C R E E D M O O R
Harper’s Weekly, 22 September 1877
Creedmoor – Bird’s Eye View of the Crowds
The Story of Creedmoor
by David Minshall
"At the close of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, the American rifle movement
took its rise in a series of articles, written for the only military paper of the
country, by a militia officer. They appeared in the "Army and Navy Journal," and
were written by Mr. George W. WINGATE, a young lawyer of New York City. The history
of the movement from the time when WINGATE first published his articles to the time of
the triumphs of Creedmoor and Dollymount is one of persistent effort against universal
apathy. The only class that encouraged the attempt at first was the citizen soldiery
of a single city, and even their support was by no means general. The first meeting
for the formation of a rifle club was abortive, from the lack of sufficient numbers
to constitute a legal quorum, and it was only on a second attempt that the club was
formed. The first President of the "National Rifle Association," as it was called, was
General Ambrose E. BURNSIDE, who made a very good figure-head, but under whose leadership
nothing was accomplished. It was not till the second year of its existence that any real
progress was made. Then, by the efforts of the new President, Colonel CHURCH of the
"Army and Navy Journal," and the Secretary, Mr. George W. WINGATE, the New York Legislature
of 1872 was induced to appropriate $25,000 for the purchase of a range near New York city,
the Association agreeing to raise $5,000 on its part."
[The Story of Creedmoor, Frederick WHITTAKER, 1876]
( The National Rifle Association (NRA) was formed in 1871. The first year of the NRA
existence passed by quietly. Real progress began in 1872 when, under President William
Church and Secretary George WINGATE, the New York Legislature was induced to appropriate
$25,000 for the purchase of a range near New York City, the Association agreeing to
raise $5,000 on its part.
After a protracted search for a suitable piece of land at a reasonable price, the
NRA was able to purchase a plot owned by the Central and North Side Railroad of
Long Island. Seeing that the Association's plans were likely to stimulate rail travel,
the railroad company had agreed to sell the seventy acre plot at low cost. This
farmland had formerly been owned by the Creed family.
The gentleman credited with naming the new range was Colonel Henry SHAW, a member
of the range committee of the NRA. On arriving at Creed's Farm and observing the open,
desolate field, with coarse scanty grass and brambles he declared it a veritable moor,
Creed's Moor. Hence by a happy inspiration and coincidence "Creedmoor" became the name
of the new range. )
Much effort went in to the search for a suitable site for the new range in the vicinity
of New York to no avail. Finally the search turned to the plains of Long Island. Here the
NRA bought a 70 acre site, at one time owned by a farmer named Creed. Colonel Henry G. SHAW,
a member of the NRA range committee, is credited with coining the word "Creed-moor" having
observed the similarities of the site with the moorland of Great Britain.
Creedmoor was opened in the spring of 1873 and was almost exclusively used by National
Guardsmen, with shooting mostly at short range.
It was essentially used as a training ground for the NY Natioanl Guard, however a few
individuals formed the Amateur Rifle Club of New York purely for the purpose of recreational
target shooting. The public interest in Creedmoor was slight, and the shooting poor when
compared with that of the Volunteers in Great Britain. Contests and rifles there during
1873 were almost exclusively military, confined to members of the militia or men shooting
with their rifles. The few "any rifle" competitions were offhand at 200 yards. The first season,
however, witnessed the formation of a small club of enthusiasts, an offshoot of the parent
association. George W. WINGATE, with a few others, organized the "Amateur Club" of
New York City. This club was designed to cultivate the use of the sporting rifle, and to
develop marksmanship as an amusement, with no ulterior military purpose. This being the case,
the Amateur Club speedily became a thriving institution, and many men joined it who would
never have been caught in a militia regiment.
A challenge addressed to American riflemen in the winter of 1873 resulted in a match that
brought the American rifle movement to the attention of the public. Since 1862 England and
Scotland had been competing at Wimbledon for the Elcho Shield, the match comprising teams
of eight, each man firing fifteen shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. In 1865 Ireland was
first permitted to enter the match, and in 1873 took the Elcho Shield for the first time.
