Historic Rat Island, One of the Pelham Islands First Purchased by Thomas Pell
Scattered off the shores of the Manor of Pelham in Long Island Sound are many islands that were part of Thomas Pell's purchase of lands from local Native Americans on June 27, 1654. Principal among these islands, as they are known today, are: City Island, Hart Island, High Island, Hunter's Island and the Twins, Travers Island, Neptune Island, Glen Island, David's Island, Huckleberry Island, Big Pea Island, and Little Pea Island. There are, of course, many, many other rock outcroppings and granite shelves referenced as "islands" and "islets" in the same region.
One of the most notable such islets is one known as "Rat Island." Rat Island is privately owned. It lies in City Island Harbor roughly midway between City Island and Hart Island. Nearby, northwest of Rat Island, lie the "Green Flats."
Rat Island sits only a few hundred yards from the east end of Beach Street on City Island. It consists principally of Manhattan Schist bedrock. At high tide it is slightly less than two and one-half acres in size. Near the southern end of the islet is a shallow channel that extends through the entire islet. The channel is known as the "Devil's Path." At high tide, Devil's Path fills with water giving the islet the appearance of two large rocks. At low tide, the channel is clearly visible, though filled with mussels.
How Did Rat Island Get Its Name?
Though unsatisfying, it is clear that we will never know how Rat Island got its name. The earliest reference yet found that attempts to answer this question was published in 1878. It stated:
"Rat Island is simply a mass of rocks. There are said to be numbers of rats on it, but why rats should choose to live there, where they find shelter, and what they get to live on, are all questions which nobody answers definitely, and which must cast a shadow of doubt over the reality of the rodents there."
Source: THE PEARL OF THE SOUND, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Aug. 30, 1878, Vol. IX, No. 467, p. 1, col. 3.
There are other legends surrounding the name of Rat Island, including one saying that prisoners held on nearby Hart Island, known as prison "Rats," used the islet as a resting spot during daring escape attempts as they swam away from Hart Island. For example, in an article about the history of Rat Island published in 2009, Brenda Prohaska wrote:
"No one claims to have ever seen rats on the island, so the origin of the name is lost in the mist of time. According to historian Bill Twomey, author of 'The Bronx In Bits and Pieces,' Ed Dros, who worked at a prison on nearby Hart Island during the 1950s, thought the island was probably named for the 'rats,' or escaped prisoners swimming to City Island. However, Tom Nye, curator of the City Island Historical Society, found the name Rat Island on a chart drawn in 1851, and the name is probably much older than that. Islander Russell Schaller, whose father worked as a warden on Hart Island, remembers that prisoners did try to escape by swimming ashore (under cardboard boxes so they could not be seen) and likely stopped at Rat Island to rest."
Source: Prohaska, Brenda, Rat Island: Legend and History, The Island Current [City Island, NY], Apr. 2009, Vol. 38, No. 3, p. 9, cols. 1-4.
Retired Pilot Gilbert ("Gill") Horton Lived on Rat Island
Gilbert ("Gill") Horton was a well known Sound Pilot based on City Island. Born in 1825, Horton was a tough seaman who loved Long Island Sound. He was somewhat of a loner and was described by numerous sources as a long-time "owner" of Rat Island in the 19th century.
While working as a Pilot, Gill Horton built what one newspaper article described as a "cabin" on Rat Island. By 1883, Horton had retired (or was semi-retired) from his work as a Sound Pilot. By July 31 of that year he reportedly already had converted his cabin on Rat Island into a year-round home in which he lived for more than a decade. According to one source:
"Gill was for many years a pilot, and accumulated enough to ensure an economical support after retiring from the post. He then had his cabin put in order and made it his home, going to and from the main land with his boat. He sits on the rock fishing in pleasant weather, and at other times is snugly ensconced in his cabin. Occasionally he has a visitor in some crony who pulls out to see how he is getting on, but generally he asks no society but that of nature, so beautifully displayed in the scenery around him. He watches the steamboats, and as they pass he feels a companionship in their speed and power. He knows very well that if he is in need of help all he has to do is to put up his signal and he will have immediate attention. Gill is friendly with the fishermen who sometimes call on him for boats, and indeed he is considered rather the good genius of the place. There have been no 'sound disasters' of a serious character since Gill began to live on Rat island. . . ." (See below).
