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, November 25, 2015

The Brutal Winter of 1822 Where Sloops Froze in Place in Waters Off Pelham

Clearly the winter of 1822 was a particularly brutal and cold one in the New York City region.  It was such a memorable winter that more than fifty years later, in 1874, a resident of the region recalled:

"There was no coal used in the City then except the soft coal which blacksmiths used.  Wood was the only fuel, and it was piled as high as the housetops in yards in many parts of the City.  His father, was in the wood business and his supply, which was large, was exhausted in February on account of the cold weather.  A lot of logs lying in the river were bought, hauled out, and cut into wood.  Mr. Sweet remembers that the North River was frozen over for a number of days so that teams crossed on the ice where the ferry-boats now run, and that he rode on a load of wood from the foot of Cortlandt street to Jersey City.  He also recalls the fact that two young men named Harrison and Houghton built a shanty on the ice in the middle of the Hudson River and at the 'Half-way House,' as it was called, sold rum to the passengers for 14 days."

Source:  THE COLD WINTER OF 1822, N. Y. Times, Jan. 5, 1879.  

There are very few records that reflect the impact of the brutal cold of the winter of 1822 in the Town of Pelham.  This is not so surprising when one considers that, according to the United States Census of 1820, there were only about 283 residents in the entire town at about that time with no local newspapers and scant remaining town records.  Yet, there is a fascinating newspaper report that was republished in a newspaper distributed in London, England on February 25, 1822 noting that the unusually-cold weather had frozen at least one sloop in place between City Island and Hart Island in the Town of Pelham in January, 1822.  

It appears from the account that for several days during the week of January 17, 1822, Long Island Sound off the Town of Pelham froze over.  During the time, at least one sloop and perhaps several vessels, were trapped in the ice between City Island and Hart Island in the Town of Pelham.  On about January 23rd, the ice above Hell Gate gave way and a passage opened to allow one of the vessels, the sloop that was trapped between City Island and Hart Island, to make its way to New York City.

The pertinent account stated in full:


We are glad to state, that the passage through the Long Island Sound, which has been obstructed for several days, is again open.  The ice above Hell-gate gave way on Thursday morning, and a passage was open, so that a sloop came through yesterday morning.  The master informs, that this vessel was frozen in between Hart and City Island.  None of the vessels have suffered any damage."

Source:  [Untitled], London Statesman, Feb. 25, 1822, p. 2, col. 2 (access via available link requires paid subscription).  

Detail of 1867 Beers Map Showing Hart Island Shortly
Before John Hunter, Jr. Sold it to New York City.
Source:  Beers, Ellis & Soule, Atlas of New York and
Vicinity From Actual Surveys By and Under the Direction
of F. W. Beers, Assisted by Geo. E. Warner & Others,
p. 7 (Philadelphia, PA: Beers, ellis & Soule, 1867) ("Plans
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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