The Brooklyn Daily
23 January 1957
- By John Marron Jones
Holed up in my Coney Island room, I tried to forget Veronica by losing
myself in the history of old Brooklyn. It is hard to imagine that just three
hundred and twenty-one years ago this whole borough was swamp and
wilderness inhabited only by Indians. There wasn't a brick or even a
board, not one pane of glass or such a thing as a paved road. Then
came a few adventurorous Dutchmen.
But as for that, Gloria FRAZER in her book, "The Stone House At Gowanus,"
published in 1909, claims that an Englishman, William BENNET, and a French-
man, Jaques BENTYN, were the very first settlers. According to her, these two
purchased 930 acres of land at Gowanus from the Indians, and erected the
first dwelling in 1636. Next in her (book) was Joris JANSEN de RAPELJE
of French descent who led the settlement of Walloons in the Wallabout area,
north of Brooklyn Heights. "Walloons" is the Dutch word for foreigners and
those so designated were political or religious refugees who had settled in
tolerant Holland. They came from England, France, Germany and other
European countries where life was apt to be too short or too confined for
men of their beliefs.
* * *
Maud Esther DILLIARD, however, bestows the distinction of being the first
European settlers within the present confines of Kings County upon Andries
HUDDEN and Wolphert GERRITSEN van COUWHENHOVEN, as of June 16 in
that same year, 1636. These two Dutchmen bought a large tract of land from
the Indians and called it Nieu Amersfoort after Wolphert's home town in the
Netherlands. These region is not called Flatlands.
There may be merit to the claims of both lady writers, for it would seem that
in this 27th year after Henry Hudson dropped the Half Moon's anchor in the
harbor of New Amsterdam, a land boom was developing across the East River.
Only a modern day real estate developer was needed. He would have made a
fortune selling low, flat, swampy land where too many trees did not need to be
cleared and the tillage would be easy and a crop could be expected the first year.
* * *
Land title was secured by double negotiations. First, the Dutch Governor was
prevailed on to bestow a grant; second, a deal was made with the Indians on
the desired land. In the Dutch colony, barter with the Indians were "taken."
Our modern day Better Business Bureaus would throw up their hands in dismay
at Peter MINUET's hoodwinking of Powhattan, the Chief of the Manhattan
tribe. Peter tricked Powhattan into marking his X in exchange for twenty-four
dollars worth of costume jewelry.
The truth was, the tribal, communal and nomadic redskins had no concept of
land ownership. They, like all easy marks, thought they were getting something
for nothing. They would still pitch their wigwams, and hunt deer and rabbits
and beavers where they pleased. Or so they thought.
But this Dutch swindling was far superior to the forceful entry that seems to
have been the modus operandi along the rest of the Atlantic coast. However,
one Dutchman, Governor KIEFT recklessly parted from the practice of simply
short changing the Indians.
KIEFT must have had a noble motive like civilizing these aborigenes or teaching
them a lesson, however, I've not come across it, but whatever it was, he ordered
and his troops carried out a massacre of the sleeping tribesmen. This set loose
a two year Indian War, thru 1643 and 44. The Brooklyn settlers had to be a
hasty retreat to the protection of the fort at New Amsterdam. Lady Deborah
MOODY, the leader of the settlement at s'Gravensande, was among those to take
refuge. Despite the fact that Lady Deborah picked up her skirts and ran at this
time, she seems to have been a spunky gal. References to her are very brief.
I must find out more.
By 1645 the Indians were subdued. I wonder how many lives were lost on both
sides? A few dollars worth of trinkets might have avoided many tragedies. At
any rate, the resettlement of the boweries or farms of Brooklyn was resumed in
* * *
Life was not always so grim among our settlers. A Mr. Richard DENTON,
primarily concerned with crops and writing after the British took over and
rechristened New York in 1665, left for us a brief description of a June picnic:
"...Strawberries...in such abundance in June that the fields are dyed red. Which
the Country...people perceiving, instantly arm themselves with bottles of Wine,
Cream, and Sugar, and instead of a Coat of Male, everyone takes a Female upon
the Horse behind him, and so rushing violently into the fields, never leave till
they have disrob'd them of their red colours, and turned them into the old
habit." (Source -- A Treasury of Brooklyn)
Wearily I closed my library books. The night was late. I could go to sleep
and dream of these simpler times. But would I gallop into the Strawberry fields
"These are the times that try men's souls." There was a ferment in the
land but Brooklyn's four thousand inhabitants were prosperous and con-
tented. Like Noel Coward's sneer at Brooklyn GIs as cry babies, "aspersions"
have been made as to the revolutionary ardor of colonial Brooklynites.
But Brooklyn very quickly became occupied territory. The people had to
laive with the swaggering redcoats and prowling Hessians. Besides that
the other colonies were naturally English speaking. The inspirational
ideas of Paine and Jefferson may never have been translated for the
Dutch farmers of the borough.
* * *
The first major engagement of the revolution was fought on Brooklyn
soil. After the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, the British
landed at Gravesend on Aug. 22d, 1776:
"For five days the white tents of the enemy covered the plain beneath
the hills, almost as far as the eye could distinguish their form. Five
miles to the south they stretched in an unbroken line. The roll of the
enemy's drums, the rattle of arms and accoutrements in the daily
parade and the south of command, rose faintly to the ear from the
wide plain; and the sight and sound combined to exhibit to the sadly
thin and feeble lines of the American army on the hill, what a vast
armament, what gigantic forces could in a single hour be hurled upon
them." From Memoirs of the Long Island Historical Society.
* * *
On the night of August 26th the British left their campfires burning
to fool the Americans. Howe's troops assembled beyond the range of
the firelight. They began marching at midnight.
The battle was a defeat for the Americans. The revolution might have
ended right there. Washington's entire army seems to have been only
five thousand men. These were divided between New York and
Brooklyn, and in Brooklyn into four segments. At most points it
was a rout. Only in Gowanus under "Lord" STIRLING was there
vigorous American resistance.
STIRLING, a New Jerseyite and a descendant of a previous Lord
STIRLING to whom the English king had bestowed the entire New
York colony, was called "Lord." Many thought that he rather than
the Duke of York had the legal right to this territory. Perhaps this
idea inspired him to defend the Shore Road with greater tenacity.
