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Washington Irving’s “The Angler”… Curtain-Raiser to the “Legend”

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

2019 is the bicentennial year!

Title Page - Serial No. 1 of The Sketch Book

Title Page – Serial No. 1 of The Sketch Book

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was completed by Washington Irving 200 years ago, in 1819.  The work in which it appears, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was published in installments during 1819 and 1820.  Soon collected editions of the The Sketch Book appeared in Britain and the United States.  The next-to-last offering in what we know as Washington Irving’s, The Sketch Book, is entitled “The Angler.”  It is the “sketch” which precedes “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  But, to be “precise and authentic,” there is a short, final, three-page epilogue entitled, “L’Envoy,” which follows “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and ends The Sketch Book.

“The Angler” did not always precede “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” only from 1848 onward when Irving issued the “Author’s Revised Edition” of The Sketch Book.  Though written in England, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was first published in the United States.  It appeared on March 15, 1820, in serial issue  “No. VI.”  The first appearance of “The Angler” came later in that year, in serial issue  “No. VII.” and it was the closing “sketch” of the first edition.  But, posterity knows it now as the “the curtain-raiser” to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” due to the fact that, in 1848, Washington Irving considered “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to be the most compelling “finale” to The Sketch Book.

Brook Trout— Currier and Ives

Brook Trout— Currier and Ives

In “The Angler,” Irving neglects to mention his own very earliest experiences on a trout stream in Sleepy Hollow, although some of that first experience certainly seeped into the pages of both “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “The Angler.”  These angling forays began in the summer of 1798, when Washington was the youngest and frailest child of the Irving family of New York City.  Waves of yellow fever that summer visited the port city of New York, a regrettable side effect of its trade with the Southern States.  Irving’s family worried that one such wave of the fever might carry the fifteen-year-old boy away. 

James Kirke Paulding

James Kirke Paulding

Washington Irving’s family sent him for the summer to the Hudson River community of Tarrytown, New York.  There, a few years before, his oldest brother William had married Julia Paulding, at the Paulding home on the Tarrytown waterfront.  Julia was the daughter of a formerly prosperous merchant, William Paulding, and she was the sister of James Kirke Paulding, who would, in time, become one of Irving’s literary collaborators.  (Note, the many Paulding children were also the cousins of local, Revolutionary War hero, John Paulding.)  The marriage significantly linked the Irving and Paulding families.

Pocantico freshet and bridge

Pocantico freshet and bridge

Steiner trout fishing

Steiner trout fishing

That summer of 1798, James K. Paulding served as Irving’s guide through the forests and along the streams of the Pocantico River Valley, in nearby Sleepy Hollow.  Paulding was an experienced woodsman who had in part sustained his family (when still a child) through his hunting and fishing acumen.  That was during the post-Revolutionary War years, while Paulding’s father languished in the county jail, for debt.  Irving later remembered that it was during his 1798 visit that, “I first tried my unpracticed hand at fishing.”  Irving recalled, “A thousand crystal springs… sent down from the hill-sides their whimpering rills, as if to pay tribute to the Pocantico…. I delighted to follow it into the brown recesses of the woods; to throw by my fishing gear aside and sit upon rocks beneath towering oaks and clambering grapevines…. My boyish fancy clothed all nature around me with ideal charms, and peopled it with the fairy beings I had read of in poetry and fable.” 

A few years following the great success of The Sketch Book, James K. Paulding chimed in with a friendly critique of Washington Irving’s angling ability: “He was the worst fisherman we ever knew…”

W.I. about ten years before The Sketch Book

W.I. about ten years before The Sketch Book

Irving’s purpose in “The Angler” may have something to do with tact and international diplomacy.  His earlier Sketch Book numbers had already charmed both sides of the Atlantic.  In many of the sketches, Irving sought to maintain a charming and disarming American perspective on aspects of life in Britain.  Of course, he accomplishes this while demonstrating uncommon literary sophistication.  He is entertaining,  poking fun at Americans and Britons alike, but he never “cuts” too deeply.  Where he jokes, it is generally good-natured fare.  An Anglophile and devotee of English Letters, Irving arrived in Britain only a few years after America’s conflict with Great Britain in the War of 1812, making his enthusiastic reception by British readers and British literary critics all the more startling.  He seemed to show through his writings that he had come to Britain with an open heart, and, surely, much of his literary art and style resonated well with this audience, as it “looked back” to antecedents of British literature’s Classical Age and incorporated contemporary traits of English Romanticism.

