About That Latter 1700s Brewery At Brookland Ferry

This clean living is killing me. Up at 5:30 am on a Saturday after an eight hour sleep. What a choir boy. What a goodie goodie. As far as I can tell, Lew is still up from the night before boiling beef and pounding ales to wait out the winter storm down there. Seems the right thing to do. What am I up to? Well, for anyone keeping score, I created a new tag yesterday for posts with crude helpful diagrams and linked it to posts back to the beginning of 2013. Need to get those tied in back to 2003. And I have been thinking about those breweries of New York in the second half of the 1700s. Maybe it’s all that revisionist speculation about a shadowy “modern era” of craft – which I read only as the rise and fall of great leader big craft – that leads me to want the consolation of my shoe box of primary resources. But that is good. We need to disagree on these things. Makes for a rich discussion. Who the hell wants everyone to have the one same focus, same idea, the same opinion? Well, other than great leader big craft. Err…

Anyway, let’s get back to the certainty of the distant past. New York around the time of the great betrayal of the American Revolution. To recap:

=> There was a trade in importing beer into New York at least as early as the 1750s that developed into fairly elaborate retailing later in the century.
=> There was a trade in exporting beer out of New York at least as early as the 1790s.
=> In partial response to raids from New France down the Lake Champlain corridor and events like the Schenectady massacre of 1690, established brewing, two established brewing families – the Albany Dutch Rutgers and the New Paltz Huguenots Lispenards – migrated to the south, set up brewing operations along the natural water sources and particularly their own drainage works in lower Manhattan, intermarried and became fantastically wealthy and powerful.
=> They were not alone. Around the corner from the Rutger’s brewery on Maiden Lane – named for the former creek where Dutch maidens washed the laundry in the early 1600s – Medcef Eden of Golden Hill set up his brewery in the 1770s in a former meadow along a branch of the watershed flowing down a few hundred yard to the south to meet up with “Maagde Paatje, a footpath used by lovers along a rippling brook”.
=> William D. Faulkner appears in Brooklyn in the years before the start of the Revolution in 1775 and establishes his brewery further north on Manhattan before ending up in Albany. His reverse route compared to the Rutgers and Lispenards was due to the fall of New France and the securing of the northern route.
=> And the man who was born into this world as rich boy George Harison but died as George Harrison builds a brewery at scale on the west side in the 1760s by a wharf – and it never quite seems to do as well as it should have.

In that last post, I noted that Har(r)ison initially had a partnership with James Leadbetter who from 1764-65, appears in an earlier brewing partnership at Brooklyn Ferry with Thomas Horsfield brewing English ale, table and ship beer. That image above is a notice from the New York Mercury from 15 October 1764 memorializing the brief partnership’s hopeful early days. Horsfield’s “Long Island Brewery” was created in the early 1750s in what has then called Brookland but is now Brooklyn by a family of butchers. It continued operations into at least the 1780s. In an 1867 edition of The Historical Magazine the operation is described in this way:

Israel Horsfield, Senior, left three sons, Israel, Junior, Thomas, and William… In 1764, his brother Thomas formed a’ partnership with James Leadbetter, when they advertised for Barley and Oak-bark. The next year, they have for sale at their brewer}-, English Ale, Table, and Ship Beer ; but soon after they dissolved, wheu Thomas, again had “Excellent Ship and Table “Beer, from the Long Island Brewery” which was kept at the store of his brother, William, opposite to Lot & Son’s, in the City of New York; and, in 1778, Captain Thomas Horsfield had about three thousand weight of excellent fresh ship bread, for sale at Brooklyne ferry. The present Middagh-street was, at an early period, known as Horsfield-street.

The article conveys some sense of the family having both a certain level of established wealth in the 1760s and 1770s as well as an unsettled aspect. In 1769, Israel, Junior tries to sell the property which consisted of a house and lot of ground, a slaughter house and barn. Two years later land is for sale again as five lots at Brooklyn ferry, adjoining the house of Israel Horsfield, Junior, situated on a rising ground “which commands a prospect of the City of “New York, and very commodious for gentlemen to build small seats on, or for gardeners or butchers. And again in 1772: “to let, “The large, new brick house, in which Israel Horsfield, Junior, now lives, at the ferry; is “very convenient for a butcher.” Soon after that, Israel, Junior, engaged in brewing with Thomas about eight years after Leadbetter moved on to the Harrison brewery on Manhattan’s west side.

