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About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

Tag: Sunnyside

An Addendum… Native Sons & The Battle of the Ironclads

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote a piece earlier about the Monitor and the Merrimack (the Virginia) and their epic battle.  We also noted how that event was significantly shaped by two figures with ties to the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown area.  Lieutenant John Lorimer Worden (born at Scarborough/Sparta) actually commanded the Union ship Monitor, and Commodore Hiram Paulding (most famous child of local hero, John Paulding) personally commanded the emergency Union naval expedition that preemptively scuttled the Merrimack at Gosport, Virginia, before it was raised and refitted as an ironclad by the Confederate Navy.  A short time later, Paulding would be influential in promoting the Union’s construction of the Monitor.  He was furthermore the commandant of the New York Navy Yard when the newly completed Monitor was ordered to its fateful service at Hampton Roads, Virginia.   But another figure residing in our community also played a significant behind-the-scenes role in the story.

The Homestead, Tarrytown – Version 2

The Homestead, Tarrytown

Henry Rossiter Worthington, did not hail from Westchester County, but he did become a resident of Tarrytown, possibly as early as 1859.  In fact, Worthington and his family were close neighbors to “Sunnyside.”  Worthington’s residence, “the Homestead,” was located a few hundred yards northeast of Washington Irving’s well known country seat.  Worthington’s association with the battle between the ironcads lay in the fact that both the Monitor and the Merrimack were fitted out with essential equipment designed by Worthington himself.  Wrote John Ericsson, the celebrated designer of the Monitor, to Worthington, “I regard your pumping engine as the greatest achievement in Hydraulic Engineering of our time.”

HR Worthington at 48

HR Worthington at 48

Engineer and inventor, Henry R. Worthington, was born at New York City in 1817 and educated in the city’s public schools.  He became a mechanical engineering prodigy who, at an early age, became acutely interested in the problems of the notorious New York City water supply existing at that time.  It is likely that the young man experienced first-hand the rash of epidemics stemming from the city’s unwholesome water supply, as well as the destruction caused by lack of a sufficient water supply to fight the “1835 Great Fire of New York.”  

On September 24, 1839, Worthington married Sarah Elizabeth Newton, the daughter of Commodore John Thomas Newton of Alexandria, Virginia.  Commodore Newton commanded the USS Missouri on the first Atlantic crossing of a United States steam warship.

Replica pump - detail

Replica pump – detail

By the age of twenty-three, Worthington was patenting innovative water pumps which would lead to his development of the direct acting steam pump in 1845.  In 1845, he co-founded with William H. Baker, Worthington and Baker.  The new company set up a small shop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and made its first sale to the United States Navy in 1850.  As their business with the United States Navy expanded, the operation moved in 1854 to larger quarters at Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where Worthington developed the duplex steam pump in 1859.  Upon the death of Baker in 1860 the partnership dissolved, and Worthington’s business was reestablished as Henry R. Worthington. That year the company developed the first duplex waterworks engine.

Detail 1856 map of Brooklyn showing Van Brunt St,, Red Hook

Detail 1856 map of Brooklyn showing Van Brunt St,, Red Hook

Replica Worthington drect steam pump

Replica Worthington direct steam pump

Which brings us to 1861.  Someone once told me that, in extreme situations at sea, when a ship is sinking, the very last item one throws over the side is the pump.  This little adage appears to stress the importance of a good pump aboard a ship.  It was in the early months of 1861 that the United States Navy scuttled the steam frigate Merrimack at Gosport, Virginia.  Confederate forces then raised the vessel and redesigned it for use as an ironclad, before renaming her the Virginia.  The completed ironclad was equipped with two “large” Worthington pumps.  These pumps were important components within the new warship, both to keep the vessel from flooding and to feed the Merrimack’s huge boilers with water.  Whether the pumps were salvaged from the scuttled Merrimack, or newly installed from another source later, is yet unclear to me.

In the same year (1861) the ironclad Monitor was in production at Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Its designer, the brilliant, exacting, and testy John Ericsson, saw to it that two Worthington pumps, purchased on October 19, 1861, were included in the warship.  These pumps were approximately 4.5 feet-long and weighed about 400 pounds.  They were to be used as bilge pumps and to replenish the ship’s boilers with seawater.  Both were steam-operated, and could keep the bilge (the interior of the hull) dry without resorting to the old laborious method of manual pumping.

At the time of the famous naval battle between the two prototypical ironclads, The Merrimack attempted to ram the Monitor after having lost its heavy ram in action the previous day.  The Monitor was little scathed by this attack, but the Confederate ship, as it drew away, began to leak at the bow and take on water.   The executive officer of the Merrimack, now in command of the ship, was concerned that his ship might founder—that is run aground or sink.  He was inclined to withdraw from the contest and steam back to port.  But the bellicose engineer of the Merrimack exclaimed in frustration at such prudence, “With the two large Worthington pumps, besides the bilge injections, we could keep her afloat for hours, even with a ten inch shell in her hull.”   Over this objection, the ship made for home.

