Bowne House


We visited the Kingsland Homestead Museum and saw a display of WWII memories. I talked to the curator about Old Flushing and bought a few things. Then we went on to the house of Thomas Pearsall's friend John Bowne. The house was not in very good condition and the tour was long. I saw the beehive oven, some of the early furniture, the table which had a turning "birdcage" mechanism under it to make it turnable. There was a bell inset in the floor to call the servants. There was a lying in room for the mothers to give birth. The back part of the house originally had a slanted roof and held the livestock. The outside walls were cobb construction. There were relics of the Bowne who was mayor of New York (after they became Episcopalians). I was impressed though by what luxuries the old Quaker merchants were able to have in the new world. A beautiful federalist breakfront, a seventeenth century inlaid metal box in the secret niche that survived the Revolutionary War by being papered over, elegant chairs, the family coat of arms. These folks, like the Pearsalls, were aristocrats and successful merchants before becoming Friends.

The tiny metal bathtub was a long, rounded triangle. Big enough at one end for a person's bottom. I suspect people stood in it to wash. Under the porch had run a ditch. It was literally part of the Underground Railway. Runaway slaves would arrive in the night and be given lodging. Early in the morning, they would be lowered down to the ditch under the porch.They would travel along this ditch to one of the Quaker houses farther to the outskirts of town and then sent with horse and food and a guide to the next "station". They ended in Canada. Some intermarried with the Indians or with whites there. Some even returned to New York later. In the 1840's slavery was abolished in New York.

The big Kitchen area with the fireplace big enough to walk in with it's metal stands and pots and sticks and the beehive oven opening to the left (oven projecting behind in it's plaster covering over a brick wood storage space) was the first meeting place. When Peter Stuyvesant forbade meetings of more than three people, they met at Fox Oaks up the street. Finally John Bowne was arrested and sent to England for trial. The British West India Company interceded for him and the "Flushing Remonstrance" by Friends about his imprisonment was signed by Nicholas Pearsall among others and sent to the King. Finally John Bowne was sent back and Friends received the right to freedom of worship. I purchased a book in the gift shop which lists a number of Pearsalls who intermarried with the Bownes.

Marc took my picture outside and photographed Max and me at the plaque marking Fox Oaks where our Pearsall ancestors found convincement under the ministry of George Fox.

Then it was the long train trip back to Times Square and transfer to the subway to Alan's. We put down our bags happily and rested.

Travel Journal,

the Grafe Family,

August, 1996

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