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Full text of "The milestones and the old Post road"

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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 




014 108 664 9 • 



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BY 
GEORGE W. NASH, M.D. 

AND 

HOPPER STRIKER MOTT 



Reprinted from the Historical Guide to the City of New York 
Published by Frederick A. Stokes Co. 

Revised, 1915 

PRICE, 10 CENTS 

Mailed on receipt of price by Secretary, City History Club 
105 West 40th Street 



Copyright, igog, 1913, by the City History Club of New York 



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£5'( 





15 Milestone 1 Milestone 

9 Milestone New Utrecht 

Photographed by G. W. Nash 



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THE CITY HISTORY CLUB AND MILESTONES 

The Board of Aldermen has, by special enactment, transferred to 
the City History Club the care and maintenance of the milestones 
in Manhattan, and the Club expects to receive similar jurisdiction in 
the other boroughs. 

Through a "Milestone Committee," the 15th Milestone, near Van 
Cortlandt Mansion (p. 184), has been firmly reset in its former location, 
thus saving it from destruction, and the inh Milestone of Manhattan 
has been removed to Roger Morris Park and marked by a tablet (p. 
159). Plans are now under way for the care of other stones in Man- 
hattan and at Van Pelt Manor, near Utrecht. No. 9 Manhattan and 
the Richmond stone are already protected (pp. 151, ZV)^ one by private 
means, the other through a historical society. 

On May 31, 1915, the City History Club will mark Milestone No. I, 
Bowery opposite Rivington Street, and No. XII, in the front wall of 
Isham Park. 

The City History Club obtains the means for this work by a volun- 
tary tax paid by children enrolled in its study clubs and by general 
contributions. 

See articles in the Outlook (June 24, 1909), "Along the Hudson in 
Stage Coach Days"; Westchester County (N. Y.) Maga::ine, "Some 
Westchester County Milestones" and "Some Bronx Milestones " 

See also "The Greatest Street in the World— Broadway," by Stephen 
Jenkins; "The New York and Albany Post Road," by C. G. Hine. 



PUBLICATIONS OF THE CITY HISTORY CLUB 

(105 West 40th Street) 

HISTORICAL EXCURSION LEAFLETS 

* No. I. — City Hall to Wall Street, 20 pp., 2 cuts, 4 maps; 10 cents. 

* Xo. II. — Greenwich Village and Lispenard's Meadows, 20 pp., 4 maps, 10 cents. 

* No. III. — The Bowery and East Side, 16 pp., 3 maps; 5 cents. 

* No. IV. — Central Park to Kingsbridge, 20 pp., 5 maps; 5 cents. 

* No. V. — The 19th Century City; loth Street to 125th Street; 36 pp., 5 maps; 

10 cents. 

* No. VI. — Fraunces' Tavern, 12 pp., i map, 3 cuts; 5 cents. 

* No. VII. — South of Wall Street, 32 pp., 4 maps, 6 cuts; 10 cents. 

* No. VIII. — Historic Brooklyn, Part I, 12 pp., 4 maps, 2 cuts; 10 cents. 

* No. IX. — Historic Bronx, 44 pp., 9 maps, 3 cuts; 10 cents. 

* No. X. — Historic Richmond, 24 pp., 3 maps; 10 cents. 

* No. XL — Historic Queens, 36 pp., 5 maps; 10 cents. 

* No. XII. — Historic Brooklyn, Part II; 28 pp., 7 maps; 10 cents. 

Milestones and the Old Post Road, 12 pp., 5 cuts; 10 cents. 

♦HISTORICAL GUIDE TO THE CITY OF NEW YORK 

Includes the above Excursion Leaflets, several appendices and an alphabetical 
index; 450 pp.j 70 maps and 46 illustrations. Cloth, small i2mo, $1.50 net; post- 
paid, $1.60. Revised 1913- 



* Teachers' Handbook: Outlines of a Course of Study in Local Geography and 
History (revised, 1908); 25 cents. 