It may well be that Gill Horton was semi-retired from his work as a Pilot in 1883 at the time the above-quoted story was published. Only a few months later, he clearly was still working as a Pilot because he was reported as missing and feared lost at sea after departing New York City on the bark N. B. Morris as a Pilot to guide the bark east through Long Island Sound during a gale with heavy seas. As six weeks passed he was reported as likely drowned although finally, on December 24, 1883, a news report noted he had been heard from in the port to which he guided the bark six weeks before. There do not seem to be references to Horton working as a Pilot after this odd interlude.
It seems clear that Gill Horton did, indeed, own Rat Island before his death. Indeed, it appears that the island was carried on the first assessment rolls of New York City after annexation of the region assessed against "Gil Horton" in 1897 (several years after Gill Horton's death). Source: Letter from Jerome Cohen, Deputy Assistant Corporation Counsel of the Law Department of the City of New York to Mildred E. Struble, Corresponding Secretary of the Westchester County Historical Society dated Jul. 23, 1952 (letter courtesy of Jorge Santiago with thanks to the Westchester County Historical Society; hereinafter the "Cohen Letter").
Coal Schooner Struck Rat Island and Sank in January 1886
On January 5, 1886, as a southeast gale blew and the waters of the Sound grew heavy, the coal schooner Lena B. Kaplan of Nova Scotia was carrying a load of coal from Port Johnson toward Southold. The schooner sought shelter early in the morning off Rat Island, dropping both anchors. As the gale raged, the vessel dragged both anchors, struck Rat Island and sank. Its cargo had to be removed and sold at auction. (It was purchased by Ethan Waterhouse and "immediately disposed of at $4.50 per ton.") The ship was hauled to Hawkins Shipyard on City Island where it was repaired and floated off the rails later to continue its journeys.
No reports reference Gill Horton or his cottage on Rat Island in connection with the sinking of the Lena B. Kaplan at the islet. One can only imagine, however, how close a call it must have been for the cottage and, if he was in it at the time, Gill Horton.
1893 Rumors Rat Island Would Be Used as Receiving Hospital for Contagious Diseases
Gill Horton died on May 8, 1893. Only a few months after his death, town authorities of Pelham demolished his cottage on Rat Island. At the time, the world was in the midst of what has come to be known as the "Fifth Cholera Pandemic." Although the cholera outbreak is believed to have begun years earlier in India, it spread throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America, claiming as many as 200,000 lives in Russia alone.
For many Americans, the disease they knew as "Asiatic Cholera" seemed a distant threat, until early September, 1892, a few months before the death of Gill Horton. On September 1, newspapers in the region reported that a ship had arrived in New York Harbor containing passengers afflicted with the dreaded disease. See, e.g., THE CHOLERA SCARE -- THE PRESENCE OF AN INFECTED SHIP IN NEW YORK HARBOR, The Rome Daily Sentinel [Rome, NY], Sep. 1, 1892, Vol. XI, No. 6192, p. 1, col. 5. Suddenly the danger was no longer a distant threat. Within a short time, New York City was fighting the "grim grip" of the disease with nearly 2,000 afflicted patients quarantined or detained on ships that arrived with infected passengers. Quarantine islands were established in the lower bay.
Rumors abounded, including one reported in a number of newspapers: the New York City Board of Health had received permission from the New York City Department of Public Parks to use the facilities on Hunter's Island as a hospital for cholera patients. As I have written before:
"It was as if a bomb had exploded in Pelham. The Town hired a local attorney, William Robert Lamberton, to address the issue. On September 2, 1892, Lamberton wrote the New York City Board of Health to remind it that Hunter's Island was part of the Town of Pelham, not part of New York City. Lamberton emphasized that although New York City owned the land, it had no civil jurisdiction over the land except for limited police power necessary to protect its property interest. Lamberton conveyed in no uncertain terms that the Board of Health of the Town of Pelham would never permit a hospital for cholera patients anywhere within the boundaries of the Town of Pelham including Hunter's Island. The New York City Board of Health responded promptly. It stated simply that 'the Board of Health of this city has never had any intention of locating a hospital for cholera patients within the limits of Pelham Bay Park, and has not given any serious consideration to that location for such a purpose.'"
