Title: Brooklyniana, No. 17.
Creator: Walt Whitman
Date: April 5, 1862
Publication information: Brooklyn Standard 5 April 1862: .
Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Gaps from damage to the original have been supplied by consulting Emory Holloway, ed. The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1921. pp. 292–296.
Whitman Archive ID: per.00233
Contributors to digital file: Brett Barney, Janel Cayer, Ashley Lawson, Liz McClurg, and Sarah Walker
cropped image 1
A Series of Local Articles, on Past and Present.
Our City 25 years ahead.—The same 25 years ago.—Fulton street near the old ferry.—Sands st. Methodist Church.—Well known stores, &c.—The old Log Cabin.—Well known old Settlers and Families—a running list of their names.—A reflection.
THE child is already born, and is now living, stout and hearty, who will see Brooklyn numbering one million inhabitants! Its situation for grandeur, beauty and salubrity is unsurpassed probably on the whole surface of the globe; and its destiny is to be among the most famed and choice of the half dozen of the leading cities of the world. And all this, doubtless, before the close of the present century.
And while we thus give a prospective glance twenty-five or thirty years ahead, to a period which will "take care of itself," we will occupy this paper of our series with a retrospective glance at certain matters, little or large, (as the reader may choose to consider them,) which involve the condition of Brooklyn twenty-five and thirty years ago. Our city grows so fast that there is some danger of the events and incidents of more than ten years gone being totally forgotten. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, who would have expected such a mighty increase as has already come upon us—with the prospect, nay, the certainty of the million population just alluded to?
Around the ferries, thirty years ago, the scene presented was of course a very different one, from now. There were only three, the Old Ferry, (the present Fulton,) the New Ferry, (at the foot of Main street,) and the remaining one at the foot of Jackson street, (now Hudson avenue.)
Fulton street below Henry street was considerably narrower than it is now. It was widened to its present size somewhere about the year 1835. Previous to that period, it presented much the appearance of a bustling country town—and partially "alive," most of the time, with market and fish wagons, and their proprietors, come in from miles up the island, with their produce, intended for the New York or Brooklyn markets. But we must reserve a more particular description of this lower and important portion of our city, at that time clustering around the Old Ferry, for another article of our series.
Ascending to Sands street, the upper corner on Fulton was occupied for ever so many years by a venerable and stately drug-store, the principal one in the village. Where the present roomy and handsome, though plain, brick church for the Methodists stands, was then a wooden church,—the most crowded place of worship in the place, and the scene of Rev. John N. Maffit's1 greatest triumphs and excitements. The Washington street church was not built then. The wooden church in Sands street was, as we have said, very crowded, every Sunday—and indeed almost every night during the week. That was the time of "Revivals." A third of the young men in Brooklyn, particularly the mechanics and apprentices, and young women of the same class in life, (and O, what pretty girls some of them were!) "experienced religion," as it is still called. In many cases it was no doubt a reality; but in many, alas! it was an ebullition of the moment; and as such soon became "backsliders." The hearty old Methodist tunes that are now sung so generally had then "just come out," and they were given with enormous fervor. The galleries of the church were often sprinkled with the mischievous ones who came to ridicule and make sport; but even here the arrows of prayer and pleading sometimes took effect. Many who came to scoff were irresistibly drawn up to the altar, and spent the night in tears and mental wrestling. How many of our readers will recollect that old wooden church? How many will remember being present in it, and witnessing the scenes above described?
Just on the turn of the west side of Fulton street, thirty years since, was the most frequented drug-store in Brooklyn, kept by Mr. Vanderhoef. Dr. Ball, (father of the late Police Physician,) had his office there; and Dr. Wendell, too, we believe. Those two were the court physicians then; more omnipotent than eastern Pachas. Can any body who reads this call to mind of having a tooth drawn, or any surgical operation performed, in Vanderhoef's back room? It makes the writer shudder, even now, to think of the diabolical array of cold steel that room presented! Over the way was one of the few dry goods stores in the place, kept by Mr. C. E. Bill.
