Washington Irving Meets Jacob VT

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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"

Washington Irving Meets Jacob Van Tassel

…..We have mentioned the old VAN TASSEL house, before it became the picturesque cottage-mansion of Sunnyside, with all its tasteful changes and “betterments.”  A friend and correspondent, Hon. Abiel S. Thurston, of Elmira, in our State, in a recent letter to the Editor, states a circumstance which brought him, very many years ago, into business communications with the original proprietor of “Wolfert’s Roost,” Jacob Van Tassel.  Being an eminent lawyer, at the time, in New-York, he had many cases in which his legal services were required to establish the claims of revolutionary patriots, for “labor done and performed” in the “Good old Cause,” in the times which tried men’s souls.  Among these applicants for a pension, was JACOB VAN TASSEL, at the time proprietor of “the Roost.”  The “record,” upon which his application was based, and upon which his pension was immediately obtained, was in his own hand-writing; and it was such a rare, quaint document, that long after the “Crayon” sketch appeared in the Knickerbocker, describing “Wolfert’s Roost,” Mr. Thurston sent, with a brief note, the original “pension-certificate” voucher to Mr. Irving, from whom he received the subjoined reply:


“Accept my thanks for the curious document concerning JACOB VAN TASSEL, which you have had the kindness to send me.  I shall carefully lay them up on the archives of my little mansion; which, as you suppose, is built on the identical site, and I may add, partly with the materials, of the “stone house” once the castle of the redoubtable JACOB.  I regret to say I have not the “Goose-Gun” which once formed its artillery, and which, if tradition speaks true, could carry a ball across the Tappan Sea. I saw it once in the possession of old Mr. Henry Brevoort, of the Bowery, who promised I should have it at his death; but he is dead, and the “Goose-Gun” has gone into other hands.

“I must have seen old Mr. VAN TASSEL about the time you became acquainted with him.  I had a long conversation with him at his abode in Greenwich-street, New-York, in which I gathered some of the particulars I have since recorded.  He was a type of the belligerent yeomanry of Westchester County, who figured in the border feuds of Skinner and Cowboy in the time of the Revolution, and kept watch along the shores of the Tappan Sea.

“Very respectfully,

“Your obliged and humble servant,


Source: The Knickerbock: Or, New-York Monthly Magazine edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman, Timothy Flint, Lewis Gaylord Clark, Kinahan Cornwallis, John Holmes Agnew, Vol LV, New-York: John A. Gray, 1860


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