The “Clearwater” and the “Sojourner Truth” ca. 1980. The “Clearwater,” birthed in Poughkeepsie, was built in 1969 by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. as a teaching tool for environmental education.Here at the Historical Society, it sometimes feels like “history” begins in the 19th century. Aside from a few Indian arrowheads, our earliest artifacts, our earliest maps, and our earliest photographs are all from the 1840s or '50s. But there are a handful of items in the collection from 18th century. The earliest are probably the three documents related to the ship called the “Nancy.”
To get some idea of what the “Nancy” looked like, go down to the Hudson River and watch for the “Clearwater.” The “Clearwater” and the “Nancy” are both sloops – single-masted sailing vessels with sails aligned along the length of the ship. Sloops were the workhorses of the Hudson River from the time of the earliest European settlers to the growth of the railroads in the 19th century. They were maneuverable ships that could handle the Hudson’s strong tides, variable winds, and sometimes shallow waters, and required only a small crew. The Dutch used them to connect their early settlements in Fort Orange (now called Albany) and New Amsterdam (now Manhattan). In those days, the cargo was often trading goods – furs and grain, or flour from the local mills. By the 1790s, the sloops were carrying fish, lumber, straw, mail, and passengers.
1836 painting by Hastings resident George Harvey showing a sloop docked at the Hastings waterfront, printed on a Historical Society notecard from 1983. (The original painting is in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.)One of these hard-working sloops was the “Nancy.” The three documents in our collection give us a great deal of information about her. She was about half the size of the “Clearwater” -- 44 feet long and 14 feet 9 inches wide, and weighed 35 tons. She was built in Albany in 1794. In March of 1796, her owner leased her to Philip Forgey and Corbus Lefergy for “one hundred and four pounds current money of the state of New York.”
The two later documents in our collection, dated 1796 and 1797, are operating licenses issued by the U.S. Government and bearing the embossed seals of both the New York Customs House and the Naval Office of the District City of New York. Apparently, licenses had to be renewed annually, since each one permits the owner to carry on the “coasting trade” for “One Year from the date hereof, and no longer.” Her original title was “the Nancy of New York,” but on these two documents she is rechristened “the Nancy of Greenburgh.” (Hastings, as you will recall, was not incorporated as a village until 1879.)
Lease and one of the two licenses for the sloop "Nancy." These documents have been digitized by the Westchester Historical Society. Click on the documents to view them on the Historical Treasures of Westchester County web site. Click on the word "next" at the top of the window to cycle through the pages of the documents.Forgey and Lefergey are only two of the many variations of the familiar Hastings family name of Lefurgy. The Lefurgys are some of the earliest identifiable residents of Hastings, having been tenant farmers under Frederick Philipse before the Revolution. Lefurgys married into many prominent local families, including the Dobbs, the Snedens, the Browns, the Pulvers, and the Posts.
While we haven’t yet been able to trace Philip Forgey, “Corbus” may have been Jacobus (also known as James) Lefurgy, who was born in Hastings in 1761 and died here in 1826. Further research in the extensive collections of Lefurgy papers given to the Society by Margaret Lane and Clarence Parker may reveal more about the “Nancy” and her cargo and help us fill in the details of Hastings’ early history.