The Boston Road, northern entrance for land travel from all New England to New York City, roughly parallelled the shores of Long Island Sound, circling the heads of the inlets, until it reached the village of Eastchester ; there it bent westward and, climbing over the tops of the ridges and dropping into the valleys, crossed to Manhattan Island at Kingsbridge; this was the road of early colonial times.
Shortly after the Revolution ended, a new section of the Boston Road was proposed, designed to tap the old road at Eastchester and connect with a new bridge across the Harlem River (at the present 129th-133rd Streets) a road at once direct, of easy grades, providing a short-cut into New York on its easterly side, one that would save much time and eliminate many of the troubles of the tired traveler on his approach to the City. This new section of the Boston Road owes its location and pro-motion largely to the efforts of Doctor Joseph Browne, once of West Farms, and behind the activities of this Doctor Browne it is not difficult to discern the directing mind of his brother-in-law, the astute and wily Aaron Burr.
In July, 1777, the youthful Burr, for meritorious service, received from Washington the appointment of Lieutenant-Colonel placed in charge of a regiment stationed in the valley of the Ramapo River. This regiment had been so placed in order to prevent a British flank-attack on West Point by Redcoats from New York crossing Northern New Jersey and ascending the Ramapo for access to the Hudson Valley at Newburgh. The soldiers were little more than raw recruits, but Burr was famed as a disciplinarian, and soon, with thorough drill, had his regiment in better shape than were most of the troops in the Continental forces.
His next step was to look for possible spies, those who might report his movements to the British or actively aid a British movement into his territory. He also wished to know those friendly to the American forces on whom he could rely for immediate information of any movement of the British.
This work he had systematized while on the American lines at White Plains, and applied the same methods to Northern New Jersey. Families among the farmers undoubtedly to be trusted were so marked in the headquarters records ; those of whose Toryism there was no doubt were also so marked and thereafter constantly watched by delegated watchers. Between the two classes were certain families whose status was such that a period of probation must be passed before it could be definitely settled as to whether they were friend or foe, and of these, the family of DeVinne, living at Paramus, in Northern New Jersey, were of so special a class that Burr himself determined to watch them.
The reason was, that although a family of Swiss ex-traction, one daughter had married Colonel Provost of the British army, and when just prior to the War his regiment had been ordered to the West Indies, this Mrs. Theodosia Provost and her two small sons had arrived at Paramus to live with her widowed mother and her sister Catherine at their home, “The Hermitage.” Although the inquiries among their neighbors led Burr to believe the family highly esteemed and popular, still he had doubts whether the wife of a British colonel had not left behind her in army circles at New York many friends whom she would seek to keep advised as to military movements of the Continental forces.
The best way to watch was to do so as unobtrusively as possible. So Burr, through some of his friends in the neighborhood, obtained an introduction to the DeVinne family, and as they were fond of entertaining, be-came a frequent guest. But to his surprise, and possibly also to his relief, he found the DeVinnes, even Mrs. Provost, were neutral with a strong leaning to the American point-of-view, and there seemed no reason to doubt their loyalty to the American cause. Furthermore, he speedily found that he had met women much superior in education and accomplishments to the women it had been his fortune to meet; and further, they possessed a library filled with the works of the best English and French authors as well as the classics, in which they were well versed, and that they could converse in French as well as in English, so that Burr, famous as a French scholar, spent many a pleasant hour with them during his stay in the neighborhood. In the following November, he was ordered to Philadelphia, and thereafter, for about a year and a half, heard little about them save that shortly after his departure word had reached Mrs. Provost of the death at Jamaica of her husband.
The Spring of 1779 found Burr again at White Plains in charge of the American lines and the Neutral Ground. In the midst of his military duties, he found time and way to renew his acquaintance with the widow Provost ; soon he was known as her accepted lover. Her sister, Miss Catherine DeVinne, had announced her engagement to a young physician, Dr. Joseph Browne, then establishing himself in practice in New York City. Later, Burr left the army, partly on account of a breakdown of health, and when sufficiently recovered, he renewed his study of law, first at Patterson, then at Haverstraw. In the Spring of 1782, deeming himself proficient in his profession, he applied at Albany for admission to the Bar, and after many difficulties, was admitted to practice.
