The Former Residence of DeWitt Clinton
A Ship of War on a Mud Flat
The following is from an interesting communication which we find in the Argus, the Democratic weekly paper of the Eastern District. Speaking of the Argus, it has now reached its forty-first number, having almost completed its first year – a period of existence outlasting that of any former attempt to establish a second newspaper in the Eastern District:
Newtown Creek is rapidly filling up. It used to be navigable for one hundred ton vessels up to what was formerly called “English Kills,” now upper Maspeth Landing, to as late a period as 1820 – a distance of three miles above Penny Bridge, and up to Penny Bridge for sea-going vessels. Indeed, it is a well-known fact that just below the Penny Bridge, where now exists an extensive and increasing mud flat, during the Revolution.
The English frigate Asia (a sixty-four gun ship) was anchored, and the white and red shirts of her crew speckled the green sward of the grassy hill surroundings of what is now known as “Calvary Cemetery,” and as an old Quaker lady expressed it, “the people from the ship raced about like mad folks – perhaps like the children and family of Noah after their long confinement in the Ark” – perhaps only a little more so.
During the residence of DeWitt Clinton at “English Kills” in the year 1808-9 and 10, the inhabitants, marketmen and boatmen foreseeing the result of this filling up of the Creek, and with a view of adding additional facilities to transportation even in those times, with his influence had the route of a short canal surveyed and mapped out from this point, English Kills, and through to Flushing Bay. The surveys no doubt are still in existence. The cutting of the canal (about 3 miles and a half) was found to be predictable, and the expense comparatively small, as the grade was almost a dead level and needed no locks. It was found, furthermore, that as the difference of the tides between Flushing Bay was about one hour and a half, two tide gates would be wanting to regulate the strength of the current when required, and thus by its rapidity to wash the creek clear from that muddy sediment which is now fast closing up and making it a nuisance. Now this cleaning out of the creek must in some way be effected, or, if neglected, nothing in a few years will remain of this now valuable stream but a nasty, stinking basin at “Hunter’s Point,” similar to that at Bushwick Creek.
The chief obstacle in the days of Mr. Clinton was a tide mill with dam, at the Flushing end of the proposed canal. This obstructive mill and dam still exists, shedding its miasmatic exhalations in the form of chills and fever for miles around the otherwise beautiful town of Newtown, with the additional obstacle of a few water-cress beds, which have sprouted into existence since that time, which anti-scorbutic these antedeluvians of Newtown, with their poisonous black water-snakes, seem as sacredly to venerate and cherish as do the inhabitants of India the crocodile and rice plant.
There is no disguising the fact that the village of Newtown, with all its picturesque invitations to locate within its quietude, is peculiarly cursed with that enervating, discouraging complaint, the ague and fever. The writer absolutely shakes as he reflects upon his own experience in this line of experimental philosophy, wherein his stomach became the battleground for all the “infallibles” that were ineffectually swallowed, from “cobweb” pills to “rattle-snake” oil!
Newtown Creek is the natural drain to all the now pent up water courses (and there are thousands which incline that way), and to insure health, should be ever kept open. When spoken to, the inhabitants of Newtown, almost to a man, will confess the advantage of a canal and a water frontage through their now unproductive, reptile-raising meadows – of a free and rapid drainage of their stagnant swamps, but never think of asking them to take a hand in the enterprise; no, no! The fact is, the ague has so benumbed their facilities to any public enterprise, they are affected with a paralysis of the arm the instant you talk of outlays of money.
It is therefore we say to the public-spirited capitalist: See what you are about before you make investments. That the creek is steadily closing up, facts will show. To secure the full advantage of its navigation and a continued use of its shores a canal from Flushing Bay must sooner or later be cut, which can be done at comparatively small expense, through a now almost useless swamp – with an almost certain increase in the valuation of property above the outlay of at least one hundred percent. A word to the wise, &c.