On the lower corner of Cranberry street and Fulton was Terence Riley's grocery—a famous resort for the buyers of butter and sugar by the pound, and potatoes by the small measure. On the opposite side above, third door below Nassau street, stood one of the oldest buildings in the country. The tradition was that it had been occupied by General Putnam,2 before the battle of Long Island.3(But then every old house has some tradition.) Samuel E. Clements occupied it as the post office, and as the printing establishment of the Long Island Patriot, the Democratic organ.4 On the second floor, old Mr. Hartshorne had a little stationery store, and a case where he set up types for the Patriot.5 Mr. Hartshorne died in December, 1859, at a very advanced age. He was every way a remarkable man, and a credit to the craft. We have spoken of him in a previous number of this series.
On the upper corner of Orange and Fulton was a comfortable but old fashioned wooden dwelling, occupied by a well-known Brooklynite, Losee Van Nostrand.6 From that, up to where the Presbyterian church at the commencement of Clinton street now is, the grounds were open, and shaded in front by magnificent elm trees. James B. Clarke7 had an ample house and grounds where Pineapple now cuts in. On the opposite side, between Oakes and Parson's cabinet store and the corner of Concord street, was a large wooden building, erected for a Theatre and Circus. Plays and equestrian performances of a second-rate character were given there at intervals for about a year, but then discontinued. The building was then altered into dwellings—and subsequently into stores also. All were swept away by the great fire of '48.
But we must not forget the old one-story house on the east upper corner of Nassau street, with the tough mulberry trees in front. That was a quaint old house indeed. What boy of those days but remembers the pleasant-faced and lady-like females, and the air of domestic comfort and hospitality that marked that old house? Then the mulberrys, which the good natured occupants allowed all the idle children to get; and in the getting, how many brickbats and stones fell in dangerous proximity to passengers' heads.
On the upper corner of Cranberry and Fulton, was an ancient edifice occupied as a grocery store by Mr. Conover, and Mr. Barkaloo. That was where Hall's buildings stood before the fire of '48.8 Mrs. Hayes, over the way, kept a confectionary shop, first at the second door below Nassau street. She died not long since, at an advanced age.
The old Log Cabin, famous in the days of '40,9 was the fourth door above Orange street, on the west side of Fulton.
Thirty years! what changes have indeed come over Brooklyn in that time! How comparatively few who were then active and ambitious here, still remain among us. Many have died and many have moved away. The population of Brooklyn was then but eighteen or twenty thousand. Now it is more than twelve times that number.
Then the old and well-known citizens of Brooklyn—let us see if we can't call up the names of some of those old "stand by's"—though we dare say we shall forget many. Not many are now living. Hardly a place in the United States, not even the oldest and most "moral" settlements of New England, can boast a better list of these citizens of integrity and general worth. We have mentioned the names of many of these, in a former paper of our series, but it will do no harm to go over it again, and increase the list. We have to specify Gen. Johnson,10 Rev. E. M. Johnson,11 Joseph Sprague,12 Alden Spooner,13 Judge Murphy,14 Henry Waring,15 Lossee Van Nostrand, Dr. Wendell,16 Messrs. Adrian Hegeman,17 Gabriel Furman,18 Joseph Moser,19 and Mr. Browne,20 Mr. S. Carman, (the watch-maker,)21 Mr. Pelletrau,22 Edward (Mayor) Copeland,23 Messrs. John Dikeman,24 Wm. M. Udall,25 Conklin Brush, (Mayor,)26 James Walters,27 Samuel Smith, (Mayor,)28 Mr. Eastabrook,29 Joshua Rogers,30 R. V. W. Thorne,31 Samuel Fleet,32 ex-Mayors Smith33 and Hall,34 (not then ex-Mayors, however,) D. Coope,35 Colonel Manning,36 Gen. Underhill,37 and J. W. Lawrence.38 Then there were the Garrisons, Bergens, Doughtys, Barbarins, Sandses, Sacketts, Polhemuses, Rushmores, Engles, Cornells, Merceins, Stantons, Suydams, Baches, Tredwells, Carters, Hickses, Schencks, Schoonmakers, Smiths, Storys, Degraws, Willoughbys, Princes, Romaines, Grahams, Packers, Bartows, Howlands, Lows, Arculariuses, Van Brunts, Lotts, Martenses, Wyckoffs, Conselyeas, Vanderbilts, Jacksons, Debevoises, Coleses, Thornes, Nichollses, Cortelyous, and so forth. Children or descendants of these still flourishing among us. Mr. Thomas Kirk,39 Fanning C. Tucker,40 Jonathan Trotter, (Mayor,)41 Ralph Malbone,42 Samuel Boughton,43 D. Anderson,44 and Mr. Birch, (the former editor,)45 are additional names recalled to us in the hurry of writing.
