Tag Archives: Sea Gate

Gravesend Characters Past: “Governor of Coney Island”

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, I turn my attention this time to the curious stereoscopic view below. It surfaced recently, as so many fascinating treasures do, on eBay.

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E. & H.T. Anthony & Co., stereoscopic view no. 2076, recto, “A Trip to Coney Island. / Wyckoff, Governor of Coney Island,” circa 1864-1869 [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

The image side shows a seated, portly gentleman, hands clasped across his rumpled, outdated frock coat. He wears equally unfashionable ruffles at his neck, and squints at the camera with a bemused half-smile, looking for all the world like William Claude Dukenfield, despite his flowing hair.

The reverse side of this stereoview — one in the series “A Trip to Coney Island” published by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. circa 1864-1869 — bears the cryptic caption “Wyckoff, Governor of Coney Island.”

Most internet searches on the phrase “Governor of Coney Island” return hits for Gilbert Davis, an early owner of the Pavilion, a dancing and entertainment venue at Norton’s Point (present-day Sea Gate). Davis, who died about 1870, was a wine merchant who so relished his unofficial honorific that he marked his casks “CGI” for “Governor of Coney Island.” But Davis was an upstart newcomer to Coney Island, at least in the eyes of the Wyckoff family.

Wyckoff.Governor.Coney.Island.reverse

E. & H.T. Anthony & Co., stereoscopic view no. 2076, verso, “A Trip to Coney Island. / Wyckoff, Governor of Coney Island,” circa 1864-1869 [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

The Wyckoffs were among the first permanent European settlers of Coney Island. John Wyckoff (1787-1871), a great-great-great-grandson of Wyckoff family progenitor Pieter Claesen (died 1694), opened a seaside hotel, the eponymous Wyckoff House, in the 1840s. By the time the Anthonys issued their stereoview, Wyckoff’s son, John Jr. (1809-1873), had become proprietor.

Although the Wyckoffs are one of the best-documented families in the world, the Coney Island branch seems to have fallen through the cracks. Published information is sketchy or outright wrong. The standard genealogy of the Wyckoff family states that John Jr. died in 1868. He did not. He passed away December 8, 1873. His funeral took place three days later at the Wyckoff House, and he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. A subsequent notice in the Sag Harbor Corrector positively identifies him as the man in the stereoview:


Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Gravesend Characters Past: Gilbert Hicks (1832-1903)

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, here is a profile of Gilbert Hicks, one of Gravesend’s early postmasters, from Peter Ross, LL. D., A History of Long Island From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, vol. 2 (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1902), 142:

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Gilbert Hicks (1832-1903). Portrait accompanying his obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday 9 March 1903, p. 3, col. 4.

Gilbert Hicks, of Flatbush, was born at Norton’s Point, Coney Island, on the 6th of March, 1832, in the only house located on the island at that time. He represents a family that has long been widely known in this section of the Empire state. One of its representatives was Elias Hicks, a noted divine. Thomas Hicks, the father of our subject, was born at Newtown, Long Island, and was a son of GIlbert Hicks, Sr. The former came to Coney Island about 1828 and served as commissioner of common lands of Gravesend. He was a deacon and leader in the Dutch Refomed church at that place and was a leading and influential citizen whose active connection with public affairs proved of great benefit to the community. He married Cornelia Van Sicklen, a daughter of Abraham Van Sicklen, one of the early settlers of Gravesend. His death occurred in 1890. Four of his nine children still survive him, namely: Gilbert; Annie; Mary, widow of Abraham Voorhies, of Flatbush; and John B., who is also living in Flatbush.

Gilbert Hicks attended the local schools in Gravesend and entered upon his business career as a clerk in a store on Staten Island. He afterward occupied a similar position in Gravesend and later was appointed storekeeper at the county building, entering upon the duties of that position in 1857. He served in that capacity for thirty years, a fact which indicates his fidelity and trustworthiness.

Mr. Hicks was united in marriage to Miss Emma Abrahams, of Linnbrook [Lynbrook?], Long Island, a daughter of Zachariah Abrahams. Their marriage was blessed with four children, of whom three are now living, as follows: Nettie L., wife of Arthur Hatch, of Flatbush; Fannie, wife of Lewis Vernal, of Brooklyn; and Adelaide. In 1857 Mr. Hicks took up his residence in Flatbush and has been a promoter of many of its interests that have proved of public benefit. He is a Democrat in politics, and at one time was quite active in the work of the party. For many years he has been a Mason and has long served as an elder and deacon in the Dutch Reformed church at Flatbush, of which he is an esteemed and valued member.

Letter from Gilbert Hicks to Elias Hicks, postmarked Gravesend, 2 August 1855 (Collection of Joseph Ditta)

Letter from Gilbert Hicks, as postmaster of Gravesend, to his uncle, Elias Hicks, postmarked, 2 August 1855. (Collection of Joseph Ditta)


Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Filed under Gilbert Hicks, Gravesend characters, Hicks family, Van Sicklen family