September 2010 Archives

Anne Young, Curator for the Historical Society, wrote to me this week about actor Tony Curtis, who passed away this week.  I thought you'd be interested in this!


"By showbiz standards, the wedding seemed refreshingly real. The best man (comedian Jerry Lewis) arrived an hour late; a small-town judge officiated; the bride and groom even used their real names on the license when Bernard Schwartz, 26, and Jeanette Morrison Reames, 23 -- a.k.a. Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh -- took their vows (she for the third time, he for the first) at a spur-of-the-moment ceremony on June 4, 1951, in Greenwich, Conn. The marriage was front-page news with Janet Leigh pronouncing Greenwich as "such a romantic spot". The couple's nuptials took place at the Pickwick Arms Hotel, fondly remembered by many of the town's citizens. Originally located at the top of Greenwich Avenue (where today's Pickwick Plaza now stands), the hotel opened in 1920. Fifty years later, the hotel closed its doors and was demolished in 1972."

Thank you, Anne!


                                             DOT - Federal Highway Dept.                  

Before Interstate 95 was built, to travel to Providence or Boston, one would take U.S. Route 1 - better known as The Boston Post Road. If you look at a map of the United States before the mid-1950s, you could see Route 1 stretching from Maine to Florida. It was President Eisenhower who created the Interstate Highway System for military forces so they could get quickly from part of the country to another in case of a national emergency. This is a far cry from the first dirt roads that connected New England states. For the first 100 years after the settlement of Greenwich, most travel was by foot or horse. And people didn't travel great distances, either. Even state representatives rode horses or sailed to Hartford for the General Assembly meetings. At that time in history, Connecticut was more concerned with what was going on to the east (New Haven, Hartford, Boston) than with what was going on in New York City. This, of course, would change as the city became more of a cultural and business center.

In 1672, the General Assembly established a "pony express" of sorts to bring letters and other official documents to the Capitol. Officials even created a schedule of prices that people would pay to have this "mail" delivered. Unfortunately, the riders would run up large bills at the taverns along the way, and delivery was delayed!

The first "postal service" between New York and Boston was established in January 1673. A rider would leave NYC on the first of the month and arrive in Boston in the middle of the month. The very first riders were instructed to ask Governor Winthrop in Hartford about the best direction for travel and the best places to leave letters. They were also expected to mark trees for travellers and establish houses as stopping places for food and lodging. The messenger was instructed to let people accompany him, and he was expected to help them in anyway he could.


On this end of the route, the rider followed the "Old Indian Trail" from "the great stone in the Byram River" to the Mianus River (Dumpling Pond) to Stamford (over Palmer Hill Rd.) and beyond. Over time, the name of this "road" was called The Westchester Path, Country Road, King's Highway, the Post Road and Turnpike Road. Today we know it as East and West Putnam Avenue, Route 1 and the Post Road.

In 1772, a stageline was established between New York and Boston. This meant there was another way to send correspondence across the land. Even so, the Boston Post Road remained, and still remains, an important transportation route today.


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A few years ago, I was surprised when someone asked me about the sundial and time capsule in Bruce Park. I decided to research this in the Greenwich Time. When I looked up "time capsule" in the newspaper index, I was surpised to find out that there were actually several around town! The one I knew about is located in Bruce Park. I was surprised to find out there is one in Binney Park, one at Hamilton Avenue School, and one at Albertson Spiritual Church in Old Greenwich. A Fronio family also allowed some Girl Scouts to bury a time capsule on their property.

