Entry: Home sweet home Thursday, April 14, 2011






a view from the western shore



"As all the world is doubtless perfectly acquainted with Communipaw, it may seem somewhat superfluous to treat of it in the present work; but my readers will please to recollect, that notwithstanding it is my chief desire to satisfy the present age, yet I write likewise for posterity, and have to consult the understanding and curiosity of some half a score of centuries yet to come; by which time, perhaps, were it not for this invaluable history, the great Communipaw, like Babylon, Carthage, Nineveh, and other great cities, might be perfectly extinct--sunk and forgotten in its own mud--its inhabitants turned into oysters, * and even its situation a fertile subject of learned controversy and hard-headed investigation among indefatigable historians. Let me then piously rescue from oblivion the humble relics of a place which Was the egg from whence was hatched the mighty city of New York!

Communipaw is at present but a small village pleasantly situated, among rural scenery, on that beauteous part of the Jersey shore which was known in ancient legends by the name of Pavonia, and commands a grand prospect of the superb bay of New York. It is within but half an hour's sail of the latter place, provided you have a fair wind, and may be distinctly seen from the city. Nay, it is a well-known fact, which I can testify from my own experience, that



on a clear still summer evening, you may hear, from the Battery of New York, the obstreperous peals of broad-mouthed laughter of the Dutch negroes at Communipaw, who, like most other negroes, are famous for their risible powers. This is peculiarly the case on Sunday evenings, when, it is remarked by an ingenious and observant philosopher, who has made great discoveries in the neighborhood of this city, that they always laugh loudest--which he attributes to the circumstance of their having their holiday clothes on. These negroes, in fact, like the monks in the dark ages, engross all the knowledge of the place, and being infinitely more adventurous and more knowing than their masters, carry on all the foreign trade; making frequent voyages to town in canoes loaded with oysters, but termilk, and cabbages. They are great astrologers, predicting the different changes of weather almost as accurately as an almanac-they are moreover exquisite performers on three-stringed fiddles; in whistling they almost boast the far-famed powers of Orpheus's lyre, for not a horse or an ox in the place, when at the plow or before the wagon, will budge a foot until he hears the well-known whistle of his black driver and companion.--And from their amazing skill at casting up accounts upon their fingers, they are regarded with as much veneration as were the disciples of Pythagoras of yore, when initiated into the sacred quaternary of numbers."

-- Knickerbocker's History of New York. Contributors: Washington Irving - author. Publisher: American Book Exchange. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1881. Page Number: 94.


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