Source: Tue., Mar. 10, 2015: Pelham Reacted to Rumors of the Establishment of a Cholera Hospital on Hunter's Island in 1892.
Only a few months later, after the death of Gill Horton, rumors swirled again. This time the rumors suggested that the Board of Charities and Correction of New York City was about to erect a receiving hospital on Rat Island for "contagious diseases." At about this time, Pelham authorities demolished the Horton cottage on Rat Island. Although it cannot be stated with certainty that the cottage was demolished so it could not be used for the rumored purpose of a "receiving hospital" for patients with "contagious diseases," the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Pelham destroyed the tiny cottage on the tiny islet so that it could not be used by the City as a hospital.
Since 1893, a legend has arisen that Rat Island was, in fact, used to house patients with infectious diseases. Some versions claim that yellow fever victims were housed there. Other versions indicate that the island was used as a "pesthouse" for all contagious diseases. Indeed, the WPA Guide to New York City published in 1939 stated that Rat Island "was the site of the Pelham pesthouse during the yellow fever scares."
Extensive research has failed so far to turn up any documentation in Pelham town records, period newspapers, or state records to support the legend that Rat Island once was used to house infectious patients. It seems nearly certain that the legend has sprung from the rumors in 1893 that the islet might be used as a "receiving hospital . . . for contagious diseases."
Rat Island After Gill Horton's Death
It appears that after Gill Horton's death and the demolition of his cottage, the real estate taxes on the islet went unpaid. Thus, New York City sold a 1,000 year tax lease on the island. According to the Cohen Letter:
"On November 17, 1908, the island, assessed as lying in Section 18, Block 5649, and known as Lot 110, on the Tax Map of the Borough of the Bronx, was sold for taxes to a purchaser named Dr. H. A. Parmentier, to whom a Tax Lease for 1000 years was executed by the then City Comptroller, Herman S. Metz. This Tax Lease is recorded in Liber 94 (Annexed District) Conveyances, page 186.
I have a hunch that Dr. Parmentier, a dentist, was an official or member of the Mount Vernon Club, to whom he leased the island in 1931, and which in turn rented out summer home sites to the group of artists and writers which the above article names."
By 1910, Dr. Parmentier seems to have leased Rat Island -- or otherwise allowed access -- to a rather interesting character known as Chester Beecroft. A brief article referenced Beecroft as living in "Pelham Harbor, N.Y." on May 29, 1910. See Intend to Search for Records of Cook, Nevada State Journal [Reno, NV], May 29, 1910 (stating "New York, May 28, - Chester Beecroft of Pelham Harbor, N.Y., announced today he will sail for Etah June 15th with the Bernier expedition to the Arctic in the hope of finding the records Dr. Cook says he left in the north. It is said that he was supplied with funds by Dr. and Mrs. Cook. It was through Beecroft's efforts that the Eskimo boy, Mene, sole survivor of the Peary expedition of 1898, was sent back north.").
Chester Beecroft and His Years Enjoying Rat Island
Rosewell Chester Beecroft, according to family genealogists, later became known as "Sinbad" at about the time World War II began. He was a childhood Broadway actor, a theater and movie mogul, a newspaper man, and a sailor.
Beecroft was born in 1881 in Flushing, Queens, New York. He was a successful Broadway child actor who eventually graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. After his early stage years, he became a reporter for The New York World. That led him into public relations where he represented the Hotel Astor and the Motion Picture Patents.
According to Beecroft family lore, Chester Beecroft lived on Rat Island where he had a "cottage." There he "entertained many local theatre and film notables." According to family genealogists, his Rat Island cottage "burned down in 1931."
For more, see "We Called Him Sinbad By R," Propinquity (visited Aug. 28, 2016).
Beecroft's "cottage" on Rat Island takes on very interesting meaning given events that transpired on the tiny islet when two boaters washed ashore there in 1929. At the time, the men huddled in an "abandoned hut." (See discussion below.)