Fishing Creel

Fishing Creel

Washington Irving was on a tour of Wales from July 31, 1815 to August 14, 1815.  He toured with a traveling companion (James Renwick), kept a journal, and recorded having enjoyed a number of local trout and grayling dinners.  The journal sheds almost no light on the subjects covered in “The Angler.”  Irving appears to have had little interaction with Welsh country folk on that trip, although he recorded his impressions of the countryside and some figures in Welsh history.  After completing the tour, he arrived in Liverpool where he was beset with family business problems.  Those troubling issues would continue to unsettle him until the bankruptcy of his brothers’ export partnership in 1818.  Irving was associated with the business as a kind of junior partner, but his personal finances were apparently bound up in it.  A year after the Wales excursion he would travel to Derbyshire with his brother Peter (August of 1816).  They were following the “tracks” of early, British, angling authority, Izaak Walton.  Irving would take yet another excursion through the Welsh countryside with his brother Peter and William C. Preston, in late June, 1817.

Sir Henry Wotton

Sir Henry Wotton

“The Angler” begins with a motto in verse.  The poem runs eight lines and is credited to Sir Henry Wotton.  This man was an early-seventeenth-century English diplomat who, late in his life, enjoyed fishing on a particular section of the River Thames with famed, seventeenth-century, English, angling authority, Izaak Walton.

“The Angler” is a relatively short piece, consisting of twenty-one paragraphs.  It suggests to us how varied a work The Sketch Book actually is.  If we believe that the “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is representative of The Sketch Book as a whole, we mistake its nature.  Nor is the “The Angler” typical of the collection,  although the two pieces do have aspects in common. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and “The Angler” share a humorous tongue-in-cheek tone.  The two also exhibit rustic backdrops and occasional moments of sentimentality.  Astoundingly, both sketches include a charactacter or person who was maimed by a cannonball!  But, “The Angler,” unlike “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is a work of nonfiction.  One could called it an essay or a short memoir.  Let’s examine it more closely.

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

The “sketch” begins (paragraph one) as the narrator observes how the legacy of seventeenth-century author/angler, Izaac Walton, and his book, The Compleat Angler (1653) are popular among young gentlemen in America.  The book has seduced many American young men into, what Irving describes as, “angling mania.”  It is much the same kind of allure created by the book, Robinson Crusoe, and the manner in which that story inspired boys to run off to sea.   “The “Angler’s” narrator, and a group of his friends, were inspired by reading Walton’s The Compleat Angler one winter, and by early summer they were ready to venture together on a quixotic adventure along one of America’s country streams.

The Compleat Angler

The Compleat Angler

We then meet (paragraph two) the novice fisherman.  In this case, one whose attention to the requisite dress and accoutrements of the sport greatly outweigh his skill, causing him to appear absurd.  He is a common character type in  English literature with precursors reaching back to the cross-gartered Malvolio of Shakespeare’s, Twelfth Night.  In twentieth century American Western cinema, the “dude” or “tenderfoot” is the newly-tailored and ludicrously-bedecked cowboy who arrives at the ranch, never having “thrown” a rope in his life.

Cascade Pool at high water

Cascade Pool at high water

Washington Irving contrasts (paragraph three) the typical English trout stream  with one in his native United States.  In this case, the American stream is a rough, steep brook set in the terrain of the Hudson River Highlands.  The narrator then contrasts his impressions of that stream with a typically placid English trout stream.  He later returns to the American stream, which presents itself as an angry torrent.  He describes how it runs its course and becomes agreeably peaceful as it descends to more level terrain.  The paragraph ends with, perhaps, a bit of gratuitous misogyny.  The narrator likens the stream to a housewife who is petulant and difficult at home, but who walks out in public with the phony air of sweet good-nature. 