It probably would have pleased Burr to have gone at once to New York City, for in that seaport town, among its merchants, there was opportunity and money ; but this required, as a prerequisite to the practice of law, an oath of allegiance to the reigning power who, that City being still in British hands, was King George III, so Burr was forced to begin his practice at Albany; and here there was an opening, for from the part of the State in Continental hands, the old and well-established Tory lawyers had been disbarred the preceding year, leaving the way open for young, ambitious American lawyers.
Then followed the marriage, which in those days in New Jersey was not so simple an affair as one might expect, for it was needful that the banns be published thrice and sundry other long-drawn steps taken, all of which could be avoided by a trip to the State capitol and the procuring from the Governor, on paying a goodly fee, a license dispensing therewith. So on July 4th, 1782. we find Aaron Burr licensed to wed Theodosia Provost and Joseph Browne licensed to wed Catherine DeVinne, all of the County of Bergen ; and. then to Albany go the Burrs, and to New York, to reside at No. 9 Little Queen (Cedar) Street, go the Brownes.
Burr did not like Albany, and as soon as negotiations were begun for a peace-treaty and the removal of the British troops from New York City, he began to arrange for a house there. Within a few days after the departure of the British soldiery, Burr is again in New York City, prepared to take up the lucrative practice of the now disbarred Tory lawyers, located as to residence and office not far from Dr. Browne on Little Queen (Cedar) Street at Nassau Street. And here, through six years of fighting the Schuylers and Hamilton and establishing himself in a legal practice as well as dipping into local politics, we leave him while we follow the fortunes of Dr. Joseph Browne.
In those days, New York City was thought to be a very unhealthy place in the Summer months, “full of mortal and contageous fevers” as Burr himself wrote. So as soon as a man earned sufficient money, he tried to procure a country residence, not too far from the City, to which he could retire for the heated spell. When, in 1785, John Embree died and by his Last Will directed his executors to sell the farm at West Farms on which he and his father had resided for sixty-seven years, since 1718, the purchaser was Dr. Joseph Browne. After tearing down the old Embree farmhouse, standing behind its twin elms, described by an earlier writer as two of the most magnificent of their kind in Westchester County, he erected on its site his homestead, a two-story frame dwelling with wide verandas overlooking the valley of the Bronx River for several miles. This house survived in part until 1892 when it was torn down, having many years before lost its cluster of dependent buildings of which group it was once the center. In its time it was the home of Thomas Walker, a wealthy Quaker merchant and a manufacturer of the 1812 period, when he had two mills on the property just north of the house, power being supplied by a great overshot water-wheel (at 178th Street and Bryant Avenue) fed from a mill-pond called “The Dyke” lying westward on the farm and near the Southern Boulevard of to-day; afterwards, on Walker’s death, it became the principal hotel of the region, “The Adriatic Hotel,” so named by its proprietor, a survivor of the terrible shipwreck of “The Adriatic” in the ’50s, and as such is remembered by all of the older inhabitants of that region as a center of social and civil life.
The house stood at the edge of the rise of ground bounding the Bronx Valley on its west side and about sixty feet higher than the river surface; its present lo-cation is best described as on the north side of Tremont Avenue between Vyse and Bryant Avenues, opposite the Public School No. 6, and on an earth terrace several feet higher than the surface to-day appears. The farm stretched westward along the north side of Tremont Avenue from West Farms Square to Prospect Avenue, that street being in its inception the driveway leading from the mansion-house down the hill to the then Queens Road, from Delancey’s Bridge down “The West Farmes” to Hunt’s Point. Here, for nearly seven-teen years, Dr. Joseph Browne, with his family, spent their Summers, leading the life of a country gentleman of means, although still active in his profession and foremost in all public enterprises of the times in that locality.
It was in the Fall of 1789 that Governor Clinton named Aaron Burr as Attorney-General of the State of New York, an act that changed the whole career of both Burr and Dr. Browne.