Who remembers old Mr. Langdon46 and his wheeled chair, which he used to sit on in front of the Franklin house, (at the ferry) guarding his gouty foot from harm? Who of our readers will recollect "the last of the Leather-breeches," old Mr. Patchen?47 or those other respectable citizens, Zachariah Lewis,48 Abm. Vanderveer,49 Mr. Moon,50 the lumber dealer, Mr. Hadden,51 Coe. S. Downing,52 Jas. B. Clarke, Tunis Joralemon,53 H. E. Pierrepont,54 Mr. Phillips, (the baker,)55 old Mr. Worthington, (the Postmaster,)56 Dr. Hunt,57and Leffert Lefferts?58
We have thus run over, at random, some of the reminiscences of persons, localities and events in the Brooklyn of twenty-five or thirty years ago.
Ah, if these occurrences, and the foregoing names are perused by any of the remaining old folks, their contemporaries, we (then a boy of twelve years,) have jotted down, above, they will surely have some curious, perhaps melancholy reflections.
1. John N. Maffit, Sr., a native of Ireland, was a Methodist preacher famous for his dramatic oratorical style. It was rumored that he converted President William Henry Harrison. His son John N. Maffit, Jr. was a well-known officer in the Confederate Navy. [back]
2. Israel Putnam served in the military during the French and Indian War. He became an important General during the Revolutionary War, leading the revolutionary forces in their victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775). [back]
3. The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights (New York, August 27, 1776), was the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. British General William Howe defeated American General George Washington. Despite their defeat, the American troops' subsequent escape from Long Island without being attacked was a surprising success. [back]
4. Samuel E. Clements became editor of the Long Island Patriot in 1829. In 1831, Whitman briefly worked for Clements at the latter's printing office. For more on their relationship, see Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 33–34. [back]
5. William Hartshorne was a printer and mentor to Whitman. For more on their relationship, see Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 34–35. Whitman previously mentioned Hartshorne in "Brooklyniana No. 6" (January 11, 1862). [back]
6. Losee Van Nostrand was a ferryman in Brooklyn who was associated with the Fulton and South Ferries for many years in the early nineteenth century. He also served on the board of directors of the Apprentices' Library. [back]
7. James B. Clarke is unidentified. [back]
8. The fire of September 9, 1848, was the largest fire Brooklyn had experienced. It burned buildings on several streets, including Hall's Building, where the courts were held. After the fire, the courts were transferred to City Hall. [back]
9. The old Log Cabin to which Whitman refers was likely part of the 1840 "log cabin campaign" of William Henry Harrison. Harrison's Democratic opponents had mocked him for sitting in his log cabin and drinking hard cider, but Harrison and his running mate John Tyler co-opted the symbol to win the presidential race. [back]
10. Jeremiah Johnson was selected as town supervisor of Brooklyn in 1800. He held the position for forty years. He was also, at various times, the mayor of Brooklyn, a representative to the Legislature and the Assembly, and a County Court Judge. [back]
11. Reverend E. M. Johnson was an Episcopalian pastor in New York City as early as the 1830s and as late as the 1860s. [back]
12. Joseph Sprague (1783–1854) became a leading name in Brooklyn politics. Before Brooklyn obtained a city charter in 1834, Sprague served several terms as its president. In 1843 and 1844 he was elected Mayor of the city, and he held a number of other offices before his death in 1854. [back]
13. Alden Spooner (1757–1827), who served in the American Revolution, was a printer from Vermont who handled much of his state's official printing. He also owned and published the Long Island Star from 1811 to 1819. [back]
