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, December 08, 2015

Heinrich Carl Christian "Henry" Piepgras and His Shipyard in the Town of Pelham on City Island

Heinrich Carl Christian "Henry" Piepgras purchased the David Carll Shipyard at the eastern end of Pilot Avenue (today's "Pilot Street") on City Island in the Town of Pelham in about 1885.  To read more about the origins and history of the David Carll Shipyard, see Mon., Nov. 16, 2015:  David Carll's Shipyard in the Town of Pelham on City Island.  

Henry Piepgras was a talented and masterful shipbuilder and ship architect.  He brought the art of iron and steel ship construction to City Island after having become an expert in crafting lead keels (and building hollow masts for such ships) while working as a shipbuilder in Germany and, later, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides information about Henry Piepgras, his family, and the shipyard he oversaw on City Island.

Brief Biographical Information

Heinrich Carl Christian Piepgras was born on July 20, 1834 in Eckernförde, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.  He was a son of Claus and Anna Piepgras.  Family genealogists believe that Piepgras married for the first time to Margaretha Christina Juliane Loewe (or Lyons) on May 8, 1863 in Germany.  He and his first wife had three children:  Dora Piepgras (b. 1865), Daniel Heinrich Friedrich Piepgras (1867-1955), and Mary Lottie Piepgras (1869-1955).

As a young man, Piepgras became a shipbuilder in Eckernförder, near Hamburg, Germany, on the Baltic Sea.  By the age of 38, however, he and his family emigrated to the United States.

A "Hein. Piepgras," age 38 years and listed as a "Shipper" from Germany appears on a New York passenger list (Ancestry.com, paid subscription required) indicating that he departed from Hamburg, Germany, traveled to Le Havre, France, and arrived in New York on June 12, 1872 with three children, "Dora," "Daniel," and "Marie" (i.e., Mary) and a 31-year-old female referenced as "Juliane" -- i.e. Margaretha Christina Juliane Loew (or Lyons).  The couple settled in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York and had another child named Henry Christian Piepgras born in 1873, a child who did not survive infancy.  

It appears that at about this time, Henry Piepgras married a woman named Wilhelminie (also referenced as Wilhelmine and Wilhelmina in some instances).  Research has not yet revealed what happened to his first wife (Margaretha Christina Juliane Loewe or Lyons).  Hopefully, however, the circumstances involving Piepgras and his first wife turned out nothing like the relationship Piepgras had with his second wife, Wilhalminie.  

Henry Piepgras married Wilhelminie in 1873 in Brooklyn, New York.  He remained with her until about 1884 when he reputedly abandoned her without divorcing her and began paying her an allowance of five dollars a week that he reduced, in 1897, to three dollars a week.  Late in his life, Henry Piepgras married again in 1904 (his third marriage) to a woman reportedly named "Bertha" without obtaining the requisite divorce.  Bertha Piepgras died on September 21, 1905.  A little less than a year after Bertha's death, Piepgras married a fourth time in 1906.  On that occasion he married Elizabeth Bolup, "a member of a prominent Florida family."  

In 1907, Henry Piepgras's second wife, Wilhelminie (from whom he never had obtained a divorce) filed a lawsuit against him in New York alleging bigamy.  She sought a divorce, alimony, and attorneys' fees from Piepgras.  She further alleged that soon after his third marriage in 1904, she "was induced by him to sign away her dower rights in his estate for $2,000, "it being represented to her as inconsiderable."  Thereafter, she alleged, she learned that Henry Piepgras held about $100,000 worth of real estate on City Island.  She also discovered that Piepgras recently had transferred to his then current wife, Elizabeth Bolup Piepgras, a one-fifth interest that he held in a $40,000 purchase mortgage he had received in connection with his sale for $60,000 of certain City Island property.  In her lawsuit, Wilhelminie sought to have the transfer of the interest in the mortgage made to Elizabeth Bolup Piepgras set aside on the grounds that the signing away of her dower rights which made the sale of the Piepgras property possible was procured by fraud.  

Research has not yet revealed the resolution of Wilhelminie's divorce action against Henry Piepgras.  At least one report suggests, but is not clear, that the divorce was granted and Henry Piepgras was required to pay Wilhelminie's attorney fees but no alimony.  Henry Piepgras left the bulk of his considerable estate to his last wife, Elizabeth Bolup Piepgras, after his death (see text of will below).  

The Piepgras Shipyard on City Island

Though his personal life may have been a bit of a mess, the professional life of Henry Piepgras was far more successful.  Piepgras learned the art and science of crafting substantial steel hull ships while working as a shipbuilder in Eckernförder, near Hamburg, Germany, on the Baltic Sea.  

After emigrating to the United States, Piepgras began work as a ship designer at the shipyards of Henry Steers at Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York where he worked for about ten years.  The Henry Steers Shipyard built large Sound steamers as well as smaller pleasure yachts.  Piepgras, while working there, focused on the design of smaller pleasure yachts.  At some point after the mid-1870s, however, Henry Steers "gave up the ship business and became the president of the Eleventh Ward Bank in New York."

When Henry Steers left the shipbuilding business, Henry Piepgras developed the "shipyard of Henry Piepgras" at Pottery Beach, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York.  It seems possible that, at some point, Piepgras operated a "Copartnership" with Samuel H. Pine whereby both of the men built ships at the Pottery Beach Shipyard.  The "copartnerhip" of the two men was dissolved effective September 1, 1885.  It would certainly seem that the dissolution of this "Copartnership" was associated in some fashion with Piepgras's subsequent purchase of the David Carll Shipyard on City Island the same year (see below).

1885 Newspaper Notice of Dissolution of "Copartnership of
Piepgras & Pine".  Source:  COPARTNERSHIPS, N.Y. Herald,
Sep. 4, 1885, p. 8, col. 4.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

While working at his Pottery Beach Shipyard, Piepgras developed a superb reputation as a master shipbuilder.  There are numerous accounts of the launch of a variety of important ships from Piepgras's Pottery Beach shipyard, some of which are quoted in full at the end of this article.  See also YACHTING -- THE WENONAH LAUNCHED, The Spirit of the Times, Sep. 30, 1882, p. 256 (describing Sep. 21, 1882 launch of the cutter Wenonah built by Piepgras); ANOTHER NEW CLIPPER -- THE RACING SLOOP CINDERELLA TO BE LAUNCHED TO-DAY, N.Y. Herald, May 8, 1886, p. 6, col. 1 (describing plans for May 8, 1886 launch of the 63-foot racing sloop Cinderella).  

An article published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle on May 4, 1890 likely described what attracted Henry Piepgras and Samuel H. Pine to Pottery Beach in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and why Piepgras decided to move to City Island to develop a new shipyard.  The article noted:

"Pottery Beach was for years a favorite resort for yachtsmen.  During the Summer months white winged sailing craft, which anchored there in great numbers, gave it a prestige that made it famous.  Regattas without number were started from it, and in recent years two yacht clubs, the Williamsburgh and the East River, made their headquarters there.  Henry Piepgras' well known yacht yard was located at one end of the beach and boat builders' shops and yards were scattered about here and there.  Greenpoint was then a famous ship building center.  Such men as John Englis and others laid the foundations of their great fortunes there.  But with the decay of the American Merchant Marine, brought about by the Civil War, Greenpoint gradually lost its ship building interests until now nothing remains of them but a memory.  The march of industrial development soon reached Pottery Beach and one by one the yachts sought another anchorage.  Henry Piepgras removed his yard to City Island three years ago and the other boat builders sought new fields.  The East River Yacht Club moved its headquarters to Ravenswood and the Williamsburgh Yacht Club has also departed.  Most of the hill has been cut away and what remains is being daily reduced.  The beach has been bulkheaded and wharfage rights of this property may now be leased.  Nothing is left to remind the visitor of the former beauty and life of the place."

Source:  GREENPOINT'S GROWTH -- Some Account of an Important Industrial Center -- It Now Has a Population Estimated at 50,000, With Numerous Manufactories, Stately Churches and Handsome Buildings -- A Big Real Estate Boom, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4, 1890, p. 17, cols. 1-2.  

