--Detail from 'View from
Misses Masters School' by J. C. Cropsey, c.1890
The farther backward you can look,
the farther forward you are likely to see.
Winston S. Churchill
History is philosophy, teaching by examples. Thucydides
I view it as a noble undertaking to rescue from oblivion those who deserve to be eternally remembered. Pliny
Life of a River Village (1974)
Blanck, William J., ed.
On September 14, 1609, the Weckquaesgeek Indian tribe of the powerful Algonquin confederation saw a great canoe topped by white sails glide past their village on the site of twentieth century Dobbs Ferry. Financed by the Dutch and captained by the Englishman Henry Hudson, the Half Moon was not the first European vessel to sail on this river. It was, however, the first such ship to record its navigation so far upstream...
"In the morning we sailed up the river twelve leagues (from Spuyten Duyvil)-- and came to a strait between two points-- and it (the river) trended north by one league--- The river is a mile broad; there is very high land on both sides."
From that day begins the recorded history of the geographic entity which would be incorporated in 1873 as Greenburgh and in 1882 as Dobbs Ferry. (p. 2)
The Indians who inhabited what is now Dobbs Ferry had their main village at the mouth of a stream they called the Wysquaqua (now known as Wicker's Creek). (p. 3)
Increasingly prosperous and landed throughout the years, despite changes in government, Vreedrych Felypse, or Frederick Philipse (the name change indicates the man's adaptability) established domain over the territory bounded by Spuyten Duyvil, the Hudson, the Croton and the Bronx Rivers. In 1682 he paid for the Weckquaesgeek tract "this schedule of goods:-- four guns, four fathom of Wampum, for blankets, six fathom of duffils, six pair of stockings, ten bars of lead, three kettles, twelve pounds of powder, one drawing knife, two ankers of rum, four shirts, two fathom of cloth and one adze."(p. 4)
In 1698, five years after the original Frederick
Philipse received his royal charter, "Jan Dobbs en zyn hus vron"
(and his wife) Abigail moved to the village known as Wysquaqua. Of
their two sons, John and William, it was William who first
established a ferry at Willow Point about 1730.
The Dobbs Ferry hills commanding the Hudson were
of prime strategic importance, and one of the first things that
Washington did in establishing the redoubt [July,
1781] was to order the placement of a battery of
cannon on the site that today overlooks Waterfront Park.
Out on Ashford Road the "little white church" was
completed in 1823 next to the Free Burying Ground. Before this time,
Sunday services had been held for several years in a barn belonging
to Van Brugh Livingston, whose mansion on Broadway dominated the
southern end of the village. Now in April of 1825 this first church
in Dobbs Ferry officially organized as South Presbyterian, and Van
Brugh became one of its leading officers.
By 1831 the influential Livingston, violently opposed to liquor, pushed through a new resolution that all new members must pledge "total abstinence from the use of distilled spirits, and from all traffic in them, as an article of luxury or diet," excepting medicinal use. the issue remained controversial even within the little congregation. and in October, 1832, the area Presbytery denounced Livingston's abstinence rule, saying, "The Great Head of the Church alone is the law-giver of His own kingdom. and any addition to, or diminution of his laws is attended with pernicious consequences." (p. 20)
In 1829 Dobbs Ferry's first Union Free School was
organized. A small two-story red schoolhouse built over a brook on
Andrew Storm's property, now King Street at Ashford Avenue, served
Ardsley's children as well.
A new school was built in 1857 on upper Main Street. With the new school came newly adopted regulations. "Scholars are required," it said, to scrape their feet on the scrapers, to hang their bonnets and coats on the proper hooks, to write all requests on their slates, to put all refuse in the dust box, and to bow on presenting or receiving anything..... Also prohibited--
"To read any book in school except such as contain the reading lessons of the class.
"To have in their possession in school any book without the teacher's knowledge.
"To nickname any person." (p. 26)
Profiles of Dobbs Ferry
Parrell, Mary Agnes
...Peter Van Brugh Livingston sold the historic
old house [the Hyatt-Livingston House or
Livingston House] ... to Stephen Archer. This devout Quaker
allowed his home to be used ... as a refuge for fleeing slaves on
their way to Canada. It had been said that "from the coal cellar a
passage still runs out under the garden to a secret hiding place
where the slaves were concealed in the event of a search."