14. This Judge Murphy is likely the same Judge Murphy who was the father of Henry Cruse Murphy, the Brooklyn mayor and congressman, city planner, author, translator, and diplomat in the 1840s and 50s. [back]
15. Henry Waring was the fourth generation of Warings in Brooklyn. His home, the Waring Mansion, came to be a well-known Brooklyn landmark. It was used during the Civil War as headquarters for the Provost Marshal. [back]
16. Dr. Wendell is unidentified. [back]
17. This is likely the Adrian Hegeman who was a member of the Kings County Sabbath School Society, founded in 1829. The Society's purpose was to form schools that educated students about the sabbath. Hegeman later ran such a school in Brooklyn. Other Adrian Hegemans lived in Brooklyn in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were possibly ancestors. [back]
18. Gabriel Furman, considered one of the first historians of Brooklyn, was the author of the 1824 Notes Geographical and Historical, Relating to the Town of Brooklyn. [back]
19. Joseph Moser (d. 1854), also known as Old Josey or Uncle Josey, was a devout Methodist known for his generosity. In 1834 he was chosen to be on the first Board of Alderman under the new charter of the city of Brooklyn, established in 1834. He was a wealthy business owner, though he seems to have lost his fortune later in life. [back]
20. Mr. Browne is unidentified. [back]
21. Mr. Carman the watch maker is otherwise unidentified. [back]
22. Mr. Pelletrau is unidentified. [back]
23. Edward Copeland (1793–1859) was elected the ninth mayor of Brooklyn in 1849. He also served on the Board of Education for many years. [back]
24. John Dikeman (1794–1879) served two terms as Kings County Judge and taught at the first Sunday School in Brooklyn. He authored the manuscript The Brooklyn Compendium in 1870. [back]
25. William M. Udall was a member of the first Board of Aldermen under the new charter of the city of Brooklyn in 1834. The Board of Aldermen was in charge of choosing the mayors of Brooklyn until 1840; after that, mayors were chosen in a popular election. [back]
26. Conklin Brush (1794–1870) was another member of the first Board of Aldermen under the new charter of the city of Brooklyn in 1834. He later served as mayor from 1851 to 1852. [back]
27. James Walters was yet another member of the first Board of Aldermen under the new charter of the city of Brooklyn in 1834. [back]
28. Samuel Smith (1788–1872), yet another member of the first Board of Aldermen under the new charter of the city of Brooklyn, served as mayor of Brooklyn in 1850. [back]
29. It's probable that Whitman has misspelled the more common surname Estabrook, in which case he could here be referring to Ethan Estabrook, one of the Aldermen of the city of Brooklyn in 1837. [back]
30. Joshua Rogers was another Brooklyn city Alderman in 1837. [back]
31. R. V. W. Thorne was one of the directors of the Brooklyn Bank in the 1830s, and later served as one of the directors of the Long Island Insurance Company in the 1860s. This is probably also the same R. V. W. Thorne in whose storehouses a large fire broke out in 1850. [back]
32. Samuel Fleet (1786–1864) was a wealthy farmer and property owner in Brooklyn who made his fortunes by buying land during the War of 1812. [back]
33. Since Whitman has already mentioned Mayor Samuel Smith, here he probably refers to Cyrus Smith (1802?–1877), the fourth mayor of Brooklyn (1839–1841). [back]
34. George Hall (1795–1868) was the first mayor of the city of Brooklyn under its new charter in 1834. He was reelected as the mayor from 1855 to 1856. [back]
35. D. Coope is unidentified, though it's possible that Whitman has here misspelled the surname Cooper. [back]
36. Colonel Manning is unidentified. [back]
37. J. G. Underhill was General of the Militia of King's County in 1845. [back]
38. J. W. Lawrence is unidentified. [back]
39. Thomas Kirk (1772–1851) was a printer who published several Long Island newspapers, including the Courier and New York and Long Island Advertiser beginning on June 26, 1799, and the Long Island Star beginning on June 1, 1809. [back]
