The "Out Plantations" were incorporated into the Town of
Newtown. The earliest land grants, starting from the first settlement at Maspeth
in 1643, were a crazy patchwork of conflicting titles for small farms and large
estates. These claims ran up both the Dutch Kills and the East River, and
extended over to Bowery Bay. Under British rule, in an effort to standardize the
colony's government, all property claims were resurveyed and recorded. A new
system of counties and townships are set up. All lands north of Newtown Creek and
west of Flushing Meadows became part of Newtown Township. The 'old town', Maspeth,
disappeared after 60 years.
January 24, 1708
William Hallet III, his wife and five children were murdered by his slaves, a black man and his Indian wife. The two were arrested and executed at Beaver Pond in Jamaica, the man by hanging and the woman by burning. This was the first recorded capital crime in Queens County. The location of their farm, at Newtown Road and 43rd Street for years was regarded as a sinister place best shunned at night. They were buried at the Hallet family cemetery near today’s Goodwill Park in Old Astoria Village.
November 20, 1713
Captain Richard Betts of Maspeth Kills is buried in
a grave he dug many years before. Betts, aged 100, was the last surviving settler
who founded Newtown Township in 1652.
May 20, 1721
one of the first schools in Queens opens in Middletown, a still
surviving hamlet of very old homes on what is today Newtown Road and 46th Street.
British and Hessian soldiers during the American Revolution undoubtedly marched
by it. A generation later, some schoolboys found $840 in gold coins in its walls.
The hoard was hidden by the schoolmaster during the Revolution. About 1850,
it was sold and became a kitchen attached a local dwelling. Pinpointed through
old maps, we are able to confirm that an old house stands on that spot today.
Does the old school house still exist after 282 years?
Between the hours of 11 PM and midnight, two small earthquakes rattle
An extreme drought makes pastures unable to support livestock in Queens.
Desperate farmers feed cattle the first hay crop. But doing so, only postpones
disaster. It is now inevitable that their herds will starve in the coming winter.
Slaves in New York were suspected of plotting to set fire to the city.
Many were executed. Although a number in Queens County were arrested, all were
freed when their owners vouched for their character.
A devastating hurricane sweeps through the Hell Gate and storms across
Queens leaving a 15 mile path of destruction.
July 12, 1771
Dow Ditmars, Astoria’s most famous doctor, was born. After graduating from Princeton, he took up medicine and practiced in South America for a while. He moved to Astoria in 1816 and established a medical practice that continued until his 90th year. The good doctor died in 1860 at his home on Shore Road and Ditmars Boulevard.
June 18, 1773
A minor earthquake struck the New York City area. Several faults cross the city. One of the most well-known is the Manhatanville fault which runs diagonally along 125th Street in Manhattan to Crescent Street and 35th Avenue in Long Island City. Inability to find bedrock due to the Harlem River fault caused the builders of the Hell Gate Bridge to have to construct a small “bridge” over the defect in order to anchor the Wards Island pier of the bridge. It goes on to define the course of the Harlem River.
April 3, 1775
A group of "Freeholders of Newtown" led by Col Jacob Blackwell
signed a public petition asking that Queens County send delegates to the Continental
Convention. As every other town in Queens was against this appeal, Queens County was
given observer status, but not a vote, at the conference.
November 7, 1775
A vote was taken in Jamaica on the issue of active opposition to the Crown and the Patriot cause. It was voted down three to one. In January, a band of 600 militia, sent by Congress, arrived in Queens County to disarm the Loyalists, so they could not interfere with others who wanted to defend liberty.
May 12, 1776
The Jamaica committee to execute the resolutions passed by the Continental and Provincial Congress passed a resolution stating that “no person be permitted to move into this township from the date hereof, unless he produces a certificate from the committee where he resided, that he has in all things behaved as a friend to the cause of American freedom. And whereas, sundry persons, in passing and repassing through this town have given just cause of suspicion that they are employed in aiding and assisting the unnatural enemies of America: Therefore, Resolved and Ordered, that all such persons passing through this township be taken up for examination.”
After the disastrous Battle of Long Island, the British Army marches
into and occupies Queens. They stay until war's end.
August 28, 1776
A British regiment near Carpenter’s Tavern in Hollis captured American general Nathaniel Woodhull. When he refused to say “God save the King!” Woodhall was slashed on the head by a British officer and bayoneted through the arm. He was sent to a British prison ship in Wallabout Bay, where he later died of his wounds. Estimates of deaths on those prison ships range as high as 11,000. If so, this would be more than half of all American casualties during that war.
The British army, on its way to repel an anticipated American attack at Hell Gate, marched from Brooklyn through Astoria. But there was no enemy at Hell Gate, so British General Robertson requisitioned the house and farm (located at present day 30th Avenue and Steinway Street) of William Lawrence, where the army camped for two weeks. After Robertson's departure British Generals Clark and Heister arrived with their troops, to camp at Lawrence's farm for another three weeks, before finally leaving him in peace.