nymiddaghmap1776Middagh Street is still there in Brooklyn, the west end of which faces southern Manhattan. Click on the thumbnail to the right. That’s John Hinton’s map “A plan of the city and environs of New York in North America” from 1776. It shows what is almost certainly Middagh Street, then Horsfield Street, as a country lane to the south of the very small community of Brookland Ferry proper. This detail from the 1770 Ratzer map’s panorama view gives a sense of how small it was. See also this blurry detail from Ratzer’s later 1776 map. [I am now telling myself that paying attention to keeping the three maps distinct is important.] Notice from the notice up there from October 1764 that the brewery is both “opposite the Ferry” and facing their wharf. Is the Horsfield butchery and brewing complex on the shoreline at the end of Middagh Street or closer in to the main community? Middagh is currently over 300 metres from the suspiciously named Water Street in Brooklyn which I expect was near the actual original shoreline. Although Water Street is between the shore and the even more suspiciously names Front Street. Look at this comparison of the 1776 Hinton and today’s Google maps image. Middagh now appears to be a boundary line between fields back then. Land moves over time. Or at least shorelines do. Maybe the family owned multiple parcels. You can read about more of the later history of the area at the ever excellent Forgotten New York.

nymerc02nov1767landh2To the left you see something of the motherlode. The golden moment you dream of finding. It is the notice of the apparently unsuccessful sale of the brewery placed in the New York Mercury of 2 November 1767. It contains an incredible… or perhaps an extremely credible volume of detail about the brewery. First, notice that the ad is placed by Israel Horsfield, Senior. The old man is still around and in charge of the assets even though it was son Thomas who was operating the business with Leadbetter. Wow.

[Too much wow. I need a break. It’s 10 am. My brain hurts. More later.]

Later: OK, 11:20 am. What do we see in the notice of 2 November 1767. The lot is 112 fronting the river and it has its own dock with a certain depth – “a ten or twenty cord boats could discharge along side. The maps by Bernard Ratzer are largely formed from surveys taken in the same year. As an official British government document, locations of wharves and docks would be an important bit of data. But there is other information in the notice, too. There was 46 barrel capacity in two kettles. There seems to be five structures, four in brick. It has drains. A significant investment. They can steep 140 bushels of malt at a time. The 3:1 ratio of malting a bushel to brewing a barrel looks right.

Why was it for sale? Well, it appears that after Leadbetter left in 1765 for the greener pastures of the boy millionaire George Har(r)ison and his plaything of a brewery, the Horsfields were left without quite the same business position they might have imagined for themselves. In June of 1765, the dissolution of the partnership is announced and, ominously, 300 bushels of malt is offered for sale. The next month, they are offering to sell hundreds of pounds of hops. And in September 1765, even though they are offering beer for sale at the brewery as well as, interestingly, their cellars in the city itself, they are also looking for an investor to buy a 50% stake in the brewery. It appears not to have worked out in 1766 for them at all. By the end of the year, there is a writ of execution being exercised against Thomas Horsfield. Daddyman Israel Sr. must have stepped in at that point given, as we see above, the brewery is up for sale under his name. The Horsfield family’s prospects keeps waffling as brother William with the store in the city goes under but by the middle of 1768, Thomas is sufficiently secure to be the co-receiver of his sibling’s debts and in 1769 get the insolvency discharged.

In 1770 the brewery is still in the hands of the father. He had had brewing tenants earlier but in January one is Garret Rapelje is selling off all the beer and other stock – but not the equipment – while in April of the same year William D. Faulkner takes the same route as Leadbetter did five years before and shifts his operation to Rutgers old brewery on Maiden Lane in the city where another twenty years of success await. By June 1771, the Brookland Ferry brewery is again up for sale. A notice for its sale from February 1772 helpfully adds the dimensions of the buildings. It is still for sale in May 1772 with two interesting addition to the notice. It’s more clearly stated that it is Israel, Sr involved and he brags up the kettle capacity a bit. Maybe it’s just me and tell me after 244 years if it is still too soon – but do you think one issue might be the Horsfields might not be exactly the people you want to do business with?

While this goes on and on, something I appreciate being on the typing end of it all, notice one thing. Or rather one person. In at least the outset of 1770, Garret Rapelje is running the brewery. In one of the Razter maps of New York, there is a reference to the property of one “Mr. Rapailie” right next to one of the two wharves at Brookland Ferry. If the name is Dutch, “Rap-el-yee” would be the pronunciation. Which probably tells us that this doomed brewery was located on the north and east side of the road. Israel Sr dies soon thereafter and in December 1772 his house and the brewery are all up on for sale at an estate auction.

I was thinking that was it. That the operation died with the old man. But eighteen years later, one more notice was posted in the newspapers of the time which adds one more fact. In the New York Daily Advertiser for 6 August 1790, the property is up for sale or lease offered by the owner Cary Ludlow. He doesn’t seem to get rid of it until 1795 when it appears to be in the hands of a Mr. Sing. Good luck to you, pal. In addition to the name of the owner, the address is given in Ludlow’s notice. And 184 Water Street still exists. It looks like this – like something out of a police drama, one end of the Brooklyn Bridge rising in the background.

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