In any event, about 1885 Henry Piepgras bought David Carll's shipyard on City Island in the Town of Pelham at the eastern end of Pilot Avenue (today's Pilot Street).  At least one source indicates that Carll retained an interest in the shipyard, at least for some period of time.  It appears that it took Piepgras some time to move his shipyard business from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to City Island.  He is reported as making preparations" to move his business, finally, in the July 8, 1886 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (see below). 

It appears that at the time of his move to City Island, Henry Piepgras was deaf.  It is at least clear that one account published in 1883 states that he was deaf at the time of the report (see below).  

Henry Piepgras in an Undated Photograph
(Detail from Advertising Brochure for his Shipyard).
Subscription Required).  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Detail from 1893 Map of City Island Showing
Quadrant at Eastern End of Today's Pilot Street.
Source:  Bien, Joseph Rudolph, "Towns of
Records, p. 3 (NY, NY:  Julius Bien & Co., 1893).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Like David Carll, his predecessor, Henry Piepgras quickly became a successful and affluent City Island shipbuilder. Although records of the ships he built are scant, a number of such ships have been identified including, among others:

Ship Name
Initial Owner
Ship Type

C. Oliver Iselin
E. S. Auchincloss
Elbridge T. Gerry
Bo Peep
E. H. Weatherbee
Wm. M. Tompkins
Frederick Grinnell
E. D. Morgan
E. D. Morgan
E. D. Morgan
W. K. Vanderbilt
J. R. Haggeman
John Brooks
Medford Runyan
Henry Piepgras

Henry Piepgras
A. Wendell Jackson
Austin F. Riggs

Source (Plus an Addition by this Author):  "Robert Jacob Shipyard, City Island NY - David Carll Shipyard and Piepgras & Company, Later Consolidated Shipbuilding" in Colton, Tim, Shipbuilding History - Construction Records of U.S. and Canadian Shipbuilders and Boatbuilders (visited Dec. 6, 2015).

One of the earliest ships built at the Piepgras Shipyard that attracted a great deal of attention was the Titania built for C. Oliver Iselin.  The Titania was a magnificently-outfitted 82-foot steel sloop.  Like a number of the launches of new ships when the shipyard was owned by David Carll, the christening and launch of the Titania on May 14, 1887 was attended by about 2,000 spectators.  Though the launch was successful, it was marred by an unusual mishap.

That day, with guests aboard the ship and thousands watching from shore and from ships and boats that had collected in the waters of Long Island Sound nearby, everyone waited for the tide slowly to rise to a level sufficient to launch the massive sloop.  At high tide, the christening occurred and at 5:20 p.m. the blocks were removed.  The ship, which rested in a cradle perched on railways running from the yard into the water, began sliding down the railways and hit the water with enough force to throw magnificent spouts of water into the air.  It continued sliding down the railways until it seemed to jerk to a dead halt without floating.  The cradle had come to the end of the railways and gone aground before the yacht floated off.  The Titania was stuck.

Every shipyard worker, many of the guests, and even C. Oliver Iselin were called to duty to use ropes to try to free the Titania.  According to one news account:

"Then there was a scene of excitement for a few minutes, to which the sight of a gory sailor added somthing.  His hand had been cut by the christening bottle.  The Titania's two boats went out to her and took off some of the guests.  Then a line was taken from her port quarter through a block on the wharf and about 50 men began to haul on it.  All the crew and Mr. Iselin and his friends were hauling on deck.  Still she did not move.  Finally a line was rigged from her masthead, and she was gotten safely off, while every one cheered."

The 82-Foot Steel Sloop Titania, Built by Henry Piepgras's
Shipyard for C. Oliver Iselin in 1887.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

By the late 1880s, the Piepgras Shipyard was growing in both importance and fame.  Consequently, in 1891, Henry Piepgras embarked on a project to expand and improve the shipyard.  That year, Piepgras obtained from the New York State Commissioners of the Land Office an additional grant of land under water to permit him to expand his operations.  For this land -- 443 feet front and a little more than 400 feet out from shore -- he paid $20,000.  Piepgras also paid $25,000 for improvements.  

Efforts by Members of the Hunter Family to Eject Piepgras from His Property

As the population of City Island began to soar in the late 1880s and early 1890s, land values in and around City Island began to soar.  In addition, the Town Supervisor of Pelham, Sherman T. Pell (who later absconded with monies he stole by forging and selling Town bonds, never to be heard from again), sought clarification from the New York Attorney General on behalf of the Town regarding the status of ownership interests of land under water off the shores of City Island.  The Attorney General determined that old claims held by the Hunter family that had been ignored or missed by David Carll when he originally bought and expanded his shipyard remained valid.  Such a decision, of course, placed the properties and livelihoods of a host of City Island business at risk, including the shipyard business of Henry Piepgras who had succeeded to the shipyard properties of David Carll.

A "test litigation" promptly was filed on behalf of Elizabeth Delancey and John Hunter (children of Des Brosses Hunter) to "eject" City Island's largest shipyard owner, Henry Piepgras, from the use of land beneath the waters surrounding City Island.  Ejecting him from the land beneath the water adjacent to his shipyard, of course, would destroy his business.  Piepgras was forced to fight the litigation for years.  It nearly ruined him.  Indeed, things got so bad as the Hunter family won early rounds in the litigation that Piepgras was forced to close the shipyard for much of a year during 1893 and the first few weeks of 1894.

I have written about the ejectment action before.  See Mon., Nov. 27, 2006:  The 19th Century Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island.  See also Mon., Sep. 07, 2009:  More on the Ejectment of Henry Piepgras from Land Beneath the Waters Surrounding City Island.  (For the sake of completeness, I am reproducing much of that information below, plus additional information about the efforts to eject Piepgras.)

In 1891, local newspapers reported widely on the filing of the ejectment action.  A report in The New York Times provided a good of the suit.  That report read as follows:


A suit of more than usual interest was decided in the Supreme Court for Westchester County, at White Plains, last week, by Mr. Justice Barnard. The action was for ejectment to recover possession of 145 acres of land under water, surrounding City Island, in the East River, and constituting a strip of land under water nearly three miles long by 400 feet wide. Land values in City Island are increasing so rapidly that the property in question has, of late years, become quite valuable. 

The plaintiff in the action was Mrs. Elizabeth D. De Lancey, now resident in Virginia, as owner of three-fourths interest in the land. The defendant was Henry Piepgras, owning the largest shipyard on the island, and the claimant for the remaining one-fourth interest was Mr. John Hunter of Westchester. The origin of the title to these lands dates back to a patent from the Crown, through Governor General Monckton, to Benjamin Palmer, dated 1763. The original Palmer obtained this grant for the purpose of developing City Island into a rival, if not the successor to the commerce of the city of New-York, expecting thereby to avoid the then serious dangers of navigation at Hell Gate. His speculation proved disastrous, and the only trace of it left on the island is the name, 'City' Island, adopted in place of Minneford's, the original Indian name. 

The island soon reverted to its original agricultural condition, and the quit rents, on which the Crown patent was conditioned, were never paid. In 1819 the Legislature of this State provided for the sale of all lands for non-paymens [sic] of quit rents. The property in question wat [sic] sold pursuant to the act then passed, and the title of the Palmer heirs was thus extinguished, and the property was conveyed by the Controller of this State, in 1836, to Des Brosses Hunter, the father of the present claimants, who thereupon leased the lands to Capt. Joshua Leviness, who used them for oystering and other purposes for over thirty years. The Hunter title, though acceded to at first, was finally resisted by the islanders, but it has always remained a matter of common knowledge on the island. It was attacked by the islanders in 1887 by a proceeding before the Commissioners of the Land Office for the cancellation of the deed to Elias D. Hunter. The City Islanders in this case were defeated. Shortly afterward the present suit against Mr. Piepgras was instituted as a test case, and it has resulted in a verdict sustaining the De Lancey and Hunter claims in all respects. The case, however, will undoubtedly be appealed and contested in the highest courts. 