Burr would now spend much time at Albany, so he sold his home at Little Queen and Nassau Streets, renting a winter home for his family until he could decide for the future as to the place where it would be advisable to locate. Meanwhile, in February, 1790, he selected and bought as his summer residence, a one hundred and fifty-five acre farm at Pelham, meadow and upland on the shore of the Hutchinson River opposite the little settlement of Eastchester, a farm now nearly divided by the boundary-line of the City of New York, part lying within Pelham Bay Park. This place soon be-came a favorite residence of the family, who named it “The Shrubberies,” and Burr is constantly singing its praises in his letters, while his wife in one of her own states that she “is fortunate to be there, always plenty of air, never heat enough to incommode one.” In 1794, Burr deemed it advisable, covering his political and speculative moves, to put the property out of his hands, possibly fearing the discovery by some enemy of his connection with the laying out of the “New Road,” so he deeded it to his stepson, Augustine James Frederick Provost, by whom it was occupied for many years and in turn, until fire destroyed the house, by others of the Provost family. But there was one drawback, the place was rather inaccessible; although just opposite Eastchester, it was over a mile by road to that village, and then, to New York, the way was across the hills to Williamsbridge and Kingsbridge and so down the length of Manhattan Island.
This was the situation while Burr at Albany was familiarizing himself with his duties as Attorney-General: then, one day early in 1790, he heard that a member of the Morris family was in Albany with a bill for legislative action to permit Lewis Morris to bridge the Harlem River, and, in connection therewith, lay out a new road from the existing road from Boston at Eastchester to the new bridge. The idea was to divert travel which, at the cost of the trifling toll to be charged, would thus find a more direct and easy entrance into New York ; incidentally, the Morris family would profit by having their Manor of Morrisania made accessible at practically no cost to themselves. The Manor of Morrisania, al-though on the mainland, had always been found to be on the wrong side of the Harlem River ; there was no bridge nearer than Kingsbridge, several miles distant and that over farm lanes. As all travel started from Manhattan Island, the Morris family, their tenants and guests, must as the first step in any journey, cross the Harlem River on a scow-ferry. It was a little trip from bank to bank, much longer then than now appears because the stream has been bulkheaded and filled in on either side, rough enough when the wind blew strongly and the tide ran fast, somewhat dangerous when the scow carried a top-heavy coach and its four horses; besides it was costly to maintain this ferry, as it required the constant attendance of a couple of servants. Many times prior to the War, the Morris family had sought permission to bridge the Harlem, but there was a mysterious opposition, possibly from their enemies the DeLanceys then in power. With the end of the War and the disappearance of that vision which they had entertained picturing the Capital City of the United States located on the Manor of Morrisania, they had arrived at the conclusion that a bridge they must have. The bridge must be self-supporting, so tolls must be provided. But the Morris family, their tenants, servants, and guests, must pass toll-free, and as the bridge would lead to no other land but the Morris estates, it was found needful that a road be made from the bridge to tap the old colonial road at Eastchester and thus bring tolls to the bridge by diverting thereto the New England travel.
Burr, of course, on hearing of the project, was deeply interested and was soon in touch with the man in charge of the bill. A direct road, right from his Pelham residence to New York, and over easy grades, meant to him much saving of time and fatigue. On examining the proposed bill, he pointed out a weak point, possibly a fatal one to the scheme. It was proposed that the farmers along the new road be asked to give a right-of-way across their farms, or that one be bought from them if they refused to give it. But suppose, argued Burr, one farmer obstinately refused to give or to sell? He would block the whole project. The Morris family had many enemies; the farmers along the line in many cases had of old been dependents of the DeLanceys. It might be better to remodel the bill and insert a provision for commissioners to be appointed to lay out the road, condemn the land taken, if such a course was necessary; and that the politicians might not name their friends as Commissioners, the names of friendly parties to the Morris family could be inserted in the bill itself.
So the bill was left with Burr for its remodelling, and he inserted the names. As chairman of the Board of Commissioners to lay out the “New Boston Road, he inserted the name of his own brother-in-law Dr. Joseph Browne; as his associates, he inserted the names of George Embree and John Bartow, Jr., worthy farmers of the vicinity who could be depended on to follow the lead of the Chairman, thus providing for an active and two passive members. After minutely prescribing the width of the bridge and of the road, and the various tolls to be charged, a provision was inserted for condemning the required lands and for assessing the costs of acquiring the same through taxation on the lands of the nearby farmers. This was a proceeding which Burr must have known to be impracticable, excellent lawyer that he was, for the Constitution of the United States had been in force but a short time, and the farmers still believed that their land could only be condemned for a public use, and could not be taken even then without due compensation, paid from some other source than the pockets of the man whose land was taken. Then, was this road a public, or a private enterprise? It certainly seemed to be a private one when the Morris family took all of the tolls.
