A peace conference is held on Staten Island with British Admiral, Lord Richard Howe, meeting American representatives including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. The conference fails as Howe demands the colonists revoke the Declaration of Independence.
In the name of God, Amen. I, THOMAS BILLOPP, of Staten Island, Esq., being in health and of sound mind, my temporal estate I dispose of as followeth. "And although I will as the Law wills, in several cases, yet I think it best to declare my mind therein." My executors are to sell all personal property not herein disposed of at public vendue. I leave to my wife Sarah a negro woman, and her child, and my riding chair and the choice of my horses, and œ500, in lieu of dower. I leave to my eldest daughter Anne, whom I had by my first wife, œ100, and my silver tea pot. I leave to my eldest son, Christopher Billopp, all the certain part of my lands called the Manor of Bently, on Staten Island, Beginning at the south side of Staten Island on the bay, by the water fence which divides the lands now in possession of James Butler and James Seguin, my tenants, and then running up toward the woods northward, nearly as the said division fence runs between said Butler and Seguin, on a straight line, until it extends within 15 feet on a course northwest from the southwest corner of said Seguin's house, then northerly nearly along the road which leads from said Seguin's to Jacob Reckhows, to where it falls in with the main road, but upon a straight line, thence running as the said main road runs, easterly to the line between my land and the land of Matthias Johnson, thence as the line runneth, the several courses thereof to the Sound or River, that parts Staten Island from the main to low water mark, thence along said Sound at low water mark to Billopps Point, and thence continuing along low water mark to the place of beginning; And also all the mines and minerals in the other part of the manor of Bently. And he is to have the overplus of my personal estate after paying debts, when he is of age. If he dies under age, the said lands are to go to my son Thomas, and if he dies, then to my son, Jasper Farmer Billopp. All the rest of my lands are to be sold by my executors, and after paying debts and legacies, the remainder is to be paid to all my children except Christopher. If my wife shall bear me a child, it shall have an equal share. If I should purchase any lands after the date of this will, all such are to be sold and the proceeds to go to my children. I make my wife Sarah, and my friend, Paul Michaux, and my son Christopher (when of age) executors.
April 4, 1910
To the Editor of The New York Times:
Your editorial article in the issue of April 2 upon the queation of the Post Office address at the into Tottenvile came near a correct statement of the traditions and their value, but Sunday's very interesting and detailed story was not so accurate.
My great-grandfather owned, at one time, Billop House, as we have always called it -- Bently Manor, as the Billops called it.
Isaao Stoutenberg and Philip Van Courtland, Commissioners of Forfeiture for the Southern District of New York, July 16, 1784, to Thomas McFarren, sold for the consideration of 4,695 the Manor of Bently, "attainder of Christopher Billop," 850 1/2 acres.
March 10, 1790, Thomas McFarren and wife sold to Caleb Ward 746 acres, Bently Manor. It was this sale which gave us an interest -- sentimental, not material -- in the place.
We have visited it a number of times -- once with my mother, who told us of her visits to the place to her uncles and aunts, in their ownership, and we saw the mysterious dungeon of which we had heard from her, and its tunnel from the waterside below the cliff on which the house stands, running through the dungeon and celler away to the woods beyond. It was all delightfully creepy and not to be forgotten.
The promontory on which the house stands was and is still Ward's Point, so the family must have been to a degree identified with the place in the public mind, as well as in the minds of our family. Our interest was sufficient to incite us to numerous pilgrimages and to have a fine painting made of the house. We have also a copy of the Records of Deeds, made valid by the signature of the County Clerk of Richmond.
So the tenure of the lands of the Billop place by the Tottens, if that is the contention, must be of comparatively recent date.
George Dacre Bleything
The Conference House in Tottenville has been missing its cannon for the last 27 years.
Some people believe that the 400-pound iron Revolutionary War cannon that was once chained to a stone pedestal on the side of the Conference House in Tottenville has been rusting on the floor of Raritan Bay for the last 27 years.
Others believe vandals carted the relic to a hidden location where they melted it down for scrap metal.
Rumor has it that the cannon was spotted in Perth Amboy. A retired police officer was said to have heard people bragging that they stole it when they were teen-agers. And it was once overheard in a bar that the cannon found a new home in a Rosebank resident’s backyard.
Needles to say, no one really knows what happened on the night of May 21, 1972, when the cannon – used by British soldiers who occupied the Island during the Revolutionary War – disappeared.
Or do they?
After 27 years, the Conference House Association has dusted off its records and reopened the case of the missing cannon. Their hope – although they admit turn fittingly coincides with Memorial Day.