Gentlemen fishing

Gentlemen fishing

There follows (paragraph four) a short reflection about “home.”  It is an earnest and tender revery, invoking the memory of a cherished rural scene in the narrator’s country.   He places before us a scene of peace and calm along a rustic brook, with a final exclamatory note to convey the strength of his affection for it.

"Brook Trout Fishing"— Currier and Ives

“Brook Trout Fishing”— Currier and Ives

The next angler “type” is introduced (paragraph five), “the bungler.”  Here we have a self-effacing portrait of the narrator as an angler.  He believes he lacked the required “patience and adroitness” for angling, and he finally abandoned the pursuit in favor of meditating and dreaming under the trees, coming to the realization that it was the idea of angling that had bewitched him and not the actual practice.  The narrator watches his companions continue their hunt as they remain comfortable in their delusions.   The creatures of the forest are alarmed at this unsettling intrusion on their domain.   

The narrator remembers (paragraph six) that, after a day of these inept efforts, the squad of over-equipped gentlemen had little to show for their exertions.  Then appeared a young country boy to illustrate the contrast of the proficient “urchin,” who, equipped with the crudest equipment, puts the older,  empty-handed  amateurs to shame.

The narrator (should we say Irving?) remembers (paragraph seven),  there was a special camaraderie in the group as the friends sat about in the woods having lunch. This beautiful scene was completed by readings aloud of passages from Walton.  He remembers the warm feelings they shared as the group rested by the stream. We learn that the narrator’s memory was triggered by his more recent experience on the River Alun in Wales. 

Welsh country village

Welsh country village

The storyteller relates (paragraph eight) his experience on that Welsh stream.  [The River Alun empties into the River Dee about twenty miles south of Liverpool in England.]  He encounters a weathered old man with a wooden leg coaching his “two rustic disciples” in the art of angling.  One of these followers could be typed “the poacher” from his slightly cagey manner.   The other is labeled “a tall, awkward country lad.”  Our narrator refers to an old treatise on fishing which bespeaks the pure and unoffending nature of the average fisherman and touts the spiritual and moral benefits of the sport.  The old man’s clothes are covered with many neat patches, and his face looks weathered though easygoing.  The narrator claims that, since reading Izaak Walton, he has a “kind feeling” for those who fish.  [In a footnote at the end of this paragraph, the narrator remarks on how Walton turns the accustomed image of the idle and perhaps uncouth fisherman on its head, gracing the angler with an image of industry and spiritual devotion.] 

The storyteller believes (paragraph nine) he can read into the character of the old man an attractive, “cheerful contentedness.”  This energetic and skilled  instructor declaims to his listeners how best to hold the rod and the proper use of the other equipment.  The beauty of the Welsh countryside is noted.

The narrator then (paragraph ten) joins the old angler for the better part of a day, encouraging him to speak broadly on angling. For “who does not like now and then to play the sage?”  The angler is spurred on to provide details about his life in general.

Sleepy Hollow historian and recreation supervisor at a trout stocking event

Sleepy Hollow historian and Sleepy Hollow recreation supervisor at a trout stocking event

The old angler tells the narrator (paragraph eleven) that he spent many of his youthful years in America, where he was ruined by an unscrupulous business partner.  He tells the story of how he lost his leg—carried away by a cannonball when he served in the British Navy.  [Note that, in the story which follows “The Angler,” there is a character—the Headless Horseman—who has also lost a body part through the agency of a cannonball!]  Due to this wound, the old man enjoys the benefit of a pension amounting to nearly forty pounds-per-year, which funds his (to his mind) comfortable retirement.  In the words of the narrator, “This was the only stroke of real good-fortune he had ever experienced…”  It enabled him to retire to his native village and live the life of an avid fisherman of modest means.

The old man, too, has an appreciation (paragraph twelve) of Walton’s famous book on the subject of angling.  His manner is generally outgoing and positive by nature.  He does not appear to carry any ill will toward the United States for his business misfortune in America.  One of the old man’s “students”—the tall awkward one—was the son of a stout widow who kept the village inn.  No doubt the old man hopes that this will secure a favored place for him at the inn’s fireside and an occasional free drink in years to come.