Numerous novel and interesting questions of law were raised in the case. The case is the first one ever instituted in this State on a title arising from a quit-rent sale. The principal defenses urged on the trial of the present case were prior conveyances of the lands in question by the Pell Manor grant: tenure of the lands in trust by Benjamin Palmer for the benefit of the City Islanders; non-performance by the State officers of all requirements of the quit-rent sales, as per the act of 1819, &c. 

As to this, plaintiff contended successfully that the lands having forfeited to the State for non-payment of the quit rents, exact compliance with the requirements of the statute in the matter of sale was immaterial. The court also held that claimants' title had been perfected by adverse possession. 

The counsel in the case were: For the claimants, Mr. Walter D. Edmonds and Mr. John Hunter, Jr., of Temple Court; for the defendant, Mr. James R. Steers, Jr., of Bryant Building." 

Source: A Very Interesting Suit. - It Was Brought To Recover Possession of Land Under Water, N. Y. Times, Jun. 7, 1891, p. 6, col. 3.

Thereafter there followed years of court battles and judicial decisions.  Some of the early, more colorful decisions are summarized immediately below.  

De Lancey v. Peipgras, et al., 63 Hun 169, 45 N. Y. St. Rep. 41, 17 N.Y.S. 681 (Sup. Ct., Gen. Term, 2d Dep’t 1892). In the initial decision (see description above), Plaintiff and John Hunter recovered from the appellant in an ejectment action a strip of land under water adjacent to City Island. The Court granted judgment for them and denied a request for a new trial. Piepgras appealed and the intermediate appellate court affirmed the decision. 

De Lancey v. Peipgras, 93 Sickels 26, 138 N.Y. 26, 33 N.E. 822 (N.Y. 1893). In action where the Plaintiff and John Hunter recovered from the appellant in an ejectment action a strip of land under water adjacent to City Island, the appellant sought to overturn the lower court’s decision. The New York Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment though it modified it by inserting a proviso and reservation contained in the original City Island patent issued to Benjamin Palmer. 

Piepgras v. Edmunds, 23 N. Y. Civ. Proc. R. 241, 5 Misc. 314, 31 Abb. N. Cas. 39, 25 N.Y.S. 961 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1893). The plaintiff had a shipyard on City Island and was “ejected” from lands under the waters surrounding City Island where he had a dock and rails used to haul ships out of the water following a lawsuit filed by Elizabeth De Lancey, John Hunter, Jr. and others. On appeal of that ejectment action, the New York Court of Appeals modified the judgment of the court below saying that it should have recognized certain easements provided in the English Crown’s original land grant to Benjamin Palmer in 1763. The plaintiff filed this action against the lawyer for John Hunter, Jr., Walter D. Edmunds, and John Hunter, Jr. He claimed that because they had the Sheriff “eject” him from using the land under the water using process that did not adequately reflect the modification made to the judgment by the New York Court of Appeals, his business had been shut down unnecessarily and he was entitled to $15,000 in damages. The court rejected his claims and dismissed his complaint. 

De Lancey v. Piepgras, 73 Hun 608, 56 N. Y. St. Rep. 181, 56 N. Y. St. Rep. 736, 26 N.Y.S. 807 (Sup. Ct., Gen. Term 2d Dep’t 1893). Following lengthy litigation to have Henry Piepgras “ejected” from land beneath the waters surrounding City Island that he used for a dock and ship rails to support his shipwright business, the Courts finally held that he could be excluded from such land beneath the water. Elizabeth De Lancey erected a structure to shelter employees to guard against use of the land beneath the water. Piepgras made violent threats, then removed De Lancey’s structure, throwing it into Long Island Sound. De Lancey brought this action against Piepgras and the court below entered an order directing Piepgras to restore possession of the land beneath the water to De Lancey and to cease and desist from interfering with her enforcement of the execution of the judgment in the earlier action allowing her to take possession of the land beneath the water. The appellate court affirmed the decision.

Though Piepgras eventually cleared the title to his property, he was forced to pay about $7,500 (some reports say $8,700) to resolve the matter.  Additionally, Piepgras claimed he spent about $25,000 defending the suits.  News accounts claimed that the expenditures nearly ruined Piepgras.

The ejectment dispute was followed closely by City Island residents.  Piepgras had to shut down his shipyard for nearly a year.  Given that he employed up to five hundred shipyard workers, such a shutdown had a devastating impact on the local economy.  When Piepgras settled the matter, according to one report, all of City Island celebrated when the news that the shipyard would reopened reached the community.  The report noted:  "This place has been the scene of great rejoicing during yesterday and to-day.  Flags are flying, beer is flowing and all the jollification is owing to the reopening of Henry Piepgras' shipyards."

Piepgras's City Island properties, of course, were not the only ones at issue.  The Hawkins Shipyard, George Byles' Shipyward, McAllister's Yards, and William Anderson's Ice Docks were among those potentially affected by the dispute.  Indeed, only a short time after resolution of the web of litigation that enveloped Henry Piepgras and his shipyard, John P. Hawkins and his City Island shipyard were the subject of related litigation decided against them as well.  

Piepgras Disposes of the Shipyard and Retires to Florida

After title to his shipyard property had been cleared, Henry Piepgras undertook to sell his business.  According to one account, he purchased a small cottage on City Island within sight of his shipyard and adjacent estate where he planned to retire after completion of the sale.  Things did not, however, proceed as Piepgras planned.  

Piepgras negotiated the sale of the property to a syndicate of yachtsmen.  Reports first indicated that the purchase was "practically concluded," followed shortly thereafter by reports that "certain technicalities regarding water front rights and the possible opening of the street [i.e., Pilot Avenue], now closed, at the entrance to the yard, had given rise to fear of legal entanglements and defeated the sale."  Consequently, in the spring of 1900, Henry Piepgras leased the shipyard to a newly-created company represented by Robert Jacob, as manager, and headed by Messrs. A. Cary Smith and Henry G. Barbey.

For some period of time after he leased the shipyard to the group led by Robert Jacob, Henry Piepgras continued to work at the shipyard, overseeing the construction of ships at the yard.  See, e.g., Amorita Being Overhauled, New Rochelle Pioneer, Feb. 23, 1901, p. 3, col. 3 (noting that alterations to the 75-foot schooner Amorita were "being made at Robert Jacob's yard, City Island, and are under the superintendence of Henry Piepgras, who formerly owned the yard").  

Not long thereafter, instead of retiring to his little cottage nearby, Henry Piepgras retired to Daytona, Florida.  It was a number of years before Piepgras actually sold the leased property to Robert Jacob.  

Henry Piepgras died in his home in Daytona, Florida, on February 16, 1910 in his seventy-fifth year.  In his will he left $10,000 to a son, Daniel Piepgras of Seattle, Washington.  In contrast, he left $5 each to his two daughters, Dora Piepgras Bernard (wife of Joseph Bernard, of 414 Central Avenue, Jersey City Heights, New Jersey), and Mary Piepgras Beck (wife of Herman Beck, of 147 East 50th Street, New York City).  He specifically noted in his will that "These bequests are all that I intend my daughters shall have of my estate."  Henry Piepgras left the bulk and remainder of his estate to his final wife, Elizabeth Bolup Piepgras, a member of a "prominent Florida family." 

As an aside, clearly there had been no love lost between Henry Piepgras and his two daughters.  In 1895, Dora Piepgras Bernard left her husband for a time and "appealed in vain to her father for assistance."  She then petitioned the New York courts for public charity but her plea for "municipal aid" was denied  because she had "not lived long enough in the city to entitle her children to municipal aid."  See MRS. BERNARD IN DEEP TROUBLE -- Daughter of Yacht Builder Piepgras Forced to Ask Public Charity, N.Y. Herald, Sep. 17, 1895, p. 4, col. 5.   

Katrina, A Sloop Built for Edgar Stirling Auchincloss
and Hugh Dudley Auchincloss in 1888 at the Piepgras
Shipyard in the Town of Pelham.  Source:  Wikimedia
Commons.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge. 

Tomahawk, A Sloop Built for Edwin Dennison Morgan
in 1889 at the Piepgras Shipyard in the Town of Pelham.
Source:  Wikimedia Commons.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge. 

