Day 532

Gerritsen’s mill

June 14th, 2013



According to the Parks Department, the first tide-powered mill in North America was built here on Gerritsen Creek in the mid-1600s by Hugh Gerritsen. It stood on the far side of the creek, and wooden pilings from its dam are still visible at low tide. (I initially thought the pilings in this photo were remnants of the dam, but that's not the case, as pointed out in the comments below. This 1924 aerial image clearly shows the dam located a few hundred feet south of here.) It's said that the mill supplied George Washington's troops with flour during the Revolutionary War, and that it was also captured and used by Hessian troops fighting for the British. It remained in operation until 1889, and was still standing as recently as 1935, when it was burned down by vandals. You can see photos of the mill in its later days here and here.


10 Comments

  1. Gregory says:

    Circa 1948, there were cement pipes that were submerged by high tide. Kids swam through them occasionally, someone drowned. How were they related to the mill? When were they removed?
    Just below Avenue U, at the far eastern side of Gerritsan creek, was a number of trapazoidal pored concret blocks. I believe they wer about 20 Feet long. What were they? The rumor was they had been for a sea plane base.
    On the western side just below avenue U were several hollow concrete cubes. ?

  2. Gregory says:

    Circa 1948, there were cement pipes that were submerged by high tide. Kids swam through them occasionally, someone drowned. How were they related to the mill? When were they removed?
    Just below Avenue U, at the far eastern side of Gerritsan creek, was a number of trapazoidal pored concret blocks. I believe they wer about 20 Feet long. What were they? The rumor was they had been for a sea plane base.
    On the western side just below avenue U were several hollow concrete cubes. Sewer Construction? Also, remaims of several pored concrete walls.

  3. Betty Renfroe says:

    Gerritsen Mill, Beach, and Creek were not named for Wolphert Gerretse. Wolphert’s last name was Couwenhoven or Hugh Gerritsen. The Gerritsen’s who owned the Mill and lived on the Beach for almost 300 years were the descendants of Gerrit Remmersen. Dutch children of this era took the first name of their father for their surname. Gerrit’s sons Rem and Samuel used the surname Gerritsen. Rem moved to Cape May, New Jersey, and died there. Samuel Gerritsen lived in Gravesend and Samuel owned the Tide Mill. Hugh Gerritsen held title to some land in this area in 1645. His relationship to Samuel Gerritsen, if any, is not proven. Documented proof of the passing of the Tide Mill exists in the land record’s of Kings County. The Mill passed from Samuel Gerritsen (1671-1763) to his son Johannes (1716-1766). In the New York Surrogate’s office, Liber 25, page 232, is the will of Johannes Gerritsen, miller, of Gravesend, who gave to his son, Samuel Gerritsen, all his real and personal estate, subject to certain legacies, which he (Samuel) was to pay. In this will he names his widow, Jannetie, and a daughter, Ida. His executors are named as his brother-in-law Michiel Vandervoort, and Rem Williamson and his cousin Jacobus Rider. The date of this will is December 20th, 1765. Johannes first wife and mother of Samuel was deceased. Her maiden name was Elizabeth Vandervoort (Michiel was her brother). Ida was the daughter of Jannetie Williams Gerritsen. Samuel Gerritsen, of Gravesend, recorded his will in the Kings County Surrogate’s office, in Libel 2, probated in 1822. In this will he leaves the grist mill and farm to his son, John S., and names daughters, Jane and Elizabeth. He appoints his son-in-law, John Lott, and grandson, Van Brunt Magaw, executors. Van Brunt Magaw was born September 7th, 1783; died March 18th, 1831. He was a son of Colonel Robert Magaw, an officer of distinction in the Reyolution, and Marritje, daughter of Colonel Rutgert Van Brunt. Van Brunt Magaw, married November 2nd, 1811, Adriana, daughter of Louwrens Voorhees and Jannetie,his wife, daughter of Samuel Gerritsen. This Samuel Gerritsen (grandson of the elder Samuel, born 1671) was the miller during the Revolutionary War,who dumped the grind stones into the Harbor rather than to mill for the British! John S. Gerritsen continued to operate the Tide Mill. The will of John S. Gerritsen, miller, of Gravesend, was probated September 2nd, 1864, and is recorded in Libel 28. He leaves his farm, meadows and mill to his son, Samuel J. Gerritsen, and another farm which he had bought of the Stillwells, to his other son, Simon C. Gerritsen. Samuel J. Gerritsen’S will was recorded on October 31st, 1876, and was made May 4th of the same year. He leaves all his property, both real and personal, to his two daughters, Mary C., widow of Abraham Ditmas Polhemus, and Helen B., wife of Stephen H. Herriman, both of Brooklyn. In 1899, the estate was sold to the Honorable William C. Whitney, who rebuilt, laid out, refitted and restored the premises, making one of the most magnificent country seats around New York. On his death his son, Harry Payne Whitney, came into possession of the properly.

