is only about one and a half acres in size.  Goose Island was so named because of a massive flock of wild geese that first landed on the island in about 1810 and thereafter made the island an annual resting place.  

The tiny little island has a storied history that revolves around a colorful character who resided there from about 1843 until shortly before her death in 1885.  Her name was Abigail Tice.  She was nicknamed "Mammy Goose."  I have written about Mammy Goose and Goose Island on a number of occasions.  See:

Thu., Mar. 10, 2005:  "Mammy Goose" of Goose Island.

Tue., Apr. 25, 2006:  More About "Mammy Goose" of Goose Island.

Detail from Map Published in 1893 Showing Goose Island
on Left Near Branch Line Railroad Tracks Crossing
Eastchester Bay.  Source:  "Towns of Westchester and
(With) Village of Pelhamville" in Atlas of Westchester
County, New York Prepared Under the Direction of Joseph
R. Bien, E.M., Civil and Topographical Engineer from
Original Surveys and Official Records, pg. 3 (NY, NY:
Julius Bien & Co., 1893).

As a young girl, Abigail eloped with a stone mason named William Tice.  The couple moved to Mount Vernon in about 1840.  William Tice began working for Joshua Leviness, a prominent oysterman on City Island in the Town of Pelham.  

In 1843, Abigail and William Tice reportedly visited Goose Island.  It was "a lonely, barren spot and hadn't even a good reputation".  Even so, according to one account, "it pleased Mrs. Tice and she said to her husband, "Here I'm going to make my home."  Captain Joshua Leviness provided building materials to the couple who cleared trees, stumps, and stones from the island and built a tiny home with the materials provided by Leviness.  

To support themselves, the couple fished and clammed throughout Eastchester Bay and its shores.  Abigail Tice began hosting local recreational fishermen with broiled clams, oysters, and beer.  Her reputation as a hostess grew and she became known as "Mammy Goose."  By about 1850 or early 1851, however, William Tice died.  Abigail buried her husband on Goose Island near their little house.

On June 11, 1851, Tice married her second husband, Ogilsby Stinard, in Pelham.  Reverend Henry E. Duncan performed the ceremony.  The couple lived in the tiny shack on Goose Island for more than thirty years.  Stinard died in 1884.  Accounts differ over how he died.  According to one account, during a terrible nor'easter in the winter of 1883-84, Stinard, froze to death in the couple's shack on the island.  According to another account, Stinard waded into deep water while drunk and sank to the bottom and drowned.  Accounts agree, however, that like William Tice, he was buried on the island after his death.  

Captain Leviness kept a close watch on Mammy Goose and helped her fill her basic needs by supplying her "few wants".  When she grew too old to take care of herself, he arranged to bring her as a guest to a hotel he owned on City Island.  Although he planned to open a small shop for her to oversee during the summer of 1885, Mammy Goose died in her room at the hotel on March 26, 1885.  People believed her to be about 92 since she always said she was born in 1793. 

Only two days before her death, Mammy Goose made a will. In it she gave everything she owned to her friend, Captain Joshua Leviness.  Among the things she bequeathed to Captain Leviness, was Goose Island "on which she has always paid taxes."

Mammy Goose, it turned out, did not own Goose Island even though she purported to bequeath it to Joshua Leviness when she died.  Rather, she had leased the island for her "natural life" in exchange for the payment of property taxes on the island.  The Town of Eastchester claimed ownership of Goose Island and claimed to have leased it to Mammy Goose.  About a year before the death of Mammy Goose, it was discovered by Eastchester authorities that Mammy Goose was in arrears on her property taxes.  The Town began efforts to address the issue.

With the death of Mammy Goose, Captain Joshua Leviness wasted no time.  Within a month he already began construction of a dock on the tiny island and announced his intention to open a "summer resort" on the island.  It is unclear whether he was aware that Mammy Goose leased the island and that the Town of Eastchester claimed to own it and claiimed that Mammy Goose had failed to pay the property taxes for the island as required under her lease.  It seems very odd, however, that the will that 92-year-old Mammy Goose prepared two days before her death while in the care of Joshua Leviness bequeathed to him Goose Island "on which she has always paid taxes."

Eastchester hired a Mount Vernon attorney named Norman A. Lawler to file a lawsuit to reclaim Goose Island from Joshua Leviness.  By late September, 1885, the case was ready for trial in what one report described as the Circuit Court in White Plains, New York.  Thorough search has been made, however, and no report of the case or its results has yet been located.  

Nevertheless, Goose Island was part of the lands that became part of Pelham Bay Park and that were annexed by New York City in the mid-1890s.  Joshua Leviness clearly reached some arrangement to continue his use of Goose Island after the dispute with the Town of Eastchester.  He received a license from the New York City Department of Parks to rent boats from Goose Island and to sell refreshments to boaters and fishermen there.  In 1894, that license was renewed in the name of his son, George Leviness.  See Minutes and Documents of the Board of Commissioners of the Department of Public Parks for the Year Ending April 30, 1893, p. 43 (NY, NY:  Martin B. Brown, Printer and Stationer, 1894).


The property known as Goose Island was also referred to in their report as having been originally leased to Mrs. Stinard during her natural life in consideration that she should pay the taxes on the same which she had failed to do, and that the Recever of Taxes had never made a levy.  They recommended that the receiver cause a levy to be made for this years [sic] taxes.  

That there should be a revenue from that pleasant little spot, Goose Island, there can be no question, and when a lease was given to Mrs. Stinard, some specified sum of money should have been named as the yearly rental, and that amount ought to have been collected or else she should have been compelled to vacate for a more profitable tenant, but why Goose Island should be assessed as taxable property, sold, and the town take leases of the same, any more than the town dock, or any other town property, we are certainly at a loss to know.  We certainly can see no reason why any of property owned or held by the town as town lands should be assessed.

The trustees recommended that $300 be appropriated for the purpose of taking action against some of the above named parties or any one occupying or claiming to own any town lands, that the same may be recovered for the use of the town. . . ."

Source:  TOWN OFFICERS ACOUNTS, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Mar. 28, 1884, Vol. XV, No. 758, p. 1, col. 7.


--Capt. Josh Leviness is building a dock on Goose Island and intends to open a summer resort there.  He claims to own the Island under the will of Mrs. Tice, otherwise known as Mrs. Stinard, who lived there for nearly forty years.  She recently died at the residence of the Captain, City Island."

Source:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, New Rochelle Pioneer, Apr. 25, 1885, p. 3, col. 6.  


--The Trustees of Public Lands have taken the initiatory steps toward getting possession of Goose Island, in the Sound, near City Island, now claimed by Joshua Leviness.  They have appointed Norman A. Lawler, of Mount Vernon, counsel, and proceedings will be instituted at once."

Source:  COUNTY ITEMS, Supplement to Eastern State Journal, Jun. 12, 1885, p. 1, col. 3

"LOCAL NEWS. . . . 

The town of Eastchester has taken steps to eject Capt. Josh Leviness from Goose Island, and get possession of the property.  The case may be reached on the calendar this week, in the Circuit Court, at White Pains. . . ."

Source:  LOCAL NEWS, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Sep. 25, 1885, Vol. XVII, No. 836, p. 3, col. 1.  

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


At 9:59 PM, Blogger jon arnow said...

Thank you for updating the previous article on my great great grand uncle and aunt..Great job researching...


Post a Comment

<< Home