The first time capsule I read about was installed in Binney Park, and was commemorated on November 11, 1990.  It was the brainchild of Yumi and R. Jackson Smith. The 350th Town Anniversary Committee had commissioned it's construction. The project to build the capsule was called "Timecap 90". Five-thousand-dollars was donated by the Committee, and twenty-five-thousand had to be raised from public funds. Union Trust acted as an agent to collect $5 donations. Anyone who donated would be put on a list to be placed in the capsule. In return, donators would get a pin that read "I'm in Timecap 90". The Smith's consulted with experts at the Smithsonian and National Archives to determine the best design for the capsule. The final design was a 3' x 6' concrete cylinder that was lined with tar for weatherproofing. Acid proof paper was used and items were placed in rubbermaid containers. No metal was allowed due to the danger of rust.  Since the Committee hoped donators would be around in 2040, the schools were surveyed to see who should be allowed to donate items. Town personalities were also asked to write on art, fashion, fads, finance, sports, society, international and national events. Children chosen represented the Scouts, dance, hockey, cooking, academics, and football. Local celebrities Ivan Lendl, Tim Teufel, Tom Seaver and George Bush donated items. A 350th Anniversary flag was included. Books written by Helen Binchy Kitchell were added. The 1-ton cap was sealed at 3 pm on November 11, 1990. The time capsule in Binney Park is located southeast of the flagpole near the corner of Wesskum Wood Road.



Perhaps the least-known time capsule is that one associated with Bruce Park. At the request of the Town Millenium Committee, a sundial and time capsule were installed in November 1999. This time a metal time capsule sealed with silicon was buried near the base of the "gnomon",or sundial needle, which contains letters, pictures, trinkets, coins, baseball cards, and American Indian arrowheads. Students from Greenwich Country Day and Hamilton  Avenue School were asked to suggest and donate items to be included in the capsule.  A concrete cap was placed over the capsule. The sundial is a Stonehenge-like structure that has a long needle buried 6 feet in the ground at an angle of 41.5-degrees.  Its highest point is 19-feet above the ground. There are 15 granite tablets, representing 15 hours - which is the maximum number of hours of sunlight on the longest day of the year. Stone sculptor Mark Mennin spent 6-months carving the stones! It's parallel with the earth's axis, and points directly at the North Pole. The sundial, which cost $160,000,symbolizes Greenwich's affiliation with Greenwich,England, which is home of Greenwich Mean Time - the basis of Standard Time. It also represents Connecticut as a timepiece manufacturing leader.



A large cement "box" near the road has a plaque on top, which explains how to use the sundial, and where the time capsule is located - as well as when it is to be opened (in 1,000 years).

In November 1995, the Albertson Memorial Church in Old Greenwich opened a time capsule that had been planted in a building cornerstone on October 5, 1894. It was opened after a hundred years, only to yield a pile of ash! Reportedly coins, postage stamps, socks, hymn books, a Bible and an invitation and program for the "burial" ceremony were included in the box. Only part of a 3-inch horseshoe survived. The ash and horseshoe were given to the Historical Society for safe keeping. Coinciding with the opening of the new Cos Cob Library was the burying of a time capsule inside the building. On November 6, 1999, a time capsule containing written letters from Cos Cob School and Central Middle School was sealed in one of the library rooms. A $2500 grant was received from American Express for the project. The capsule will be opened in 2030 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Cos Cob Library. From that point on, the capsule will be "generational" - opened every 30 years.

On a smaller level, a time capsule buried by 12 girl scouts was buried on the Fronio property in Cos Cob in June of 1997, and was scheduled to be opened 9-years later. The capsule was a flower-covered box, wrapped in plastic. Inside was a minature straw hat, a red handkerchief, pictures,and letters. The purpose of the time capsule was to force a reunion of sorts in hopes that the girls would stay connected over the years.

Finally, during the re-construction of Hamilton Avenue School, it was rumoured that a time capsule had been sealed in the doorway of the school in 1938. Despite care taken by construction workers and several volunteers searching for the capsule, no such object was found. Dominic Christiano, a brick layer/mason, told his daughters several years ago that he had been instructed to leave a granite panel unsealed until the school had a ceremony to seal the capsule. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been found!!


Photos by Carl White

Strickland Plains0001.jpg   In a previous blog on Laddin's Rock, mention was made of the Cos Cob Massacre. I was surprised that many Greenwich residents were unaware of this event, and decided it would be a good topic for this week's blog.

