Redcoat Terrorism and Commuting Via Horse-and-Buggy: A Brief History of Hawthorne

The Missus picked up an interesting treat at the library late last week. (Paying what we do in taxes, we try to get our money’s worth by taking dozens of books out of the library each day and creating as much garbage as possible for the pick-up guys.)

It’s Mount Pleasant: The History of a New York Suburb and its People. Written by Philip F. Horne, the book is a wispy 57 pages, type-written, with a strip of tape holding the binding together. Horne says he wrote it as a sophomore in college, publishing it in 1971.

The writing is a bit clunky, but the kid did ample research–poring through old history documents and even finding a few old-timer primary sources.

The railroad plays something of a starring role in the book, as the rail link to the city truly changed the lifestyle in the area, and helped the farms give way to suburban tracts.

Horne does give a glimpse at the earliest days of city commuting as the 1800s began.

The farmer could also drive his own wagon to New York, leaving at midnight to arrive early in the morning. He backed his wagon up to the sidewalk and led the horses to a livery stable for the day. In addition to produce the farmer would sell any fancy work his wife had sent along. Later in the day, purchases were made for the family; for special goods, this was their only opportunity to buy, except from peddlers.

Hawthorne was known as Unionville, presumably for the residents’ allegiance to the British Crown (the Union) despite our kicking their ass in the Revolutionary War. The people were primarly Dutch Reformed.

And long before Gordo’s there was John Brett’s tavern at 347 Bradhurst–around where Bradhurst hits Broadway, near where the Citgo station blew up and the entrance to the Taconic/Bronx River Parkway is.

The tavern was the site of some bloodshed during the Revolutionary War. Two Yank soldiers popped in for a potable after their honorable discharges. A British soldier shot up the front window, then went in and offed the two soldiers with his sword.

The first glimpse of Mt. Pleasant-as-suburb came in 1835, when Manhattan resident Joseph Miller bought the Zephaniah Birdsall homestead, whose manor house stood as 230 West Lake Drive. Miller claimed New York City was no place to raise kids.

I’ll be excerpting from Mount Pleasant all week.

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