Although the above-quoted Nevada State Journal article referencing Chester Beecroft as "of Pelham Harbor, N.Y." suggests that Beecroft may have lived on the island (as Beecroft family tradition indicates), whether he did or did not live there, it is clear that he frequented the island and had guests. See, e.g., Prohaska, Brenda, Rat Island: Legend and History, The Island Current, Apr. 2009, p. 9, cols. 1-4 (stating "according to Bill Twomey, the island became 'a haven for artists and writers, and one name associated with it was Chester Beecroft, a writer and film producer' who lived in Pelham and was an active member of the New York Athletic Club. Islander Barbara Hoffman, who grew up on King Avenue, remembers seeing a building there during her childhood in the 1940s, and this may have been a cottage built by Parmentier and used by the club."
1922 Gale Killed Many in Pelham Bay with Bodies Found Off Rat Island
Rat Island suffered one of a handful of brutal, localized 20th century storms on June 11, 1922. The results were quite horrific and are well beyond the scope of this article on the history of the tiny islet known as Rat Island. Suffice it to say that on an otherwise lovely late spring afternoon, with literally thousands of visitors boating, canoeing, bathing, camping, and enjoying local waters, a shockingly brutal and thunderous gale swept unexpectedly over the City Island region with winds estimated up to one hundred miles per hour -- well in excess of hurricane strength. Many, many, many were killed. Newspapers all over the United States reported on the carnage at Eastchester Bay, Pelham Bay, LeRoy Bay, City Island, Rat Island, and other localities.
A New York Times front page headline -- one of many -- blared: "Forty Drowned in Nearby Waters; Gale Swamps Hundreds of Boats -- Worst Toll Near City Island, Where Thirty Perish -- Ten Bodies Recovered at Midnight -- Beaches Strewn With Wreckage -- Police Call Situation Appalling." A brief reference on the front page of the Times that day noted:
"Two more bodies were recovered by the crew of the police boat John F. Hylan shortly after midnight off Rat Island and were identified at Fordham morgue as those of Miss Julia Zimet, 26 years old, of 848 Whitlock Avenue, the Bronx, and Miss Marian Icoff, 24 years old, of 1,472 Seabury Place, the Bronx. The identification in each case was made by a brother. The two girls were out in rowboats. . . ."
In 1929, Two Boaters Were Marooned on Rat Island
In late November, 1929, two boaters were marooned on Rat Island and suffered through a cold night while rough waters raged around them. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published an article about the travails of the two men that sheds interesting light on the history of Rat Island.
It seems that Louis Clavire and August Zennitti, both of Manhattan, took a small motorboat out on an excursion during the afternoon of November 29, 1929. After about an hour of boating, their motor died and the pair drifted helplessly until the current carried them to Rat Island. The men were unable to repair the motor and had no means of starting a fire. As night fell, the bitter cold set in as the men tried to stay warm.
It seems that there was an "old abandoned hut" on the islet. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the hut was "originally built by a motion picture company when a film was being made on the island."
The fact that such a "hut" stood on Rat Island in 1929 is quite fascinating. Was this the remnant of the years when Chester Beecroft reportedly lived on the island nearly two decades before? Or, was the news report accurate and was the hut built by a motion picture company when a film was being made on Rat Island? Either possibility is intriguing. Either Beecroft's hut continued to exist nineteen years later or there may be an early silent film made on Rat Island yet to be discovered.
In any event, the pair huddled for warmth in the hut all night. On the morning of November 30, one took off his vest, attached it to a pole and began waving it as a distress signal. Dr. Henry A. Parmentier, who still owned Rat Island, was walking on City Island Beach at about 9:00 a.m. when he saw the waving vest and notified police. A police launch with a rowboat headed toward the Island, but rough waters delayed the launch and it took about one hour for the launch to reach the islet only a few hundred yards away. Police were able to rescue the men who simply needed a "thawing out."Later Years in the History of Rat Island
On June 28, 1940, Rat Island was offered for sale for the price of $200. There were no takers at the time.
More recently, Rat Island was owned by City Islanders Edmund ("Red") Brennen. Brennen, a long-time Islander and dock builder, purchased a tax lien in 1971 for what he understood to include 33 city lots from a Manhattan real estate attorney named Alliot Zites. See Prohaska, Brenda, Rat Island: Legend and History, The Island Current [City Island, NY], Apr. 2009, Vol. 38, No. 3, p. 9, cols. 1-4.
