In the Shadow of Liberty: The Chronicle of Ellis Island

By Edward Corsi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
ELLIS ISLAND'S ROMANTIC BACKGROUND

NEW YORK, where I had spent all of my life Since that October day when our family landed from Italy, is a city Of islands. Had Columbus landed at Ellis Island on a summer day he would have Found the braves of the Manhattan Indians fishing from its Shores, with their squaws and papooses around the tepees and camp fires in the background. And only the Chief of the Manhattans and his favored braves would have been there, for in those days, and for years to follow, it was a retreat of the privileged.

In the days of Peter Stuyvesant, and through the tenure of the second Dutch Governor, Wouter van Twiller, Ellis Island, then called Oyster Island, was a gay and exclusive resort.

At this time, early in the seventeenth century, rollicking young Dutch boys with gleaming shoe buckles, blue pantaloons and bright doublets, took their buxom and tightly-laced Dutch sweethearts to Oyster Island in small boats. There all drank ale and ate roasted oysters, feasting, singing and dancing until the sun went down.

For almost one hundred and fifty years Oyster Island continued to be New Amsterdam's favorite resort for picnics, oyster roasts, clam bakes, and fishing parties. It passed finally into the hands of Samuel Ellis, a farmer of Bergen County, New Jersey.

His strange will, recorded in Abstracts of Wills, New York ( 1786- 1796, page 325), says among other things:

-57-

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