* Graphic Views of Government: to illustrate the relations of our National, 
State and City Governments; 16 pp., 6 plates; 10 cents. 

N. Y. City Government Leaflets: 10 cents each. No. i. Municipal Govern- 
ment in N. Y. State. 

* Hudson-Fulton Leaflet: containing part of the log of Robert Juet: price 10 
cents. 

Historical Souvenir Postals: 10 cents per set of five. 

Club Game — (revised 1909); an historical game of cards, containing many facts 
about New York City History (played like the game of Authors), 25 cents. 

* City History Illustrations: 68 pictures of the famous men, buildings and events 
of local history: 35 cents per set. 

* Civics Hand Booic: Local Civics for Club Leaders; 15 cents. 



* Public School Teachers are advised that they can secure the above starred 
publications for themselves and their classes through the Supply List of the Board 
of Education (7402-15; 7996). 

THE HALF MOON SERIES 

Papers on Historic New York, 24 Monographs on Local History, published in 
the interest of the City History Club of New York. Edited by Maud Wilder 
Goodwin, Alice Carrington Royce, and Ruth Putnam: 10 cents each. 



HISTORICAL GUIDE 



POST ROADS AND MILESTONES. 
By George W. Nash, M. D. 

The associations of highways and milestones is so intimate that 
a few words may be said of milestones in general. These stones, 
which now call forth a merely sentimental interest, were considered 
by our forefathers a necessity. In 1788 the State of New York 
passed the following: "As milestones are a great public convenience, 
removing or damaging any milestone is punishable by a fine of three 
pounds for such damage, part to go to the informant, part to be ap- 
plied to the repair of the damage, and a third part to be paid to the 
overseers of the town in which the offence shall be committed." If 
unable to pay a fine, the party was to suffer thirty days' imprison- 
ment. This law still remains in effect except that a term of im- 
prisonment of two years may be imposed. 

No less person than Benjamin Franklin selected the positions for 
many milestones along the highways, when as Postmaster General, 
in a specially contrived wagon, he measured off the miles at which 
the stones should be erected. Some of these so-called Franklin 
Milestones are still standing, one of them being on the Milford 
Road in Stratford, Conn. 

The first two or three milestones in Manhattan are of white stone, 
then a brown stone is used the rest of the way up the river until Red 
Hook is reached, when again a white stone is used. While mostly 
Arabic numerals are used in milestone inscriptions, occasionally we 
find the Roman numbers, as on the XXIV milestone at Scarsdale, 
N. Y. 

In early days the people of New Amsterdam felt the need of com- 
munication with the outer world, especially with their neighbors and 
kinspeople at Fort Orange. In the winter when the river was frozen 
over, it was a comparatively easy matter to arrange this communica- 
tion, although the post carrier's task was anything but a pleasant one 
as he skirted the shores of the wilderness and rounded the points 
through the gorges against the cold north wind, while skating his 
lonely way to Albany, with Indians often lurking along the route. 
Something more permanent was needed, and in 1669, the Albany 



Milestones HISTORICAL GUIDE and Post Roads 

Post Road was established. This was so successful that three years 
later a road was opened from New York to Boston, by order of 
Governor Lovelace. On January i, 1673, a mounted post v;as in- 
stituted, among the multifarious duties being the carrying of the 
mails; it was not until 1772 that a stage coach appeared carrying 
passengers at the rate of four pence a mile. 