Stream and mill dam, Sleepy Hollow

Stream and mill dam, Sleepy Hollow

Anglers, while exacting cruel torments (paragraph thirteen) on the live bait they use, tend to be, by nature, gentle and serene.  The English are adept and systematic at “softening” nature.  Walton refers to the beneficial religious ministrations  which are received by the dedicated angler as he walks in a “meadow along some gliding stream.”  To him, it is a God-affirming experience.

[We are here offered fourteen lines (paragraph fourteen) of poetry credited to “J. Davors.”  In The Sketch Book, Irving supplies a footnote to that effect.  These lines are extracted from Walton’s Compleat Angler, where they are attributed to “J. Davors, Esq.”  The lines can be more accurately attributed to British author John Dennys and his 1613 book, The Secrets of Angling.  “Let me live harmlessly [[…etc.]]”  The source of the poem is said to have been misattributed for 198 years.]

The narrator (paragraph fifteen) seeks the old man out in his country village, arriving at the one-room cottage a few evenings later.  The modest home is described in detail.  This section of the sketch seems intended to show the wholesome, simple lifestyle of a humble Briton.

We meet the man’s cat (paragraph sixteen) and his parrot.  The reader hears of the orderly interior of the cottage, and the ingenuity with which the modest home is arraigned.  The old man is regularly mopping and sweeping it to keep it tidy.

The narrator describes (paragraph seventeen) the simple pleasures the man enjoys.  The old angler speaks of his fishing activities that day—the big trout he caught.  He tells of sending the fish to the woman who keeps the inn—presumably to enhance whatever good will he enjoys there.

Pocantico River, a pool

Pocantico River, a pool

The narrator praises the man (paragraph eighteen), approves his peaceful contentment, and admires the happiness he carries within him. He hails the old angler’s  good nature.

We learn that the old man (paragraph nineteen) is a “universal favorite in the village and the oracle of the tap-room…”. To that is added, “his life was quiet and inoffensive…”

Fishing signage

Fishing signage

The angler is a regular (paragraph twenty) attendee at church services (sleeping during sermons), and he desires to be buried in the churchyard where the remains of his parents lie.  He can see that very gravesite as he looks out the window from his seat in church.

The narrator speaks (paragraph twenty-one) of ending his story, fearing he has wearied his readers.  He loves the idea of fishing, but the practice of it will always elude him.  He closes with a tongue-in-cheek blessing on the reader, adapted from Izaak Walton, who hopes that the reader will trust in God, “and be quiet [peaceful], and go a-angling.” 

Young Alex Steiner of the Sleepy Hollow "Rock Rollers"

Young Alex Steiner of the Sleepy Hollow “Rock Rollers”

In “The Angler,” Irving is certainly entertaining, and his style is as proficient and cultivated as any author writing in English at the time.  But he is not brilliant.  The piece is illustrative of where Irving’s whimsy might carry him.  Still, the sketch sets the scene for the final story of The Sketch Book.   We will find the voice and tone of “The Angler” employed in one of the truly brilliant works of American Literature, the virtuoso performance of Irving in ”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” 

 

 

[Copyright © 2019 Henry John Steiner]

Andre’s Tree – The Vanished Landmark

Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote the following piece many years ago, prodded by the knowledge that Andre’s Tree was a real, historic  – though now extinct – landmark.  My researches in local history taught me that many well-intentioned writers of the 19th and 20th centuries had, through ignorance and misinterpretation, consigned this important landmark to mythological status…

Major John Andre

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown once had an impressive, living landmark which stood near what is today the border of the two villages.  André’s Tree was an ancient, enormous tulip or white-wood tree which towered over the Post Road until 1801.  According to Washington Irving’s friend, James K. Paulding, it stood “About half a quarter of a mile south of Clark’s Kill bridge, on the high-road….”  In other words, it stood roughly where Broadway passes Warner Library today.

