Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Wednesday, 8 April 1885
A Paradise for Local Sportsmen.
How it Fell Into the Hands of its Present Possessors - Part of a Grant
Made to the Earl of Stirling - A Club About Which the Public Knows but Little.
A recent meeting of the Robins Island Club held for the purpose of
electing officers and a governing board for the present year, is a
reminder of the fact that the organization is not well known to the
residents of this city.  It is true the club is an exceedingly close
corporation, the membership being limited to twenty-five, and a dozen
applications being always in the secretary's hands for the places of
resigning or deceased members.  The club was formed some four years ago
for the purpose of improving and elevating the character of field
sports.  The better to effect this it became necessary to obtain, either
by purchase or lease, the possession of some large tract of land over
which absolute control could be had.  After the survey of a number of
places more or less advantageous, Robins Island was chosen, and a better
could not have been found for the furtherance of the ideas of the club.
Although one of the loveliest spots of Long Island, was comparatively
unknown until brought into public notice by the Eastern Field Trial Club
of this State, which some years ago held its opening contests.  Early in
the Seventeenth Century, the Earl of Stirling was granted 12,000 acres
of land with the privilege of locating such grant at such places in
America as he desired.  His agent, one James FARRETT, selected Robins
Island as a portion of this gift.  In 1641 it was sold to Stephen
GOODYEAR, who in turn conveyed it to a company, with Nathaniel SYLVESTER
at the head.  In 1665 a deed was given to these purchasers by the Indian
chiefs interested, who claimed vested rights in the island.  These were
the Cutchogues and Shinnecocks.  Late in the same century the island
again changed hands, the owner being Joseph WICKHAM, of Cutchogue, who
left it by will to his son of the same name, the latter dying in 1749.
By descent it came to a son of the last mentioned, one Parker WICKHAM, a
staunch loyalist.  Taking active part against the colonists he, at the
close of the Revolutionary struggle, fled to Great Britain.  His estate
was confiscated by the State, and sold in 1784 by the Commissioners of
Forfeiture to Caleb BREWSTER, the price paid being L1,250, about $6,250.
In 1793 it was transferred to Ezra L'HOMMEDIEU, and at his death passed
into the hands of Colonel Benjamin HORTON and James REEVES.  By these
owners it was sold in parcels, its new possessors selling out and
interchanging until, in 1851, the chief owners were Isaac H. WOOSTER and
James F. GOODALE. In 1857 all those various owners were bought out, and
the sole title was again vested in a single individual, Ira Brewster
TUTHILL, of New Suffolk.  In 1873 this gentleman sold it to Mr. James
WILSON, of New York City. Owing, however, to some disagreement in the
transfer of the property a long litigation followed, ending in the
retransfer of the title to Ira B. TUTHILL and its sale again by him by
Richard INGRAHAM, the representative of the present owners, the Robins
Island Club.
The Long Island coast is so well known that but little that is new can
be said in its praise.  The man, however, who has done more than any
other to bring these beauties directly before the public is, without
doubt, Austin CORBIN.  Believing as he does that the South Side has a
future he has gone with enormous energy into the work of development.
Backed by means sufficient to carry on almost any work of improvement a
decade or two will see the population of the island increased in an even
more marvelous manner than it has grown in the past.  All along the
coast, from Coney Island Point to Montauck, is a succession of
magnificent sites for either Summer resorts or the building up of the
villages which have for years lacked the "push" in their inhabitants to
avail themselves of the Natural advantages which they possess.  When the
new blood comes in the advances will be rapid.  No the least of these
lovely spots is Robins Island.  Though not on the ocean it is most
happily situated in the Great Peconic Bay, between the village of New
Suffolk, at the north of the bay, and Canoe Place on the south.   The
island comprises nearly one thousand acres of the most fertile land,
where the timber has been cut off.  It rises in some parts at least one
hundred feet above tide water, presenting bold bluffs of sand, abrupt
and prominent.  At other places the land slopes gradually to the beach,
where long flats extend themselves into the bay, making the grandest of
bathing places.  Two sand spits, each nearly a mile in length and only
bare at low tide, run from its northeastern and southwestern
extremities.  The island is well wooded with a heavy growth of black
oak, while it is watered by two large fresh water springs.  The soil is
a sandy loam and slopes from the center of the island and in gentle line
to the water's edge, the natural drainage being absolutely perfect.  The
difficulty of access has no doubt been the chief drawback to the
improvement of the island.  A mile and a half from the main land it can
only be reached by boat, the hardest of pulls, for the tide is ever a
rushing one.  A pit of clay, of large extent, lies on the westerly
shore, the thirty years of brickmaking on the island having made but
slight inroads.
That the island was a favorite camping ground for the Indians is seen by
numerous shell piles, many feet in depth, which are to be found on the
western bluffs.  It looks as is the Aboriginal inhabitants were full of
the old fire of the Norsemen, and fished alike in the placid waters of
the bay and the raging surfs of the Atlantic.  Canoe place aptly derives
its name from the still to be seen well worn path through the sands,
where at that narrow spot they dragged their canoes from the waters of
the Peconic to those of Shinnecock Bay.  Arrow heads of quartz and stone
axes were numerous upon the island some years ago, but the curiosity
seekers have pretty well cleaned up the island of such interesting
relics.  From the number of imperfect arrow heads found there is but
little doubt they were manufactured here, the thousands of quartz
pebbles of the beach giving ample material.
Another attraction for the Indian was, without doubt, the iron spring
flowing from the foot of the clay bank at the edge of the beach on the
western side.  So strongly are the waters of this spring impregnated
with iron that pieces of china submerged in it for a few fours assume a
deep brown hue.  The taste is - well the strongest of rusty iron
solutions.  The water from this spring has been found to be an excellent
tonic and especially valuable in catarrhal troubles affecting the
muscouous membranes of the stomach, and it is understood that the
members of the Robins Island Club will be supplied with it for the use
of their families in case of the approach of cholera during the
approaching Summer.  At one spot not far from where this spring flows
from the bank in any quantity of the "black sand," for the working of
which sand on the west coast a large company was organized some years
ago.  These sands while containing a large quantity of steel-like iron
were so expensive in the smelting as to preclude its working.  For
cutlery steel it is unsurpassed, the writer using a carving knife of
this manufacture for years.
Is it wonder, then, that the Robins Island Club congratulate themselves
upon their purchase?  Composed as the members are of, of citizens of
Brooklyn, nowhere could they have been so well served, at comparatively
slight cost and in the matter of accessibility.  The old buildings upon
the island, with one exception, were torn down.  The exception is a
commodious brick mansion, which was thoroughly renovated and enlarged to
suit the ideas of the club.  Everything which capable architects could
suggest has been availed of for the comfort of the members, and no
private resort presents more desirable features than can be found here.
Abundance of shade and water, pleasant walks and drives, magnificent
views, perfect healthfulness, broad verandas and pleasant sleeping rooms
make the heat of summer a thing to be enjoyed, instead of dreaded.  What
is so much dreaded on New Jersey beaches, "on off shore breeze," is
never felt, and blankets are needed nearly every night.
The principal diversions of the members are fishing and shooting.
Peconic Bay offers unlimited sport in the first direction, and at
different seasons the piscatorially inclined can to the "full of his
bent" enjoy his hobby.  Flat fish, weak fish, the superb king fish,
striped bass, tautog and numerous other species follow each other in
quick succession, while the bay's shores are packed with shell fish,
clams and scallops. The place was famous for its oysters at the
beginning of this century, but the star fish have virtually cleared the
bay of this delicious mollusk.  On land is found the finest game
preserve in the country.  The members devoted to the gun and dog have
made the propagation of quail a hobby, so that at the opening of the
season of 1884 there were more quail on Robins Island than on any spot
of like size in America.  At least a thousand birds were killed between
November and January.  Large, fine birds they were, too, speaking
volumes as to the quantity of feed and the care of the club's
superintendent in the matter of the destruction of hawks and snakes -
the latter, the common, harmless black snake, but here growing to large
and in goodly numbers.  Not one is now seen where hundreds were formerly
to be seen.  To care for this enormous number of birds acres of food are
grown.  Patches of wheat, rye and corn dot the island at every opening,
while the crimson stalked buckwheat, with its richly perfumed blossoms,
"heavies" the air in the Fall.  Water receptacles have been placed at a
hundred points, and these are carefully attended to.  The corn stalks
are left in the shock and afford the necessary cover for the birds if
disturbed while feeding in the open.  It is not surprising that the club
refused a recent offer of $100,000 for their property.  All are men of
means, and so could afford to reject an offer which made the island a
magnificent investment in a business way.  The matter of the sale was
fully discussed and, although a few of the members were some what averse
as businessmen to a refusal of that offer, they were overruled by the
majority, and Robins Island remains a possession of the club.
The officers of the club elected for the present year are 
S. Fleet SPEIR, M. D., president; 
H. D. POLHEMUS, vice president; 
W. H. FORCE, secretary and treasurer.  

