If it wasn't written down, it didn't happen ...

All He Wanted Was Equity

by Patricia and Edward Shillingburg ©2005


In the 1920s, the Chequit was owned by the Heights Association but was managed independently. The lovely sweeping staircase on the front has since disappeared, but it continues to be a gracious establishment.

    To Howard Raymond, president of the Ferry Company, the issue was equity. The Ferry Company was obligated to provide ferry service for the Island year-round. Insurance prohibited the Poggatticut from running at night and during a lay up period from December 31 noon to March 15 noon. So, the Company employed two launches for night and winter service. The problem was that Captain Edward Rouse of Greenport conducted summer launch service, competing directly with the Ferry Company, from the Town dock without a state license and without paying rent to the Town which the Ferry Company did. The Ferry Company’s arrangement with Captain Moses Griffing was that the Company would own, maintain, and fuel the launches, but he kept the receipts. The Ferry Company operated at a loss eight months of the year, and if competition drove Captain Griffing away, the Ferry Company would increase it’s loss by having to hire someone to replace him, an arrangement Mr. Raymond found unacceptable. He wanted exclusive use of the Town slip and dock for ferry services. No ferry competitors using the Town dock.
    The Town moved forward to build the slip a week after the December 7, 1920 vote was taken to spend the money. Arrangements were made to lease the land from Nathan P. Dickerson. Francis Myers’ bid was accepted, and he completed the slip in mid-April, 1921. Getting the Ferry Company to use it was another story.
    On February 5, 1921 the Town Board asked Mr. Baldwin to write a letter to Mr. Raymond, which he did on February 7:

Dear Sir:
    The Town Board would like to write you a letter stating the conditions of running the ferry into Dering Harbor, the same as you said at the meeting we had last October, vis that you would run the Poggatticut or some boat similar that would carry autos, from the first of Oct. to the last of May. Some of the taxpayers are anxious to know what the Ferry Company proposes to do about running the ferry into the harbor. I have told everyone I have talked with what you said at the meeting. But we want something to show the doubting ones that you said it.

    Mr. Raymond responded the next day. He outlined the Ferry Company’s proposals: 1.) that the Town would build and maintain the ferry slip; 2.) that the Ferry Company would have sole use of the ferry slip and Town dock for ferry purposes; 3.) the Ferry Company would run a double ended ferry from the slip from October to May and launches during evening hours year round and that it would pay the Town $100 per year for the privilege; 4.) that the lease be for 25 years, but that it be reviewed after five.
    He added:
    It is a strong desire with the present administration to establish a very cordial and appreciative relationship with the needs of the Town...  In no other way can the welfare and the ultimate building up of our Island be accomplished.

    At a special meeting of the Town Board on February 14, Mr. Raymond’s letter was read and filed.
    In early April, Mr. Raymond and Mr. Baldwin met briefly at Heights Superintendent Edward J. Clark’s house, and Mr. Raymond gave Mr. Baldwin a draft lease for the Ferry Company’s use of the Town dock and slip.
    During the Summer, Frederick Tasker, the Town attorney, drew up a lease and it was signed by the Supervisor and the Town Clerk and forward to Mr. Raymond.  It said nothing about exclusive use of the Town dock and slip for ferry service, so Mr. Raymond returned it unsigned along with a lease that would be acceptable to him.  Finally in late August Mr. Tasker suggested that they get together, which they did, and they hammered out a lease acceptable to Mr. Raymond. However, the lease that Mr. Tasker presented to the Town Board differed from the one they had agreed to on the subject of competition.
    Mr. Raymond, after discussions with Charles Otis, an attorney with a large estate in the Heights, decided to give the Town an alternative proposal. On August 30, he wrote to Mr. Tasker and offered two choices. If the Town was not willing to restrict competitive ferry use at the Town dock, then he requested that all references to night service obligations on the Ferry Company be stricken from the lease. Only daytime service would be an obligation of the Ferry Company. Under this new proposed agreement, the Ferry Company would provide daytime service with the Poggatticut from the Town slip from October 1 to mid-May with no guaranteed nighttime service by a launch.
    On September 7, the Town approved the lease that was not acceptable to Mr. Raymond and seemed not to have received the alternative proposal.
    October 1 came and went.
    On October 29, Mr. Raymond received the following letter from Francis Myers:
    Mr. Charles Henry Smith [the Supervisor] informs me that the failure of the Ferry Company to land at the new slip of the town dock is due to the fact that the Ferry Company through you is demanding what to my mind are unfair and unreasonable conditions. Mr. Smith states to me that the Ferry Company want to have the right to fence in the Ferry Slip and Town Dock, excluding therefrom anybody who desires to use the same to ship goods or to receive them which receipt or shipment of goods would, in no way, interfere with the ferry business.
    Mr. Smith also claims that you have had the lease for some time and refuses to sign it thereby denying the Winter residents of the Island the great convenience that would result in the use of the slip during the Winter.
    I am not a stockholder of the Shelter Island Heights Association, but I am a property owner and a Winter resident and I wish to protest against the stand taken by the Ferry Company as unfair and unreasonable. I desire to use the town dock to land lumber which I bring around from Sag Harbor and others demand the use of the dock to send away vegetables and other goods from the Island. The Tax Payers of the Island paid for the dock and they are entitled to the use of it. I think if the Ferry Company gets the use of the dock for Ferry purposes only, giving the Winter residents the use of the dock for other than ferry purposes, it is all the Ferry Company can reasonably expect. I do not want to be antagonistic to the new management, but I feel in demanding the right to fence in the property that the entire population has paid for, the Ferry Company is unreasonable and unfair and I protest against any such action.
    Mr. Raymond was apoplectic. We have no copy of the letter he wrote to Mr. Myers in response, but it probably included a 19 page chronology of all of his correspondence with Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Tasker, plus copies of all of the proposed leases, and his notes since the beginning of the year. It laid out all of his issues. On November 4, when he wrote to Mr. Myers again, he had Mr. Myers on his side. He noted that there was to be a meeting, he understood, and he suggested questions that might be posed to the Supervisor.
    The meeting turned the tide in Mr. Raymond’s favor, because on November 10, the Town Board met and authorized the Supervisor and Town Clerk to sign the lease. Mr. Myers sent a telegram to Mr Raymond on November 11: EXACT WORDING LEASE ACCEPTED EXECUTE YOUR COPY FORWARD TO SUPERVISOR.
    It was the same lease that Mr. Raymond had recommended to Mr. Tasker on August 30; it contained no night service obligations and no restrictions on the use of the Town dock by other ferry services..
    Only a portion of the Suffolk Times report of November 25 survives: “Wednesday was a Red Letter Day on the North Ferry. The Poggatticut made use of the new slip at the Town Dock for the first time. To celebrate the fact the ferry company gave free passage to all passengers to and from Greenport for the day. Charges were made only on autos and wagons. As the distance between the Town Dock and Poggatticut Dock is about 3/4 of a mile, the use of the Town Dock as a ferry landing cuts... distance in cold... uncomfortable...”
    Sources for this story are an extensive file maintained by Mr. Raymond throughout these negotiations which is now in the archives of the Shelter Island Heights Association, the Suffolk Times, and the Shelter Island Town Board minutes.
    Other Island historical research can be viewed at www.shelter-island.org. Click on the Island History Revisited button.