On October 2, 2011, properties owned by Red Brennen including Rat Island were offered at a sidewalk auction held on City Island between Hawkins and Schofield Streets. Rat Island was sold for $160,000 to City Islander and Cross Street resident Alex Schibli. See Nani, Karen, Sold! 1 Island, 5 Stores, 5 Apartments, The Island Current, Nov. 2011, Vol. 40, No. 9, p. 1, cols. 1-2. According to Karen Nani:
"Mr. Schibli, who attended [the sidewalk auction] with his wife, Noelva, and was described by Mr. Brennen as a 'nice fella,' is known to enjoy kayaking around Rat Island. He can see it from his home on Cross Street, and he has no plans to build a house on the island, although there have been houses on the island, the first during the 1890s and the other during the 1940s. He told The Current that the actual size of the island at high tide is more like one-third of an acre, but that the foundation for one of the houses is within that area. The current market value established by the city's Finance Department is $426,000, with an assessed value of $8,547 (down from $14,670 in 1997). Friends have suggested that Mr. Schibli invite representatives of the Finance Department to join him on a boat ride to the island in an effort to reduce his tax burden, as there is little real-estate value to the property except to local birds and shellfish.
He has been approached by a group of Islanders who were interested in buying the island but could not afford the high price, and he may collaborate with them to construct a small boat landing that would be accessible to contributing members. He has no larger plans, however, since he wants to be sure that the seagulls who nest there remain undisturbed.
Many newspapers reported that Mr. Schibli was thinking about changing the name to Malina Island for his granddaughter, but he realizes that this doesn't make much sense. He isn't even sure if one can officially rename the island without going to a lot of legal trouble but if it's possible, he might propose a contest for a more appropriate name, such as Clam Digger Island. Stay tuned."
So far historic Rat Island remains "Rat Island" rather than "Clam Digger Island." Regardless of its name, however, the tiny little rock outcropping remains a fascinating part of Pelham history. * * * * *
"METROPOLITAN GOSSIP. . . .
During these enviable times when everybody is going out of town I often think of the enviable condition (so far at least as fresh air is concerned) of Gill Horton, the autocrat of Rat Island. The latter is merely a huge rock in the sound, near New Rochelle, and contains but one dwelling, which is occupied by Gill, who owns the place and wants no neighbors. Gill was for many years a pilot, and accumulated enough to ensure an economical support after retiring from the post. He then had his cabin put in order and made it his home, going to and from the main land with his boat. He sits on the rock fishing in pleasant weather, and at other times is snugly ensconced in his cabin. Occasionally he has a visitor in some crony who pulls out to see how he is getting on, but generally he asks no society but that of nature, so beautifully displayed in the scenery around him. He watches the steamboats, and as they pass he feels a companionship in their speed and power. He knows very well that if he is in need of help all he has to do is to put up his signal and he will have immediate attention. Gill is friendly with the fishermen who sometimes call on him for boats, and indeed he is considered rather the good genius of the place. There have been no 'sound disasters' of a serious character since Gill began to live on Rat island. . . ."
Source: METROPOLITAN GOSSIP, Rome Daily Sentinel [Rome, NY], Jul. 31, 1883, Vol. XI, No. 500, p. 1, col. 3.
"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . .
On the 12th inst., Mr. Gilbert Horton, one of the sound pilots, left New York in the bark N. B. Morris bound to London, for the purpose of taking her through Long Island Sound, and he has not since been seen by his friends or associates. The bark passed Little Gull Island at two o'clock P. M. the same day, and as it was blowing a gale from the northwest and a heavy sea running, it is feared that after leaving the vessel Horton's small boat may have capsized. Some of his brother pilots, however, think that he has been carried to sea in the vessel. Mr. Horton is a resident of City Island. . . ."
Source: PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Nov. 23, 1883, Vol. XV, No. 740, p. 3, col. 3. See also Items from Westchester, The World [NY, NY], Nov. 24, 1883, p. 5, col. 2 (stating "Gilbert Horton, of City Island, a Sound pilot, has been missing since Nov. 12. It is though he has been drowned.").