Lasca, A Schooner Built for John Brooks in 1892
at the Piepgras Shipyard in the Town of Pelham.
Source:  Wikimedia Commons.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below is the text of quite a number of articles, book entries, and other items related to the life of Henry Piepgras and his shipyard on City Island.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

Is it the Owner's Intention to Build Another that Will Go to Sea?

The shipyard of Henry Piepgras at Pottery Beach, Greenpoint, was noisy for several weeks with the construction of the yacht Ileen for Mr. Arthur Padelford of Philadelphia.  She was launched last Thursday, in the presence of many prominent yachtsmen.  May Harvey, daughter of Mr. John Harvey, the designer of the yacht, broke the bottle of champagne upon her bows.  Roosevelt Schuyler, owner of the cutter Yolande, the Rev. Mr. Brigham, Miss Josie Timslot, and Capt. Penny, with a crew of five picked British yacht hands, were also on board the yacht when the wedges were knocked from under her.  The owner received many congratulations on the beauty of his white-hulled yacht, and said that the fitting and furnishing of the cabins would be hastened forward, as he intended to try her with the cutters and sloops on the 13th and 16th, and would during the coming winter make a cruise in her to the West India Islands.  Mr. Padelford is 25 years old, and is reputed to be the possessor of much wealth.

Yesterday morning it was published in a New York newspaper that Mr. Padleford had made application in court, in Philadelphia, for the privilege of investing $20,000 of his own money in the purchase of a yacht.  Mr. Padelford's estate, it was stated, amounted to $500,000, and his income to about $30,000 a year.  In order that he might be less vulnerable to the temptations of a young man, he had placed his estate in trust.  Under its terms he was permitted to build a house in Philadelphia and another in Newport.  But he had not married, and did not contemplate marriage, and, not wishing to be burdened with the establishments, had never built the houses.  Now he said that his health was failing and his physician had advised him to be as much at sea as possible.  For this reason he wanted a yacht, the cost of keeping which, it was said, would not be more than $5,000 a year and the expense of living on the sea would be much less than the cost of fashionable life on land.  The court expressed its regret that it had not the authority, under the terms of the trust, to grant the petition.

Mr. Padelford has been passing much of his time in New York during the present summer, living alternatively at the Hotel Brunswick, the Brevoort, the Victoria, and other hotels.  He was not to be found yesterday.  Mr. Henry Piepgras was found yesterday afternoon in the office of his shipyard in Greenpoint.  From the office windows three yachts could be seen riding at anchor outside.  One of those three, a handsome white-hulled cutter, with graceful lines, was Mr. Padelford's.  On the stays, a short distance off, was a black ten-ton yacht, which had been newly coppered.  This is the property of a brother of Mr. Padelford.  Mr. Piepgras is a middle-aged gentleman and deaf.  It was some time before he could understand the application made by Mr. Padelford in Philadelphia.  Then he called in his bookkeeper, and they consulted together.  

'I'm all right,' he said, 'for Mr. Padelford is perfectly good, and has an income of $30,000 a year.  If he should need any more than his income I know where he could borrow any amount.  I'm all right.'

'What is that yacht worth?'

'Thirty-five thousand dollars.  That small yacht of of his brother's is for sale for $5,000.'

'And how much do you have down on such a yacht?'

'From $23,000 to $25,000, with the privilege of selling the yacht to raise the balance, if it is not paid in a given time.'

'Then Mr. Padelford will be the owner of the yacht when he pays you $12,000 more?'

'I shall get all that he owes me.'

Mr. John Harvey, naval architect, of 221 West Fourteenth street, who drew the plans for the yacht, said:  

'I have known the Padelfords for years.  Mr. Padelford is now in Philadelphia on business.  He expected to return last evening, but he did not come.  But how do you know that this man who made application to the court is the same Arthur Padelford?  I know several men of that name.  You can't tell, sir; you can't tell.'

Mr. Harvey suggested that if indeed it was the same Arthur Padelford he wanted the money to build a sea-going yacht, but he could not accout for that case the smallness of the sum asked for, since he admitted a sea-going yacht would cost much more than $20,000." 

Source:  MR. ARTHUR PADELFORD'S YACHT -- Is it the Owner's Intention to Build Another that Will Go to Sea?, The Sun [NY, NY], Oct. 8, 1883, Vol. LI, No. 38, p. 3, col. 3.  

The Greenpoint Yacht Builder Buys a City Island Ship Yard.

Mr. Henry Piepgras, of Pottery Beach, Greenpoint, has purchased the ship yard of Daniel Carr [sic], at City Island, and is making preparations to remove his business there.  In the departure of Mr. Piepgras, Brooklyn will lose one of its most successful yacht builders.  Piepgras' yard has been known for years to yachtsmen throughout the Eastern States.  It has turned out some of the speediest and handsomest craft that find a home in the waters about New York.  Mr. Piepgras' latest achievement was the building for Mr. Iselin, the New York banker, of the graceful sloop yacht Cinderella, and during the past Spring he gave the Gracie a thorough overhauling, almost entirely changing her model and greatly adding to her sailing qualities, which were always notable.  The site of his yards at Pottery Beach will hereafter be used for manufacturing purposes."

Source:  HENRY PEIPGRAS MOVES AWAY -- The Greenpoint Yacht Builder Buys a City Island Ship Yard, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jul. 8, 1886, p. 4, col. 5.  

A Great Deal of Activity in all the Local Shipyards.
*   *   *

The removal of Henry Piepgras' well known shipyard from Pottery Beach, where it had been established for years, to City Island, it was thought, would injure the activity in yachting affairs of that section of the Eastern District, but it has not, apparently.  Mr. Piepgras is now very comfortably established in his new quarters and has his hands full of work.  Two of the yachts which are most looked to at present to uphold the supremacy of America against Lord Dunraven's Valkyrie in the forthcoming international races are now in his yard.  They are the Katrina and Titania.  The latter was built a little more than two years ago in Piepgras' former shipyard at Pottery Beach, and he is especially interested, on that account in her future achievements.  The two are being thoroughly overhauled.  Their bottoms are being scraped and they will be polished and cemented and receive two coats of red and white lead.  They may be confidently looked to to give a good account of themselves during the season, and if either is selected to meet the much vaunted Valkyrie, to show her what fast sailing really is. . . ."

Source:  YACHTING NOTES -- A Great Deal of Activity in all the Local Shipyards, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr. 11, 1889, p. 1, col. 3.  


About 2,000 people surrounded the basin of Henry Piepgras's shipyard at City Island, yesterday afternoon, and declared with one voice that Mr. Oliver Iselin's new steel sloop Titania was one of the most beautiful specimens of marine architecture they had ever beheld.  All the afternoon the stalwart Piepgras and his forces were dancing about under the sloop, putting a final wedge under her or a fresh touch of grease to the ways, while they kept their eyes on the Sound and wondered if the tide had ever risen so slowly before.

The sloop herself stood like a statue on the ways, painted brown below the water line and black above, with a gilt stripe around the plankshear.  She was all ready for the water, for her mast and spars were in place, her rigging all set up, and her sails bent.  Phil Low's veteran rigger, George Francis, couldn't see anything more to do to her, so he just waited for the launch and spun a twister an hour long.

As the afternoon wore on and the tide began to make the scene around the shipyard became animated.  Veteran beachcombers, who could sail a yarn within two points of the wind and never shiver a stitch of canvas, old yacht Captains, ambitious young tars, and all the semi-salt population of the water-girt town, not excluding maidens considerably more fresh than salt, began to assemble.  A southwesterly wind sprang up and like a great hound chased a whole wilderness of white rabbits in the shape of small sailing craft down toward the yard, where they gathered like gulls around a sand bar.  Carriages drawn by spanking teams whirled down the dusty and depraved road from Bartow, and Mr. Iselin's friends in goodly number boarded the yacht to shake hands with her happy owner and congratulate him on the possession of such a beauty.