November 16, 1777
Three men died in the Hell Gate while attempting to navigate
the tidal strait. Crossing from Horn's Hook (Gracie Point in Manhattan) to Hallett's
Cove, just south of the Old Astoria peninsula in Queens, the boatmen met their
match in the swirling currents, eddies, and whirlpools that were Hell Gate.
November 25, 1780
The HMS Hussar, a British frigate supposedly carrying gold and silver
to pay British troops, struck Pot Rock in Hell Gate, took on water, and sank just off the
Bronx coast near North Brother Island. This sinking, at the height of the American Revolution,
was not suspicious at the time since the British controlled all of the seas in and around
New York for the duration of the war, 1776-1783.Over time the sea floor and channel
have been blasted and dredged into submission. While most likely on the river's murky bottom,
the Hussar's exact whereabouts are unknown.
May 1782 saw the inauguration of the first regular ferry service between Horne's
Hook (today, 86th Street) Manhattan and Hallett's Cove, in Queens. It was the
second oldest ferry to Long Island after the one at Brooklyn. A large bell swung
between two uprights on either shore. Passengers wishing to cross, and finding the
boat on the other side of the river, rang the bell. On the opposite side, the
captain would ring the other bell assuring the waiting passengers that the boat
would be over right away. If the tide was strong, it required an hour and a half
December 8, 1783
Jamaica was finally free of the last British soldiers.
Two weeks after Evacuation Day (Nov. 25), Long Island's seven-year Revolutionary
War occupation was over. A large patriotic rally followed the Redcoats' departure
from Jamaica and smaller rallies were held in Dutch Kills and Astoria. The American
Revolution was won.
The first Town officers of Newtown were elected under independence. They and all political officials in Queens at that time had to deal with the aftermath of the British occupation including dilapidated farm buildings, burned fences and woodlands destroyed by the foraging army.
March 31, 1785
The state legislature selected a site for a new Queens County courthouse at the geographical center of Queens (on Jericho Turnpike east of Nassau Boulevard). The building was dedicated in 1789. “The entry of the court-house is lined on court days with the stalls of dram sellers and filled with drunken people,” a lawyer wrote shortly after it opened. Prisoners would routinely sneak away from hallways or kick their way out of cells. Efforts to replace the courthouse after the Civil War created a split in Queens County when the Board of Supervisors voted to move it to Long Island City. The split became permanent when the western townships (Jamaica, Newtown, Flushing, and Long Island City) voted to become part of New York City in 1898. The eastern townships, Oyster Bay, Hempstead, and North Hempstead voted to create Nassau County. Ironically, separate fires destroyed both the old and new courthouses in 1905.
Rufus King signs the United States Constitution. After moving to New
York and taking up residence in Jamaica, he embarks in a brilliant career in
politics and diplomacy.
October 10, 1789
Sailing up the East River to Flushing, President George
Washington, Vice President John Adams, New York Governor George Clinton, and
other members of Washington's cabinet visited the Prince Nursery. The commercial
nursery, the first in our new nation, contained, to quote the President, "fruit
gardens and shrubberies." Although impressed by the one welcoming cannon
salute he received, Washington wrote: "these gardens did not answer
my expectations. The shrubs were trifling and the flowers were not numerous."
April 20, 1790
President George Washington left his mansion at 39 Broadway in Manhattan to acquaint himself with the Long Island countryside. His first day’s trip took him through Brooklyn, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Gravesend and ended in Jamaica, where he stayed overnight at Warne’s Tavern on Jamaica Avenue. On the 21st, his journey went along Jamaica Avenue and Jericho Turnpike through Queens Village. Over the next three days he toured Coram, Setauket, Huntington Oyster Bay and Manhasset. Proceeding along today’s Northern Blvd, his party stopped over at Flushing then on to along Flushing Avenue to Bedford crossroads before returning to New York via the Brooklyn ferry.
April 7, 1791
Stephen Halsey, known as the "Father of Astoria"
is born. Mr. Halsey, in 1835, purchased a large tract of land on what was then
called Hallett's Cove. He managed to have a bill passed by the state legislature
incorporating it as the first village in Queens County. The name "Astoria"
is adopted after John Jacob Astor of New York, an old friend. Until his death
forty years later, Halsey took an active interest in developing the community.
February 15, 1797
Heinrich Englehard Steinweg is born. The master cabinet
maker crafted some 400 pianos in Germany before leading his family to America.
By 1853, he formed Steinway & Sons. Known as the "Instrument of the Immortals,"
Steinway pianos are the standard piano for the world. By their 150th
Anniversary in 2003, the firm built over 550,000 pianos (each one carefully
numbered and recorded in master ledgers at the plant). Today, more than 99% of
all concert and recording artists use a Steinway piano. Heinrich died, aged 73,
on February 7, 1870.