"NEWS IN BRIEF. . . .
Gilbert Horton, a pilot, missing from City Island since December [sic] 12, and supposed to be lost, has been heard from in London."
Source: NEWS IN BRIEF, The Brooklyn Union, Dec. 24, 1883, Vol. XXI, No. 85, p. 2, col. 4.
"ASHORE ON RAT ISLAND.
The schooner Lena B. Kaplan, of Nova Scotia, while on her way from Port Johnson to Southold with a cargo of coal, anchored early yesterday morning off Rat Island. During a heavy southeast gale the vessel dragged both her anchors and went ashore and was sunk. The cargo will have to be discharged before the schooner can be raised."
Source: ASHORE ON RAT ISLAND, N.Y. Herald, Jan. 6, 1886, p. 6, col. 5.
"PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND. . . .
The Schooner Tice, which went ashore on City Island near Carll's yard during the gale last week, was hauled off on Tuesday morning last. The coal schooner, which was hauled off Rat Island and subsequently went ashore at Hawkin's yard, has floated off. The cargo was purchased by Mr. Ethan Waterhouse and immediately disposed of at $4.50 per ton. The schooner is now at the yard of Robinson & Co. as is also the one which went ashore on Davids' Island. . . ."
Source: PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, The Chronicle [Mt. Vernon, NY], Jan. 22, 1886, Vol. XVII, No. 853, p. 1, col. 7.
"CITY ISLAND. . . .
Mr. Gilbert Horton, the well-known resident and owner of Rat Island, died at the home of his son in New London, on Friday, May 5th, in his 68th year. His funeral took place here on Tuesday, May 8th. Interment on City Island. . . ."
Source: CITY ISLAND, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], May 12, 1893, Vol. 2, No. 344, p. 1, col. 5.
"CITY ISLAND. . . .
The house owned by the late Gilbert Horton, and situated on Rat Island in the sound, has been demolished by our town authorities. It is alleged that the Board of Charities and Correction of New York city is about to erect a receiving hospital on this island for contagious diseases. . . ."
Source: CITY ISLAND, The Daily Argus [Mt. Vernon, NY], Sep. 19, 1893, Vol. 2, No. 455, p. 1, col. 5.
"Forty Drowned in Nearby Waters; Gale Swamps Hundreds of Boats
Worst Toll Near City Island, Where Thirty Perish -- Ten Bodies Recovered at Midnight -- Beaches Strewn With Wreckage -- Police Call Situation Appalling.
The gale that swept the waterfront of New York City and its suburbs clear of small craft late yesterday afternoon took its heaviest toll at City Island where it was believed about thirty were drowned. Ten bodies of persons drowned during the storm in Long Island Sound, Pelham Bay and Eastchester Bay, near City Island, had been recovered by the police last night and six of the victims had been identified. Four more were reported drowned by survivors.
Thirteen other persons were drowned in and near New York City during the day, three of them as a result of a thunder squall of unsurpassed intensity which caused a gale of 100 miles an hour, whipped the waters of the Sound and Hudson River, strewed the beaches with wreckage and sent small craft scurrying for shelter which they were fortunate to make.
City Island last night bore the appearance of a war-wrecked city. The storm had damaged the electric lighting system so that the island was in darkness except for the illumination from oil lamps. For several hours it was cut off from connection by the usual transit lines from the rest of the city. By nightfall hundreds of frantic parents were besieging the police station with requests for information concerning their missing children.
Calls Situation Appalling.
Police Inspector John D. Coughlin described the situation as appalling. 'I have no doubt that many more will be reported missing before the night is over,' he said.
In anticipation of such a result, two additional persons were assigned to the telegraph bureau at Police Headquarters and two more to the Bureau of Missing Persons. Orders were given to expedite inquiries concerning any one missing.
At midnight eight bodies had been recovered from the waters near City Island, four by the harbor police and four by members of the boat clubs and by the life saving stations having quarters at City Island or in Pelham Bay.
The list of bodies recovered follows:
ICOFF, Mrs. MARIAN, 24, of 1,472 Seabury Place, the Bronx.
KAPLAN, ALMA, 45, no address.
KAPLAN, BEATRICE, no age given, 246 Pacific Street.