When finally he saw that he was almost completely surrounded, he
order the bulk of his troops to slip away thru the marshes under cover
of an attack by four hundred Marylanders.
* * *
When the rest had gotten safely away to Brooklyn Heights, STIRLING
ordered the surviving Marylanders to surrender to the British. He
himself, rather than give his sword to an Englishman, found a Hessian
general in the woods and surrendered to him.
Statistics on the Battle of Long Island (Brooklyn): Four hundred killed
on each side; one thousand Americans taken prisoner. But things might
have been much worse. Had Lord Howe kept his troops in hot pursuit,
Washington's entire Army could have been captured.
The American retreat was a moral victory. He who fights and runs away
will live to fight another day. On the night of August 27th and the next
morning, Washington seized every boat that could be found. Then under
the cover of fog a regiment of Marblehead fishermen ferried the remnants
of our Army to safety.
* * *
Brooklyn's militia was reduced by defections even before the battle.
Afterwards about fifty more deserted so that only one hundred and
fifty Brooklynites crossed the East River with the Marblehead
fishermen. These marched to Harlem. While there, their colonel
used to slip back to Brooklyn to see the folks. One time he was
seen walking with two British officers. For this he was ordered to
stand trial, but when the court martial was to begin, the witnesses
against him had been spirited away.
With this example, the Brooklyn militia lost heart. Practically all
of the hundred and fifty went home. But home was never like this.
The Friendly Enemy
I pictured him as a short man, broad of shoulder and large of
features. I dressed him in black with tight pantaloons, buckled
shoes and wearing a roman collar. This last may be wrong, for he
was of the Dutch Reformed Church and its ministers may well have
shunned any identification with the Church of Rome. And yet men
called him "Dominie" so there must have been something distinctly
clerical about his garments.
* * *
His name, Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER, appeared frequently
in stories of early Gravesend. The farmers of this village paid the good
Dominie thirty-five pounds sterling per year to preach to them in the
church they had built at the junction of Gravesend Neck Road and
Gravesend. For this amount, which does not seem very substantial
even in the currency of that day, Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER
journeyed from his twenty-eight acre farm in Harlem every other week-end
to administer to his Gravesend parish. On the alternate Sunday he
tended to his Harlem flock.
Presumably on week-days, the Dominie removed his distinctively
cleric garb and tilled, tended and harvested the crops on his Harlem farm.
In the year 1776, Martinus SCHOONMAKER was thirty-nine years of
age, a vigorous man in the prime of life. He was known as an earnest
patriot, and the English, who occupied Kings County, regarded his
comings and goings with great suspicion. Harlem was held by the
There were others who came and went between the opposing forces.
We can well imagine one of these elusive men going to the Dominie's
Harlem farm to forewarn Martinus that the British were planning to take
him prisoner if they caught him in Brooklyn again.
"Yah!" Martinus nodded. "But anyway, I go."
"I warned ye, Domine, but if ye must, stay clear of the ferry landing.
There's a bad bunch thereabouts. Some of ourn that'll turn ye over for
* * *
This last advice Martinus heeded. Since Saturday noon had come and
it was time for his journey he removed his work clothes and dressed as
befitted his office. Then donning a great cloak, he mounted his horse
and rode directly east. At the river he turned his mount over to the boy
who had accompanied him. Then walking along the river bank, he called
a fisherman into shore.
That man when recognizing the Domine readily agreed to row him across.
Both men pulled at the oars. They passed Hallet's Point and brought the
boat aground in Pot Cove. From there Martinus SCHOONMAKER set out
on foot. He walked five miles to the DROISE farm. Johannis WROTSE
lent the Domine a horse.
Making a haste to cover as much ground as possible before darkness, he
reached the Nicholas WYCKOFF farm in Flushing as the family sat at their
evening meal. A blond young Hessian captain also sat at the table.
* * *
Antie Nickolas' wife, set a place for Martinus. As she fetched dishes and
cutlery, she hummed a merry tune. Antie was a lump young woman and
"You are most gay, mine good Antie," Martinus said to her.
Her laughter was like tiny bells. "And why not, dear Dominie? Nickolas has
come home, mine children are asleep, and our cows are back in the barn.
Could I ask for more happiness?"
Martinus knew that Nickolas had served in the militia but had return from
"You got back the cows?"
Yah! Heinrich, he brung them back to us." Antie pointed to the young
Hessian. "All but one which they butchered."
At this point Nickolas returned from having stabled the horse Martinus had
ridden. Nickolas was unsmiling. He sat down at the table and ate his meal
in silence. In fact, Antie was the only one to do much talking. The Hessian
speaking only German was at a loss with the mixture of Dutch and English
spoken in this household. The meal was finished by the three men with a
dram of the good rum from Jamaica.
Heinrich, the Hessian Captain, left to attend to some military duties.
Martinus and Nickolas remained at the table smoking long clay pipes.
Martinus finally spoke. "It must be a great weight on a man like you."
Nickolas nodded and puffed his pipe.
"But you had little choice." Martinus observed. "You could not leave
Antie and the children along among the enemy. Antie is a good girl. Only
a good girl is so happy. Listen! She sings at dishes."
Nickolas smiled for the first time since his return. With a few words the
Dominie had lifted the weights from his shoulders.
Martinus retired early for in the morning he had more duties to take care of.
When Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER awoke early on Sunday
morning, he had to ponder for a minute before he knew where he was.
Deep in a feather mattress, overhead he could see the rafters below a
sloped roof, and beside him he heard snoring like a pig at a trough. Then
he recalled that he had bedded down in Nickolas WYCKOFF's attic.
Sitting up, he beheld the blond head of the Hessian Captain on the
* * *
The air was bitter cold, Martinus pushed out from under the heavy covers.
He quickly pulled on his pantaloons and frock jacket. He climbed down
the ladder, barefooted and carrying his buckled shoes.