The following are the names of the members of the club:  
Austin CORBIN, 
George S. EDGELL, 
William L. POMEROY, 
John B. MCCUE, 
William M. VAN ANDEN, 
William HESTER, 
George R. SHELDON, 
Chauncey MARSHALL, 
James N. JARVIS, 
William R. KINGSLEY, 
William B. KENDALL, 
S. Fleet SPEIR,M. D.,
H. J. CULLEN, Jr., 
Alden S. SWAN
William H. FORCE.

OF INTEREST (November 2002): Gary Skarka sent in the following:
Austin Corbin mentioned in the piece above was the first president 
of the Long Island Rail Road.  Upstate NY, in the town of 
Blue Mountain Lake, there is a railroad museum and they have the 
private rail road car of Austin CORBIN.  I was quite 
surprised to see it up there.  Seems to me it should be on Long Island!

Of Interest from David ROBERTS: (December 2002)
From my unpublished "Deaths Reported by the 'Long Islander' 1891-1900":

CORBIN Austin  68 years
d. 4 June 1896 at Newport, N. H.; killed in a carriage accident; son of
Austin Corbin; of "an old New Hampshire family' husband of Hannah M. Wheeler
of Newport, N. H., whom he m. in 1853; father of Isabella C. Edgell, Austin
Corbin, Annie Corbin and Mary C. Champillion; grandfather of Andre
Champillion; father-in-law of George S. Edgell; native of Newport, N. H., b.
11 July 1827; graduate of Harvard Law School; early in career was a lawyer
in New Hampshire, but in 1851 moved to Davenport, Iowa, where he was a
lawyer and banker; after a successful banking career in Iowa, he moved to
New York City in 1865, where he continued his banking career; in 1881, he
took over theL. I. R. R., which was then in bankruptcy; "Mr. Corbin's
management resulted in paying the debts, reconstructing the roadway and
bringing the company to a high state of prosperity"; success in restoring
the L. I. R. R. led him to reorganize the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad,
of which we was president 1886-1890; resident of New York City, with country
estates at Babylon, L. I. and Newport, N. H.; lomg and detailed obit 6 June
1896 paper describing railroad, banking and communications interests held by
Corbin and various plans and projects he planned to undertake; account of
probate of will at Suffolk County Surrogate's Court 4 July 1896 paper

Carole Dilley
Return to LONG ISLAND Main
Return to BROOKLYN Main