2. Frederick Chase

    Who was Frederick Chase?
    Frederick Chase was born on February 5, 1784 in Westerly, Rhode Island, the son of Frederick Chase, Sr. and Ruth Fry. His great-great-grandfather William Chase had been born in England and came to this country in 1629, settling in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
    On February 5, 1807, Frederick married Rebecca Champlin Cartwright on Block Island. Officiating was the Reverend John Gorton Worden. She had been born on September 10, 1789 also near Westerly. She was descended from William and Mary Cartwright who arrived at Salem, Massachusetts in 1630 as members of the Winthrop group. They originally settled at Roxbury, but eventully settled also in Yarmouth. Both families eventually settled at Ashaway, about four miles from Westerly in Rhode Island. The first Sabbatarian or Seventh Day Baptist Church was organized at Newport, Rhode Island on January 3, 1672 and most of its organizers were from Ashaway. The Chases were also Sabbatarians.
    As a young man in Westerly, Frederick Chase served as a ensign, a lieutenant, and eventually achieved the rank of captain.
    By mid-1811, Frederick Chase, his wife, and two young daughters had moved to Shelter Island. In June he purchased approximately 38 3/4 acres from Augustus Griffing and his wife Lucretia for $480. His land is described in the June 12, 1811 deed as follows: Bounded Westerly and Northerly by the waters call the Ferry; Easterly partly by Deerings Harbor and a Creek called City Creek; Southerly partly by the lands of Jeremiah King and partly by the woodlands of the said Augustus Griffing, again Westerly partly by the lands of the said Frederick Chase purchased by him of Jeremiah Young, and partly by the woodlands of the said Augustus Griffing.” From the deed, it is clear that he had previously purchased land from Jeremiah Young, but we can find no record of it.
    It is generally understood that the Chase homestead sat at what is now the north west corner of Chase Avenue and Cedar Street, above the Bridge.
    On November 6, 1816, Frederick and Rebecca purchased an additional 27 acres from Augustus Griffing, “that parcel of land or woodland lying and being in a place commonly called West Neck....bounded: Southerly and Easterly by the land of the said Frederick Chase; Northerly and Westerly by the ferry called Boisseau Ferry, it being nearly in the form of what is commonly called a triangle. (We have all been told that Boisseau’s Ferry was at Stearn’s Point, but this deed suggests otherwise. Also, a 1855 map created by the U. S. Coast Survey Office, shows the “Old Ferry” at the foot of City Road. It also clearly shows the 1837-39 road from City Road to a wharf at the Northwest corner of Chase’s property where the North Ferry departs from today in 2003.) (Click on the map to see it enlarged.)
    By the completion of these two transactions, Frederick and Rebecca owned 65 3/4 acres on the northerly part of the peninsula now called The Heights. We must presume that Frederick was a farmer because in those days, if you owned land, you farmed it. However, from the Coastal Survey Map of 1855 which shows his land to be a meadow, neither woods nor cultivated, and from the inventory of his possessions when he died which described 35 sheep and 122 1/8 pounds of wool, one can speculate that he was a sheep man (like cattle man) more than a farmer.
    The day before Christmas in 1811 a severe storm, known as “The Christmas Storm,” struck the area. Augustus Griffing of Oysterponds (now Orient) -- the same Augustus Griffing who sold his Shelter Island land to Frederick Chase -- said in his 1857 Journal, “a more violent and destructive storm [had] not been known for the last 100 years.” The following year the British, in the War of 1812 brought destruction to the East End of Long Island. Three years to the day of the violent storm, peace with England was declared.
    Although the young family were Seventh Day Adventists [or Baptists], they fitted comfortably into the largely Presbyterian community on Shelter Island and by 1813, Frederick was elected School Inspector. For the next seven years, he served variously as Tax Collector, Constable, Overseer of the Poor, and Commissioner of Schools, sometimes more than one position at a time. From 1820 through 1823, he was Town Supervisor. In 1825 and 1826 he was against a Commissioner of Schools and an Inspector.
    When Chase was supervisor, the town’s men met once a year, on the first Tuesday in April, to elect the supervisor, clerk, assessors, constable, collector of taxes, overseers of the poor, fence viewers, commissioners of schools, and school inspectors. They determined how much to raise to support the poor and for heating and repair of the school house. The poor were generally widows, orphans, and the elderly without any other visible means of support.
    In 1821, Esther Sarah Dering presented a petition to the Town officers to manumit her slave London, age 26, according to the New York State Law entitled “An Act Concerning Slaves and Servants” passed April 8, 1801. This law allowed owners to free slaves if they were under 50 years old and able to provide for themselves. In April 1822, the Town officers certified London’s status as a free man.
    A note about “fence viewers.” There was a time when every town had two or three men assigned to this important task. Their job was to arbitrate between owners when a fence was to be built or repaired on property boundaries. They determined where the property lines were and who was responsible for the costs. Although there are no fence viewers on Shelter Island today, this job still exists in some New England, mid-Western and Canadian towns.
    Although Rebecca’s cousins the Cartwrights, who settled on Shelter Island on Coecles Harbor in 1800, joined the Presbyterian Church, Frederick and Rebecca did not. He was often observed working in his fields on Sunday.
    Because there was no bridge across Chase’s Creek, he was known to act as the ferryman, carrying the women wishing to cross on his shoulders. However, he required the men to remove their boots and walk across. There is a story that Squire Chase once carried the Presbyterian preacher across the Creek piggy back so that the clergyman might not be obliged to remove his leather boots. The preacher was the Reverend Ezra Young, a Princeton graduate and a descendent of the Reverend John Youngs who settled Southold in 1640. Dismounting, the preacher joked that Chase could not thereafter say that he had not been ridden by a priest.
    He and Rebecca had nine children, all daughters except the middle one, Albert.
    Ruth Chase, born 1808 in Rhode Island, the oldest child, never married.
    Lydia, also born in Rhode Island in 1811, married Alvin P. Boardman. They eventually ran a boarding house in The Heights. Their daughter Sarah married Joseph William Parrish. Their son, who had the same name as his father, married Sarah Bennett. They had a daughter, also named Sarah (known on the Island as Sadie), who married Joseph Norman Madore. They had four children, Norman, Calvin, Mavis (who married William Johnson III) and Gordon who lives on Shelter Island today..
    Rebecca Chase, the third child, was born in 1813. She married Elisha Griffin Beebe of Orient.
    Elizabeth Chase, born 1815, married Jarvis Wood of Greenport.
    Albert Chase was the fifth child. He was born in 1815. According to Clarence Ashton Wood, a longtime editor of The Long Island Forum and descendent of Frederick Chase through Elizabeth, and a source for much of the family history, Albert was three times married, Susan Pettit who died at age twenty and is buried at the Presbyterian Church cemetery in the family plot just behind the hall, Martha Buddington, by whom he had a son Frederick Algeroy Chase who located in New Haven, and Nancy A. (last name unknown) to whom he was married in the 1860s.
    The sixth child Emeline married Joseph Skillman who later ran a grocery store near the old wharf at the place of Prospect.
    The seventh child was Harriet Newell Chase, born 1822.  She married William Barteau, a prominent ship builder in Brookhaven.
    Margaret Lafayette Chase was born in 1824 and married Lorenzo Walters. The youngest, Catherina Editha, married a railroad man named Mosier and settled in Brooklyn.

Ten Years as a Lighthouse Keeper

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