Antie was before him. She had a roaring fire burning in the fireplace. The
Dominie turned himself like a roast on a spit in front of the fire. When
warmed, he sat down, pulled on his hose and wiggled his feet into the
shoes. Antie handed him a cup of hot chocolate. As he sipped it,
Antie squatted at the fire frying a slab of ham and four eggs over the
hot embers at the edge. She served them to Martinus with another cup
* * *
"My dear Antie," Martinus said when he had eaten all, "you must be
very cautious when there is a young man under your roof what am not
"Heinrich!" Antie exclaimed and began to gigle(sic). "He is a lamb."
"No man is always a lamb with a rosy cheeked young woman," The
Dominie warned. "Nickolas, too, must be thunk about. You should
keep always the children around you."
Antie nodded that she understood the Dominie's meaning.
* * *
Martinus found Nickolas WYCKOFF out in the stable milking the cows.
Nickolas saddled the horse for him. A greatly relieved man, he could
only express his gratitude by squeezing the Dominie's hand between
both of his.
The way to Gravesend was impeded by frozen marshes. In crossing
these places, Martinus gave the reins to the horse. The animal by
instinct was able to pick crossings for itself and the man upon its
back. Martinus enjoyed but one advantage: This being a Sunday
morning and there being no danger of attack by the retreating army
of the revolutionairies, the British and Hessian encampments had
neglected to post sentries. Martinus was able to trot by these encamp-
* * *
He arrived in Gravesend at nine-thirty. He hitched the horse to the rail
in front of the Tavern. Seated at a table inside, he was served with a
toddy of rum and hot water by the proprietor, Adolph ZENGEL.
Stephen VORIS was the first to join him. Stephen leaned across the
table and whispered to Martinus. "Dominie, yesterday I killed a Hessian."
"It is war, Stephen. Do not let it prey on you."
No, Dominie, no. I came home yesterday. I find him in my barn. Phebe
is there trying to halt him from going off with our last cow. He will not
listen. I grab the pitchfork and run him thru the middle. I buried him under
the milk shed."
"Talk no more, Stephen. The Tavern walls have many ears." Martinus
sipped his toddy as he reflected on a course of action. "You are going
back to the militia, yah?"
"Good," said Martinus. "They will hut for him and find his carcass.
Phebe and the children must be gone too. I will take them to Harlem
with me. Go now, Stephen."
The Dominie was not alone for long. Other men came in and sat down
with him. The miller, Samuel GERRITSEN, entered wearing a new
beaver coat. The others eyed him suspiciously for Sam was waxing
fat, grinding grain for the British. Nonetheless he came to the table.
"I will need some help tonight at midnight. My millstones are very
filthy. They need to be washed in the middle of the pond."
* * *
The farmers volunteered to help him clean his millstones at midnight.
The Domonie was very abstracted as Samuel's plan was discussed.
He finished his toddy and excused himself. He went outside and pro-
ceeded to the low brown building that was his church. When the pews
were taken, he climbed to the pulpit and read from the Bible, from
Genesis, about the Garden of Eden and the temptations of the Devil.
From this passage he gave his sermon, graphically depicting the Devil's
lures at the race course, Ascot Heath, and the tory tavern at the ferry
CATRINA AND THE CAPTAIN
Catrina should have listened to Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER's
sermon on the Garden of Eden. Of course, at the time, Catrina was
only 13, and her parents were satisfied when she sat still on the bench
and did not giggle in the church. She was like a little Dutch doll with
very blue eyes and hair the color of a field of buttercups. Her father,
Jan ______________, was very indulgent of Catrina.
Like many another, Jan soon had his farm operating as usual after the
British had established their garrison on Brooklyn soil. By 1780 this had
come to seem a permanent way of life. Catrina was then sixteen. Jan
realized the time had come for her to have a husband. She still giggled
at the slightest whipstitch, but otherwise Catrina was very much the
plump young fraulein.
Now many a young Brooklyn farmer had spoken for her hand. Of them all,
Claes was the most substantial. Jan invited all of his Gravesend neighbors
to an evening gathering in his barn early in April. There were fiddlers and
dancing, drinks and good food. At the height of the festivities, Jan announced
Catrina's betrothal to Claes. She was more surprised than anyone. She had
a fit of giggling and did not hear the date of her nuptials.
Now just because Catrina was soon to be married she was not freed of her
chores on the farm. She milked the cows every night and morning. She
helped her mother in the kitchen. And one noon not long after her engage-
ment, she was out in the field gathering the geese, when a young redcoat
He helped Catrina with the flock. He was very erect and handsome in his
bright uniform. He told her he was Private HAWKINS, and he paid her
It was a warm, sunny, Spring afternoon. He persuaded Catrina that is was
far too nice to be wasted on geese. Giggling merrily, she walked across
the fields with him until they came to Kings Highway. Private HAWKINS
was a very young soldier. Actually they walked along hand in hand and
he sang a few of the songs he knew.
They were standing by the side of the highway, and Catrina was insisting
that she had to go home, when along came a resplendent figure on horse-
back. Private HAWKINS came to rigid attention and held a steady salute.
The horse was a white stallion. The officer checked the reins and it came
to a prancing stop.
"Private HAWKINS, isn't it?"
"Good lad. I'm glad I met you." The officer's dark eyes made Catrina feel
dizzy. "I forgot to give Left Tenant WILLIAMS this list. It is most important.
Deliver it to him promptly."
"Yes, Sir." Private HAWKINS accepted the paper and, like a good
soldier, went off at a trot.
"Well, my pretty Miss, what is your name?"
"Catrina," she whispered. He had long side burns and a nose like a hawk's.
"I believe you are afraid of me, Catrina."
"Oh, no, sir."
"Well, then, come. Get up behind me." He reached down for her hands.
"We shall see the races together."
Catrina protested that she must go home. Her father would be angry.
"Will he be angry at Captain RAMSEY?"
Catrina pondered the question. "Na-w," she finally answered.
"Well, come then."
He reached down and he swung her up behind him. She sat crosswise
on the white stallion. To keep from falling, Catrina clung to Captain
RAMSEY's waist. As she did so she had to giggle. Captain RAMSEY
spurred his mount. Catrina's yellow hair, though tightly braided, fluttered
like a yellow streamer as they went trotting eastward on Kings Highway.
Ascot Heath, the race track established by the British officer, was at
Flatbush Road. But for Catrina, the road was much longer.
Catrina's debut at the Ascot Heath race track was spectacular.