    • Kwali says:

      Betty, thanks for that info. I have been doing genealogy research that involves Wolphert Gerritse von Couwenhoven, and I have seen reference to Gerritsen Beach being named for him, but I wondered if that was accurate… I wonder if you know anything about the naming of Gerritsen’s Island, which no longer exists. I am looking at a map referred to as the “Stiles Map of Brooklyn”, which is described as a 1867 reproduction of Ratzer’s 1766 map. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1867_Stiles_Map_of_Brooklyn,_New_York_-_Geographicus_-_BrooklynTwn-stiles-1867.jpg) Just next to Red Hook are two pieces of land seperated from the mainland by small creeks, identified as Gerritsen’s Island and Remsen’s Island, roughly under modern day Coffey Park. I see the area also has a Conover St today, which is one of the many forms “Couwenhoven” has taken on over the years, so it seems possible this could be named for Wolphert Gerritse…

      Do you know anything about this land feature?

      Thanks!

  4. Kwali says:

    Betty, thanks for that info. I have been doing genealogy research that involves Wolphert Gerritse von Couwenhoven, and I have seen reference to Gerritsen Beach being named for him, but I wondered if that was accurate… I wonder if you know anything about the naming of Gerritsen’s Island, which no longer exists. I am looking at a map referred to as the “Stiles Map of Brooklyn”, which is described as a 1867 reproduction of Ratzer’s 1766 map. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1867_Stiles_Map_of_Brooklyn,_New_York_-_Geographicus_-_BrooklynTwn-stiles-1867.jpg) Just next to Red Hook are two pieces of land seperated from the mainland by small creeks, identified as Gerritsen’s Island and Remsen’s Island, roughly under modern day Coffey Park. I see the area also has a Conover St today, which is one of the many forms “Couwenhoven” has taken on over the years, so it seems possible this could be named for Wolphert Gerritse…

    Do you know anything about this land feature?

    Thanks!

  5. Janice Dougherty says:

    RE: Harry Paine Whitney – Was the famous veterinarian/author Leon Whitney from this family? I believe I read somewhere that he attended James Madison High School, so I thought it was possible. He and his son, also a veterinarian, did some early work with the canine distemper virus.

  6. Tim says:

    The photograph on this page does not show the dam of the mill. These pilings were from the bulkhead from the unfinished construction of Marine Park in the 1930s. The dam pilings are visible south of this area.

    The concrete pipes that Gregory references were the drain pipes from Avenue U that would have been buried if the project was ever completed. The concrete slabs on the eastern side were the beginning of the marina project from the 1930s that also was never finished.

    The property on the west side of the creek was owned by William Collins Whitney (July 5, 1841 – February 2, 1904). He owned many houses and was involved with horse racing at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track which was just a short walk, now the site of the Nostrand Sheepshead Housing Project.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheepshead_Bay_Race_Track

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Collins_Whitney

    For more information about the history of this area see https://www.facebook.com/forttilden

    Photos, facts, and stories about Fort Tilden in Rockaway, NY, Floyd Bennett Field, NYC’s first municipal airport in Brooklyn, NY, and Marine Park, Brooklyn, NY and the surrounding areas. The early history of Gateway National Recreation Area too (1974-1980s). Over 1,000+ photos of Fort Tilden, Floyd Bennett Field, and the Marine Park area.
    Click on “Photos” and then “Albums” to view all the photos.

  7. […] Green of the blog I’m Just Walkin’ identified the pilings, though one reader suggests they could be a remnant of a bulkhead constructed in the […]

  8. chester hartwell says:

    Hi-

    As I have come to understand-Long Island was full of tidal mills.
    Many of the early mills around New Amsterdam may have used ‘Esopus Millstones’ made of Shawangunk grit from the Wiltwyck Dutch Colony (now Kingston, NY) area of what is now Accord.

    The eastern Long Island windmills probably used granite from New Hampshire.

    http://www.tidemillinstitute.org/

    I’d be very interested if this site still has any millstones laying about.

    Lefferts
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Wyck-Lefferts_Tide_Mill

    Saddle Rock
    http://www.tidemillinstitute.org/31.html

    There was another one in Southold.
    …and another at Dutch Kills.
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/ancient-millstones-grist-historians-article-1.299494

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