The Sinking of the USS Monitor

The Sinking of the USS Monitor

Neither ironclad saw battle again, but the Monitor was to sink in a violent storm off Cape Hatteras about midnight on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1862. The crew managed to keep her afloat for a time using the Worthington pumps, but the conditions were too extreme for even those contemporary marvels to save the ship.  The men were forced to abandon ship, and the Monitor sank with the loss of sixteen lives.

Orig Worthington pump, encrusted

Original Worthington pump, encrusted.  Salvaged from the USS Monitor

Near the end of the twentieth century, the wreck of the Monitor was located off Cape Hatteras.  In the twenty-first century, parts of the ship and equipment have been retrieved from the wreck.  Some skeletal remains of crew members have been recovered too.  Among the items brought to the surface was one of the Monitor’s two Worthington Pumps.  Though extremely corroded, the direct steam pump has been reverse-engineered into a life-sized working replica—a modern miracle.

HR Worthington in later years

HR Worthington in later years

Henry Rossiter Worthington’s business continued to prosper. Pumps designed by Worthington and his associates would play an increasingly important role in water supply systems—and eventually in the oil industry.  Worthington’s company also developed precision instruments and hydraulic presses.  By 1876, eighty municipalities throughout the United States and Canada had installed his waterworks engines.  The capacities of those systems ran from 500,000 to 15,000,000 gallons per hour.  In 1893, thirteen years after his death, 1160 of his waterworks engines had been installed throughout the world.

Detail 1891 map showing Homestead aka "Northcote"

Detail 1891 map showing Homestead aka “Northcote”

Worthington became one of the three main founders of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  He passed up an offer to become the society’s first president in favor of becoming the society’s first vice president.  He would die only eight months later, on his birthday, December 17, 1880.

St Joseph of Arimathia Church

St Joseph of Arimathia Church

St Joseph of Arimathia sign

St Joseph of Arimathia sign

Following the death of her husband, Laura Worthington continued to live at “the Homestead.”  As noted earlier, the property lay to the northeast of Sunnyside, extending from the Old Croton Aqueduct on the west to Broadway on the east.  The residence was built in 1835 by Benson Ferris (senior), the man who, that year, sold “Wolfert’s Roost” to Washington Irving.  (Wolfert’s Roost was the name with which Irving dubbed his new purchase when it was still but an ancient, colonial farmhouse.)  The Homestead was the new home that Benson Ferris built for himself upon selling Wolfert’s Roost.  Ferris sold his new residence in 1856,

Worthington vault, detail

Worthington vault, detail

before he relocated into the (then) hamlet of Tarrytown.  That may have been the year in which the Worthingtons brought the Homestead.  A census of June, 1880, the year of Worthington’s death, the house was reported occupied by Worthington, his wife, a son, a daugther-in-law, a sister, and four servants.  The property is today embraced by the Belvedere Estate, and the mansion was replaced by the Belvedere mansion in the early twentieth century.  Note, the Homestead appears on an 1891 Beers map as “Northcote.”

Worthington vault

Worthington vault

Mrs. Worthington ordered a memorial chapel erected in honor of her husband and which would house his remains.  It was built in 1883 near the Saw Mill River, on four acres of land belonging to the Worthington family.  That parcel borders the east side of Saw Mill River Road (Route 9A) south of Elmsford, New York.  Given to the Episcopal Church in 1896, three years after the death of Sarah E. Worthington, the chapel is today known as Saint Joseph of Arimathia Episcopal Church.  The remains of Henry Rossiter Worthington (and presumably his wife’s) are entombed in the Worthington vault beneath the church.

 

 

[Copyright © 2018 Henry John Steiner]

The Last Days of Washington Irving

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 

A Genius for Writing

Washington Irving

Washington Irving

 

I tend to see Washington Irving as a master of Literature’s Classical Age as well as its Romantic Age. His style might be called a hybrid of those two epochs. It is difficult to say exactly how Irving emerged in Federal America with such a strong and polished voice on only a basic education. He seemed to have been born fully-formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus, a product of the American consciousness, but with unmistakable British overtones. These he took no pains to conceal. I think Irving can hardly be censured for turning to British models when we consider the spare American literary legacy that was his—the moralizing of Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin. Washington Irving’s youthful, satirical writings in Salmagundi and Knickerbocker’s History of New York displayed a brilliant and confident style indebted to Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, and perhaps Pope and Johnson. Those who do not think of Irving as also a Romantic need only turn to his writings on the Hudson River and spirit of Christmas. His achievement was greatly admired by the writers of his time, both home and abroad.

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