Now, Burr was wise and artful ; he saw, what others failed to see, that this new road would divide the old farms in a different way than they had previously been divided; that places heretofore difficult to reach would be rendered accessible ; that the rich farms of lower Westchester County; each of a hundred or more acres, had been left by the War owned by penniless farmers, without cattle, and now, on the decline of slave-labor, with little available farm help; the older generation of farmers, unable to successfully work these big farms, would gladly sell them at a fraction of their real value ; the time had arrived for an enterprising man to buy up these farms, run the new road through them, just where it would make their several parts most accessible ; then sub-divide them into smaller farms of from fifteen to twenty-five acres, and sell them to new arrivals, emigrants mainly, having some cash and ready to work a small plot of land in the way the small farms of Europe were worked; in a word, Burr saw opening a great field of real-estate speculation, and he, through Dr. Browne, in direction of the enterprise; so why bother with a practicable system of condemnation? Let the farmers object sufficiently, and then, when they were threatened with a course of expensive litigation to assert their rights over some land of little value, make them a small but reasonable offer for their entire farm and buy them out. And thus Burr modelled the legislative bill which on March 31st, 1790, became a law.
Burr now devoted his energies to politics and, early in 1791, defeated General Schuyler in the contest for the United States Senatorship. His land speculation he left with Dr. Browne. Dr. Browne proceeded to locate the new road. Beginning at the site of the proposed bridge on the Harlem River (129th-133rd Sts.) close to where he was to place his first brownstone milestone, marking eight miles from the City, its course was laid out towards the northeast along what is now Third Avenue, until about 150th Street it reached the line where the upland met the meadows bordering Mill Brook; proceeding along this, past the future site of the Ninth Mile-stone (153rd St.) it reached the end of the meadows (159th St.) and turning abruptly, descended a steep bank at the site of the Bronx County Courthouse and crossed the Mill-brook through an alder thicket, the scene in later days of a daylight stage-robbery by a lone highwayman. Then, mounting the easterly bank, it proceeded around the foot of Grove Hill, and up the long slope of Spring Hill (163rd-165th Sts.), skirting the west side of that giant boulder named the “Pudding Rock,” a landmark close to the site of Morris High School; the Tenth Milestone was to be located at 168th Street, where it still remains, last of its kind in this vicinity; and finally, a few hundred feet beyond McKinley Square (169th St.) reached the boundary of the Morris estate, the line dividing the Manor of Morrisania from the Royal Patent of West Farms. Heretofore the way had been entirely through land belonging to Morris ; beyond lay the small farmer, the independent yeoman.
As Burr had foreseen, trouble at once arose. The farmers were unanimously against the scheme, save one man. He was old Thomas Hunt of “The Grange” at the end of Hunts Point, owner of two northerly, or upper, farms along the site of the proposed road. One of these, named the “Gore Farm” was a hundred acre wood-lot of triangular shape with no access save a wood-road from its apex on the old road to Hunts Point near the Bronx River (at 173rd St.). Its sidelines were roughly at Suburban Place and 174th Street, and to-day much of it forms Crotona Park, never having ceased from the earliest time to be a wood-lot. Hunt reasoned that if the new road crossed it at about the middle of the farm, the land on each side would be accessible and could be used for farming purposes. The other farm, one of fifty acres along the south side of Tremont Avenue, was at one place crossed by a ridge of rock (the line of the present Bryant Avenue) ; it would do no harm to have the new road go over this ridge of rock; therefore, Thomas Hunt consented to have the road cross his farms.
Just across the Southern Boulevard, and at the corner of the present carbarns, was the site where the Eleventh Milestone was to stand, and where it stood until the Boston Road was widened.
By 1795, the opposition being still formidable, Lewis Morris no longer cared to be associated with the project on account of its unpopularity, and having assigned his interests therein to John B. Coles, the proposed road be-came known as “Coles Road.” The same year, the Legislature enacted a law permitting Coles to build a narrower bridge, exact a higher rate of tolls, and have the right to collect the same for many years in the future. Then the bridge was built, and the road completed.