Captain RAMSEY spurred the white stallion to a jolting trot.
Holding on behind him, she jounced with every step of the horse's
hind legs. It did not really hurt since she was such a well upholstered
lass. RAMSEY reined onto the track. He made the horse trot back
and forth in front of the field boxes. It was very amusing and there was
"Shame! Shame!" A voice cried out.
* * *
Eyes turned on the handful of captive American officers in the crowd.
(In return for like treatment of captive British officers, some Americans
were allowed limited freedom.) No one could say whose voice it was.
More than likely they would have all received rough treatment had not
RAMSEY choosen the moment to provide more diversion.
Leaping from his saddle, he held up his hands for Catrina. As she slid
down into them, her skirt caught on a buckle. RAMSEY set her safely
on her feet, but the skirt remained aloft. The military men were delighted
with the view of chubby calf.
In this garrison town which Brooklyn then was, the British officers ran
things to suit themselves. Uninhibited by the presence of their own ladies
they strutted like peacocks and had a gay old time within the limitations
of the primitive country. Ascot Heath, for instance, was a beautiful stretch
of greensward on that sunny Spring afternoon. And RAMSEY, standing by
Catrina, was quickly joined by some of his swashbuckling fellow officers.
* * *
Catrina was overwhelmed with their hand kissing. Her giggle was very
audible being at a much higher pitch than other sounds. RAMSEY's
stallion was led away by a boy. He escorted Catrina to a refreshment
booth. The others went along, surrounding this rosy cheeked farm girl.
There was a scarcity of pretty females in Brooklyn. This was evident that
day at Ascot Heath. A few well-to-do Tory women graced the boxes with
their husbands or high ranking officers. Then, too, here and there a gayly
bedecked jezebel held a place of honor. Catrina, however, was the freshest
morsel to appear in many a day.
At the refreshment booth, they all insisted on touching glasses with her.
The sweet port was very pleasant on her tongue. She had a second glass.
* * *
The horses were lining up for the first race. As they went towards the boxes,
they stopped at another both where Catrina admired some gowns from
Europe. RAMSEY purchased for her a blue chintz number trimmed with
lace. His friend, Captain WILLING, made her a present of a Spanish shawl.
The horses were identified by colors in flag-like combinations. RAMSEY
and his friends evicted a tory group from a box. Catrina sat in the
The horses pranced before them, warming up. Catrina admired a filly
with blue and gold colors. WALLING placed a pound bet for her with one
of LOOSLEY's agents. She was the only winner in her box. Her winnings
were heaped in her lap.
The horses were brought out for the second race. Mostly they belonged
to Long Island farmers. The owners generally let the animal while a
son or other young relative perched on its back.
This time, everyone waited for Catrina to make her selection. The animals
had to pass directly in front of her. The sixth and last horse was led by a
raw boned young farmer. She was so busy studying the horses, she hardly
"Catrina!" He had stopped in front of her.
"Why be you here, Catrina?"
* * *
Captain RAMSEY was on his feet. His hawkish countenance was
distorted rage. "Begone, bumpkin!" he cried at CLAES, and with the
flat of his sword wacked the farmer boy's posterior.
Catrina's spell of giggling was as hysterical as on the night her father
had announced her engagement. Captain WALLING thoughtfully
hurried off and returned with another glass of port -- to ease the spell.
When the last of the day's races were run, RAMSEY procured a surrey.
Catrina would have fallen from behind him on the stallion. With WALLING
on one side and RAMSEY on the other, she sat erect on the ride to the
Kings Head. There they turned her over to the ministrations of Madame
ELMS. With a little rest, she fully recovered. Then Madame ELMS dressed
Catrina in new finery. She was quite the belle at the dinner that night in
huge stone tavern at the foot of Fulton Street. With RAMSEY and the others
attending her, Catrina was radiant and giggling in the glare of the two
The Kings' Head Tavern
The place to which Captain RAMSEY brought Catrina had formerly been
run by the ferry master, Thomas WALDRON. It was a big stone building
close by the ferry at the foot of Fulton Street. Since the ferry master had
gone off as the commandant of a company of cavalry in the American Army,
the building was confiscated by the British who turned it over to a pair of
Charles LOOSELEY and Thomas ELMS had previously persuaded the
Continental Congress to exempt them from military service so they could
supply paper to the new republic. As soon as the British arrived, these
scoundrels served the new masters to a farethewell. On top of their
papermaking, they branched into innkeeping. Acquiring the old stone
tavern, they decorated it with statues of the King and Queen, and with
the royal arms, and dubbed it the Kings' Tavern.
* * *
From this vantage point, LOOSELY and ELMS got into all the sideline
rackets of the day. Their tavern was frequented by the gay blades of
the English army. They covered the young gentlemen's bets on the
races at Ascot Heath. They ran lotteries. (As papermakers this was
right in their line.) The King's Tavern had a back room for other quicker
games of chance. Then LOOSELY and ELMS acquired the two tenements
adjoining the tavern.
Catrina awoke the morning after in a second floor room in the first tenement.
Sitting up in bed, she did not know where she was. Her head was splitting
and she was tender all over. Her bed was a four poster with a canopy. She
was alone in it, but the bolster was dented where another head and rested.
Slowly she recalled the happenings of the day before: the gathering of the
geese; the walk across the fields with the lonely young Redcoat; Captain
RAMSEY and the ride to Ascot Heath behind him on the white stallion;
the sweet tasting wine and the hand-kissing officers; her gifts and her
winning bets on the races; the sword whacking of Claes, the farmer boy
she was supposed to marry; the ride in the surrey to the King's Head
Tavern; and the dances with Captain RAMSEY.
* * *
She could remember no more, for the sweet tasting wine had made the
picture very confused. Sitting in the four poster bed, Catrina began to
bawl. Gertje, the girl in the next room, heard her through the wall. She
summoned Madame ELMS and the two of them went in to comfort the
new recruit. Soon they had Catrina giggling.
Now meanwhile Catrina's father, Jan, had become a broken man. Rumors
of his daughter's antics were quick to reach him. With the Dominie,
Martinus SCHOONMAKER, he appeared that day at the King's Head. The
affluent proprietors, LOOSELY and ELMS, disclaimed any knowledge of
Catrina's whereabouts. They were most respectable gentlemen. They
showed the Dominie and Jan around their establishment, pointing out the
preparations they had made for celebrating the birthday of the Prince of
Wales that coming night.
