Rose Hill's History.
When the Navy Yard Was Under Water
"Fighting Bob's" Teacher
Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, Afterward a Novelist
Commodore Porter's Holdings
Contest for Supremacy in Music between A Negro Fiddler and a Mulatto Violinist
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, September 8, 1907 [pt. 2, p. 6]
One of the old-time village-like neighborhoods of Washington is that which was first known as the "Nigger Hill" of the Navy Yard section, and afterward for many years was "Rose Hill." The intersection of 4th and L streets was regarded as about the center of this hill and its bounds were K, M, and 6th streets.
The canal was on the west, the "branch" or "Navy Yard" market, and the market canal or slip on the east, and sparsely settled territory on the north; but south of M street there was quite as much settlement. Though the houses were mostly small and some were cabins, there were comfortable homes on the hill and many worthy families lived here, some of whose descendents are now residents of this locality.
Fire Company Organized
Before 1820 such had been the growth and so many were the frame houses that it was deemed expedient to organize a fire company and procure apparatus. Accordingly, at a meeting held in December 1819, such a company was organized at Mattingly's tavern, and, and engine having been procured, the neighborhood had a Phoenix fire company early in 1820. John A. Chalmers was the president, and on its roster of fifty or more on the active list were the names of the most prominent citizens - Thomas Howard, W.H. Barnes, Benjamin Bean, Joseph Follansbee, W. R. Maddox, S. P. Love, and Joseph Talbert among them. The government about this time purchased two engines, one of which was placed in the hands of the Columbia fire company near the Capitol, and that company gave up the corporation engine to the Phoenix company. It had a career of some six years, during which time the apparatus was kept at the tobacco warehouse. The meetings were held at Mattingly's tavern.
Owners of Rose Hill
This and much of the adjacent ground was in the lines of Daniel Carroll of Duddington when the city was laid out, but it was not long before Morris and Greenleaf held large possessions. In 1800 W. Mayne Duncanson owned three squares, those known as 868 and 869, between the canal, 3rd, K, and M streets, and 800, between 3rd, 4th, L and M streets. Capt. Duncanson's holding was with the covenant to build a two-story brick house on every third lot, but this was not complied with. The property unimproved was subjected to the suits in which Greenleaf, Ray, and others were involved with Duncanson, and through the trustee, Francis S. Key, in 1815, sales were made and title passed. The other squares within the bounds, No.s 799, 825, south of 825 and 853, were in the market and some transfers by lease were made early in the century and a few buildings appeared, a number on leased ground.
Land Reclaimed for Navy Yard
In the square known as north 853, between L, M, 5th and 6th streets, there were four lots platted in 1797, those fronting the market canal in 6th street being vested in Mr. Carroll, and the others in the United States. In 1800, however, Mr. Carroll conveyed to the United States squares 883 and 884, between 6th and 7th streets south of M street, then nearly covered by water, taking in exchange the title of the west half of square north 853.
These squares, 883 and 884, comprise in part the site of the navy yard, having long since become part of the terra firma, as well as what was once St. Thomas' bay, as far as 4th street.
In 1803 Samuel Speake owned lot 3 on L street and Alexander McCormick adjoined on the same lot. At that time the valuation was 3 cents per foot for the ground which twenty-five yeas later bore but half a cent. In 1807 Cornelius McLean bought Mr. Speake's property and in 1809 Mr. McCormick's ground went to Commodore Cassin and afterward to Peter Little. In 1819 Mayor Smallwood bought McLean's ground and in 1808 N. Brady owned the corner of 5th and L streets.
In the square S. 825, between 4th, 5th, L, and M streets west of the above described, there were but four lots platted, and when the homeseeker came on the scene leases of ground were described by metes and bounds on those lots. These lots in 1802 were vested thus: 1 and 4 in William Prout and the United States taking the others. In the same year lot 2 went to Jacob Chandler, who sold the south half of it, the northwest corner of 4th and M streets, to John Boyce, and it was thus improved by a $300 dwelling in which the family lived many years. In 1803 A. Ingram was on lot 2, and erected a $300 house, and Oliver Fulk and Amos Brown were on lot 4, corner of 5th and L streets in the same year.
The ground was valued at 8 cents and the improvements as above.
In 1803 A. Longdon had a lease in lot 4 on L street, and a $200 improvement, as also Isaac Little, with a like one on L street, and D. Bailey, John Vermillion, Richard Charles, and A. Davis, on 4th street.