By 1797, all obstacles had been overcome, except that a few farmers toward Eastchester had failed to receive pay for their lands, but, so rumor has it, a lottery provided the needful cash and they were paid; whereupon another law made the new road a part of the highway system of the State; and, in 1798, the matter was entirely ended by a law vesting in Coles the right to man-age the enterprise and collect tolls, at another increase of rates, until March 31st, 1858, sixty years, so long as he kept the bridge and road in repair and paid trifling fees to the Road Commissioners of the Towns of Westchester and Eastchester.
How was this farmer opposition so readily overcome? Simply by Dr. Browne buying, during the year 1796, virtually all the farms, save those owned by Thomas Hunt, from McKinley Square to Bronx Park; not merely a right-of-way for the road but the entire farms from the Bronx River on the east to the Patent-Line on the west. an oblong of land about a mile and a half long by three-quarters of a mile wide.
Then came the land-boom, the re-division of the old farms along the New Boston Road into smaller farm-plots, and their sale by Dr. Browne during the next few years to the newly-arrived small farmer at a goodly profit to Burr and himself. Thus the old Revolutionary stock of farmers, growing on the soil from the earliest settlements, left the region and were supplanted by a new stock, differing in ideas, methods and viewpoints from the old ; this was thoroughly in accord with Burr’s political ideas that the land was for the many and not the few, the small land-owners to be the real rulers of the country.
Meanwhile Burr, although occupied with his duties as Senator, still found time to embark in another land-scheme. When aid-de-camp to Washington in his head-quarters on the banks of the Hudson at Richmond Hill near Greenwich village, Burr had lived in the homestead which Abraham Mortier, officer in the Royal service, erected before the War on lands leased from Trinity Church, and this house he longed to possess as his own. Now the time approached when this desire could be realized. So, in 1793, he began buying small plots in the vicinity, and by 1797 had acquired the mansion, making a holding of over one hundred and fifty acres. His wife was dead, but his daughter Theodosia was now budding into womanhood and the Richmond Hill mansion and park made a fitting setting for her. For Theodosia was Burr’s pride, on her education he was willing to spend limitless time, care and money, destined as he deemed her to shine among the most talented women of the Court circles of Europe, if not herself to fill a throne. And here it was that Burr dreamed and schemed for, power and wealth, and royally entertained the titled notables fleeing from the upheaval of the French Revolution. To him the loss to Schuyler of the Senatorship meant little, for projects involving far greater power were now being considered. Richmond Hill was a delightful country-seat and would continue so to be until hill to West Farms Square, that driveway being now Tremont Avenue; from the crest of the rock ridge to the valley road the land fell a vertical fifty feet and the linear distance along the new roadway was scarcely four hundred feet, a fall of over twelve feet in every hundred with a right-angle bend midway between top and bottom, a hill well-named “Breakneck Hill,” a hill destructive of horseflesh on ascending and on breaks and running-gear on descending, and after 1825, practically abandoned when a shortcut with an easier grade was made around it and down its present course into West Farms Square ; and thus was begun many of the main thoroughfares of Bronx Borough as they to-day exist.
From West Farms Square northward, the ancient “Queens Road” from Hunts Point originally ran diagonally through the present blocks, and dropping down the river bank of the Bronx, crossed the stream at the stone “Arch-Bridge” of the DeLanceys (at 180th St.). Dr. Browne, through exchanges of lands with some of his neighbors, caused the old road to be abandoned and closed, and the new road laid out along the edge of the high bank west of the stream, up to the present entrance of Bronx Park, the future site of the “Carters Inn” of Seth Raymond, later to be known as the tavern of Henry Plant, and then the stage-change of Landlord John Johnston; just beyond, the Twelfth Milestone was to stand.
