Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Where in Blazes Were "The Blauzes" in Pelham?

There are countless islands and rocky islets that once were part of the Town of Pelham.  Many may be found near and around City Island.  Even their names are intriguing:  Hart Island, High Island, Goose Island, Rat Island, the Chimney Sweeps, Twin Islands, Hunter's Island, Travers Island, Cuban Ledge, Green Flats, Middle Reef Island, Big Tom Island, North Brother Island, South Brother Island, East Nonations Island, South Nonations Island, and Two Tree Island, among many others.  Indeed, in addition to many articles about City Island, Hunter's Island, and Travers Island, I have written before about a number of these islands and rocky islets.  See, e.g.:

Tue., Feb. 28, 2017:  A Little History of the Chimney Sweeps, Two Diminutive Pelham Rocky Islets.

Fri., Feb. 17, 2017:  More on the History of High Island in the Town of Pelham.

Wed., Feb. 15, 2017:  Captain Kidd's Treasure: Buried on High Island in the Town of Pelham.

Thu., Sep. 08, 2016:  Historic Rat Island, One of the Pelham Islands First Purchased by Thomas Pell.  

Tue., May 05, 2015:  More About the History of Goose Island, Once the Home of Mammy Goose.  

Mon., May 26, 2014:  James D. Fish and the Mansion He Built that Once Stood on the Most Easterly of the Twin Islands in Pelham.

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

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

Today's Historic Pelham article provides a little information about two more rocky islets known as "The Blauzes."  The two tiny islets, composed of Manhattan schist bedrock, are actually portions of a 600-yard reef that extends southeastward from the islets toward the northern tip of nearby Hart Island.  See United States Coast Pilot Atlantic Coast, Part IV, Point Judith to New York Sixth Edition, p. 146 (Dep't of Commerce, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office, 1915) (stating "The Blauzes, partly bare at high water, are a part of the reef which extends 600 yards northwestward from the north end of Hart Island.").  The islets are a few hundred feet northwest of the northern tip of Hart Island within City Island Harbor and the area often referenced as the Narrows.

The origin of the name "The Blauzes" is uncertain.  Indeed, there are a host of theories.  Bronx local historian John McNamara once wrote:

"The name 'Blauzes' has a doubtful origin, so . . . readers may choose among the following:

One theory is that it derives from 'Blazer' an Old English word for a marker or guide, and that the mariners used these reefs as guides into City Island.  

This writer believes their bluish color caused them to be called by Dutch mariners 'de Blauwtjes' (the little blue ones.)

A third possibility is that the islets resemble whales, and the traditional cry of the Norwegian whalermen was 'Bla-a-as!  Den Blasser den!' the equivalent of our 'Thar she blows!'"  Source:  McNamara, John, The Bronx In History:  'Blauzes' Are Little Islands, Name Pose a Pretty Historic Mystery, Bronx Press Review, Jul. 4, 1963.  

A Wikipedia article provides a different explanation of the origin of the name "The Blauzes."  It says:

"The Blauzes . . . are composed of Manhattan schist bedrock with a slightly bluish tint and are semi-hemispherical in shape.  The Blauzes means 'Little Blue Ones' in Belgian French. The name comes from the Belgian Huguenots, who were the first Europeans to settle the area.  They are jokingly referred to by local residents as the Blue Breasts because their odd shape resembles that of a voluptuous woman's bosom."  Source:  "The Blauzes" in Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia (visited Sun., May 7, 2017).   

A third source gives an additional theory of the origin of the name.  It states:  "The name is contested to have many origins:  is it the Old English 'Blazer' for marker or guide, or perhaps 'de Blauwtjes,' Dutch for the little blue ones."  Source:  "12 The Blauzes" in Frishberg, Hannah, Get To Know 34 of New York City's Most Obscure Islands, Aug. 26, 2014 (visited Sun., May 7, 2017).  

The 1848 edition of Robert Bolton's History of Westchester County indicates that The Blauzes and the waters surrounding them were a sportsman's paradise in the mid-19th century.  According to Bolton:  "The Narrows between Hart and City Island and the Blauzes are much frequented by vast flocks of wild ducks.  The varieties consist principally of the old wife, broad bill, coot, black duck and whistler.  In the fall of 1846, 1000 ducks are said to have been shot here, in the course of six hours."  Source:  Bolton, Jr., Robert, A History of the County of Westchester From Its First Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. I, p. 550 (NY, NY:  Alexander S. Gould, 1848).  

Though The Blauzes likely contributed to some number of the many shipwrecks between Hart Island and City Island in the last three hundred years, research has not yet revealed any such wrecks directly attributable to these rocky islets.  But see Seitz, Sharon & Miller, Stuart, The Other Islands of New York City:  A History and Guide, p. 148 (Woodstock, VT:  The Countryman Press 3rd Edition, 2011) (stating "The Blauzes  The name of these mussel-colored reefs west of Hart Island derives from either the Dutch de blawwtjes, meaning 'little blue ones,' or the Old English word blazer, meaning 'marker.'  Early mariners may have used the reefs as guides into City Island; less observant sailors wrecked their ships there.").  
The Blauzes remain rocky, tree-less, uninhabited granite protrusions above the waters of Long Island Sound that are enigmatic and relatively undocumented.  Without any source of fresh water, the islets appear never to have been inhabited, though they remain a beautiful destination for kayakers and anglers to this day.

Satellite Image of The Blauzes, 2016.  Source:
Google Maps Satellite View.  NOTE:  Click on
Image to Enlarge.

Detail of Map Published in 1901 Showing Location of The Blauzes as
Well as A Number of Other Islands and Rocky Islets that Once Were
Part of the Town of Pelham.  The Blauzes Are Located Just Northwest
of the Northern Tip of Hart Island on the Right.  Source: Abbatt, William,
of a Stubborn Fight, Map After p. 26 (New York: Privately Printed, 1901).
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Satellite Image of the Region Near The Blauzes.  Rodman's Neck
(Once Known as Pelham Neck) is on the Left.  City Island Is in the
Center.  Hart Island is on the Right.  The Blauzes Are the Two Tiny
Dots Northwest of the Northern Tip of Hart Island.  Source:  Google
Maps Satellite View.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home