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About historic Sleepy Hollow and its environs…

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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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The Mystery of “M. E. J.” or Insanity, Suicide, and Grief in the Gilded Age

 

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

About 9:30 PM, Friday night, June 20, 1891, a home owner named Abraham Anderson saw her walking by his house in Croton. Whether she walked directly to the Hudson River, or waited until morning is unclear. Shortly after 9 AM, Philip Schnell arrived at his waterfront brickyard and noticed a woman’s straw hat and veil out on the dock. He dragged the water with a rake and discovered the clothed body of a “handsome” young woman.

Our ideas of the 1890s in America tend to call up images of decadence and high living among the “captains and kings” of industry and society. There is, however, another less familiar side to that picture, one that reveals the lives of workers and “ordinary people.” These are lives referenced in the period literature of novelist Theodore Dreiser and journalist Jacob Riis among others. The Gay Nineties predated the development of modern psychiatry and the use of antibiotics; it was the height of the industrial revolution, confronting Americans with accelerating social changes.

The Mystery Woman, M.E.J.

The Mystery Woman, M.E.J.

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Native Son—Rockwell Kent

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

The solitary figure in an austere landscape is the emblem of Rockwell Kent’s rugged individualism. Kent’s work is homage to the mystic power and beauty found in both man and nature. The “elemental” reigned supreme in the artist’s view of life, nature, and his art. One familiar example of this theme is the bookplate he designed for the Warner Library about 1947. A man stands, book in hand, near the crest of a hill; the wide Tappan Zee and the hills of Nyack lie in the background. This image and Kent’s distinctive artistic style were etched into my memory from the time I first borrowed a book from the Warner Library as a young child. As I recall, there was a time when Kent’s bookplate was pasted into the endpaper of nearly every book in the library.

 The scenes of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown are no match for the stark drama of Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, Newfoundland, and Greenland, which fills much of Kent’s work, but these Hudson Valley hills served as the artist’s spiritual incubator. The man was a set of contradictions, a sociable introvert, a cantankerous sentimentalist, a mix of Victorian formality and radical non-conformity, an avowed socialist whose patrons included corporations and the wealthy. This strange mix would lead to a kind of artistic and political rejection during his lifetime; some might call it a suicide, others a crucifixion.

young Rockwell Kent

Young Rockwell Kent

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A Book About the Real Sleepy Hollow

coverIn the years following the reclaiming of the name of Sleepy Hollow in 1996, I received many inquiries for information about the real, historic village of Sleepy Hollow.  As the village historian, I found it difficult to reply to them all.  Many of the questions I received had to do with how the historic village relates to the famous story.  It was then that I began to write the material included in The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though it was actually many years before the book was published.  It is now available…

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Old Winter Pastimes in Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

 “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” I can remember the giant icicles hanging, almost to the ground, from our house at 245 Crest Drive. Chunks of black cinder mixed with the snow along the edge of the street. Was it a morning in 1956? After a deep snowfall, the traffic noises were stilled—even the jingling syncopation of the chain-clad milk truck was quieted. In the general silence, the only sound was the crunch of my boot on the crystal snow.

Boot snow crust Sleepy Hollow

Boot snow crust Sleepy Hollow

But before I got too comfortable in my reverie, a snowball would buzz by my ear. There was Geoff Herguth from next-door, freckled and smiling, egging me on to combat. Our driveways lay side-by-side, so shoveling them produced a high mound of snow at the curb that could be tunneled through. The little snow fort served as a position from which we could ambush innocent and unsuspecting passersby.

Henry John Steiner

The writer cross-country skiing in Sleepy Hollow’s Rockefeller Preserve

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