40. Fanning C. Tucker, who married the daughter of Joshua Sands, served as rector of St. Ann's church and presided over a bank in New York. [back]
41. Jonathan Trotter (1797–1855) was the second mayor of Brooklyn, serving from 1835 to 1836. [back]
42. Ralph Malbone was a Brooklyn city developer who in the 1830s developed an area that was, for a time, known as Malboneville. [back]
43. Samuel Boughton was a journalist in the 1840s who involved himself in an old Brooklyn debate. After the Revolutionary War, the bones of the dead from the prison ships were collected and put into a public monument built by the Tammany Society. In 1842, a petition went to the legislature demanding that the bones be removed to a more private resting place. Boughton began a subscription newspaper in order to publish editorials supporting the moving of the bones. For Whitman's discussion of the Revolutionary War prison ships and the ensuing monument crisis, see Brooklyniana; A Series of Local Articles, Past and Present: No. 5 (4 January 1862). [back]
44. David Anderson (d. 1839), a Scottish immigrant who came to Brooklyn in 1809, owned a stone yard in Brooklyn. [back]
45. George L. Birch was the editor of the Long Island Patriot, first published on March 7, 1821. Birch later served as Post Master of Long Island. [back]
46. Gerardus Langdon was proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel from 1816 to 1822. This building later became a tavern called the Franklin House, to which Whitman refers, though it does not seem that Langdon himself was in charge of it at the time it changed over. [back]
47. Jacob Patchen, who famously wore leather breeches for most of his life, was a landowner who frequently butted heads with the authorities of Brooklyn. In 1816, he refused to put down new gravel in front of his property. In 1826, the government wanted to build a market on his land, but he refused to sell, so it was taken by force. On the day his home began being torn down, he had to be forcibly removed. [back]
48. Zachariah Lewis was a gardener and one of the founding members of the Brooklyn City Mission and Tract Society in 1829. [back]
49. Abraham Vanderveer was a prominent businessman who twice served as Kings County clerk, in 1816 and again in 1822, and later served as president of the Brooklyn Fire Insurance Company. [back]
50. Mr. Moon, besides being a lumber dealer, is unidentified. [back]
51. Mr. Hadden is unidentified. [back]
52. Coe S. Downing owned a tavern and stage house next to Gerardus Langdon's Steamboat Hotel in the 1810s and 20s. He later served in the New York state legislature and as a judge in the Brooklyn municipal court. [back]
53. Tunis Joralemon (1760–1840) served as village trustee from 1817 to 1821 and also as justice of the peace in Brooklyn. He owned an extensive estate in Brooklyn that he had bought from Philip Livingston. Both Henry and Clinton streets were allowed to be built through his property during his lifetime, much to his dismay. In 1841, a year after his death, his mansion was destroyed by fire. [back]
54. Henry Evelyn Pierrepont (1808–1888) was one of the committee members who attempted to design a street system in the new city of Brooklyn in 1834. He also served as vice president and then president of the Union Ferry Company for forty-nine years starting in 1839, and helped establish Greenwood Cemetery in 1848. [back]
55. Mr. Phillips, besides being a baker, is unidentified. [back]
56. Erastus Worthington became postmaster of Brooklyn on March 30, 1826. Under the tutelage of Alden Spooner, Worthington became a Long Island printer, for whom Whitman worked briefly in 1832. [back]
57. J. G. T. Hunt was the first health officer in Brooklyn, taking office in 1825. He also served as president of the Kings County Medical Society from 1825 until his death in 1830. [back]
58. Leffert Lefferts III (1774–1847) descended from the largest slaveowning family in the county. Known as "the Judge," Lefferts III was the first judge of Kings County and the first president of Long Island Bank. In the 1840s he became one of the first half-millionaires in Kings County. [back]