Some Early Householders
In 1829 the lease made to Longdon in 1805 on L street went to Roy Wilburn. Charles Venable bought the Charles property on 4th street and Peter Griffin took a lease on L street. In 1830 James Friend bought in lots 2 and 3 on 4th street; Joseph Fugitt in lot 3, corner L and 4th streets. The former was a baker and the latter a grocer.
In 1808 S. H. Spooner had a lease of ground on L street, William Spooner, a deed for house and ground, and Jopeph Costigan, deed on 4th street. In 1812 leases in lot 3 on L street were held by F. Brady and Ronald Donaldson, and deed by A. Kerr in 1813. Henrietta Vermillion had a lease on 5th street and John Spalding on L street. Eli Cross in 1816, J. M. Seegree the next year and J. McDuell in 1821 had leases on L street property. Commodore David D. Porter resided in 1820 on 4th street, John Bane and Elizabeth Howard in 1822 in 5th street. About this time the ground was valued at 3 to 6 cents, and the improvements listed to Sarah Boyce, $600, N. Brady, $300, R. Charles, $1,700, Commodore Porter, $1,600, Joseph Costigan, $500, O. Fuller, $200, Eli Cross, $200, E. Spooner's heirs, $300, J. Seegree, $500, H. Simms, $200, and Elizabeth Howard, $460.
Patrick Kain's Residence
Between 3rd, 4th, L and M streets was square No. 800, platted for twenty lots, and they passed through the United States and Greenleaf to Capt. Duncanson, as has been said, and in 1816 the names of Washington Bowle, J. D. Barry and Stephen Pleasonton were attached. The first resident appears to have been Patrick Kain, who in 1819 leased lot 16, corner of 4th and l streets, and erected a building which was of the assessed value of $1,600 on three-cent ground.
Mr Kain was a master painter in the navy yard, prominent in Masonic circles and in corporation affairs, being a councilman several terms.
In 1828 Edward De Kraft was on this lot with an $800 building, which in 1830 went to Charlotte King. In that year John Talbert and Thompson Van Riswick owned on M street.
Square 769, between the canal and 2nd street, 3rd, L and M streets, was platted for six lots, and in 1796 the United States took title, and shortly afterward were included in the many lots which Duncanson obtained from Greenleaf. In 1802 the ground was assessed to Duncanson at a valuation of four cents per foot, and the lots remained subject to assessment till released by a decree of the court. In 1815 F. S. Key, as trustee, conveyed lots to John Low, Griffith Coombe and Elias B. Coldwell, and the next year George Sanford, then keeping a lumber yard on Coombe's wharf, bought part of lot 5, corner of 3rd and L streets, erecting a house of $450 value. On the same lot William Coombe had a $900 brick house. In 1819 Joseph Folansbee bought lots 5 and 6 on 3rd street and erected a residence of $700 vale, where he lived ten or twelve years, engaged as a carpenter and builder. Mr. Follansbee later was an employee of the Senate and for a number of years conducted a congressional boarding house near the Capitol.
Feminine Property Owners.
Thomas Devaughn in the same year had a lease on lot 1, on 3rd street north on M street, and erected a residence, and in 1825 Edward Mattingly owned this lot, having a $500 improvement thereon. The valuation of the ground was then six cents. Lydia Brown owned facing the canal in the thirties, as did Ann Dunker at the corner of 3rd and L streets, and Hanson Fowler on 3rd street north of M street.
Four lots were in the square north, number 768, and were vested in the United States until 1796, when they passed to Duncanson, and until 1815 the history of the square was similar to those described above. In that year the lots were passed to John Law, and in the following year to Griffith Coombe. In 1821 Benjamin Bean, long a carpenter and builder, bought in lot 3, corner of 3rd and L streets, and erected a house valued at $650, which for more than fifty years was the family home. Two to four cents was the assessed value of the ground, and Mr. Bean's was the only improvement listed. In the thirties, the valuations were unchanged. J. B. Longman then owned in lot 2, and Vincent and Seraphion Masi in lots 3 and 4. John Law was listed for a $100 improvement in lot 2, and E. Mattingly for $400 in lot 4.
In square 799 eighteen lots were platted, and 1796 all were allotted to Mr. Carroll. In 1801 Benjamin Stoddert conveyed lots 11 and 12 on K street to Luke Wheeler, and J. M. Cooper in trust for Thomas Truxton. James Calder then had the corner west of these, and in 1801 Mr. Stoddert had lot 14 on K street, and Censer Lowry sold part of lot 15, corner of 4th and K streets, to Quinton Bane. W. S. Chandler bought L street lots and others. In 1802 Dunlop and Carlton had lots 9 on 3rd street, 13 on K street and 17 on 4th street. Mr. Lowry had 14 and 15, corner of 4th and K streets, and D. Bailey 16 on 4th street. Mr. Lowry was assessed on a $400 house adjoining on the south, and the ground was listed at 4 cents per foot.
