Editor's note: The following text is from the 1819 Letters to his father by Henry Meigs describing his life in then rural Greenwich Village. Thank you to Contributing Scholar George A. Thompson for finding, cataloging and transcribing this article. The language, spelling and grammar of the article reflects the time period when it was written.
1819: N. York, Feby 6th, 1819
Dear father. Since I last wrote you, Julia + I have decided on placing our tent in the Country as we call it for the ensuing summer. Where we can live much more economically and deliciously. *** It is a decent, convenient house immediately on the North River Margin, with the beach where we can bathe, at our door. Green slopes covered with thrifty Apple trees from the road to the River, a garden large enough to exercise Henry + I. We have all this for less than I have been used to pay these 10 years, and the distance from my office is only 13000 feet! I shall bring my dinner in my Pocket in the morning + retreat at night from our noisy, noisy town and when the apple trees are dipped in flowers, I shall be able to relish Homer. [passage in Greek] ***
New York, March 14, 1819. My dear brother. ** You know when one owns an apple tree, what pains one must be at to keep the young rascals from stealing all the fruits. All one has of it is to consider that apple tree owning is a troublesome business ***
N. York, April 18, 1819.Dear father - Yesterday we had a very interesting display of Electricity between two and three of P. M. [the lightning followed an all-day gale; a sketch-map showing that most of the lightning strikes were on the East River, below Wall-street]
My country house is so situated as to receive the full force of blowing weather. So that in the stormy nights Julia + I have been delightfully lulled to sleep by the roar of wind + rain attended with that still more pleasant music [passage in Greek]. I assure you that [illegible] waves three feet hight roll on our sand beach most agreeably. ***
The weather has been damp but we are all free from colds. Julia thinks the bank of the river is drier than our City brick vaults.
The passing of the river boats of all sorts is a constant amusement + interest. When the wind blows heavy you watch as far as you can see, some bumpkin schooner or sloop whose press of sail threatens him every moment with a keel up + you admire some clean painted vessel with close reefs reaching hand over hand in the wind's eye towards the Metropolis and mark at every half [?] minute the spray fly from stem to stern thus [a sketch] and when she comes about we have all the noise of the sails [illegible] shivering in the blast.
Henry Meigs, Letters. N-YHS; Between two and three o'clock on Saturday last, the city was visited by a storm of rain and hail, accompanied with considerable thunder and lightning. The schooner Thames, lying at Coffee house slip, was struck by the lightning, and was on fire for a considerable time, and much damaged; three men on board were hurt by the lightning, and sent to the hospital. *** National Advocate, April 19, 1819, p. 2, col. 3; [a destructive thunderstorm] N-Y E Post, April 19, 1819, p. 2, col. 3, from Mer Adv & Gaz; N-Y D Advertiser, April 19, 1819, p. 2, cols. 1-2
New York, April 25, 1819. Dear father - *** I am at work in my Garden at about sunrise + continue for two hours. Yesterday + the day before I dug up and raked over neatly, each morning about 800 superficial feet: about as much as a common labourer would do in a whole day. It is after such labour that I take pleasure in a good shave, wash, clean shirt, &c. breakfast, 2 mile walk + then sitting at my desk with pen.
Henry Meigs, Letters. N-YHS.- a plan of his grounds and house: 200 feet along the river, 260 feet deep to the road; a house apparently with porches front & back; a barn, cow shed & fowl-house; a garden, approximately 100 x 130; apple & other fruit trees; the "quidnunc necessarius" (sp?) at the river's edge] - Henry Meigs, Letters. N-YHS, undated, filed between letters of May 9 and May 12, 1819
[fish in the market sell so cheaply that he tends his garden rather than fish for flounder from "the timber raft now in front of my door"; letter of May 16, 1819]
One of the greatest evils of our London is, the vile quality of the water, which is obviously produced by the 1000s of Cloacinious (sp?) structures on the surface. I moved one mile from the Coffee house 8 years ago, principally, to obtain better water, for it may be observed at every street as you remove from the South end of our City, that the water becomes better. *** In the City, our tea kettle became encrusted with stony matter to the thickness of nearly 1/4 Inch in some months.
*** I met Burr day before yesterday, and his appearance, so sprightly, induced me to remark to him that he had lost nothing of the appearance of health in the last 10 years. He replied smilingly "I presume, -- I have no doubt that I shall live all the days of my life! that is my philosophy!"
*** This has been as usual (Sunday) a great River sloop day. They fill up cargo by Saturday all along the Hudson and improve Sunday to reach our market, -- baaing, cackling + horse blowing it -- along with calves, sheep, fowl, fresh butter et omnia cetera farmalia. I have to day counted 8 to 10 frequently in sight, in 15 minutes. *** Henry Meigs, Letters. Letter of May 23, 1819. N-YHS.
["whole dozens of boys" come to swim in the river near his house] I am sitting in my largest room looking thro the west windows on the opposite shore. Staten Island, the river, the sloops, the boys swimming. Henry Meigs, Letters. Letter of June 6, 1819. Henry Meigs, Letters to his father. New-York Historical Society. 1819-04-18 -- Henry Meigs, Letters to his father. At New-York Historical Society. Henry Meigs, coun. & nota, 16 Nassau, h. 43 Franklin (Longworth's, 1818/19);. Henry Meigs, coun. & nota, 16 Nassau, h. Greenwich (Longworth's, 1819/20)
A more modern view of the former farmland. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.propertynest.com%2Fblog%2Fcity%2Fgreenwich-village-manhattan-review-neighborhood-moving-guide%2F&psig=AOvVaw3pxW29IOBs6lnJaQsSKSn9&ust=1692726439999000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CA8QjRxqFwoTCKiYr8an7oADFQAAAAAdAAAAABAd
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