History of Inwood

Early Map of Area now known as Inwood - click for larger version
click image for larger version

Inwood First Settle In 1817
By Dusilla McTigue Maher
Courtesy of Jim Pearsall

This village, now knows as Inwood, was first settled about 1817.

The early settlers were for the most part fishermen and they called the community North West Point taking that name from its geographical position in relation to Far Rockaway of which it was then a part. The Turnpike road bounds it on the east side; the Long Island Railroad tracks and the Village of Lawrence bound it on the south and Jamaica Bay bounds it on the north and most of the west side, the remaining westerly portion adjoining Far Rockaway.

"The North West pointers," as the early settlers were called, were men who worked on, owned or operated fishing boats on Jamaica Bay, which comes to a head at that part and has numerous docks and minor harbors.

Inwood is the center of many interesting legends and stories and it is in Inwood that the earliest meeting of Rockaway Indians and white men took place. It is reported that in 1642 a conference was held in "the woods near Rockaway (a corruption of the word "Reckouwacky" the latter being the name chosen by a tribe of the Carnarsee Indians when they established themselves at Rockaway, Reckouwacky meaning the place of our own people) between Dutch envoys, headed by one De Vries and sixteen sachems, representing Indian tribes, who complained of wrong doings of the Dutch. It is to be explained that the Carnarsee tribe was part of the Mohegan tribe of the great Mohawk nation. This tribe inhabited the whole of Long Island, and sold it to the Dutch in 1640.

At the 1642 meeting addresses of simple pathos were made and the Indians emphasized the wrongs complained of by laying down a twig for each complaint. Apparently the Indians were not satisfied and reprisals were made during the winter, but in the spring they relented as they desired to plant their corn with the paleface people.

As the years passed, life between the settlers and the Indians became more peaceful and the number of white settlers at Hemsteede (Hempstead) which means "homestead," Jamaica and Flushing greatly increased.

The North West Pointers were a more or less lawless lot and although they were not numerous they were periodically troublesome to other Rockaway residents. Many incidents in which rough horse play and harsh physical conduct were the main features are traceable to these hard North West Pointers.

About 1865 the section became generally known as Westville and participated in the rapid growth of the peninsula which occurred with the opening of the railroad in 1868. At that time there were only four streets in Inwood, "Mott Street" which ran from Jamaica Turnpike to John Mott's farm (now the site of the Inwood Country Club golf course); the road leading to Jesse Craft's who had opened the first general store in Inwood about 1835; (Mr. Craft was the great grandfather of Nassau County Sheriff Jesse P. Combs) and now called Bayview Avenue; Solomon Avenue, which leads into the road leading to Jesse Craft's and Lord Avenue.

The great grandson and great great granddaughter of Jesse Craft, who opened the first general store in Inwood in 1835, stand on the site of the market located on the northeast corner of Craft Street and Bayview Avenue, and look over the Journal entries in the day book of the store with Robley F. DeMott, vice president of the Peninsula National Bank, Nassau County Sheriff Jesse Combs holds the ledger with Mr. DeMott, and in the center is Carol Combs.

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Jesse Craft, who was born in 1800 and died at the age of 88 years operated the store in the midst of farmland where the Craft family grew vegetables, raised beef, pork, ducks and chickens.

It is interesting to note the names of some of the old families in Inwood who were customers at Mr. Craft's store and whose descendants still reside in the vicinity of Inwood. The old ledger in Mr. Combs' possession shows that some of the people who patronized his great grandfather's store included Richard Smith, great grandfather of J. Russel Sprague of Lawrence, former Nassau County Executive and Dr. Newman E. Sprague of Atlantic Beach; and Isaac Wanser, great grandfather of Robley DeMott. Others included the Abrams, the Motts, Rhinharts, Nortons, Lawrences, Cornells, Whites, Baldwins, Seamans, Johnsons, Skelly, Murphys, Smiths, Hewletts, Doughtys, Hicks, Watts, Thompsons, Hendersons, McNeills, Bowkers, Frost, Carmins, Jones, Coles, Ryders, and Whippies.

Bartering was a common practice in those days. One entry shows where a man gave chickens in exchange for #3.12 in merchandise. Some of the items which could be purchased and their prices include a half bushel of apples for twenty-six cents; three pounds 7 ounces of pork, twenty-one cents; seven pounds of rye flour for twenty cents; a horse wagon for $9.40; fifty eggs for fifty cents; two pairs of shoes for a dollar; four pounds of candies for fifty-four cents; and a half dozen cups and saucers for forty-six cents.

Lewis Craft, the son of Jesse Craft, had four daughters, Della Murray and Evelyn Smith both deceased; Amy Abrams, now in her 90th year and Lillian Combs, mother of the Sheriff, now in her 92nd year.

In 1888, the community with a population of 1,000 sought to have their own post office. However, there was another Westville in New York State, and so a public meeting was called and the name Inwood was chosen.

The post office which had served the area from Woodmere to Rockaway Beach, still stands at the corner of Broadway and Rockaway Turnpike, Lawrence. Now owned and occupied by Frank J. Dillon as a private home, the building also served a s a hotel and general store. The postmaster was James Jennings.

The first postmaster of the newly established Inwood post office opened February 25, 1889, was Mr. J. B. Crosby, who held that position through World War I.

The community spirit of Inwood has always has always prevailed. Any business or social function which Inwood residents take up as a body is assured of success and undivided support.

The second store to be opened in Inwood was started by Freeman Sprague about 1861. Pliny Doughty bought it from him and later it was acquired by Peter Davenport. The late S. Doughty Abrams also had an interest in it. The Davenport store was located at the corner of Doughty Blvd. and Bayview Avenue which to this day is called Davenport Corners by old timers.

Oyster planting was the greatest industry in Inwood until Jamaica Bay became polluted and was condemned about 1920. In an interview in 1947, the late S. Doughty Abrams, who was then 92, recalled "Jamaica Bay was one of the greatest bodies of water ever. And the oysters we grew were tops in size and flavor. When they went to market, other parties had to sit back and wait until they were all sold."

Mr. Abrams and his cousin, Jarvis Hicks, as boys, went out for oysters, and on one tide could pick up a thousand. This catch would sell for three dollars.

Later on Mr. Abrams went into the business of planting the oysters. In the 1957 interview Mr. Abrams recalled, "I would go to Connecticut to buy the see, fetch it to Jamaica Bay, plant it and grow it to market size. Then truckmen would pick up the oysters and cart them to the market on West 10th Street in New York City." Mr. Abrams had four different oyster beds covering a total of 12 acres.

Inwood has two public school, Public School 2 on Donahue Ave. and 4 on Wanser Avenue and a parochial school, Our Lady of Good Counsed on Henry Street.

The first public school to serve the entire local area including Far Rockaway, stood at Frost Lane and Broadway in Lawrence.

In 1893, a frame school house was built on Central Avenue in Lawrence, on the site of the present Public School 1. At that time there was a branch school with one teacher in the Combs building in Inwood, and this was known as Public School 2. That building was used until 1920 when the present Public School 2 was opened. Public School 4 was opened in 1910 and ad addition was made in 1927. Just recently the handsome new gymnasium and auditorium at Public School 2 was dedicated. Theodore J. Ciamillo is principal of P.S. 2 and Edward Andrews is principal P.S. 4.