At that time the City Hall was on Wall Street, at the corner of 
Nassau, where now stands the Sub-Treasury. Broadway up to St. 
Paul's was opened mainly to reach the Post Road where Park Row 
now begins, any further development of the street being undreamed 
of, even to accommodate the outlying farms along the Hudson. From 
the site of the Post Office the Post Road ran through Park Row, up 
the Bowery and Fourth Avenue to Madison Square (Excursion V, 
Section II) whence it turned and twisted northward over toward the 
East River, then doubled on itself. About Eighty-sixth Street it en- 
tered the boundaries of the present Central Park, went through Mc- 
Gown's Pass ; thence continued more or less steadily to the northwest 
until it struck the lines of Broadway and Kingsbridge Road, when it 
went soberly along to the toll bridge over Spuyten Duyvil Creek 
(Excursion IV, 2). After getting well over the bridge, the road 
soon separated into the Albany Post Road, following Broadway 
through Yonkers and up the river; and the Boston Post Road, going 
up the hill to the right across to Williamsbridge, thence across 
country through Eastchester to New Rochelle, and beyond 
to Boston. So long ago as the English occupation, the people 
of New York, feeling crowded, overflowed into Harlem, whence 
the Dutch farmers casting their eyes across the Kills, saw a 
country " fair to look upon." Means of getting across were 
soon considered and a ferry established connecting with the road to 
Harlem which branched off from the Post Road at Central Park. 
(Excursion IV, Section i). This ferry was at about Third Avenue 
and One Hundred and Thirty-first Street and a bridge was built in 
1795. As the lower Bronx section across the Kills grew, old trails 
were developed, the early Westchester Path becoming a Post Road, 
following the line of Third Avenue and Boston Road to Bronx Park 
and then northeast, until it joined the early road some distance above, 
thus making quite a cut-off from New York to this junction, saving the 
long detour around Kingsbridge. Lonely as the road was, it was 
not without interesting features. Hardly had the traveler left the 
starting point when he arrived at the first Kissing Bridge, near Chat- 
ham Square; then came the milestones telling slowly, but steadily, the 

272 



Milestones POST ROADS and Post Roads 

progress made, and, as taverns and road houses were always con- 
venient, there was ever a place for rest and refreshment. Among 
the old road houses may be mentioned the Bull's Head Tavern, near 
the first milestone, where the friends of the traveler who had ac- 
companied him thus far, drank to his health and safety on his jour- 
ney to the wilderness beyond. 

At the second milestone, where Cooper Union now stands, was the 
Bowery Village Church. Cato's Road House at Fifty-second Street 
was a noted hostelry; at Seventy-second Street was another Kissing 
Bridge. 

That part of the road near McGown's Pass has a special interest 
from its connection with the march of the British before the Battle of 
Harlem Heights and the presence of Forts Clinton and Fish. At the 
bridge across Spuyten Duyvil Creek, also a Kissing Bridge, there 
was a celebrated tavern well described by Madame Knight where 
sleighing parties came out from town for their frolics. Thence the 
traveler on either of the diverging Post Roads had more time for 
the enjoyment of the scenery, as the evidences of civilization faded 
away and the wilderness opened before him broken only occasionally 
by village or hamlet. 

According to the old maps there was, starting from the City Hall in 
Wall Street, a stone for every mile in what is now Manhattan and 
the Bronx. With the erection of the present City Hall (1803-12) 
these milestones were replaced to bring them in conformity with the 
new starting point. This accounts for the apparent discrepancies in 
their names. Some of the milestones have disappeared, while others 
have had a varied experience. Some of the stones have been used 
by bill posters ; one was rescued from a police station and now 
stands in good surroundings not at all embarrassed by the falsehood 
showing on its face ; another was removed from a tottering position 
in a neglected section of the road and now occupies a place safe 
from destruction ; one stone that stood in the way of public improve- 
ment was apparently improved off the earth ; another reposes in a 
back yard uptown, while still another has its resting place in a cellar. 

Milestones in Manhattan. 

1. Bowery, opposite Rivington Street. 

2. Third Avenue, between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets. 

4. Third Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street. 

5. Third Avenue and Seventy-seventh Street. 

7. Third Avenue and One Hundred and Seventeenth Street. 

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Milestones HISTORICAL GUIDE and Post Roads 

7, Another stone, now stored at 107 West One Hundred and Twenty- 
second Street. (The duplicate 7 Milestone was probably on the 
eastern Post Road after it branched off the old Post Road near 
Central Park.) 