KOHLER, AGNES, 3, 236 East 118th Street.
PETZOLD, Mrs. MARY, 53, 2,614 Leverre Avenue, the Bronx.
ZIMET, Miss JULIA, 26, of 848 Whitlock Avenue, the Bronx.
Unidentified child, about 1 year and 8 months old.
Unidentified child, about 2 years and 8 months old.
Two unidentified men.
The following were known to have been drowned:
FARLEY, PATRICK, 38, 41 Commerce Street.
LONDON, MORRIS, 21, 784 East 169th Street, the Bronx.
RUSKIN, MOE, 390 Muller Avenue, Brooklyn.
RUTTER, ISIDOR, no age given, 21 Charles Street.
The list of those drowned elsewhere follows:
ANDERSON, JOHN, 4,138 Digby Avenue, the Bronx.
BIALEK, SAMUEL ISRAEL, 16 years old, 16 Rose Place, Passaic, N. J.
DENHART, Miss CAROLINE, 18, of 728 Elton Avenue, the Bronx.
DEILZER, JACOB, 24, of 217 West 124th Street.
ERICKSON, Miss KATHERINE, Roebling, N. J.
FUNICELLO, CARL, seaman, United States Eagle Boat No. 59.
GINSBURG, DAVID, 15, of 95 Sunset Avenue, Passaic, N. J.
HAYES, JOSEPH J., 18, of 304 West Forty-first Street.
HEYDER, FRED, 25, of 1,715 Seventy-eighth Street, Brooklyn.
LOWENTHAL, CHARLES, 20, of 56 East 103d Street.
SCHMIDZ, ERNEST JOSEPH, 16, of 214 Hamburg Avenue, Paterson, N. J.
SMITH, Miss EDDA, 17, Linden Avenue, Ossining, N. Y.
SUSSMAN, WILLIAM, 13, of 244 West 112th Street.
The scenes at City Island last night after the storm were pathetic. There is a large camp colony in Pelham Bay Park and there were a large number of visitors in addition to the regular camp and Summer population. Hundreds of persons, knowing that young members of their families had gone to City Island for a day's outing and fearing for their safety because of the storm, went to City Island by automobile and by the different transit lines as soon as they resumed operation.
All night hundreds lined the street opposite the station house, which was crowded with men and women asking for information of a son or daughter, wife or husband, brother or sister. As fast as the inquiry could be answered, usually with a sentence that there was no information, the inquirer passed out of the building and another took his place in the line.
Early this morning the police boat John F. Hylan had joined the four police launches searching for bodies and their searchlights could be seen sweeping that part of the Sound and Pelham Bay. The boats picked up many hats and other floating debris which might lead to identification of those reported missing. Many overturned boats, most of them floating bottom upward, were seen and some of them were recovered.
The storm struck City Island unexpectedly and with terrific force. One of the favorite Sunday pleasure resorts of the city, nearly a thousand small boats, mostly skiffs and canoes, were floating on the Sound, Eastchester Bay and Hunter's Bay, which encircle the island. The frail craft, loaded with men, women and children were swept aside or overturned as chessmen are swept by the hand from the chessboard. It was estimated that at least 200 of the craft were upset at the first blast of the squall and their occupants thrown into the water.
The number of fatalities would have been far greater if it had not been for the crews of the two stations of the United States Volunteer Life-saving Corps on City Island and Hunter's Island and the members of the City Island, Metropolitan, Stuyvesant, Morrisania, and Oak Point Yacht and Boat Clubs. Experienced water men, these men put out, frequently at great personal risk, and rescued hundreds of persons.
The story of these rescues will never be told in full. In many cases girls and young men were dragged from the water just as they were about to succumb. In other cases, the necessity was not so urgent but without the quick and efficient work of the hurriedly organized rescue crews the number of those drowned would have been at least trebled.
Mrs. Petzold and Agnes Kohler, three years old, two of the identified dead, were in the rowboat with six other persons who were rescued. The storm caught this party in Pelham Bay. The boat overturned almost immediately, and all were thrown into the water.