Where Andre's Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

Where Andre’s Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

The American Citizen newspaper of August 25, 1801, reported that the tree was destroyed by lightning on Saturday, July 21, 1801.  It measured 29 feet around at the base, 111 feet in height, 106 feet in diameter at the crown.  Some local folk preserved pieces of the tree as keepsakes.  The newspaper also recorded that the lightening strike was said to have occurred on the day that news of Benedict Arnold’s death in England arrived at Tarrytown.

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots' Park, about 300 yards from where Andre's Tree once stood

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots’ Park, about 300 yards from where Andre’s Tree once stood

As the name suggests, the tree is associated with the momentous capture of the British spy, Major John André, and, indeed, there is a tradition that André was either stopped or searched directly under the tree.  However, the actual capture site lay at the intersection of André Brook and the Albany Post Road, approximately two hundred yards to the north. 

Patriots' Park tulip tree leaves

Patriots’ Park tulip tree leaves

On another score, General Jacob Odell recalled that the tree served as an enlistment station for patriots of the vicinity during the spring of 1776.  He and three cousins from the Irvington area, rode or walked up the Post Road to enlist with the local militia in the June of 1776.

The tree is associated with several spurious traditions too, among them:

  • That Major André was hanged at the tree
  • That the tree was destroyed upon receipt of the news of André’s death in Tappan
  • That the tree stood along André Brook.

The name, “Major André’s tree,” appears in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819).  Washington Irving described the tree from first-hand observations made roughly twenty years earlier.  It is not clear when the tree was first given the name, André’s Tree, but the name appears to have originated after the destruction of the tree itself.  A remarkable feature of the tree is that it stood, literally, in the middle of the road.  That is, the road split to either side of the tree, a unique circumstance even in that day.

A tulip tree in Patriots' Park, Sleepy Hollow

A tulip tree in Patriots’ Park, Sleepy Hollow

The extensive description of the tree in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” may be well worth revisiting.  “Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate André was taken.”  Irving goes on, “The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and doleful lamentations told concerning it.”  The narrator of the story refers to it as a”fearful tree.”

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre's Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre’s Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

When he was writing the story in 1819, Irving may have been unaware that the tree had been destroyed by lightning nearly twenty years earlier.  If he was accurately describing the tree from his own youthful observations, André’s Tree had been the target of earlier lightning strikes:  “As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree—he paused and ceased whistling, but on looking more narrowly, he perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare.”

It appears that the tree continued to serve as a convenient reference point even after it was gone.  In 1845 a local Revolutionary War veteran, Samuel Lyon, recalled that he was in a detachment chasing enemy loyalist troops on September 4, 1781, when he observed the enemy troopers, “near André’s great white wood tree.”  Lyon had seen them from the hill above the Old Dutch Church, but the enemy slipped away before he and his comrades could attack them.

The twentieth century nearly banished André’s Tree to the realm of myth.  It was, however, a real, living and unique landmark coloring the life and traditions of this community in its earliest days, and even a monument of purely Native American times.  A great part of what the tree really was, lives on.  It’s image is stamped in the pages of one of America’s great works of fiction.

Copyright  2012, 2019 Henry John Steiner

 

Andre Brook, Andre’s Tree, Benedict Arnold, HeadlessHorseman, James K. Paulding, John Paulding, legend of sleepy hollow, Major John Andre, sleepy hollow, Tarrytown, washington irving

“Target Man”—John B. Jervis

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

High Bridge, the oldest remaining Harlem River crossing , designed by John B. Jervis

John Bloomfield Jervis was one of the great American civil engineers of the nineteenth century.  Late in that century, many of his achievements had been eclipsed by even grander designs than the seemingly indelible marks he left on the American landscape—particularly in the State of New York. Yet, perhaps Jervis’s greatest success was himself.  He was a man whose mind, ambition, and character allowed him to rise from cart driver to the grandest of civic “architects.”  He changed the path of his own career from what might have been a life of menial, physical labor in upstate New York, to that of a “masterbuilder” of the early United States.  His works were instrumental to making New York State “the Empire State.”

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

Sleepy Hollow Viaduct of the Old Croton Aqueduct

As we walk the terrain of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown today, we encounter the great products of Jervis’s skill and imagination.  There is no doubt that his productions transformed this community in many fundamental ways.  The Hudson River Railroad is just one imposing example—still significant and still in operation after 170 years.