* * *
Jan went back to his Gravesend farm. At his supper, a neighbor came in
with more news of Catrina. She had spent another afternoon at Ascot
Heath. She was with another hussy. Her lips and cheeks were painted.
Captain RAMSEY wasn't with them. Another English officer was squiring
the both of them. Nothing was left for Jan but to disown his daughter,
the apple of his eye.
Claes also suffered. The memory of the sword whacking by Captain
RAMSEY rankled in his mind. Catrina's amusement had the sharpest
edge. And in going off with the Captain, she was rejecting him. Claes
became a very somber young farmer, shrewder and harder working than
* * *
One day when working in his fields next to Jan's farm, he saw this young
English private looking towards Jan's house. He accosted the lad. It was
Private HAWKINS looking for the pretty farm girl. Claes listened to his
story. The two of them had much in common. They hated Captain RAMSEY.
They leaned on the fence and talked about what they would do to him if they
got the chance. -- to be continued Friday
History does not record the fate of girls like Catrina. If we probe
deeply enough, we may come upon the record of Jans, her father.
He was a man of property so somewhere there is a forgotten tombstone.
Claes, her fiance, became a leading citizen in the young town of Brooklyn
and so if his family name were mentioned, he could be identified. For
Claes eventually found a wife and they had children and his names
survives to this day in an aristocratic Heights' family.
Captain RAMSEY also left his mark upon the world. History has a
tendency to attribute world events to single individuals, usually males
and always called great. RAMSEY does not fit into this category, but
his name has been perpetuated nonetheless.
But first let us find out what happened to Catrina. Young and discontented
with the marriage her father had arranged, she had rebelled in the only
manner possible. She, herself, never blamed Captain RAMSEY. She
wanted some fun out of life instead of living out her days on a Brooklyn
farm. The gay parties at the King's Head Tavern were her idea for fun.
For several months she was there to minuet and waltz with the handsome
British officers. Then her steps became heavy. Madame ELMS noted
that Catrina had become more plump than ever. She shipped the girl to
Nova Scotia. There Catrina gave birth to a girl child. The infant was
placed in an orphanage. Catrina returned to the gay life. A ship's
captain sailing out of Nova Scotia gave her passage. She was landed on
a Caribbean island. There, being so fair, she was much sought after.
But in less than a year, her giggling became incessant. Then like so
many in the oldest profession, Catrina simply vanished.
In the meanwhile Cornwallis had surrendered to Washington at Yorktown,
Virginia. George Washington and Lord Cornwallis, every schoolboy knows
these names. Five years before Cornwallis was one of the generals under
Sir William How in the Battle of Brooklyn. At that time George wasn't
doing so well. The Revolutionary Army ran away to fight another day.
So now in October of 1781, Cornwallis and Washington again face each
other. The English lord surrenders his sword. The colonies have won
But the British stayed around New York and Brooklyn for two more years.
Captain RAMSEY much to his own disgust beheld his compatriots drifting
back to the borough. Had he, he told his cronies at the King's Head Tavern,
been used in actual combat and had his tactics been employed, the
result would have been different.
Private HAWKINS, however, had been in combat around Philadelphia and
Trenton. A dutiful soldier, he felled a few Americans and escaped with his
own life. Now a corporal, HAWKINS led a column of Britishers off a barge at
the Brooklyn ferry landing. The very next day, he sought out his friend, the
farmer boy Claes.
Captain RAMSEY's duties were greatly increased during this period.
Logistics, the military science of arranging supplies and transportation,
can be very exacting on a britling man of action. He scarcely had time
to squire any more farm girls to the races at Ascot Heath. Many a night
he couldn't get to the Kings Head. Stuck at headquarters, he burned the
midnight oil making out requisitions.
One of these nights was February 25th, 1782. He finally snuffed out the
wick at eleven o'clock. The orderly brought his white stallion to the door.
RAMSEY mounted and galloped off towards his barracks. The fields were
snow covered and the moon was high.
RAMSEY was found the next morning. Some soldiers saw the white stallion
tethered outside a shack on Gravesend Road. They looked inside and found
RAMSEY moaning on a blood soaked mound of hay. A stretcher was
brought and RAMSEY was carted to the infirmary.
When his words became coherent, he told the army surgeon that he had
been ambushed by two men on horseback. They wore handkerchiefs
around their faces. One seemed to be a British soldier; the other a
strapping young farmer. They dragged him into the shack.
In his records, the surgeon noted that the operation was very crudely
performed and that Captain RAMSEY had lost much blood. This is quite
surprizing since Claes had many times executed similar surgery on
RAMSEY was shipped back to England. Thruout the records of the
British army and admiralty, his name is cited as one of the last casualties
of the War With The Colonies. So he had a definite claim to historical fame,
but as he lived out his days on a pension, he was not inclined to strut about
The Bitter Peace
The perpetrators of the attack on Captain RAMSEY were never
apprehended. An investigation was initiated by the Adjutant's staff
but so many possible suspects were found that once the man was
shipped out of the country, the matter was quietly dropped.
Negotiations were proceeding in Paris on a peace treaty. Hostilities
had ceased on the American continent. The British still occupied New
York and Brooklyn but now it was their turn to adjust to conditions --
to establish good relations and all that sort of thing. Privately RAMSEY's
former fellows-in-arms admitted that "the blighter was a bounder. So let's
forget about the whole bloody mess, ol' boy."
Claes and Corporal HAWKINS avoided the finger of suspicion by not
being seen together and keeping their mouths shut. They met once a
week in the grove on the southeast of Claes' farm. Theirs was a strange
friendship. In Dutch laden English, Claes talked about his horses and
his cows and oxen. Claes' father had deeded his farm to the boy and
joined the revolutionary forces. He had been killed in the battle of
Brooklyn. The tories had sought to confiscate the farm but Claes had
been protected by his neighbors.
HAWKINS had grown up in the slums of London. He knew about horses,
for his father had been a coachman, but that was the extent of his
knowledge of farm life. Furthermore young HAWKINS spoke in the
Cockney idiom of that day.