Everyone is familiar with the story of how Captain Daniel Patrick, Robert Feaks and Elizabeth Feaks bought land in Sound Beach (Old Greenwich) from the Indians (Native-Americans) for 25 coats in 1640. ( Eleven were actually delivered at the time of signing. I couldn't find any proof that the other coats were ever delivered!) This sounds very much like the transaction for Manhattan Island.

     There were four tribes that inhabited southern Greenwich: Miossehassaky (central Greenwich), Petuquapaen (Siwanoy, Cos Cob), Asamuck and Patomuck (Sound Beach). They were used to fishing in the Sound and growing crops on the land. When the settlement began to increase in size, the Native-Americans began to feel "the squeeze" from expansion. They didn't have as much room or freedom as they used to. A new Governor in New Amsterdam (New York) - Governor William Kieft - mistreated the Native-Americans. This added another element of aggravation. The Dutch added fuel to the fire. They had settled New Amsterdam to the west of Greenwich in New York. The English were established in Connecticut and were rivals. The primary cause of friction between the settlers and Indians was that the Dutch were dishonest, cruel and revengeful.  These Dutch fed "firewater" to the Native-Americans and incited the natives against the English! This resulted in many incidents between the settlers and the Native-Americans. There were many cases of Traders cheating Indians out of their goods. The Indians retaliated by killing the first settlers they set eyes on and vice versa.

In a strange turn of fate, the Dutch and English eventually joined forces to fight the Indians.  It was estimated that 300 to 500 Petuquapaen Indians lived on Strickland Plains on a piece of land which was located west of the Strickland Brook in Cos Cob, near Central Middle School. The number grew to over 1,000 as the Dutch pushed several tribes out of New Amsterdam. After the Laddin's Rock incident, Captain Daniel Patrick sought assistance from Governot Kieft of New Amsterdam.

The Governor decided to eradicate the Indians completely. In 1642, Governor Kieft assigned the militasry to seek out the Indians on the east banks of the Hudson and in Cos Cob (Petuquapaen). Since the expeditions were held up for one reason or another, one expedition failed and one was delayed. Governor Kieft assigned Ensign Van Dyck to seek out the Indian Village in Cos Cob.The expedition stopped at nightfall and the next day, the Ensign couldn't find any Indians. He returned to new Amsterdam, deflated.

In 1643, some Mohawk Indians attacked the Hudson tribes. The warriors were killed and survivors were scattered among the Dutch in New Amsterdam. Dutch soldiers massacred 100 plus Native-Americans. They finally realized the Mohawks were behind the recent atrocities.

Meanwhile, 1500 warriors from Long Island to Manhattan to the Hudson to Stamford began gathering. In two famous incidents, Ann Hutchinson was taken by surprise and massacred by previously friendly Indians; and Sachem Mayn Mayano was killed by Captain Daniel Patrick.

In 1643, a combined force of Dutch and Englsh soldiers (120 men) under General La Matagne landed in 3 boats in Sound Beach. Despite marching all night, the task force was not able to locate the Indians. It was thought that Captain Patrick had either given them wrong directions or tipped off the Indians. When confronted, Captain Patrick spit in a Dutchman's face and was shot in the head. He died. The Dutchman was tried, but never convicted

Settlers from Stamford offered assistance. Four scouts came back and reported the location of the Indian settlement in Cos Cob. Twenty troops were dispatched, but only killed 18 - 20 "savages". An old Indian who had been captured, promised to lead them to the main village. More than 65 men travelled to a location about 8 or 9 miles away, but only found an empty village. They returned to Stamford.

About this time, General Kieft found out that a Sachem had told the local tribes to wait for things to die down, distribute themselves evenly amongst the settlers and wait for an opportune time to slaughter and kill everyone! This hardened General Kieft even more. He ordered Capt John Underhill of Stamford to join General LaMontagne and eradicate the Indians. On Long Island, 1230 Indians were killed. Captain Underhill ordered a reconnaisance of Cos Cob, which indicated 500 Indians were at Petuquapaen.

