NEAR ROCKAWAY, is about 5 miles South of Hempstead village on Parsonage Creek, which discharges into the head of Hempstead Bay. It was formerly called CLINK-TOWN, from the name of an Indian Chief, who resided here, and the frame of his house, it is said, still remains, constituting a part of the old tavern that stands near the church.
The Methodist Church was erected here in 1790, and was probably the third house of worship built by that denomination on the island. It was repaired, or nearly rebuilt, about 20 years ago. The burying ground attached to this church has been rendered an object of peculiar interest by becoming the depository of the dead from the ill-fated ships Bristol and Mexico, one hundred and thirty-nine bodies lie buried here in two extended rows. At the south end of which a small but neat monument about 4 feet square at the base and 12 feet high, of white marble, has been erected, which bears on its several sides the following inscriptions, copied verbatim et literatim:-
To the memory of
Sixty-two persons chiefly
Emigrants from England
and Ireland; being the only
remains of 115 souls
forming the passengers
and crew of the American
Capt. Winslow, wrecked
On Hempstead beach
Jan. 2. 1837
On the base, upon the North side, the following lines of worse than doggerel poetry are inscribed:---
In this grave. from the wide ocean doth sleep,
The bodies of those that had crossed the deep,
And instead of being landed, safe on the shore,
In a cold frosty night, they all were no more.
Our grave yards abound with similar examples of bad grammar and contemptible trash, called poetry:--
"Enough to rouse a dead man into rage,
And warm with red resentment the wan cheek;"
but surely public monuments ought to be preserved from such a disgrace. And while the people of Queen's County deserve much credit, for the sympathy and generosity displayed on those lamentable occasions, it is a matter of astonishment and regret, that these several inscriptions were prepared and engraved, with so little regard to accuracy and taste. If the incorrect spelling, the improper use of capitals, and the injudicious arrangement of the various inscriptions were the faults of an ignorant stone-cutter, the monument ought never to have been accepted by those who had the superintendence of the work. Such obvious inaccuracies will be regarded by ordinary visitors, and especially by foreigners, as monuments of the ignorance of the country where they exist. And no man can be censured for drawing the inference, however unfounded it may be in this and other cases, that where such an expense is incurred, those who superintended the work, made use of the best knowledge they possessed. The reputation of a country is involved in its public monuments.*
The following particulars may be added:--
The BRISTOL was an American ship nearly new, manned by a crew of 16 officers and men, having 100 passengers, about 90 of whom were in the steerage. She sailed from Liverpool, Oct. 16th, 1836, and arrived off the Hook, Nov. 20th. Not succeeding in obtaining a pilot, she was driven, on the 21st, by a violent gale, upon the Rockaway shoals, a few miles west of the Marine Pavilion, and half a mile from the shore. The roughness of the sea, by the continuance of the gale, rendered it impracticable to afford any assistance from the land, till after midnight of the 22nd, when a boat from the shore succeeded, at imminent peril, in rescuing 32 individuals from a watery grave. Of course 84 perished, of whom 3 were cabin passengers, and the residue emigrants and seamen.
The MEXICO was an American Barque of 300 tons, manned by a crew of 12 men including officers, and having on board 112 steerage passengers, as ascertained from her papers, certified by the Collector at Liverpool. She left Liverpool Oct. 23rd, 1836 only a week after the Bristol, but did not arrive off the Hook till the 31st of December. Not being able to find a pilot, she stood off to sea; but on returning to the Hook on the 2nd. of Jan. and attempting to enter the Bay, she was driven on Hempstead Beach, about 10 miles east of the spot where the Bristol had been wrecked. The weather being intensely cold, and the waves constantly breaking over the vessel, the most of the passengers and crew perished in the succeeding night. On the following day, a boat from the shore succeeded in reaching the vessel, and rescued the captain, 4 passengers, and 3 of the crew, who dropped from the bowsprit. The boat was unable to return, and the few survivors were necessarily left to their fate. The whole number that perished was 116. On the 11th of Jan. 43 bodies were buried at the place where the monument is erected, and several others that were afterwards recovered. A few of the bodies were recognised and taken by friends for burial elsewhere.
The whole number that perished from these two vessels only 7 weeks apart, was 200.
These are the most disastrous shipwrecks that have ever occurred on the coast of Long Island. Though vessels are frequently driven on this shore, there is no instance on record, where so many lives have been put at hazard and actually lost, as in either of these cases, except that the British sloop of war, SYLPH, near the close of the last war, which has been previously mentioned.
*Since the above was written, the following information has been communicated by a gentleman, who was in a situation to become acquainted with the circumstances of the case. "In regard to the inscription upon the Rockaway Monument, I can only say, that the committee who superintended the work, had a number of epitaphs presented to them, some of them very appropriate, and possessed of considerable poetic merit. But the committee finally adopted the one in question, simply for the reason, that the individual who prepared it, had pledged a liberal subscription toward the monument, on condition that it should secure the preference."--This, truly, is one way of purchasing an inglorious immortality, at the expense of the literary repuation of a whole community; and the word is, that the committee consented to the terms.