In fact, there would be no better way to mark the holiday that remembers those who have fought – and the many who died – in our country’s wars than to have this American Revolution cannon restored to the Conference House.
Over the years, Tina Kaasmann-Dunn, treasurer of the Conference House Association, has heard many of the neighborhood tales about the cannon’s whereabouts. She doesn’t believe the rumor that the cannon was melted, since iron is not a valuable metal.
Maybe the cannon was ultimate prize for a big scavenger hunt, a victim of a teen-age prank. Perhaps the people who swiped the cannon pulled their cannon pulled their car up to the monument – at the time Hylan Boulevard extended all the way to the water – hauled the cannon into their trunk and took it to some underground location.
Or maybe the cannon culprits spent a summer evening rolling the iron antique down the lawn of the Conference House into the Arthur Kill, or somehow towed it out by boat into Raritan Bay.
Regardless of how it disappeared, Ms. Kaasmann-Dunn believes the weapon-turned-monument is still intact.
“It would be a wonderful thing to get the cannon back,” she said. “We’ll take it back, no questions asked.”
The cannon became a fixture in the park when the late Virginia Cutting donated it to the Conference House in 1933. Before that it had been in her family’s water-front estate in Rossville for many years.
More than 150 years before Mrs. Cutting’s donation, the cannon helped the British repel an attack by the American General John Sullivan and his 1,500 troops from Carteret, N.J., who had hoped to take Staten Island, which was under British rule during the Revolutionary War.
Sullivan and his troops crossed the Arthur Kill on Aug 22, 1777 and landed in Blazing Star – the town now known as Rossville – where they engaged in a series of skirmishes and the British. It is said that Sullivan, who hailed from New Hampshire, captured more than 100 prisoners and mortally wounded many British soldiers during the attack.
But Sullivan was finally forced to retreat to Carteret when British reinforcements arrived with the cannon – yes, the very same gun that disappeared in 1972.
“Several skirmishes occurred when the patriots landed on the Island,” said Phillip Papas, tour guide for the Conference House Association. “There were several kidnappings where houses of people suspected of being loyalist were burned.”
It’s safe to assume that the cannon was recovered from Mrs. Cutting’s property because her homestead was located on or near the site of Sullivan’s attack.
Warren Cutting, 74, who now lives in Bradenton, Fla., and is the grand nephew of Mrs. Cutting, said he remembers his father, Walter, stuffing the cannon with paper and firing it over the Arthur Kill in Rossville on the Fourth of July.
Before fireworks, shooting off the cannon provided “all of the enjoyment of the day,” said Cutting, noting that his family has had a history on the Island since 1778. His cousin, Robert Cutting, 68, of Great Kills, said his great aunt donated the cannon to the Conference House because “that was the most historic spot for it at the time.”
“She wanted to give it over to someone who would display it. We were kind of upset when it disappeared, “he said.
And there is no better place to display a Revolutionary War cannon than at the Conference House, which is recognized as the site of the unsuccessful peace conference and the only face-to-fact attempt at negotiations during the American Revolution.
The historic meeting took place on Sept 11, 1776 between British Adm. Lord Howe and three representatives of the Continental Congress – Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge.
At the time of the historic conference, the Billopp House – now known as Conference House – served as lodging for British guards. The stone structure was built sometime between 1668 and 1680 by Christopher Billopp, a British Navy Captain.
“If we ever got the cannon back we would display it inside the house this time,” said Ms. Kaasmann-Dunn.
The cannon is not the borough’s first war monument to mysteriously disappear. In nearby Pleasant Plains, the statue of Lady Victory – which became a symbol of victory for those South Shore residents who fought in World War I – disappeared in the 1970s after several cars struck it on its pedestal at the intersection of Pleasant Plains Avenue.
The bronze statue of a woman holding a palm, along with a spread-winged eagle, was believed to have been melted down after being stolen from the city warehouse where it was awaiting repairs.
Although the monument was never recovered, a replica of the 10-foot tall, 700-pound statue was erected by the city Parks Department in its original location in the center of Pleasant Plains Avenue a few years ago.
Another World War I monument – another cannon – was restored to Travis after a sitting in the local firehouse for 10 years. When the cannon jostled loose from its cement base, sometime around 1979, local residents placed it in the firehouse for safe keeping. It wasn’t until 1989 when the residents banded together with the Parks Department to mount the cannon back in it rightful place on Victory Boulevard.
“Travis got there’s back, so we’re hoping we can get ours too, said Ms. Kaasmann-Dunn.
The Conference House Association is offering a reward to anyone who provides information leading to the recovery of the cannon. Anyone will information on its whereabouts is asked to call 984-6046. Calls will be kept confidential.