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Wandering to Hackley Field

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Many of the revelers at this 245 Crest Drive costume party became the "usual suspects" during my Hackley Field jaunts. I'm standing to right of Mom near the top of the shot, about 1956.

Many of the revelers at this 245 Crest Drive costume party became the “usual suspects” during my Hackley Field jaunts. I’m standing to right of Mom near the top of the shot, about 1956.

I remember the Hackley School grounds from the time of my early boyhood.  I was a kid growing up on Crest Drive, and Hackley seemed like a big playground for myself and my friends.  We were a “gang” of kids living on the Crest Drive cul-de-sac.  This was part of the so-called Upper Crest, a name that may seem to confer a distinction that did not exist.

SquirrelThere were days when we “hunted” for rabbits and squirrels with our bows and slingshots, subjecting our prey indeed to the “slings and arrows” of “wanton boys.”  But never with a fatal result or serious injury to our quarry.  We did endanger ourselves, however, by shooting at treed squirrels from all sides at once.

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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 Mother of Her Country

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Catfish Pond Near the Tarrytown Lakes

Catfish Pond Near the Tarrytown Lakes

It was the forbidden place.  As children growing up in Tarrytown we were told to stay away from it.  So naturally we tried to get there as soon and as often as possible.  The place is called Catfish Pond.  We knew the big kids—the teenagers—went there, and of course that made us all the readier to flaunt the prohibition of our parents.  Besides, our parents probably had a very dim idea of where Catfish Pond was anyway.  Some of the kids on my block knew you could get there by following paths through the woods from the east end of Union Avenue in the Crest—the big kids had shown us the way.  But we could also walk down to Tarrytown Heights and pick up the dirt path of the old railroad bed—along the back edge of  the Tarrytown Lakes.  It was not then a paved bike path as it is today, and there was a chance that you might encounter a particular vagrant person along the way.  He was harmless the big kids said, but, personally, I was prepared to run.

Catfish Pond—a good place to get in trouble

Catfish Pond—a good place to get in trouble

Today, most local folks do not know where Catfish Pond is, or even that there is a Catfish Pond.  They might recognize the place but have no idea that it actually has a name.  The only reason I bring it up here is to give the reader some idea of where Frena Romer lived in the time of the Revolutionary War.  She lived a short distance from where the pond lies today—with her husband Jacob and their many children. 

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An Interesting Map

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

The writer, Henry John Steiner, at the NYPL many years later

Many years ago, during the 1980s, I would occasionally take my lunch hour at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. What attracted me to the “Main Branch” was its impressive map division, located in the bowels of the enormous library, which one could access on the 42nd Street side.  As conscious as I was of its riches, I was acutely aware that I really did not know how to properly access its resources.  I would “fish” through the catalogue searching for intriguing maps relating to the history of Sleepy Hollow or Tarrytown, but, all in all, my process was pretty much hit-or-miss.

My allotted lunchtime would often be gone before I could hit on something especially interesting.  Walking up the service counter, I would submit my request and wait with my fingers crossed, counting the minutes until my order materialized—or until I got word that it could not be found.  The sands of time drifted away, and, if I was lucky, I would be called to pick up my selection.  A quirk of the process was that a successful search for a promising map was not necessarily repeatable.  A cartographic gem plucked from the labyrinth of the map department might simply be misplaced in the collection once I returned it.  Depending on who behind the counter put it away and who was called upon to produce it once more—I might not see it again.  “Sorry, it seems to be temporarily missing.”  I acquired a touch of gambler’s exhilaration when I could actually access the same item twice.

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John Paulding

Capture of Andre II

Capture of Andre II

John Paulding

—Henry Steiner’s Remarks on the Anniversary of the Capture of Major Andre

By Henry John Steiner

Introduction

Hello, my name is Henry John Steiner, I am the historian of Sleepy Hollow.   It is very good to be here today as part of this celebration and commemoration of John Paulding and his fellow captors of British Major John Andre during the American Revolution. I would like to tip my hat to the members of the board of the Old Cemetery of Van Cortlandtville, who invited me to be here today, to the dignitaries and supporters of this event who have come to honor John Paulding and his fellow American soldiers, and to Colonel Scully, of West Point Military Academy, who we will also hear from today. The new plaque unveiled today will help to spell out and clarify the contribution of a man who did so much for the United States of America in its infancy. John Paulding’s remains lie not very far from where we are assembled. He died 199 years ago this year.

