1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Staten Island

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STATEN ISLAND, an island constituting the borough of Richmond, New York City, and Richmond county, the southern-most of the counties of the state of New York. It is separated from Long Island on E. by the Narrows which connect Upper and Lower New York Bay; from New Jersey on the N. by the narrow channel of Kill van Kull which connects New York Bay with Newark Bay; and from New Jersey on the W. by the narrow channel of Staten Island Sound or Arthur Kill; and on its S.E. coast are Lower New York, Raritan and Prince's Bays, Great Kills, and the Atlantic Ocean. Pop. (1890), 51,693; (1900), 67,021; (1905), 72,845; (1910), 85,969. Staten Island is connected by ferry with the borough of Manhattan, 5 m. distant, and with Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The Staten Island Rapid Transit railway extends along the north shore and the south-east side, and there are several electric lines and pleasant drives. The island is triangular in shape, is 13½ m. long from north-east to south-west, has a maximum width of nearly 8 m. at its north end, and has an area of about 70 sq. m. The north-east quarter is broken by two ranges of hills having a precipitous east slope and rising to a maximum height of about 400 ft., 1 m. inland from the Narrows; but on the west and south the hills fall gently to the Coastal Plain, which, occupying the greater part of the island, is broken only by low morainal ridges and terminates in salt marshes along much of the west coast. There are many species of forest trees and more than 1300 species of flowering plants and ferns. The climate is subject to sudden changes, but the temperature rarely rises above 90º F. or falls below zero. The island is chiefly a residential district, and in the picturesque hill section are many fine residences. Forts Wadsworth and Tompkins commanding the passage of the Narrows constitute one of the strongest defences of New York Harbor. The principal villages are New Brighton, West New Brighton, Port Richmond, Stapleton, and Tompkinsville on the north coast, and Tottenville (or Bentley Manor) on the south-west coast. Richmond, the county-seat since 1727, is a small village near the centre of the island. South Beach, below the Narrows, is a popular seaside resort. At West New Brighton is a large dyeing establishment, there are also ship-building yards, oyster fisheries, and truck farms, and among the maufactures are linoleum, paper, white lead, linseed oil, brick, and fire-clay products.

When discovered by Europeans Staten Island was occupied by the Aquehonga Indians, a branch of the Raritans, and several Indian burying-grounds, places where wampum was manufactured, and many Indian relics, including a stone head with human features, have been found here. In 1630 the Dutch West India Company granted the island to Michael Pauw as a part of his patroonship of Pavonia, and it was bought at this time from the Indians for " some duffels, kettles, axes, hoes, wampum, drilling awls, Jew's harps, and divers other small wares "; but before Pauw had established a settlement upon it he sold his title back to the company. A portion of it was regranted to David Pietersen de Vries in 1636 and in 1642 the remainder was erected into a patroonship and granted to Cornelis Melyn. In 1641 de Vries established a settlement at Oude Dorp (Old Town), near Arrochar Park, near South Beach. It was destroyed by the Indians in the same year, was immediately rebuilt, was again destroyed in 1642 and was again rebuilt, but was abandoned after its destruction for the third time in 1655. A company of Waldenses founded a second settlement in 1658, at Stony Brook, about 2 m. west of the ruins of Oude Dorp; this was the principal village for many years and from 1683, when the island was erected into a county, until 1727 it was the county-seat. Melyn surrendered his rights as a patroon in 1661 and during the remainder of the Dutch regime many small grants of land were made to French, Dutch, and English settlers. In 1664 the duke of York became proprietor of the newly erected province of New York and by his grant in the same year to Berkeley and Carteret of all that portion which lay west of the Hudson river, Staten Island became properly a part of New Jersey, but in 1668 the duke decided that all islands within New York Bay which could be circumnavigated in twenty-four hours should be adjudged to New York. Captain Christopher Billopp made the trip within the time limit and was rewarded with a grant of 1163 acres at the south end of the island. He erected this into the Manor of Bentley and the manor house, built about this time, still stands in the village of Tottenville. It was in this house that Lord Howe on the nth of September 1776 held a peace conference with Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge representing the Continental Congress. The British army under Sir William Howe landed at the Narrows on the 3rd of July 1777 and until the close of the war Staten Island was held by the British and Loyalists. From it the British made frequent predatory raids into New Jersey and the Americans made several retaliatory raids into the island. Under the direction of General Hugh Mercer some American troops reached Richmond on the morning of the 16th of October 1776, and in an engagement which immediately followed they were victorious; but, as they were retreating with their prisoners, British reinforcements arrived and in a second engagement at Fresh Kill (now Green Ridge) they were routed with considerable loss. A second raid was made against Richmond early in August 1777; and on the 22 nd of the same month American troops under General John Sullivan fought the British at several places, inflicted a loss of about 200 killed, wounded and prisoners and destroyed considerable quantities of stores. In the War of 1812 Fort Richmond was built at the Narrows and Fort Tompkins in the rear of it. The Federal government bought the site in 1847 and after destroying the old forts began the erection of the present works. In 1808 Staten Island became the borough of Richmond in Greater New York.

See I. K. Morris, Memorial History of Staten Island (2 vols., New York, 1808–1900); R. M. Bayles, History of Richmond County (New York, 1887); and J. J. Clute, Annals of Staten Island (New York, 1877).