It was nearly 5 o'clock before the bustlinjg Piepgras thought the tide served.  Then he set his men to work at the cradle, while the crowd gathered on the bulkheads and wharves around the yard, and some of the ladies on the yacht began to look nervous.  Little Miss Flora Iselin sat on the quarter deck, with the end of a light line in her hand.  The line led forward and was rove through a block seized to the forestay near its foot.  To the end of the line were bent two heavy iron shackles, and under them lay a bottle of wine, which they were to break when Miss Flora let them drop.  At 5:20 the Titania felt the thrill of life along her keel, which has been mentioned once or twice before.  In a moment she was gliding smoothly and with constantly increasing velocity down the steep ways toward the water.  In another she had rushed into her native element, sending it in two silver spouts from under her counter, while the crowd cheered and clapped its hands vigorously.

Two heavy cables had been rove through her hawse hole to snub her as soon as she floated, so that shew would not run into the wharf; but just as she ought to have plunged down to her waterline she suddenly stopped short.  The cables were still slack; they had not stopped her, but the earth had.  The cradle had come to the end of the ways and gone aground before the yacht floated off.

Then there was a scene of excitement for a few minutes, to which the sight of a gory sailor added somthing.  His hand had been cut by the christening bottle.  The Titania's two boats went out to her and took off some of the guests.  Then a line was taken from her port quarter through a block on the wharf and about 50 men began to haul on it.  All the crew and Mr. Iselin and his friends were hauling on deck.  Still she did not move.  Finally a line was rigged from her masthead, and she was gotten safely off, while every one cheered.

As soon as the boat was free she was warped into the entrance to the basin, heading outward, her centreboard was launched and men went to work at once to ship it, while the smoke curling up from the galley told that the first meal aboard was in preparation.  As soon as the centreboard was shipped the yacht was hauled out of the basin, her white wings were spread, and she sailed to New-Rochelle.  There she will lie at anchor off her owner's place till the Atlantic Yacht Club regatta, when she will make her first appearance as a racer, and she looks as if she would make a heap of trouble for all the boats in her class.

Among those on board when she was launched were Col. and Mrs. De Lancey Kane, the Rev. Charles Higbee, of Pelham; Lieut. Henn of the Galatea; Woodbury Kane, William Kent, Mrs. John S. Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. Columbus Iselin, W. E. Iselin, of the Cinderella; Mr. and Mrs. J. Pierrepont Edwards, Henry Steers, Alfred Roosevelt, Adrian Iselin, Jr., J. J. Pierrepont, and Vice-Commodore Moffatt, of the Atlantic Yacht Club.  The crew consists of Capt. 'Tommy' Odell, Mate L. E. O. Olsen and 6 A.B.'s.  Two more are to be shipped soon.  Among those who witnessed the launch from the shore were Capt. Van Wyke, of the schooner Palmer; Capt. Freestone, of the steam yacht Nourmahal; W. E. Bishop, E. Le Baron Willard, John F. Lovejoy, Mr. and Mrs. George Parson Lathrop, Capt. Howard Patterson, John L. Bliss, and Commodore Whiting, who rowed up in his famous gig.

The Titania's dimensions are as follows:

Length over all, 82 feet.
Water line length, 69 feet 9 inches.
Extreme beam, 21 feet.
Water line beam, 19 feet 11 inches.
Depth, 8 feet.
Draught, 8 feet 9 inches.
Displacement, 75 tons.
Inside ballast, 11 tons.
Outside ballast, 24 tons.
Area of midship section, 67 square feet.
Mast, deck to cap, 63 feet.
Topmast, 44 feet 2 inches.
Boom, 69 feet 9 inches.
Gaff, 45 feet.
Topsail yard, 46 feet.
Topsail club, 33 feet.
Spinnaker, boom, 67 feet.
Centreboard length, 20 feet.
Centreboard drop, 8 feet.

The yacht was designed by the celebrated Boston designer, Edward Burgess.  The hull is built entirely of mild steel, the plating being one-quarter inch in thickness.  The deck is of clear white pipe.  The bowspirt is fitted to house, but has a bar bobstay.  The vessel, though a sloop, has all the characteristics of the cutter rig.  A feature of the mainsail is the wooden jackstay on the boom, on which run toggles for the sail to lace to.  She has a jib outhaul of flexible wire rope without a traveler.  She is finished below in white pine, handsomely painted.  Abaft the companion way she has ample storage room for her canvas.  Her saloon is light and spacious with 6 feet 2 inches of head room.  On the starboard side, forward of the saloon, are two good sized staterooms en suite for Mr. and Mrs. Iselin.  On the port side is a guest stateroom and one for the Captain and mate.  Forward of the staterooms are the pantry and galley, with a large refrigerator capable of holding three tons of ice.  Ahead of these is a good roomy forecastle, the absence of heavy timbers giving an unusual amount of room.  When the Titania went into the water yesterday, she had the New-York Yacht Club flag at the truck, and just under it her own colors, consisting of alternate triangles of red and black. . . ."


Work in the Big Yards on City Island Where Rich Men Give Their Orders.
Other Noted Yachtsmen Who Have Their Pleasure Craft Built There -- E. D. Morgan's Boats -- A View of a 'Mould' Room -- How a Model Looks.

City Island is two miles long and half a mile wide, and lies in Long Island Sound about nine miles from the Harlem River.

The tourist who sails past its easterly shore sees from the steamer's deck nine or ten buildings and a graveyard.  On the side from the Westchester county shore, however, a prosperous town of 1,500 inhabitants can be seen -- a town where fishermen, oyster and clam diggers and yacht builders live and flourish.

The boat renting industry thrives here.  On the inner side, in the narrow strip of water called the inlet, hundreds of small boats loss about, waiting for city fishermen.  On Saturdays and Sunday's the supply is not equal to the demand, and there is a man or boy for every fish in the surrounding waters.

City Island has another claim upon fame.  Here are built some of the fastest yachts now afloat.  Not only yachts but steamers are constructed here.

The best known of the island boatbuilders is Henry Piepgras.  His shops are on the eastern [text continues after the article's embedded image which is reproduced immediately below]

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shore.  Mr. Piepgras gave up his boatbuilding business near Hamburg, Germany, many years ago and came to America.  For ten years he was a designer in the yards of Henry Steers, famed as a shipbuilder away back in the 60's.  This establishment built large Sound steamers as well as small pleasure yachts, and Mr. Piepgras designed the latter.  Mr. Steers gave up the ship business and became the president of the Eleventh Ward Bank in New York.  Mr. Piepgras began the manufacture of yachts at Greenpoint, opposite Twenty-eighth [text continues after the article's embedded image which is reproduced immediately below]

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street, this city, about twelve years ago.  He moved from there to City Island in 1885.


None but wealthy men can buy seventy foot or even forty foot steel boats, and some of these gentlemen are so wealthy that one or two boats are not enough.  Mr. E. D. Morgan, one of the best American patrons of the boatbuilders in this vicinity, has had several Burgess mmodels built at City Island.

The Constellation, a steel schooner yacht, 130 feet on the water line, is one of Mr. Morgan's largest boats.  Another is the Mocassin, a forty foot composite boat.  A composite boat is made with a steel frame and wood planking.

The Tomahawk is another of Mr. Morgan's boats.  This is a forty footer, in steel.  These boats are all Burgess models made by Piepgras.  

The Titania and Katrina, seventy foot steel boats, are of City Island make.  The first is a Burgess boat owned by C. E. Iselin, of New York and the last is one of A. Cary Smith's designs, the property of the Auchincloss brothers.  Archibald Roger's Bedouin, a seventy foot wooden boat, designed by John Harvey, of this city, is another City Island boat.

Fred Grinnell, of Providence, R. I., brought his Burgess model here and had the steel schooner Quickstep made from it.  This boat is sixty-five feet long.  James Stillman, of this city, owns the Wanda, a steel boat 127 feet long.  This is a Harvey model.  Mr. Stillman also owns the Wenonah, a wooden boat sixty-five feet long, designed by Harvey.

Ronald Thomas, of this city, had the steel yawl Montecito built here.  It was designed by A. Cary Smith.  The steam launch Bopeep, a sixty-five foot wooden boat owned by Constable and Weatherbee, of this city, is of Piepgras design and build.  The Day Dream, eighty feet, wood is another Piepgras model.  This is a steam launch also.