Robert Chaney's $1,600 House
In 1805 James Ross had lots 11 and 12 on K street, and the next year Robert Chaney was on lot 6, corner of 3rd and L streets, where he erected a dwelling which for many years was assessed at $1,600. In 1807 lot 16, at the corner of 4th and K streets, was in the name of J. Pennick and P. Ash. "Nothing doing" would appear by a hiatus in the record of six years. In 1813 M. L. Bevan had parts of lots 6 in the northwest part of the square, James Campbell succeeded to the Ross lots, 11 and 12, on K street, and James Milligan to lot 10 on K street, the latter having a $100 house. In 1814 Joseph Forrest had lot 13 on K street, and the following year George Lloyd bought a frame house on lot 16, on 4th street. In 1818 Mrs. Barbara Lowe bought lots 6 and 7 and part of lot 5, at the corner of 3rd and L streets , on which was a substantial house in which she long resided. In 1820 George Adams was on lot 9, on 3rd street. In 1825 Eli Cross was on lots 1 and 2, George Callard on 3, and William Lambell on 4, all on L street. Silas Butler was on lot 13, on K street. In 1828, Margaret Smith had the lease on lot 2, L street. The next year John Baker was in lot 10, K street. Three years later John Lawrence was here and A.G. Davis in lot 8. L street.
Taxes in the Thirties
In the twenties and thirties, the ground value was 3 cents, and Mrs. Lowe, 3rd and L streets, was taxed on $1000 improvements; J. Milligan, $100, and A. Cochran, $150, 3rd and K streets; Mary Lowry, $800, $250 and $400, 4th and K streets; and G. Lloyd, $50 on 4th street. Square No. 825, within the lines of K, L 4th and 5th streets, west of the reservation, long used as the site of the branch market, was the scene of some activity in the real estate market early in the last century. Though few were the fee simple deeds which passed, many were the leases made for ninety-nine years, with privilege of renewal of redemption. In 1798, from Jonathan Slater it went to William Prout, and on the division between proprietors and Commissioners in 1800, the east half, lots 1 and 4, went to Mr. Prout, and the west half, lots 2 and 3, to the United States. In the same year leases were made to Henry Teitzen on 4th street, John Hurlburton on 5th street, and John Swank on L street. In 1804 H. Adams had a lease in L street, which he assigned to A. Cochran, jr., and the next year William Spooner and Gustavus Higdon took leases on L street property. In 1806 Moses Liverpool, John Durand N. Brady were on L street, and Thomas Brown on 4th street. The following year Noah Brashears had Brady's lease on two frame houses on L street. A. Brady succeeded Brown on 4th street, and F. Parker, Moses Liverpool and N. Franklin appeared in place of Cochran, Spooner, and Brady on L street.
Thirteen Years of Lull
From 1807 to 1830 there was little change in the status of the property outside of the transfers by deed to James Johnson in 1812, George Adams in 1818, and Eli, George and others of the Cross family in the twenties. Three to six cents per foot was the basis of taxation on the ground in the twenties, and improvements were listed as follows: J. W. Brashears, $100; P. Dougherty , $50; W. Armstrong and William Cross, $400 on L street;
George Adams, $1,000 and N. Franklin, $100 on 4th street; Prout's heirs, $180 and T. Wheat, $100 on 5th street; G. Adams $550, and Elizabeth Cross $850, L and 4th streets.
In 1820 Eli Cross bought the southwest corner of the square on Teitzen's lease on L street, and later, another on adjoining ground. In 1825 George Cross had frame houses on L street and a frame house on 4th street. In 1828 Samuel Cross had three frame houses on L street and Elizabeth Cross 110 feet front on 4th street, with house. In 1832 Susan Carne had a frame house on L street and H. Milburn had property on 5th street. The next year Mary and Eli Cross had other leases on L street . In 1837 George Adams owned additional property on L street, Eli Cross and D. G. C. Cross on 4th street and the year following P. Craven had ground on 5th street.
In the thirties there had been no appreciation of value, 3 to 4 cents per foot being appraised on the ground and the old improvements had depreciated a few hundred dollars, while a $100 improvement in the name of Thomas Cross and one at $50 in N. Franklin's name had been added.
Later N. Brady had additional L street property, George Steward a large lot at 5th and L streets, and in the forties "Patsy" Bell was on 4th street and D. Cramer and Capt. B.J.T. Railey on 5th street.