Later, this old house sheltered Col. John Howard Kitching, who had been wounded during the Battle of Cedar Creek, in the Civil War. Kitching's wife and son eagerly awaited his return from the war in the home of her father-in-law, Stephen Archer. For a short time, Kitching remained in Getty House, Yonkers, but soon insisted on being taken to Dobbs Ferry. The journey by sleigh proved too much for him, and the young hero died shortly after in the Hyatt-Livingston House. (p. 27)
The Hyatt-Livingston House, a landmark worthy of
the history of New York, was a visual evidence of Dobbs Ferry's
history. Unfortunately, on September 1, 1974, a fire destroyed this
house. A red brick wall on part of the property is all that is left
today to remind us of the past. Dobbs Ferry should have heeded Alan
Butler's advice to:
Guard the old landmarks truly,
On the old altars duly,
Keep bright the ancient flames. (p. 28)
"After the Battle of White plains, October 28, 1776, [British General William] Howe proceeded to Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson from which he threatened both Forts Washington and Lee, the latter on the Jersey shore," Alexander Flick tells us. When Gen. William Howe rendezvoused in the village here during the period of November fifth to November twelfth of that year, his Redcoats camped in the [Wickers Creek] ravine. The men were exposed to the stiff winter climate of the Hudson Valley while the general was established in the Hyatt Manor farmhouse [called the Hyatt-Livingston House after 1785]. Four months later [an American] army under Benjamin Lincoln passed this area on January 17, 1777, in order to go south to New York to engage the British and the Hessians near Kingsbridge. They, too, it is believed, encamped in the same convenient ravine near Wickers Creek to avoid a snowstorm January 29, 1777, while the general stayed at John Hyatt's farmhouse for a short time. (p. 32)
... the new occupant of the famous Wickers Creek area was Edwin Gould, son of Jay and Helen Day Gould. Since his purchase of the property [in 1902], the ravine here has been called "Gould Ravine." Edwin, after his third year at Columbia University, felt his bent was commercial rather than literary. He left college, and six months in Wall Street showed $1,000,000 profit in operations. His father, thoroughly satisfied, made him secretary of his railroads, and later vice-president of the St. Louis Southwestern. [Edwin Gould] bought eighty-eight acres [in the Wickers Creek area] and built a forty-room mansion of Spanish architecture with a red tile patio in front of the main house. A bluestone gatehouse stood at the Broadway entrance where the sacred Heart School was later erected. There were thirteen smaller buildings besides the main house on the estate..."Agawam" became the name for the estate... After Edwin Gould's retirement from public life, he devoted himself to real charity, little of which was ever known to the general public. Edwin's gifts for poor children, an interest shared by his wife [nee Sarah Contine Sheady], were vast and varied. One was these was Gould Cottage, given to the Christopher School in Dobbs Ferry in 1918. He gave six and one half acres, Gould Park, to the village in 1924 and added $20,000 to construct and equip the park with a wading pool for small children, a baseball diamond, a football field and tennis courts. One of Edwin's hobbies as he walked through the village of Dobbs Ferry was to give books to the children he met on the way... According to the New York Times, "Edwin was probably the happiest of the Goulds, and he might well have been the richest of them all, had he not persisted in giving away large sums of capital and much of his annual, income each year." He was fortunate, too, in having had a most devoted wife to the day of his death. (p. 35, 36)
History of Westchester
County New York: Vol. II(1886)
Scharf, J. Thomas
The district was raided, tormented and plundered during the entire Revolutionary period by the "Cowboys" and the "Skinners," the bummers of both armies. Peaceful industry was made impossible and was driven out. Life and property were constantly in danger. Everybody who could flee, fled. (p. 186)
Earthworks [during the Revolutionary War] were established at several points within the village. An embankment at the foot of Chestnut Street was leveled only a few years since. The outlines of a redoubt, in a perfect condition, are still preserved in the angles formed by the junction of Broadway and Livingston Avenue. The remains of a fort, a still more imposing earthwork, are carefully preserved on a knoll a few rods to the southeast of the redoubt. (p. 186)