When a drawing or plan for a boat is sent to the builder the first thing ade is a model on a small scale, generally one-half an inch to a foot.  This model is really a half [text continues after the article's embedded image which is reproduced immediately below]

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boat and is attached to a highly polished oak or mahogany board, which makes a background.  Sometimes the model aker of the establishment has to make five or six model's for the designers future use.

The modeller glues together several strips of soft wood, and lays out his scaled drawing on the side of the block thus made.  He then carves away the wood until every part of his half boat agrees with the dimensions of the designer's plan.  This done, the model is sandpapered and polished, and finally painted in the colors the designer intends to use on the large boat.  

In the loft of the building is situated what is called the 'mould' room.  Every plan is brought up here, and all its lines are reproduced on the same scale on which the boat is to be constructed.  Piepgras' loft was twelve of these plans 'laid down' on its floor.

To the uninitiated these plans are very much mixed, but the workmen can tell each at a glance.  Some of the 'broadside' designs are over seventy feet long and the eye can hardly follow them.

When these lines are all marked out the expert workman makes what is called a 'mould' of each separate piece that will go to make the whole.  These moulds are made of soft wood.  When the moulds are made they are taken to the forge, where the 'angle' iron is heated red hot and shaved to fit the moulds.  This iron is for the frame of the boat.  This framing is now 'punched' at the machine shop to receive the rivets.  after the punching is done the frame is carefully gone over to see if it and the moulds agree in shape, for the iron has a tendency when it chills to return to the first shape.  If the frame is found correct it is riveted together.  Blocks are now lid just above the launching basin, and the keel of the boat, which is of steel, is laid along them.


The frames are set upon the keel and what is called 'ribbons' are put around it.  There are three of these ribbons, made of yellow pine, running longitudinally around the whole frame.  One is placed at the deck line or just below it, one half way down and another near the keel.

The next things made are the white pine templets.  These are working models of all the different plates which are to encase the frame.  They are fitted to all parts of the boat and then taken to the machine room, where the large steel plates are waiting to be cut and shaped.

Making the plates is the most interesting of all the operations that have to be gone through in the building of a steel boat.  

The plating, which comes in large sheets, is cut to the required size by a powerful steam cutter, which works up and down like a pair of big shears.

The plate is next taken to a gigantic planer, which smooths the edges.  The planer takes in the twelve foot piece sidewise, and two men work the clamps which secure it to the bed of the machine.  A third man manages the attachment, whose sharp knife cuts along the edge of the steel, and a fourth man works the screw attachment, which moves the knife to the right or left.


The plate is now ready for shaping to fit the particular templet.  This work is done by an immense set of rollers over twelve feet [text continues after the article's embedded image which is reproduced immediately below] 

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long.  The top roller sets between the two under ones.  The plate has been punched and is now ready for its final adjustment on the frame.  The deck is laid next, and the steel floor plates, pieces which go fro the under cross bars of the frame to the shelving sides of the plating and down to the keel, are adjusted and riveted.  In the meantime all the wood portions, spars and trimmings of the boat are being prepared by the woodworkers.  In about five months from the time the plan is sent in the yacht is ready for launching."

Source:  SWIFT STEEL YACHTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM, N.Y. Herald, Aug. 10, 1890, p. 25, cols. 5-6.  

Builder's Plans.  Source:  "THE LIGHT DRAUGHT
PLEASURE BOAT CONNETQUOT" in Scientific American
Supplement No. 769, Sep. 27, 1890, pp. 12283-84.  The Text That Accompanied
this Illustration is Transcribed Immediately Below.  NOTE:  Click
on Image to Enlarge.


MR. HENRY PIEPGRAS, ship and yacht builder, City Island, N. Y., has lately built a small side wheel steamboat for Mr. W. K. Vanderbilt, which we herewith illustrate, from drawings supplied by the builder.  The following are the principal dimensions:  Length over all, 78 feet; length on load water line, 70 feet; beam, 14 feet 6 inches; depth of hold, 4 feet 6 inches; draught of water, 2 feet 3 inches; cubic contents of displacement, 32 1/2 tons; single inclined engine, two cylinders, 10 x 20 inches; Roberts safety tube boiler; speed 14 miles per hour.  Cost complete, $16,000."

Source:  "THE LIGHT DRAUGHT PLEASURE BOAT CONNETQUOT" in Scientific American Supplement No. 769, Sep. 27, 1890, pp. 12283-84.  

A Decision in the City Island Case Favorable to the Defendants.

On Tuesday of this week the Court of Appeals handed down a decision in the cases of Elizabeth Delancey versus Henry Piepgras.  There were three cases which had been appealed and the decision handed down dismisses the appeals with one bill of costs in that Court.

This is virtually a victory for Mr. Piepgrass [sic], who after fourteen weeks of idleness in his large ship yards on City Island has been enabled to resume work.

The value of this property, actual and prospective, is difficult to estimate.  It comprises several valuable ship yards, among them that of Henry Piepgras; coal yards and other industries.  In determining the ownership old records dating back to George III, of England, were overhauled and a small library of bound volumes has accumulated.

City Island was originally known as Minneford's Island, and is interesting as a former rival of Manhattan Island for commercial supremacy.  Benjamin Palmer and others in 1762, petitioned Provincial Governor Robert Moneton of New Yorkl to have the island surveyed for the purpose of building a city, the island of Manhattan being almost excluded from Long Island Sound commerce owing to the terrors of Hell Gate.

In the petition land 400 feet from high water mark was asked for and was granted, with the exception of 1,000 feet on the north end of the island, which was exempted in order to give unrestricted access from the open Sound.  It was stipulated in this grant that King George III. should receive an annual rent of five shillings sterling.

This rent was never paid and in 1826 the land under water was sold by auction to Tennis Van Vechten for $8.10, under an act passed in 1819 directing the State Comptroller to sell land on which quit rents had not been paid.  Van Vechten sold the land to Elias Desbrosses Hunter, father of the present plaintiffs.  Hunter at that time owned Hunter's Island and Hart Island near City Island, with other islands near Glen Island.

State Comptroller A. C. Flagg granted Hunter a deed on April 5, 1836, in pursuance of the sale, and under that deed the late Captain Joshua Leviness obtained a lease of the land and carried on the business of oyster planter until 1865.

There were few people living on City Island in 1863 when David Carll, unaware of the previous grant of land under water, obtained from the State Commissioners of the Land Office a grant for 442 feet on the water-front on the east side for the purpose of a shipyard.  His successor, to the business was Henry Piepgras, the defendant in the present case.  It was Carll who built for William Waldorf Astor the Ambassadress, the largest schooner yacht every built in this country.  Piepgras built in these yards for Oliver Iselin the yacht Titania and many other noted craft.

Piepgras in 1891 obtained from the State Commissioners a further grant of land under water.  For this land -- 443 feet front and a little more than 400 feet out from shore -- $20,000 was paid.  Piepgras also paid out $25,000 for improvements.  

Litigation was begun by Supervisor Sherman T. Pell, of the town of Pelham, in behalf of the town to set aside the old deed to Elias Desbrosses Hunter.

Upon argument, Attorney General Tabor handed down a decision denying the application.  That disposed of the town's claim.  

The suit which resulted in the establishing of the Delancey-Hunter claim was begun before Judge Barnard in Supreme Court in 1891, against Henry Piepgras, as a test suit.  It was decided in favor of the plaintiffs and was carried up to the General Term with similar result.  The Court of Appeals was unanimous, Judge Maynard writing the opinion in sustaining the decision of the lower courts.

After this latter decision had been rendered Mr. Piepgras against appealed the case with the result as announced aforesaid."

Source:  IMPORTANT CASE DECIDED -- A Decision in the City Island Case Favorable to the Defendants -- COURT OF APPEALS DISMISSES IT, New Rochelle Pioneer, Jan. 27, 1894, Vol. XXXIIII, No. 43, p. 1, col. 3.

"The reopening of Henry Piepgras' shipyard at City Island, N. Y., which has been closed for a year, will give employment to 500 men."