Yet they were fast friends. When it was safe, HAWKINS began coming to
the farm house for Sunday dinner. Rachel, a negro slave who raised Claes,
was a wonderful cook. Silas HAWKINS was growing fat on her meals. He
did not like the idea of going back to the London slums.
"You stay here," Claes urged him. "When they go on ship, you hide."
But there were many in the five towns of Kings County, who were anxious
to get away even before the British -- the tories, the collaborators, like
LOOSELY and ELMS, and their wives. Then there were those who had
betrayed their compatriots to the British; men who had guided the Redcoats
over Brooklyn cowpaths during the Battle of Brooklyn; men who had fingered
other men as ardent revolutionaries.
These sorry creatures now found themselves in a most distressing
predicament. It was August of 1783 and rumor had it that the British were
shipping out from one day to the next. Furtively those men slipped up to
the back door of the outlying farmhouses, offering to sell their farms, their
slaves and their stock at bargain prices. But there were no takers.
LOOSELY and ELMS simply abandoned the Kings Head Tavern and the
building adjoining it. They were among the more prosperous Tories who
secured passage on the Donna Mae, a packet ship that spewed the
whole lot of them on the island of Nova Scotia. The Donna Mae sailed
out of Brooklyn with the jeers of a multitude ringing in the ears of its
passengers. Their ex-slaves, apprentices, and others of the lowly crowded
around the ferry slip shouting bon voyages that shocked the most fastidious
refugees. The gracious ladies were aghast at the vulgarity of the rabble.
Then late in November, the British fleet sailed out of New York harbor with
the last of the Redcoats aboard. The Tories who were left behind now
trembled in mortal fear. Four of the five towns of Kings County took the
change in stride. These were the farm communities, but in Brooklyn
itself, the town around the ferry landing, there was great turmoil.
Marauding bands rounded up every suspect of favoring the English.
They were herded into the old stone building that had been the Kings
Word reached the other towns that some Hessians and a young Redcoat
corporal were among the prisoners. The rumor reached Claes while he
was at lunch. Immediately he got some papers he had hidden behind a
stone in the fireplace. Then mounting his fleetest horse, he galloped all
the way to Brooklyn.
The trouble in the township of Brooklyn stemmed from the fact that most
of its leading citizens were tarred by the Tory brush. For the most part
these "respectable burghers" had sailed off on the packet ship, Donna Mae.
Those left behind were of a wishy-washy ilk. Folks like Hans BAUMBERJE
and his wife, Leeka, who could not forsake their bake shop and flee to
Nova Scotia. Their business was too good. They thought everybody had
forgotten that Hans years ago had shown the British the young Yankee
rebel hiding in the flour barrel.
But the mob led by the butcher boy, Tom LACEY, and the towering ex-slave,
Black Hercules, and the apprentice clerk, Peter PEPPERPONT, remembered
that story. So Hans and Leeka huddled with other suspected collaborators
in the Kings Head Tavern on the afternoon of November 26, 1783. The
redcoat corporal and the two Hessians sat apart. These three were more
LACEY, HERCULES and PEPPERPONT presided at a table placed at the
head of the ballroom. Behind them the statues of King George and his
Queen lay shattered on the floor.
In front of them milled a motley assemblage. Cries of "Hang the dogs!" and
"Quarter them" carried to the rafters. Much harsh laughter reflected the
spirit of the crowd. This was the day after the British fleet had departed.
Now all the men were equal. But these freed drudges had scores to
settle. Men, woman and children, all were arrayed in new finery. Cloaks
and gowns ransacked from Tory households were thrown on over their own
ragged garments. The "ladies" pirouetted to show off their new plumage.
This provoked more of that harsh laughter. Then the shouting would pick
up, "Hang the dogs!"
Peter PEPPERPONT banged on the table. "Hear ye! Hear ye! This
tribunal invested with power by the long suffering people of Brooklyn is
now in session. The Honorable Tom LACEY and the Honorable Black
HERCULES and the Honorable Peter PEPPERPONT shall sit in judgment
and render justice. The first case, the people versus Hans BAUMBERJE.
The prisoner will step forth!"
Poor Hans was pushed up to the table.
"Hans BAUMBERJE, you are accused by betraying the American soldier,
Noah WILCOX, to the enemy. The same was taken from your bake shop
to the prison ship in the Wallabout harbor and there did perish. What have
you to say for yourself?"
* * *
Hans shook his head woefully. "I did not know he was in the barrel. The
English wanted to see how much flour I own. I was showing them the empty
barrel and we found the rebel Noah."
"A likely story!" Justice LACEY remarked. "Have you any witnesses to
"Yah! Mine wife, Leeka. She was in shop."
More laughter. "Hank the two of them!" A childish voice piped from the
middle of the crowd. Another disturbance was going on in the back of the
"Let me thru!" An imperious voice commanded. Dominie Martinus
SCHOONMAKER pushed his way to the forefront. "Vat goes on here?"
"The Dimpled Wench"
The crowd in the Kings Head Tavern looked around towards the door.
Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER paused in the middle of his speech
to the Kangaroo Court. That tribunal was headed by the butcher boy,
Tom LACEY, who was flanked by Black HERCULES, a slave formerly
owned by a fleeing Tory family, and the apprentice clerk, Peter
PEPPERPONT. They, too, paused to see who had galloped to the
door. There was even a hopeful stirring among the prisoners.
The doors were flung open. A tall, broad shouldered farmer peered in
from the threshold. Behind him, the afternoon sun cast its beam on his
bobbed flaxen hair. His leather breeches were stretched taut by heavy
thighs. Claes stood feet apart, confronting those who stared at him.
* * *
"Where iss der Britisher?"
Tom LACEY pounded his fist upon the table. "Order! I'll stand for no more
interruptions. This is a citizens' court and 'tis entitled to more respect
than any appointed by an English king."
Claes did not understand him fully. Over the heads of the crowd he saw his
friend Private HAWKINS. He started to push his way to him. A carter and
the blacksmith's helper each grabbed one of his arms. He tried to shake
"Order! Order!" Tom LACEY shouted. "Leave the farmer go thru. Then maybe
A way was opened for Claes. The people in their motley finery growled
as he moved by them. A wench whose elfish, dimpled face was crowned
by a mass of raven locks poked his ribs. "Ain't he the dumpling?" she
exclaimed. Harsh laughter answered her.