Through Bronx Park, then the land of Oliver DeLancey, last of the old race to own it, an old wood-lane was followed, one that crossed the Bronx River at the water-lily bar just above the “Island”, in Bronx Park, a ford abandoned in the scheme of the new road in favor of a wooden bridge at the narrowed banks of the stream, not far from the upper falls of the Bronx; then crossing the Bear Swamp Road and the lane to Lorillard Brothers snuff-mills on the Bronx, surrounded by their acres of rose-gardens, the future road proceeded through the farm of John Hitchcock, past the site of the Thirteenth Milestone where the present road and White Plains Road now diverge, the farms of Israel Under-hill and Stephen Ward, past the site of the Fourteenth Milestone (Burke Avenue) until it reached the Williamsbridge Road, once the celebrated path of the Indians called by the early colonists “The Westchester Path” and developed by them into the cartroad between the settlements of Westchester and Eastchester. This it followed for a short distance down the hill, but abandoned it at the point where it went westward to circle the meadowland at the headwaters of Black Dog Brook. Part of the old cartway still exists, known as Schieffelin’s Lane. The new road took a more direct course over the meadows, past the site of the Fifteenth Milestone (near Baychester Avenue), curving down to where it again met the “Westchester Path” near Rattlesnake Brook, and from thence past the house of Theodosius Fowler, on the outskirts of Eastchester, to the Old Mill Road, and by the latter joined the road from Boston, not far from old St. Paul’s Church.
This was the road as laid out by Dr. Browne, but owing to the opposition of the farmers, for many years only opened in parts. The seed of the real-estate speculation was now sown, time must be given for its growth; so Dr. Browne contented himself with the management of his estate, and with building a dam on the lower Bronx at the end of his lands, and erecting a mill, operated by the waters therefrom, for the production of linseed oil, a mill one day to be the nucleus of the thriving Village of West Farms. the City crowded nearer; then, divided into lots, it could be sold at a great advance over its cost ; so that Burr, or his heirs, would profit largely in any event.
The yellow fever came with the Summer of 1798, and Washington Square became the common graveyard ; the outbreak was ascribed to contaminated drinking-water, and the City Fathers appointed a committee to decide between the rival factions as to whether or not City water should be piped from the Collect Pond or from the Teawater Pump district ; to this committee, Dr. Browne sent his letter advocating the use of water from the Bronx River, a source of supply then pure and abundant, a sufficiency for the City’s needs for many years, which suggestion eventually led the City to procure its water from the watersheds of upper Westchester County.
It was this agitation for pure drinking-water that suggested to Burr, always scheming, and ready to adapt a popular demand to his own purposes, to set on foot the enterprise of The Manhattan Company for the purpose of supplying water from the Collect Pond to the house-holders of the City, and of its Bank for the purpose of collecting the moneys of these householders and supplying it for the use of Burr and his friends in their enter-prises ; so, in 1799, the Water Company and Bank were launched.
Theodosia Burr, in 1801, married Joseph Alston, and moving to the South, left Burr alone at Richmond Hill; but he had been chosen Vice-President of the United States, and soon most of his time must be spent in Washington; therefore it was fitting that Dr. Browne sell his farm at West Farms and take up his residence on the Richmond Hill tract, to have an eye on the slaves while Burr was absent, and in general, to manage affairs ; the Boston Road speculation had enriched both, possibly both were also to share in that at Richmond Hill.
About this time appear the first signs of the dispersion of the Richmond Hill ‘lands ; then, in 1802, trouble occurs in the directorate of the Manhattan Company, and Burr, with his friends, finds himself ousted, whereupon much of the Richmond Hill land is transferred to the Bank by Burr in satisfaction of various claims due; the year 1803 sees more of the tract pass into the hands of others, until little is left save the mansion and gardens. Mean-while, Dr. Browne, taking some lots in his own name, continues to do what he can, watching Burr’s interests, practicing his profession, and aiding with steam-baths the yellow-fever sufferers at Bellevue.
Then came the Hamilton duel in July, 1804, and the flight of Burr, a murderer, with loss of hope of a return to New York for many years. Someone must dispose of his real-estate that he be able to use the cash in his enterprises elsewhere, and in whom could he repose trust if not in Dr. Joseph Browne and his other friend, Matthias S. Davis, the stationer? To them in August, 1804, was delivered a power-of-attorney from Burr to represent him, sell his real estate, settle his debts, and adjust his affairs of business; at once, they sold to John Jacob Astor the Richmond Hill mansion, thus ending the dream of Burr of a great estate on the Hudson during his life, and vast wealth therefrom for his heirs after his death.