Mrs. Petzold, who tried to save the child, sank at once, and the others of the party, including Mrs. Katherine Kohler, the child's mother, managed to keep afloat. Mrs. Kohler was saved by members of the Stuyvesant Yacht Club. Albert and Edward Ottes and F. E. Acker of the Hunter's Island life-saving station rescued Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Thessendorf of 338 East 118th Street, Miss Anna Burzall and another person whose name was not obtained.
Five Girls Saved.
Alma Kaplan was in a canoe which overturned in Pelham Bay. Beatrice Kaplan was in a rowboat which overturned near the same place. In the boat with the latter Kaplan girl were Lillian Feinburg,12 years old, of 865 Intervale Avenue, the Bronx, and two other girls named Mary and Julia. They were rescued by Captain H. Nelson of the Hunter's Island station.
Captain Nelson soon afterward made a sad discovery by picking up the bodies of two children, apparently about 3 and 2 years old, respectively, in LeRoy Bay, about a mile east of Hunter's Island. The two bodies were taken to City Island for identification.
Two more bodies were recovered by the crew of the police boat John F. Hylan shortly after midnight off Rat Island and were identified at Fordham morgue as those of Miss Julia Zimet, 26 years old, of 848 Whitlock Avenue, the Bronx, and Miss Marian Icoff, 24 years old, of 1,472 Seabury Place, the Bronx. The identification in each case was made by a brother. The two girls were out in rowboats. . . ."
Source: Forty Drowned in Nearby Waters; Gale Swamps Hundreds of Boats -- Worst Toll Near City Island, Where Thirty Perish -- Ten Bodies Recovered at Midnight -- Beaches Strewn With Wreckage -- Police Call Situation Appalling, N.Y. Times, Jun. 12, 1922, p. 1, cols. 6-7.
"Police Rescue Marooned Pair After Night on Rat Island
Helplessly marooned all night in sub-zero temperatures within sight of the city's lights, two men were rescued yesterday from Rat Island, two acres of soil and rock in Long Island Sound between City and Harts Islands. Although suffering from the bitter cold, they needed no more medical attention than a 'thawing out.'
The men were Louis Clavire, 30, of 225 E. 40th st., Manhattan, and August Zenniti, 25, of 45 South st., Manhattan.
They began a motorboat trip at 3 p.m. Friday from the foot of E. 120th st., in the Harlem River, for Northport, L. I., but an hour later the motor of their craft went dead. After drifting about helplessly, the current carried them to Rat Island.
Used Old Movie Hut.
The men tried in vain to repair the motor. Then, lacking any means to start a fire, they went to an old abandoned hut, originally built by a motion picture company when a film was being made on the island.
In the fireless hut they spent the long hours until daybreak, when one of them took off his vest, and attaching it to a long pole, began waving a signal of distress. The waving vest was seen by Dr. Henry A. Parmentier of 478 Kings st., City Island, as he was walking City Island beach at 9 a.m. The doctor owns Rat Island and he immediately notified the personnel of Police Launch No. 9 that some one seemed to be in distress on his property.
Manned by Sgt. Patrick Crotty and Patrolman William Harkins, the launch started for Rat Island. The roughness of the Sound delayed it for an hour. Crotty sent Harkins ashore in a rowboat. Harkins had a rough time of it but finally got the marooned men off and out to the launch."
Source: Police Rescue Marooned Pair After Night on Rat Island, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec. 1, 1929, p. A2, cols. 6-7.
"On June 28th Rat Island, off the East Bronx, was offered for sale with no takers. The price asked was only $200. It's assessed at $1,300. Freddie Bright, who is very [sic], suggested to the city that Rat Island be used as a place to safe-keep 5th Columnists."
Source: [Untitled], Albany Times-Union, Jul. 5, 1940, p. 8, col. 4.
"RAT ISLAND, about a half mile east of City Island, two acres of bare rock, served as a resting place for escaping convicts from near-by Hart's Island and was the site of the Pelham pesthouse during the yellow fever scares. The island is divided at one end by a natural declivity known as 'Devil's Path.' For a time Rat Island was the home of a group of writers and artists One of these was Chester Beecroft, film producer and war correspondent. In 1931 the Mount Vernon Club leased the island and now rents it to vacationists."
Source: New York City Guide -- American Guide Series, Vol. I, p. 551 (NY, NY: Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, 1939).
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