9. One Hundred and Fifty-second Street, between Amsterdam and 
St. Nicholas Avenues. 

10. 561 West One Hundred and Sixty-ninth Street. 

11. In Roger Morris Park (see p. 159). 

12. At entrance to Isham Park (see p. 175) • 

Milestones in the Bronx 
10. One Hundred and Sixty-eighth Street and Boston Road. 

13. Boston Road, near Pelham Parkway (this stone has lately dis- 

appeared and may be in the vicinity). 
15. Boston Road, near Eastchester. 
15. Albany Avenue, near Spuyten Duyvil Parkway (see p. 184). 

Milestones in Brooklyn 

At Sheepshead Bay, corner of Neck Road and Ryder's Lane. In- 
scription reads: "8 Miles and ( ) quarters to Brockland Ferry." 

At Van Pelt Manor, New Utrecht ; has two inscriptions : one reads : 
"Syi mile to N. York Ferry This Road To Denys's Ferry 2^ 
Mile." The other reads, "loVS Mile to N. York Ferry This Road. 
To Jamaica 15 Mile." 

At King's Highway, within fence line, left side, 100 feet from Ocean 
Avenue. Inscription : "6 Mile to Ye Ferry." 

Milestones in Queens. (All between Long Island City and Flushing.) 
At Jackson Avenue, near Grinnell Avenue: "5 Miles to 34th Street 

Ferry, i Mile to Flushing Bridge." Disappeared. 
At Jackson, near Kelly Avenue : "3 Miles to 34th Street Ferry, 

3 Miles to Flushing Bridge." Disappeared. 
At Jackson, near Hulst Avenue : "2 Miles to 34th Street Ferry, 4 Miles 

to Flushing Bridge." 

Milestone in Richmond. 
Formerly at corner of Signs Road and Richmond Turnpike, now at 
154 Stuyvesant Place, in the Museum of the Staten Island Asso- 
ciation of Arts and Sciences. Inscription reads: "( ) miles 
to N. Yorke." 

374 




MILESTONES 

ADDENDA, 1912 
(From a theatre programme of "The African Company") 

THEATRE in Mercer Street 
In the rear of the i Mile Stone Broadway 

The African Co., etc. 
Harper's Magadne, Junc-Nov., 1889, p. 133 

As historians know nothing of a theatre here, this was probably a 
company of negro amateurs who played in New York in 1820-21. Old 
residents remember a milestone in front of old St. Thomas' Church, 
Broadw^ay and Houston Street. 

In tearing down an old residence in Greenwich at 102 Christopher 
Street in 1910 a block of brown stone 2J/2 feet long, 10 inches wide and 
9 inches thick w^as discovered (now at 380 Bleecker Street) bearing the 
inscription, "9 Miles from Camp," and at the bottom some unde- 
cipherable figures. It is doubtful whether "Camp" refers to a camp of 
Revolutionary days or to some popular roadhouse in upper Manhattan, 



375 



Milestones HISTORICAL GUIDE and Post Roads 

NOTES ON MILESTONES 

By Hopper Striker AIott 

On Sept. 6, 1769, the Common Council ordered paid a bill of £8 : 11 : 2 
for 16 stones supplied by George Lindsay (Mins. C. C. Vol. VII.: 178) ; 
Chap. XXI, Laws 14th George III, passed March 9, 1774, provided a 
penalty of £3 for defacing any milestone, hand, pointer or any other 
monument erected for the direction of travellers along the public roads, 
or in default, imprisonment in the common gaol for the space of two 
months. If the defacement be committed by a slave and the fine re- 
main unpaid, imprisonment with 39 lashes on the bare back is prescribed 
if said forfeiture be not paid within 6 days after conviction. 

The date of placing the stones on the Albany Post Road was 1769, a's 
confirmed by the carving of this date on the ninth milestone, which 
formerly stood at the corner of Harlem Lane (now St. Nicholas Ave- 
nue) at 149th Street. 

