Reminiscences of New York by an Octogenarian (1816 - 1860)
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By Charles H. Haswell

Active in NY's civic life a half-century, Haswell's meticulous notes were published in 1896, the same year Correction emerged as a separate agency. A century later Jackson Era devotee Hal Morris posted them on his Tales of the Early Republic web site, from where these passages have been excerpted with permission.
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Chapter V excerpts: 1819-1820 - Cadwallader D. Colden, Mayor

1819: Political parties at this time were divided into Republicans (Democrats), Federalists, and Clintonians. At the spring election the average Republican majority in the city was 2301.. . . .In this year Harman Street (East Broadway) was extended from Chatham Square to Grand Street, Avenue D was opened, and the sewer in Canal Street was finished. . . .

A stage to Bloomingdale from the lower part of the city was established. . . . .

An elm tree in what is now Washington Square Park (but in Haswell's time was called Washington Parade Grounds) is said to have served as an execution instrument on about three dozen occasions, earning its name as "The Hanging Tree." The immediate vicinity served as a Potter's Field burial grounds.

In July Rose Butler, a Negro . . . . convicted of arson (inasmuch as she had maliciously set fire to some combustible materials under a stairway, which was readily discovered and extinguished), was publicly hanged in Potter's Field, now the site of the Washington Parade Ground. A leading daily paper referred to her execution in a paragraph of five lines . . . . neither was her dying speech recorded. . . .

In August a case of yellow fever occurred in the vicinity of Old Slip, and, soon after, the disease became epidemic, so much so as to render necessary the removal of contiguous inhabitants and the closing of the infected area by a fence. . . . .

December 21: At the corner of Broadway and Cortlandt Street, a personal encounter occurred between James Stoughton, the Spanish Vice­consul, and Robert M. Goodwin, a brother of Captain Charles G. Ridgeley, U.S.N.; the latter having had his name changed, to become the recipient of a legacy left upon that consideration. Goodwin had been captain of a privateer during the Spanish war, and Stoughton had had him arrested and sent to Ludlow Street jail on the charge of piracy. Meeting as above, and after personal charges and invectives, Stoughton struck Goodwin and a struggle ensued. Goodwin having a sword cane, the blade of which became exposed, he struck Stoughton, who fell and soon after expired. Goodwin was tried and in the early part of the following year acquitted. . . . Public opinion was very much divided upon the guilt of Goodwin. . . . .

The newspapers were delivered by carriers; "Extras" were unknown; and an occurrence after the printing of a paper which seemed worthy of especial advice was put in a slip, as it was termed, and posted on a bulletin; others being mailed to editors in neighboring cities.

There were several gentlemen residing in the lower part of the city who were frequently seen walking up Broadway, Greenwich Street, or the Bowery shouldering a gun, and followed by their dogs, on the way to the suburbs for the shooting of woodcock, English snipe, and rabbits at [what are now] the Lispenard Meadows, Tompkins Square, Broadway from 46th Street to the North River; Fifth Avenue at 32nd Street, and 2nd and 3rd avenues from 19th Street to 103rd Street; and the low land from 16th Street to 23rd Street and 6th to 9th Avenue. . . . .

1820: The result of a census of the United States was announced as 9,625,734; of Boston, 43,893; Baltimore, 62,627; New York, 123,706, and Philadelphia, 133,273-- being nearly 10,000 in excess of New York.

Peter Cooper opened a grocery store in the Bowery, corner of Stuyvesant Street. About this year he removed his house, later known as the Cooper Mansion, located on the present site of the Bible House on Eighth Street between Third and Fourth avenues, to its present site on Fourth Avenue, corner of Twenty­eighth Street.

Peter Cooper, the 1859 founder of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Mr. Cooper directed the taking down of the structure, and the marking of each essential part, so that it might be put up in its proper place in the progress of the reconstruction.

No citizen of New York has made a more enduring impression upon the city of his birth than Mr. Cooper. He was inherently a philanthropist, and firm in his convictions. In illustration, when his son, Edward Cooper, was a candidate for the State Senate, I was waited upon by a delegation of Germans to introduce it to the candidate for the purpose of ascertaining his views upon the proposed change in the temperance laws. When we reached his residence, he being absent, Mr. Cooper responded for him, firmly announcing his opposition to any extension of the laws whereby the evils of intemperance might be advanced. He took an active part in the conduct of the Public School Society and in the transfer to the Board of Education, of which he was one of the first Commissioners. He was on the committee of the Board of Aldermen who introduced the Croton water.

King's Bridge.

His foundation of the Cooper Union will perpetuate his memory as the chief benefactor of the city during his day and generation. He lived to see all his ideas for the public benefit accomplished, and died at the ripe age of ninety­two, beloved and regretted by the whole people of the city which he loved so well. . . . .

Mercantile Library ("By hand and hammer all arts do stand") is at 17 E. 47th St. between Madison & 5th Aves. (212) 755-6710

Macomb's dam (see Chapter III) was designed, by the operation of automatic flood­gates, to arrest the water from the East River at full tide (as it flows before that of the North), and then, as it receded, the closing of these gates would impound the water between the dam and Kingsbridge above, at which point like flood­gates and a forebay­ led the receding water to operate a flour mill; but the removal of the dam (1833) rendered the impounding of the water inoperative.

St. Patrick's Church was then surrounded by primitive trees, and a fox was killed in the churchyard.

In this year were founded the Apprentices' Library and the Mercantile Library. The latter was organized at meetings convened for the purpose in November, and began its service of the public early in 1821.

The population of the city at the close of the year was 123,706.

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