Claes felt his cheeks burning. He kept going and finally reached Private
HAWKINS. These two friends clapped hands on each other's shoulders.
* * *
"Hang the two of them!" someone shouted.
Once again LACEY pounded the table. He arose to his feet. "Citizens!"
He spoke angrily. "We'll not get anywheres in this fashion. We are here to
try these accused people. All are entitled to a hearing. No one will be
hanged just because it is shouted. Now let us proceed in an orderly
manner. And while I'm speaking, Dominie SCHOONMAKER, I have
listened to your special pleading. You were out of order, sir, but your
thoughts have been noted. Kindly retire from the floor so that Hans
BAUMERJE and his wife Leeka can be given their hearing."
A hush settled over the room. The butcher boy actually was a young man
who had been indentured to pay for his passage from Ireland. He was
known to read books. It was said that he had studied for the priesthood
but had forsaken the seminary to come to America. He was redheaded
and ruddy faced. His quick fists had long since established his leadership
among the town's apprentices and landless riffraff. Again he addressed the
crowd in the Kings Head:
"Hans BAUMERJE has been accused of betraying the soldier, Noah
WILCOX, to the British. You have heard his claim that he knew not that
Noah was in the flour barrel. Who are they witnesses against him?"
* * *
A voice from the crowd shouted. "Let them prove they didn't!"
"No." Justice LACEY shook his head. "The English treated us in that
fashion. A man can spend his life trying to disprove false charges. The
accusation must be proven. Who is there that speaks against the
"I do!" The wench who had poked Claes in the ribs spoke up.
"You tell 'em, Jocelyn!" the crow shouted.
She flounced up to the table. Her gown was red, trimmed with golden
brocade. Much too large for her, the bodice sagged and revealed her
own, coarse, black dress underneath.
But one saw only her saucy, dimpled face. That one was Claes. He
stood at the side of Private HAWKINS. For the moment, he had forgotten
his friend's predicament. He gaped at the wench with the raven locks.
There was a hunger in his eyes.
Joselyn, the raven haired wench, flounced up to the table in the Kings
Tavern where sat the three "justices". The crowd shouted encouragements
at her. The prisoner, Hans BAUMBERJE, shrugged his fat shoulders
hopelessly as he and his wife, Leeka, exchanged glances. Claes, the
farmer boy, who stood beside the British soldier in the prisoners' dock,
could not remove his eyes from the wench. Indeed, Jocelyn, in her stolen
red finery and her dimples so enticing as she laughed, held every man's eye.
* * *
Peter PEPPERPONT swore her in and then asked, "Your name?"
"Jocelyn and well you know it, Peter Pepper!"
For a fleeting moment her smile departed. Then with a saucy shake of
her raven locks, she answered. "Times they call me "Muffin" cause I've
baked so many."
The crowd laughed with her.
Tom LACEY pounded on the table. "What have you to tell us about the
"Plenty! I've been bonded to them these many years."
Justice LACEY frowned. "We only seek to learn about the time when the
British found the soldier Noah WILCOX in the flour barrel. Did the
BAUMBERJES know he was hiding there?"
"Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. Iffen he did, he'd of surely showed 'em
Black HERCULES spoke up for the first time. "You tell us what you
remember, Miss Jocelyn." This giant negro had a gentle smile. His hair
was grey but he held his head high. He wore a frock coat that bound his
great shoulders. Under that was a sackcloth shirt. This covered a back
marked by purple scars. Many a time his flesh had known the lash.
"He was a straggler," Jocelyn recalled. "The army had crossed the river.
He came into the shop and asked for bread. Old Hans blubbered at him.
He chased him out. Iffen I were that Yankee, I'd a used my gun on BAUMBERJE.
"I were about ten. Leeka had took me from the orphanage two weeks before.
Standing behind BAUMBERJE I signalled the soldier to come around to the
back door. I had a loaf for him. We heard the Redcoats in the shop. He
climbed into the flour barrel. As I put on the cover, BAUMBERJE came in
with the Redcoats at his heels.
"Old Hans saw me. Maybe he didn't see the soldier's head. I tried to tell
him but he marched straight to that barrel."
* * *
The three man tribunal whispered together. In the crowd, however, few held
any doubt. Again the cries, "Hang 'em!" and "Quarter the rascals!" rent the
Justice LACEY again questions Jocelyn. "But you can't say for certain?"
Her head turned from side to side. "No, not for certain. But iffen Hans
knew, he'd a done it. Deed he would. Why he put sawdust in the flour,
exceptin when the bread was for the English here at the Kings Head. For
them he used the pure flour.
The crowd growled. Many spat upon the floor as they remembered the rolls
they had eaten that noon. The BAUMERJES, man and wife, could only look
at their feet.
* * *
"What wages did they pay you?" Black Hercules asked.
"Nary one penny," Jocelyn answered.
Again the justices conferred. LACEY announced the verdict: "It has not
been proven that Hans BAUMBERJE knowingly betrayed the soldier to
the British. However, both he and his wife showed favor to the English,
while at the same time they defrauded their countrymen and the girl,
Jocelyn, whom they used as a slavey. We, therefore, direct that they pay
her back wages, fifty pennies for every week. As for their debt to our
community that they shall recompense in the market square. They shall
stand there in the pillory for the next month that all may know their shame."
"Next case!" Peter PEPPERPONT shouted. "We shall listen to the Redcoat."
The more bloodthirsty segment of the mob in the Kings Head growled
at the BAUMBERJE sentence. The others remained silent, for while the
sentence seemed just, it offered little to cheer about. The major charge --
that Hans BAUMBERJE knew the Yankee soldier was hiding in the flour
barrel -- had been dropped. Now an uneasy moment, a restless quiet,
threatened the authority of Tom LACEY and his two associates.
Hans, himself, broke the quiet. "Mine Gott!" He exclaimed. "Nigh unto
two hundred dollars I got to hand the wench. I am flattened!"
This tickled the crowd. BAUMBERJE had been doing some mental arithmetic.