Source:  Miscellaneous, The Iron Age, p. 323 (Feb. 15, 1894).  

Piepgras' Shipyard at City Island and a Large Mill at Paterson About to Resume.

CITY ISLAND, Feb. 9, 1894. -- This place has been the scene of great rejoicing during yesterday and to-day.  Flags are flying, beer is flowing and all the jollification is owing to the reopening of Henry Piepgras' shipyards.

It will be remembered that Mr. Piepgras was the defendant in the celebrated De Lancey Hunter case, involving the rights to the land under water which includes all the water front that girdles City Island, with the exception of 1,000 feet from the north end.

This suit was commenced about one year ago by Mrs. De Lancey Hunter, who laid claim to the ownership of 400 acres of land under water granted to her ancestors in the time of Queen Anne.

After several trials in the lower courts it was finally taken to the Court of Appeals and an adverse decision was rendered against Shipbuilder Piepgras.  Mr. Piepgras compromised with Mrs. Hunter by paying $7,500 for his 400 feet frontage.

Mr. Piepgras has given notice that he will resume work on Monday morning.  As this yard has been closed for a year the people of City Island are jubilant over its reopening.  He usually employs 500 men.  

As the Piepgras case is settled there are other merchants and shipbuilders who will have to settle up with the heirs of De Lancey Hunter.  These claims to the water fronts include ex-Judge Hawkins' shipyards, Judge William Anderson's ice docks, George Byles' shipyard and Supervisor McAllister's yards.

Bakers, butchers, grocery and boarding house keepers all hail the good news with delight.  Carpenters, shipsmiths and others are busily preparing their tools for work on Monday morning. . . ."

Source:  HARD TIMES ON THE WANE -- Piepgras' Shipyard at City Island and a Large Mill at Paterson About to Resume, N.Y. Herald, Feb. 10, 1894, p. 8, col. 3.  


A case of unusual interest, particularly to those inhabitants of the city of New York, who reside at City Island was decided last week.  This suit against John P. Hawkins, the well-known shipwright of City Island, to recover the possession of the land below high water mark in front of his ship-yard, was decided in favor of the Hunter title.

Notwithstanding that the question of the title to the lands below high water mark around City Island had been decided in the court of appeals two years ago in favor of this title in the well-known suit brought by Delancey against Henry Piepgras, the present defendant Mr. Hawkins, was desirous of a separate trial on his own account, in order to test some additional defences, such for instance as his title by adverse possession continued during thirty years; also his right to the possession of the premises, for the purpose of exercising easements over them which he claimed had been acquired by prescription through more than twenty years use.

These defences were overruled by Judge Dykman, who on the second day of the trial directed a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, then sustaining the title of those deriving through Elias D. Hunter to the absolute possession of these premises.  The judgment to be entered is the same in form as that against Henry Piepgras, and is subject to the reservation in favor of all the public contained in the old Crown Patent of '76, from which originates the plaintiffs' title.  This reservation permits all the public to pass and re-pass over the premises in question, except so far as they shall become at any time covered by docks, bulkheads or other structures erected thereon.  The judgment carries costs against the defendant Hawkins.

Walter D. Edmonds and John Hunter, Jr., were counsel for the plaintiff, and Edward G. Black, and Lawrence Kneel, were counsel for the defendant Hawkins.

This case, like that against Piepgras, affects the entire water front of City Island, excepting only a small portion at the north end of the Island which was not included in the ancient patent from the British Crown."

Source:  CITY ISLAND WATER FRONT, The Eastern State Journal, Nov. 7, 1896, p. 2, col. 4.  

After Twenty Years of Successful Yacht Building He Has Sold His Plant.
He Will Live in a Small Cottage Within Sight of His Old Home.

Some time since the Eagle published a statement that Henry Piepgras the well known yacht builder of City Island, had practically accomplished the sale of his well equipped ship yard to a syndicate of yachtsmen and that the syndicate contemplated extensive alterations and improvements, which included the construction of new ways and marine railways, with capacity enough to accommodate the largest class of yachts, not only for wintering, but for building and repairing.  This statement has been borne out by Mr. Piepgras, who now announces that upon the completion of the keel sloop now being built for from plans of Clinton H. Crane he will retire permanently from business and turn his plant over to the syndicate, which as yet has not been named.  The circumstances leading up to Mr. Piepgras' retirement are interesting.  In the year 1878 or 1879, Mr. Piepgras purchased the Citi [sic] Island water front and property, where his ship yard and handsome residence are located, from a squatter named Joseph Call, who had located a small boat building establishment there some thirty or more years previously and whose title by prescription was apparently good.  Pipegras [sic] improved the property vastly and in 1880 first came into notice as a yacht builder by turning out three keel cutters which prove to [be] marvels at the time and are still sailing.  They were the 23 footer Leila, now owned by H. W. Hayden of Lake George; Johnny Stouter, owned by A. McJames of Jersey City, and the 31 foot cutter Yolande, owned by A.E. & W.H. Kupper of New York.  From that time his fame as a yacht builder increased and he turned out many first class racing yachts and made a modest fortune at his business.

It was only a few years after his new yard was fairly established, however, that trouble began to brew, in the shape of a suit for his water front property, brought by John Hunter, and Mrs. Elizabeth Delancy of New York.  They set up the claim that they were the lineal descendants of one Charles Hunter, to whom, nearly two hundred years before, the sovereign of England had granted all the water fronts, in and about City Island and Pelham Bay, in consideration of the fact that he had surveyed that portion of Long Island Sound.

Mr. Pripgras [sic] defended his title and it cost him over $25,000 before the suit was finally decided by the Court of Appeals, and then the judgment against him for $8,700 was confirmed.  After he had paid this other suits were begun by colateral [sic] branches of the Hunter family and more legal expenses were piled up against Mr. Pripgras [sic].  He was compelled to work hard to earn the money to pay lawyers and judgments, and it has only been within the past two or three years that he has really felt that at last he had cleared away the clouds on his title, and that the property was really his.  By this time he was getting along in years and being tired of litigation, determined to sell his fine yard and upon the proceeds to spend the rest of his life in comfort; economical, of course, but still free from the cares and worry of business litigation.  He purchased a modest little cottage, within sight of his handsome home and ship yard of the past, and here he will spend the declining years of his life, it is to be hoped, free of the annoyance of legal complications. . . ."

Source:  PIEPGRAS ABOUT TO RETIRE -- After Twenty Years of Successful Yacht Building He Has Sold His Plant -- LOST A FORTUNE IN LAWSUITS -- He Will Live in a Small Cottage Within Sight of His Old Home, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Apr. 10, 1900, p. 19, cols. 1-2.  See also PIEPGRAS ABOUT TO RETIRE, The Mount Vernon Daily Argus, Apr. 30, 1900, p. 5, col. 3 (essentially the same text).  

"Final disposition of the Henry Piepgras shipyards, at City Island, has been made by their lease to a new company represented by Robert Jacob, as manager, and headed by Messrs. A. Cary Smith and Henry G. Barbey.  This transaction settles the many rumors that have been current from time to time regarding the disposition of the yard upon Mr. Piepgras's retirement.  A short time ago it was announced that the purchase of the yard had been practically concluded, and a few days later it was reported that certain technicalities regarding water front rights and the possible opening of the street, now closed, at the entrance to the yard, had given rise to fear of legal entanglements and defeated the sale.  The Piepgras yard was built originally in the seventies by Samuel P. Hart of Northport, who laid the first marine railway, and did a large business in repairing Long Island boats.  Mr. Hart sold the yard to David Carll, also of Northport, who built additional railways and turned out several merchant boats well known in their day.  Mr. Carll sold the yard to Henry Piepgras about twenty years ago."

Source:  [Untitled], N.Y. Times, May 6, 1900, p. 22, col. 3.  

Greenpoint Woman, 66 Years Old, Says Husband Twice Re-Married in Florida.
Piepgras Alleged to Own $100,000 of Real Estate -- At Daytona With Third Wife, It Is Said.