During Franklin's occupation of the Postmaster Generalship, and, in 

accordance with the terms of his appointment, a line of posts was laid 

^ur-«'-'Qut. As he was in office but a year (1775-6) and the route to be 

J/) measured extended from Massachusetts to Georgia, it is impossible 

that he marked and set out the entire distance. 

, ^j^ r • Christopher Colles, an engineer of note, surveyed the Post Road in 

r ^y 1789 from Federal Hall, in Wall Street, and noted thereon the position 

'^7 -^ of the stones. He mapped the road from New York to Kingsbridge, 

(^ )-j1ii and on other pages that to Albany. The survey locates the ist and 2d 

miles on the Bowery Lane, and then follows the bed of the Post Road 

over New York Lane and Madison Square. The site of the 3d stone 

,'is placed about opposite 24th Street, near the juncture of the Bloom- 

^.^<^ /ingdale Road. 

'h^e^<j^^y^'^On May 10, 1813, the Common Council authorized the erection of a 
Iry^l new set of stones, with the present City Hall as a starting point. 
These guides marked the passing mfles on the Boston Road, No. i 
being at^Rivington Street and the Bowery. 

i^^/^r.^^.,.r/H' MILESTONES IN BLOOMINGDALE 

That there was a series running up the Bloomingdale Road is 
proved by the following evidence. The 3d stone, as Colles has shown, 
was near 24th Street, at the junction of the Post Road. 

This advertisement from the Columbian of June 6, 1815, has been 
found ; 

376 



Milestones HISTORICAL GUIDE in Bloomingdale 

"A stray steer was found on the premises of the subscriber on the 
5th of August last. The owner may have the said steer by proving 
property and paying all reasonable charges. 

"Isaac Varian Jun. 
"Bloomingdale — 3 mile stone." 

This also fixes the Bloomingdale name as extending as far south 
as Twenty-third Street. 

The fourth stone must have been at about Forty-Fourth Street and 
we have this advertisement from the Mercantile Advertiser of Decem- 
ber ID, 1814, confirming the location there : 

"To let for one or more years, the farm at Bloomingdale, near the 
four mile stone, known by the name of Eden's Farm, consisting of 
about 22 acres of land, on which are two dwelling houses and 2 farms 
and to which may be added 2 pieces of pasture land of about 10 acres 
each. Apply to 

"John Jacob Astor, cor. Pine and Pearl Streets." 

The evidence for saying that there was a second series marking 
tended as far south as Forty-first Street. It was acquired by Astor 
under foreclosure in 1803 for $25,000. So much for the distances from 
Wall Street. 

The evidences for saying that there was a second series marking 
the distance from the City Hall is as follows : We have personally 
seen a stone which stood on the Road at Fifty-fourth Street during 
our boyhood, which was marked "Four miles from N. Y." 

In John Austin Stevens' notes to the History of the Chamber of 
Commerce, p. 314, he says : "The five mile stone stands near the 
corner of Seventy-fourth Street and the Bloomingdale Road, opposite 
grounds lately owned by Pelatiah Perit (20th President of the Cham- 
ber) and the 6 mile stone near Ninety-sixth Street, in front of the 
property of Dr. Williams." 

The Evening Post announced that John Moir opened the Bloom- 
ingdale Academy in 181 5, located 5 miles from the city, on the Bloom- 
ingdale Road. This was at Seventy-fourth Street. 

Samuel Beman, A. M., opened a boarding school for small boys in 
1838 at the six mile stone, situated "on Dr. Valentine Mott's beauti- 
ful mansion grounds." The house stood at Ninety-fourth Street. 

The 7 mile stone was at One Hundred and Sixteenth Street and 
the 8 at One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Street, a half mile south of 
the junction of the Bloomingdale and Kingsbridge Roads at One Hun- 
dred and Forty-seventh Street. 

376a 



i-xDr(Hr\T ur <^ur<OKtoc> 






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Eleventh Milestone Unveiling, May 30, 1912. 



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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 



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