Elated with their success, the Irish marksmen, issued a challenge to American riflemen to
decide the 'championship of the world.' The Irish would all use Rigby muzzle-loaders and
the Americans be required to use arms of US manufacture. The Amateur Club on behalf of the
riflemen of America accepted this challenge.
In 1873 Ireland beat, for the first time, England and Scotland in a
'home countries international match' for the Elcho Shield. Flushed with success they
challenged the riflemen of America to competition. The Amateur Rifle Club accepted the
challenge and the match took place at Creedmoor in 1874 before an audience of 5,000
spectators. Shooting was at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. America won. There was a return
match in Ireland in 1875 (again won by the US) and 30,000 spectators turned up!!
Some reports say even more....
As part of the Centennial Celebrations of 1876 an international competition took
place at Creedmoor. America beat Australia, Canada, Ireland and Scotland. In 1877 America
beat a Great Britain team at Creedmoor. This was the last of the short series of international
target rifle matches held at Creedmoor. The teams of eight fired 15 shots each at each
distance 800, 900 and 1000 yards on two consecutive days (13 & 14 September).
The winning America team was:
Gen. T.S. DAKIN,
Capt. W.H. JACKSON,
Maj. H.S. JEWELL & Dr. S.I. SCOTT.
An American team came to Ireland in 1880, where they again won, but an unofficial
team then going on to Wimbledon, England, were badly beaten. In 1882, at Creedmoor, and 1883,
at Wimbledon, were two military rifle matches. Both of these were won by Great Britain.
Despite the invitation for riflemen to contest for places in the American team being
published in daily papers over the United States, response was scanty. In the end it became
clear that the Amateur Club would have to fight single-handed. The final team of six, three
using Remington and three using Sharps breechloaders began to practice in earnest. They
monitored their progress by calculating average scores for the Elcho Shield winners, and
comparing their own.
The eventful day arrived, and on 26 September 1874 Creedmoor witnessed a crowd of over five
thousand people all come to see the grand match. At 800 yards the Americans had a good lead.
The Irish gained on them at 900 yards, and by the time they had finished shooting at 1000
yards were ahead of the Americans. In the end the match was to be determined by the very
last shot fired by the Americans. Shooting a bull's eye at 1000 yards to score 4, the Americans
emerged the winners on 934 points to the Irish team's 931.
This match was the forerunner the Palma Match and a series of international competitions
held through the 1870's and 1880's. Public interest eventually waned and the matches went
into decline, until in 1890 Creedmoor was deeded back to the state of New York and the NRA
became dormant. Activities were not revived again until 1900, and in 1901 the Palma Trophy
was again shot for. The event continues to this day.
Creedmoor range remained in use until the opening years of the 20th Century, with shooting
ceasing c1910. In 1908 Creedmoor State Hospital acquired the site, and in 1912 opened the Farm
Colony of Brooklyn State Hospital with thirty-two patients. Today it is the site of the
Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.
E Mail Contact:
Please contact David Minshall at email@example.com
If you can add to the story of the events or riflemen who competed at Creedmoor, contact:
For David's website:
Creedmoor and the International Matches - www.researchpress.co.uk/targets/creedmoor/index.htm
Long Range Muzzle Loader - www.lrml.org
( Note: Creedmore Range Hotel 1877.
the proprietor was Capt. John KLEIN. In 1877 an international match was held.
One range was the 1000 yard range, in which contestants laid on the ground
to shoot. John KLEIN was killed on July 9 1879 when his carriage was
upset. His wife carried on til the range was closed.
Source: "Old Queens, NY in early photographs "
by: Vincent F Seyfried and William Asadorian
Published by Dover books 1991 )
For Long Island historical interest, the following site:
Long Island Railroad Website..Creedmoor Station
may be of interest, filled with history of the Rail Road, Towns & Photos.
Photos courtesy of : On line MUSEUM of the THE LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD
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