With the filing in the office of the county clerk of an order for the service of a summons and complaint by publication upon the defendant is made public a strange story of an alleged deserted wife, who charges that her husband left her, went to Florida, married there and, after the second wife died, married again.  In the papers it is alleged that the third wife, suspicious of the legality of her marriage, got into communication with the plaintiff, who is now suing for separation and support.  The plaintiff is Mrs. Wilhelmine Piepgras, who is living in Java street, Greenpoint, and the defendant is Henry Piepgras, said to be living in Daytona, Florida.

In her complaint the plaintiff says that she is 66 years of age and was married thirty-four years ago to the defendant in Brooklyn.  She alleges that her husband left her after eleven years, and thereafter until September 1897, sent her $5 a week, which allowance was cut down to $3 a week.  She says she is now an invalid, so feeble as to be unable to get out of bed without assistance, and dependent upon relatives for her support.

The claim is also made for Mrs. Piepgras gat her husband is really worth $100,000 in real estate at City Island, and it is said he recently sold property there for $60,000, taking a $40,000 purchase money mortgage.  After her husband left her the plaintiff says she had an idea where he was at first, but recently learned he had married a woman in Daytona in 1904.  Her name is given as 'Bertha' in the papers.  This woman is said to have died on September 21, 1905, and the allegation is made that a little less than a year afterward the defendant married one Miss Elizabeth Bolup, a member of a well-known Florida family.  It is also alleged in the complaint that the defendant transferred to this wife a fifth of his mortgage of $40,000 on City Island property.

The plaintiff also seeks to have set aside the transfer of this interest to the alleged third wife, claiming that when the sale of the property was made she was induced, as she says, to sign away her dower rights for $2,000 by her husband.  She claims that he told her that her dower rights were so small as to be worth hardly anything, and now she is informed and believes them to be worth at least $20,000 in this one transfer.

Copies of correspondence are made part of the record, which shows that the Florida wife, now living, learned of the Greenpoint wife being alive.  As the defendant is out of the state the plaintiff sought to serve him by publication, and Justice Crane signed the order giving her the right."

Source:  CONSECUTIVE BIGAMY CHARGED BY AGED WIFE -- Greenpoint Woman, 66 Years Old, Says Husband Twice Re-Married in Florida -- A SERVICE BY PUBLICATION -- Piepgras Alleged to Own $100,000 of Real Estate -- At Daytona With Third Wife, It Is Said, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Sep. 9, 1907, Vol. 68, No. 250, p. 1, col. 1.  

Mrs. Piepgras Says Her Husband Has Married Twice Since He Left Her.

The filing of an order for the service of a summons and complaint by publication yesterday in the Kings County Clerk's office revealed a strange story of the marital experiences of Henry Piepgras, formerly of Brooklyn, but now said to be living at Daytona, Fla.  The complainant is Mrs. Wilhelminie Piepgras, who lives in Java Street, Greenpoint.  

The plaintiff alleges that she was married to Piepgras thirty-four years ago in Brooklyn, and that her husband deserted her after eleven years of married life, and thereafter sent her an allowance of $5 a week until 1897, when the sum was reduced to $3.  Mrs. Piepgras says that she is now 66 years old, feeble, and an invalid, unable to leave her bed. 

She further asserts that in 1904 her husband married a second time, and on the death of his wife, a short time later, was remarried to Miss Elizabeth Bolup, a member of a prominent Florida family.  Soon after Piepgras's third matrimonial venture the plaintiff was induced by him to sign away her dower rights in his estate for $2,000, it being represented to her as inconsiderable.  She has since discovered that her husband is really worth about $100,000 in real estate at City Island, and that he recently transferred to his last wife one-fifth of his interest in a $40,000 mortgage on City Island property.  This transfer the original Mrs. Piepgras wishes to have set aside.

As the defendant is out of the State, Justice Crane signed the order giving the plaintiff the right to serve her husband by publication."

Source:  DESERTED WIFE'S COMPLAINT -- Mrs. Piepgras Says Her Husband Has Married Twice Since He Left Her, N.Y. Times, Sep. 10, 1907.  


Henry Piepgras, a retired yacht builder, died in his home at Daytona, Fla., on Feb. 16, in his seventy-fifth year.  He was born in Germany and came to this country as a young man with a considerable sum of money, with which he purchased a large piece of land at City Island and established a shipyard.  During his career as a yacht builder Mr. Piepgras constructed the Titania and other racing vessels which were prize winners in the Sound regattas years ago."

Source:  HENRY PIEPGRAS, N.Y. Times, Feb. 22, 1910.

"DEATHS . . . 

PIEPGRAS. -- HENRY PIEPGRAS, aged 75 years, formerly of City Island, New York city, on February 16, 1910, at his home, Daytona, Fla."

Source:  DEATHS . . . PIEPGRAS -- HENRY PIEPGRAS, N.Y. Herald, Feb. 22, 1910, 3rd Edition, p. 1, cols. 3-5.  

Last Will and Testament of Henry Piepgras.  The Text
of the Two-Page Document is Transcribed Immediately
(Ancestry.com paid subscription required).
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

"[Page 436]

In the Name of God, Amen:

I, Henry Piepgras of Daytona, County of Volusia, State of Florida, being of sound mind and memory, do make, publish and declare this as my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all former wills by me heretofore made.

First: - I direct my Executrix hereinafter named, to pay all my just debts and funeral expenses, as soon as the same can conveniently be done after my decease.

Second: - I give and bequeath to my son, Daniel Piepgras of Seattle, Washington, the sum of Ten thousand Dollars ($10,000) in cash, for his own proper use, benefit and behoof forever.

Third: - I give and bequeath to my daughter, Dora Bernard wife of Joseph Bernard, of 414 Central Avenue, Jersey City Heights, New Jersey, the sum of Five Dollars ($5) in cash; - and to my daughter Mary Beck, wife of Herman Beck, of 147 East 50th Street, New York City, the sum of Five Dollars ($5) in cash.  These bequests are all that I intend my daughters shall have of my estate.

Fourth: - I give, devise and bequeath all the rest, residue and remainder of my estate, both real and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever the same may be found, to my wife, Elizabeth Piepgras, to her own proper use, benefit and behoof forever.

Fifth: - I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my said wife, Elizabeth Piepgras, Executrix of this my Last Will and Testament giving and granting unto her full power and authority to sell and transfer any and all real estate of which I may die seized and possessed, or to which I may be entitled at my decease.

And I do especially desire that she shall not be required to give bonds or other security as such Executrix.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this Twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eight.

Henry Piepgras.

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said testator, as and for his Last Will and testament, in the presence of us, and of each of us, who, in his presence and in the presence of each other and at his request, have 

[Page 437]

hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses thereto, at the end of the Will.

Louis F. W. Seifert residing at City Island, N.Y.
Allen L. Carey residing at City Island, N.Y.
David Carll residing at Georgetown, Conn.

State of Florida     )
Volusia County     )

Before me, J. Lee McCrory County Judge in and for said County, personally appeared David Carll who being by me duly sworn, say that he was personally present as a subscribing and attesting witness with Louis F. W. Seifert and Allen L. Carey who were also present as subscribing and attesting witnesses and saw the testator Henry Piepgras subscribe his name to the instrument of writing hereto annexed, and as and for his last will and testament and that the said Henry Piepgras did, then and there, in the presencce of said deponant [sic] Louis F. W. Seifert and Allen L. Carey, publish and declare the same to be his last will and testament.

That the said three witnesses did then and there, at the special request of said Henry Piepgras and in his presence, and in the presence of each other, subscribe their names thereto as attesting witnesses.  And the said David Carll further swears that he verily believes the said instrument of writing hereto annexed so subscribed, published, declared and attested as aforesaid to be the last will and testament of said testator, the said Henry Piepgras and this deponant [sic] further swears that he has no interest under the will of the said Henry Piepgras deceased, 

David Carll.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 16th day of March A. D. 1910.

J. Lee McCrory
County Judge."

Source:  Last Will and Testament of Henry Piepgras, Probate Place:  Volusia, Florida; Probate Date:  Mar. 16, 1910, in Florida Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974:  Wills, Vol. 2, 1901-1916 (Ancestry.com paid subscription required).

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