Long before the duel, Burr had laid other plans for Dr. Browne. Ever since the Spring of 1803 when Napoleon had made the treaty ceding to the United States the vast territory of Louisiana, Burr had been using his influence with President Jefferson that Dr. Browne might receive a governmental position of command in the new territory. Under date of March 10th, 1804, Burr writes to Theodosia that he has just received word from the President that “Dr. Browne may have the office of Secretary of the Government of Louisiana, that is, the Up-per District, where St. Louis is the capital”; he further states that General Wilkinson is to be Governor of the entire territory, that St. Louis has two hundred houses, and some people of wealth, mostly French, with the manners of the last century, gay to dissipation; he ends by stating that “Wilkinson and Browne will suit admirably as eaters, laughers, and in all other particulars.”
So, as soon as matters were over at Richmond Hill, Dr. Browne, with his family, started for his post at St. Louis, stopping at the Falls of the Ohio with Charles Loss, the surveyor who had mapped Richmond Hill, to ascertain the advisability and practicability of a project of making a canal around the Falls, a project probably cloaking some of the moves in the great Burr conspiracy.
Then, when settled at his post in St. Louis, practically Acting-Governor of the entire Upper Mississippi Valley, in September, 1805, Dr. Browne is visited by Burr, the object of the visit not being known, but presumably sinister ; for here were many meetings in secret by Burr and his lieutenants in the conspiracy to grasp the reins of power in the vast Mississippi region, detach it from the United States, and seat Aaron Burr on its throne as Emperor; and here we take leave of Dr. Joseph Browne; what bitter thoughts must have been his when the bubble burst and Aaron Burr no longer aspired to the title of Emperor Aaron the First, with Theodosia to rule as a Queen.
But what of the New Boston Road, was it a success? Not until some years had passed. In 1800, Cornelius C. Roosevelt and some associates were incorporated by law to continue the road from Eastchester “at or near the house of Theodosius Fowler upon the new road lately made from Morrisania to Eastchester,” and to end at the Connecticut line at the Byram River; it was to be a turnpike road, with proper milestones, some of which are still in place ; and this led to the bridging of the Hutchinson River and the laying out of the Boston Road as it exists to-day, straightening out the curves and cutting across the corners made by the old colonial road, eliminating heavy grades, crossing meadows in-stead of going around them, and creating the main street of New Rochelle and many another village along its course.
Still, a great volume of traffic did not pass over the Boston Road until the Embargo of President Jefferson became operative in 1808; then, with a rush, all commerce toward New England took to the Boston Road, and stage-villages, with their taverns, stores, post-offices, and blacksmith shops, made an over-night mushroom growth along its course ; for the next eight years the Boston Road realized in full measure the dreams of its promoters.
To-day, among the press of automobiles thronging the Boston Road, it is hard to bring imagination back to the time when little Theodosia Burr, a pretty child of twelve, cantering on her pony down the road, trailed by her faithful slave Black Sam, makes her way through sylvan scenes of almost utter solitude from the home of her half-brother Frederick at Pelham to attend some party at Dr. Browne’s at West Farms, or the “Union Hill” home of Mrs. Anne Cox at Fordham, her classical studies under her old tutor Mr. Leshlie intermitted at the desire of her father. Nor is the all-pervading smell of gasolene fumes conducive to the recalling of any picture of the greyhound coach, with breaks grinding hard, descending “Breakneck Hill” the guard blowing his horn to warn Postmaster James Miller at West Farms Square to be on hand with his mailbag, nor the later pictured stop at the Carters Inn, where while the active hostlers put in the new teams, Landlord Raymond passes around among the passengers glasses of his celebrated egg-cider ; still, these represent the past and the present of the Boston Road.
A graceful writer recently hit upon a very happy description of the Manual. The word itself, he tells us, is of ancient origin and was used to designate a rather unusual kind of birthday bookone in which the pages contained only thoughts and sentiments of the kindliest nature regarding the recipient. Like the sun dial, it marked only the shining hours. And he concludes by congratulating our ancient city on the possession of its very own birthday book and thinks it a fortunate circumstance that each year New York should be greeted by so loving and delightful a possession as its Manual.
This is the kind of book we want to make of the Manual. It is not now, nor has it been from the start, the expression of only one man’s enthusiasm and devotion. Numberless friends of old New York have shared our responsibility and with wise counsel and timely practical assistance have enabled us to produce three numbers that have already, we are told, won an enviable position in the annals of Old New York.