The blubbery baker was more alarmed about paying Jocelyn back wages than
about standing in the market place with his neck shackled in the pillory.
One or two laughed. Then others joined in. Soon the Kings Head rocked
"What a pig!" shouted the blacksmith's helper.
Heads nodded in agreement. Somehow this spell of merriment made the
sentence more acceptable. As the BAUMERJES were led away, the
ladies of the assembly spat at them. A tot aimed a kick at Hans. Missing,
he landed on his own bottom. More laughter.
"Bring on the redcoat!"
* * *
As Private HAWKINS was escorted to table of judgment, Jocelyn swished
back into the crowd. She showed her scorn of him with a curl of her pretty
lips. But her eyes measured the young cockney with a lively interest. As for
Claes, Jocelyn gave her hips an extra swerve when she passed him. Her red
and gold gown truly swished.
Private HAWKINS was a redcoat in name only. Actually he wore a cut-down
sheepskin that Claes had given him. He strode erectly to the table, eyes
unflinching. He scarcely topped Jocelyn in height. His cheeks were sunken;
his upper lip was lined by a downy, pale brown, mustache; his chin jutted.
* * *
"Your name?" Peter PEPPERPONT demanded.
"HAWKINS, Cecil HAWKINS."
"In what army?"
The crowd rumbled. "He admits it! What're we waiting for?" a lusty voice
asked. "String him up!" another shouted. Many "ayes" responded to this
Tom LACEY pounded the table. "Let's hear the man out!"
"You're growing soft, Tom!"
"My fist is harder than your chin, Davey BELL."
* * *
Peter PEPPERPONT picked up the questioning during the hush that followed.
"His majesty's army has picked up its skirts and headed back to his majesty.
What are you doing here?"
"I hid out and stayed behind."
"Who asked ye?" a voice from the crowd wanted to know.
"For seven years you and the likes of you in his majesty's army have been
robbing and murdering our people," Peter PEPPERPONT stated. "Finally
we drive your army from our shores, but you stay behind. Is there any
reason we should deal softly with you?"
"Tweren't my army. I was just a soldier. I took my orders like any other
And when you were told to load your musket and shoot down Americans,
what did you do?"
"What I was told."
* * *
Five or six of the more stalwart men in the mob had surged to the front.
Now the cry, "String him up!" came from all corners. These men pushed
forward and seized Cecil HAWKINS.
The Dominie Martinus SCHOONMAKER was the first to go to his rescue.
Then Claes reached his side and began pulling off Private HAWKINS' captors.
"Stop! I would speak for him! " Claes was shouting.
But the tide of mob was overwhelming these two. They along with the
Britisher were being swept from the Kings Head. Suddenly help came from
an unexpected quarter. The giant negro, Black HERCULES, began plucking
off the men around HAWKINS. Tom LACEY joined in, too, with swinging fists.
Black HERCULES was a match for ten men. Without malice, this giant
negro extended his arms and gathered in those leading the attack on
Private HAWKINS. But there were too many. The weight of the mob
itself, threatened to crush the handful protecting the redcoat. Tom
LACEY, backing up HERCULES with timely blows at those who got
around him, shouted to the others, "Go that way!" He pointed to a
doorway in back of them.
Claes and HAWKINS and Dominie SCHOONMAKER backed into the narrow
opening. LACEY and HERCULES followed after them. They were in the
passageway leading to the Kings Head's kitchen. HERCULES made a stand
at the doorway, holding off the mob. LACEY hustled the others thru to the
"Bring that chopping block over here!" he yelled to Claes.
A heavy oak door opened into the kitchen, but it was without bolt or bar.
Claes and the Dominie lugged the heavy block to the side of the doorway.
"Here," LACEY shouted into the passageway. "Come on!"
* * *
At that moment HERCULES was holding off the blacksmith's helper and
Davey BELL -- one with each hand. He gave a mighty push, sending
these two husky young fellows back into the mob in the Tavern's ballroom.
Gaining a second's head start, he ran for the kitchen. LACEY slammed the
door in the face of the pursuers. Claes turned over the chopping block --
to hold it shut.
Black HERCULES sat himself down on the chopping block. He was puffing.
"O me!" He laughed. "More than I've done in many a moon.."
"They'll be coming around back." Tom LACEY pointed out. "Come on. Here!"
He led them out the back door. They emerged into a muddy alley. LACEY
sprinted ahead. To one side, a wooden warehouse backed onto the alley;
on the other side, the two brick buildings in which Madame ELMZ had housed
Catrina and the other girls. LACEY turned the corner around the second
* * *
The Domonie was the last to get there. In fact, behind him, the crowd was
storming the kitchen door of the Kings Head. Had any looked the other way,
they would have seen him. Furthermore he could run no more, he was that
LACEY saw the condition Martinus SCHOONMAKER was in. He looked
around hoping to think of a place they could hide. In a few seconds the
mob would be after them. Main Street was before them. Its shops all
shut fast. The sound of running feet on the planked sidewalk put an end
to his thinking. Now for sure, the jig was up!
It was Jocelyn! Holding the red gown as high as her knees, she came
running to them.
"I thought so!" said she. Quick now! They'll be here in a jiffy."
She pulled a huge key from the pocket of her own black dress beneath the
red gown. She fitted it into the door of the nearest shop . . the
BAUMBERJE's bake shop. She had to turn it twice, using both hands,
before the door opened.
The five men crowded into the shop behind her. She pointed to the draped
door in the back of the counter. One by one, they ducked thru it. With two
more turns of the key, Jocelyn locked the door and was gone.
Behind the draped door, a ladder led to a low beamed attic. Black HERCULES
could stand erect only in the very center. Light entered from two small
windows, one front, one back. A bunk with a straw filled mattress was
beneath the front window. LACEY knelt on it to look down on the street.
"I see the wench!" he announced. She's sending them on a wild good chase"
The Domonie found a small empty keg on which to sit. HERCULES sat on
the floor, hugging his knees. Claes and Private HAWKINS followed his
LACEY sat on the bunk. Looking at Claes, he said, "You wanted to speak
for the Britisher. What have you to say now?"
Copyright, 1956, by John Marron Jones
Transcribed for the Brooklyn Page by Carol Granville
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