I’d also like to acknowledge my old friend, Jeff Canning, one of your own very astute local historians. Long ago, as children in Tarrrytown, Jeff and I were rigorously schooled in the importance and achievement of John Paulding. I’m sure neither of us has forgotten those early lessons, and I must confess I was somewhat daunted to learn that my old schoolmate was going to be here listening to my remarks. But knowing how generous Jeff has long been with his considerable knowledge of local history, I take great solace in knowing that he will be content to ignore everything I have to say.

Andre-Arnold Affair

Andre and Arnold

Andre and Arnold

I thought that today I would talk about John Paulding the man. His identity is so caught up in the Andre-Arnold Affair that it may be hard to get a good look at him through the centuries. Who was he? It’s very hard to separate him from the momentus event that he was part of, what one historian called “The Crisis of the Revolution.” Many of you are familiar with the story—Arnold was disgruntled with Congress and hard-up for money. He colluded with the wily John Andre, adjutant general and spy-master of the British Army in North America. Later, Andre was often cast as an innocent, unfortunate victim. He was not. He was a very intelligent, ambitious, and interested “player” whose plans went awry. In a high stakes game, he bet future acclaim and a very comfortable life on one roll of the dice. He lost. He was not cuddly and well-intentioned. He sought to deal a death blow to the American military, the American government, and the cause of American Independence. And from the grave he managed to muddy the reputations of John Paulding and the other captors.

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Leonard Abraham

…and Notes on the Sleepy Hollow – Tarrytown Jewish Community

By Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

From Beginnings in Old New York

Leonard Abraham as a youth

Leonard Abraham as a youth

It was an enriching experience to meet with Leonard Abraham in 2011.  Our interview took place less than two months before his passing at the age of 100.  Leonard died on Sunday, December 18, 2011, a little more than five and a half years ago.  I found him to be warm and intelligent, possessing a great deal of zest for the life he led and a also a fondness for his memories of the past.  The man I met with was a lovely, modest man with a fantastic memory and physical resources that belied his years.  I saw him manage to walk down his steep driveway with careful but sure-footed steps.  Like myself, Leonard was a man who never strayed far from his hometown.  He was born on Main Street and died 100 years later on Neperan Road, two streets that are so close they are practically the same street.  Like my own folks, Leonard’s parents had “migrated” northward to Tarrytown from New York City.  Here the Abrahams put down new roots, and their family became a welcome addition to the life of this community.

Leonard’s parents left the surging Jewish population of Manhattan to become part of the more or less nascent Jewish community rising up along the eastern side of the Hudson River’s Tappan Zee.  This community emerged to a large degree from behind the storefronts of Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, and Ossining.  Jewish merchants had begun to arrive, seeking opportunities to earn a living and to peacefully raise families.  They were not unlike the first Jewish families who arrived in New Amsterdam (the former name of New York City) in the mid-seventeenth century.  Those new arrivals were hoping to start a new life. 

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A Short Walk on the Aqueduct

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Where I started my walk.

Where I started my walk.

Today, July 21st, 2017, it was hot.  But, since the air was fairly dry and the sky was sunny, I thought I would take a brief walk…  And it occurred to me that I hadn’t been on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail for many months.

So I drove over to McKeel Avenue in Tarrytown and parked at Croton Avenue, just behind the Chase Bank.  This section of the aqueduct was the one I used most often when I was growing up in the village.  My parents’ family had just moved from one neighborhood in Tarrytown to another.  We started out in the Tarry Crest area and moved, maybe half a mile north, into a district known as Wilson Park.  Our street was new, a cul-de-sac named Walden Road.  You took McKeel Avenue up the hill from Broadway to Beech Lane, and then made a left on Walden Road.

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