In February 1644, Capt. Underhill left Fort Amsterdam and arrived in Sound Beach (Old Greenwich). Since there was a snowstorm, he ordered his troops to stay the night. The next day he hiked his 130 men across rocky terrain and through two rivers, and arrived at Petuquapaen at 8 pm. He did not want to attack right away because it was not dark. Underhill ordered the attack in moonlight at 10 pm. The Native-Americans stayed in their huts, firing arrows through the windows. Capt Underhill ordered the huts to be burned. The Indians tried to escape, but only about 8 were successful. Rather than be killed by the combined force of Dutch and English, the Indians jumped back into their burning huts. They would rather burn than be tortured by Underhill's forces. It's reported that they never uttered a sound or screamed.

Later, the Indians would claim that 500 Indians were killed. Others said it was more like 700. It was reported that those killed were buried in a huge mound on the east side of the road. Some time later, the mound was leveled.

The soldiers returned to Stamford and then to Fort Amsterdam. A Thanksgiving was observed because the Siwanoys were exterminated.

SOURCEYe Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich; Mead, S.; Knickerbocker Press, NY: 1913


Covert Operation

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Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837. He was the son of a poor Presbyterian Minister. After an early career as a lawyer, he was elected our 22nd and 24th President. Cleveland was the only President to leave the White House and return for a second term four years later. He was also the first President to be married in the White House. And he was the only president to ever undergo life-saving surgery on Commodore E.C. Benedict's yacht - the Oneida! 



Legend has it that E.C. Benedict met President Cleveland in 1888 at Buzzards' Bay, Cape Cod. Benedict went to pick up his daughter at a social event at a yacht club. His daughter had met Mrs. Cleveland, and offered to take her on a boatride. Upon meeting the President, Benedict discovered they had a lot in common. They had similar backgrounds, and both loved to fish. This was the start of a great friendship. They spent a lot of time together, sailing to different locations on Benedict's yacht.  Cleveland moved to New York City after his defeat in 1889, and moved into a house next to a house rented by Benedict.  A secret passageway was built from one house to the other so they could share time and talk.

In June 1893, President Cleveland was diagnosed with a malignant cancer of the upper pallette. Since the U.S. economy was in a bit of a downspin, President Cleveland wanted to keep news of his surgery quiet. It was decided that the operation would be performed on the Oneida so as not to draw attention. No one would suspect the two going out as usual. The main bar was converted to an emergency operating room. A barber's chair lashed to the mast became a makeshift operating table. Several dentists and doctors were secreted aboard.

The boat sailed up the East River of New York so as not to draw attention. President Cleveland was given "laughing gas" as an alternative to ether. (Doctors were afraid President Cleveland would not wake up due to his physical condition.)  On July 2, 1893, two doctors had to remove an entire section from the roof of the mouth. The hole was cleansed, packed with ice and stuffed with gauze.  The next day, the President was up and about.  Cleveland  grabbed a peach and started chewing on it, much to the chagrin of his doctors.  Despite the press hounding the doctors, they were able to convince reporters that Cleveland had simply had several teeth extracted.

One of his doctors was not happy with the President's healing.  On July 17, the President once again boarded the Oneida.  Commodore Benedict sailed with his famous guest to Newport, RI.  The Oneida was spotted behind Goat Island.  Here his doctor performed additional surgery.  No one ever knew about the second surgery!  The public just thought Cleveland was enjoying an extended holiday.

In 1917, the second operation was revealed by Dr. William Keen in The Saturday Evening Post.  On September 5, a report was released and reported in The World, which contained many intentional errors to kill the story.  The Commodore even stated that there was much ado about nothing since it was just a case of tooth extraction.  The story quickly died a quiet death. 


 Photo Courtesy of the Naval Historical Center 


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