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Do You Remember?

"Duck Boat Excursion to Goose Island"

(Reprinted from the Bronx Times Reporter of 9-17-2009)


I started my Labor Day weekend off this year with an excursion to Goose Island on Friday morning, September 4th. Nick DiBrino and I rode up to the New York Athletic Club in New Rochelle where we met Bill Clifford. We boarded his 21-foot camouflaged duck boat there and made our way down the Long Island Sound past Hog Island and those other rocky islets off the shoreline. We passed under the City Island Bridge and up past Rodman’s Neck watching out for Cuban Ledge as we approached the Pelham Bay Bridge which we quietly passed under.

Bill Clifford and Nick DiBrino land at Goose Island on September 4, 2009 for excursion with Bill Twomey.

All along the way Bill Clifford pointed out the different birds we encountered explaining the differences between varieties of egrets. We also saw a beautiful blue heron, mallard ducks, geese, numerous cormorants and, of course, seagulls. Bill is somewhat of an expert on sea life and birds and I felt that I was on a nature tour.

We approached the one and a half acre Goose Island skirting a couple of lobster traps and circled the islet looking for the best place to land. Bill has a depth finder on his boat so it was easy finding the ideal spot to beach his steel-hulled craft especially since it has only a six inch draft and no keel. Once on shore, we reconnoitered the islet and found the foundation of what Nick said was the remains of a life saving station that once served canoeists and boaters entering the mouth of the Hutchinson River.

Both men seemed a little surprised when I told them that there were two graves on the island. We were unable to locate them due to the dense brush and instead examined the shoreline. This bright sunny morning we found only one goose promenading along the shore. We also counted four ducks and a variety of other birdlife. After seeing what we could, I told hem that the name Goose Island goes back to Colonial times as it was first charted under that name in 1679.

Interestingly, an early owner of the island was called “Mammy Goose” by locals. Her real name was Abigail Tice and her husband, William, worked for Joshua Leviness who was a rather wealthy oysterman who also owned the City Island Hotel. Abigail and William moved to Goose Island circa 1843 after visiting it from their Mount Vernon home. When her husband passed away, she buried him on the island and Abigail continued to farm, fish and cater to boaters venturing to her island home for food and drink. Oakley Stannerd, a local fisherman and drinker of note, joined her on the island helping with the chores until he drowned. His was the second and final interment on Goose Island.

Now in her old age and without help, Abigail left he island in 1884 and moved to Joshua Leviness’ City Island Hotel where she died on March 26, 1885 at the age of 92. She willed the island to Joshua who had provided for her in various times of need. As an aside, Joshua was married to Phebe Pell, a descendent of John Pell, the second Lord of the Manor. The couple had ten children and many of the old families in the area can trace their ancestry to the Pell and Leviness families. “Mammy Goose” left no prodigy but judging by today’s visit, the geese still return to the island she loved so much.

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