In the twenties there was on L street, James Crandell, a shoemaker, who afterwards was a successful boot and shoe dealer, justice of the peace and police magistrate, and for several years a member of the city councils. Mrs. Ann Nevitt, then a widow, lived also on L street. Mrs. Nevitt was then a school teacher and, becoming the wife of Joshua L. Henshaw who for years was connected with the public schools as principal of the Western, afterward first district school, she became the assistant in charge of girls' department, spending the greater part of her life as an educator.
Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
Her daughter, Mrs. Emma D. E. N. Southworth, who achieved distinction as a novelist, followed her mother as a teacher, being so engaged some years in South Washington where, among her pupils, Admiral R. D. Evans passed to the grammar school of John E. Thompson. Two other daughters and a son by Mr. Henshaw were also teachers at the school for a time.
There was at the corner of 5th and L streets the "white and blacksmith shop" of the well-known Tobias Martin, and later Mrs. Martin conducted a school some years. The grocery stores of Joseph Fugitt, at the corner of 4th street and P. Devereux, nearby, were well known, and John Peake, a river pilot and John Legree, a carpenter resided here. On 4th street were Moses Baker, Abel Cannon, and Henry Scott, blacksmiths, Robert Bradley and Jacob Small, carpenters, and W. and T. Cross, bricklayers; Patrick Kain, painter; Peters, and E. Tyler.
On 3rd street were George and Benjamin Bean, carpenters, Mrs. Devagher, Beard and William Nottingham, and on 5th street were Z. Williams, who for a half a century was in the neighborhood, Mrs. Tate and Jesse Barns.
New Residents Appear
By 1845 there were a number of new names in this section, among them Hanson Fowler, bricklayer; H. Hurst of the marines; G. W. Thompson, carpenter; and the Misses Greenwell on 3rd street; William Talbert, ship carpenter; Robert Teachem, carpenter; H. M. Walker, painter; H. Stephens, H. Lindsley, M. Lee, Mrs. Howard, A. Figaro, watchman; J. L. Fowler, bricklayer, Mrs. Dowling; Mrs. E. Cross and Mrs. Friend's bakery on 4th street; William Dobson, caulker; James Carter, blacksmith; Jared Fugitt, seaman; Mrs. N. Langley and John Sutton on 5th street; Mrs. E. Kirk on 6th street; James Van Riswick, machinist; Thompson Van Riswick, carpenter; James Davis, master machinist; Walter Evans, grocery and dry goods; James Fugitt and Henry George on L street between 3rd and 4th streets; W. Venable; Jere Van Horne, carpenter; B. J. T. Railey; Mrs. Ley; Miss Hamilton; T. B. Cross, bricklayer; Thomas Nealle; J. Burgess, barber; P. Callahan and A. Brest on L street between 4th and 5th streets.
George Steward at 5th and L streets, engaged in carting; H. Murray kept a grocery at 3rd and L streets, and F.J. Fugitt and George Moore had grocery stores. R. Burford had a white and blacksmith shop; and William Miller, a hostler, had a home on the corner of 4th and L streets. The Fugitt grocery site in the fifties became the Rose Hill drug store, above mentioned.
Whiskey for Longevity
The most of the residents were of the working class, but that social enjoyment was a characteristic of Rose Hill can soon be ascertained by conversing with an old settler. There were some characters here, one, at least, whose experience would not help the total abstinence movement. He lived here a life of nearly ninety year and up to a few months of his death enjoyed the best of health, and when asked to what he attributed his long years and good physical condition was wont to reply " Oh, I dunno, unless it be because I have made a habit of using good whiskey, nothing but the best. Three times a day, after each meal, I have taken a drink of three fingers, no more, no less, and here I am."
Steward, the colored carter, was the fiddler for the parties in the neighborhood, and he had a reputation of which he was proud. Some of the boys, however knew of a bright yellow man named Pipsico, who was regarded as a fine violinist, and arranged for a trial of skill between them. At the appointed time there was a crowd, and Steward led off and soon the strains of "Money Musk" and "Cauliflower" set feet to working, and he and his friends felt confident. When however his opponent, Pipsico, drew his bow he soon won his audience, Stewart included, and the latter acknowledged his defeat by raising his rough hands as the cause of his overthrow and asserting," I have to work with them hands, look at them." A sight of them alongside the slender hands of Pipsico was sufficient to account for his failure. But for the ordinary dances thereabout the people were as well satisfied with Steward's fiddle as with Pipsico's violin.