Three boys were overtaken by a lot of Tory Cowboys who were mounted on horses, in November, 1777, at a point on Ashford Avenue, a few rods west of the easterly boundary line of the village. The boys taunted the horsemen on the meanness of their pursuits, until the latter completely lost their temper and their self-control. Two of the boys (Smith and Lawrence) were so terribly mutilated that they survived only a few days; but the third boy (Vincent) partially recovered, although painfully crippled for life. The outrage was deemed cowardly and inhuman. It attracted widespread attention and produced a general feeling of indignation. Vincent was almost immediately pensioned by Congress. This was the first pension ever granted by the United Colonies, and it was given, of course, to a Dobbs Ferry boy. (p. 186)
The lands on which the village is built having formed part of the Manor of Philipsburgh, they were declared by the new government to be forfeited, in consequence of the defection of Frederick Philipse to the King during the Revolution, and all the subsequent titles were derived through the Commissioner of Forfeitures. (p. 186)
Van Brugh Livingston was one of [the Presbyterian Church's] first elders and one of its most generous supporters. A member, who kept a hotel and sold liquors, was elected one of its deacons in 1833. A bitter controversy followed. Mr. Livingston held stoutly that no man could be a reliable, good man and follow such an occupation. The result was that Mr. Livingston and several others withdrew from the church....The new stone building on Broadway, now occupied by the congregation, was completed in 1867. (p. 187)
Zion Church (Episcopal) was organized in 1833. Van Brugh Livingston was one of its first vestrymen, and he gave the land on which the stone building on Cedar Street, still occupied by the congregation, was subsequently erected. Henry Chauncey, Rollin Sanford, Robert B. Minturn, James A. Hamilton and Washington Irving, all men who became widely known, have been enrolled among its vestrymen. (p. 187)
Dobbs Ferry responded liberally to the country's call for soldiers in 1861. At least twenty of her citizens enlisted and went to the front. Some of them died while in the service, and their remains lies in the graveyard on Ashford Avenue. Their graves are strewn with flowers on each Decoration day by their old neighbors, who recall with gratitude their patriotic sacrifice. (p. 187)
The school for young ladies, under the care of the Misses Masters, was established in 1877. It is now held in two large buildings erected in 1883, at an expense of seventy-five thousand dollars, by Mr. McComb, of Dobbs Ferry. It has at the present time seventy-five pupils, of whom fifty are boarders and twenty-five day scholars. It engages the services of ten teachers in addition to the Misses Masters, whose oversight extends to all departments. (p. 188)
An American Schoolmistress
The Life of Eliza B. Masters (1927)
Shelton, Marion Brown
Mrs. Masters' place in the scheme of things was that of an ideal
grandmother. From the very first she took the girls into her heart.
Every personal problem was her problem. In her private prayers,
every girl was mentioned by name, and each one's individual need
brought before the Lord for healing. A pupil of those early days
remembers rushing into her room in a fit of exasperation over
something that had gone wrong, and meeting Mrs. Masters face to face
in the hall as she ran. A quiet hand was laid on her shoulder for a
minute, and a gentle voice said, "My dear, keep your heart
overflowing with love." The girl never forgot the incident. It
was so characteristic of Mrs. Masters' benign influence. She often
claimed a grandmother's prerogative of spoiling the children a
little. Miss Howe from the first seems to have been invested with
those stern symbols of authority-- the watch and the bell. And
sometimes, as this guardian of Time stood, watch in hand, in the
very act of sounding the fatal ring which would make all subsequent
arrivals late for meal or study, there would come the wild scuffle
of approaching feet, still distant, then a hand would be laid on her
shoulder, and Mrs. Masters' gentle voice would plead, "Now, Miss
Howe, wait for them, just a minute---."
In the evenings there were various activities. Mondays, they essayed to speak French; Tuesdays, Miss Sallie talked to the girls, pointing out room for improvement in their manners; on Wednesdays they went to church. Thursdays, there were musicals or lectures or frolics, and on Friday evenings Mrs. Masters was wont to gather them together in the cosy library around the evening lamp and teach them to mend their ways and their garments. Every Sunday morning two processions left the school-- one bound for the Episcopal church, one for the Presbyterian, and until Mrs. Masters started her own afternoon Bible Class at home, the girls went to church again at four o'clock. In the evening they sang hymns. (p 66 ff)
Blanck, William J., ed.
Life of a River Village
copyright, Village of Dobbs Ferry, NY 1974
Morgan Press, Inc. Dobbs Ferry, NY
Parrell, Mary Agnes
Profiles of Dobbs Ferry
Oceana Publications,Inc. Dobbs Ferry, NY 1976
Scharf, J. Thomas
History of Westchester County New York
L.E. Preston and Company, Philadelphia 1886
Shelton, Marion Brown
An American Schoolmistress
The Life of Eliza B. Masters
G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York-London 1927