Marianna Bodine: Birth: 5 Mar 1680.
Jean Bodine: Birth: 23 Jan 1681.
Note: Per Joanna Curtis, Mar 1997. Name only. Staten Island Advance. "Last of the line". 04/26/0. By JAMES G. FERRERI
For 20 years or so I have admired the "remains" of a stunning Italianate villa with corner tower that sits regally along Richmond Terrace near Clove Road. In recent years, this grand home has been reduced to having its front yard used as a dumping ground, its property divided to allow for the construction of auto repair garages, and its facade marred by the presence of a neon orange-colored fence. As a final insult, the house now faces a sewage treatment plant.
What a mess!
But it wasn't always that way. Let's step back a century or so to tell the story of this once-glorious home and the prosperous Staten Island family associated with it.
The house was constructed in the late 1860s by Edmund Bodine along the Kill van Kull on the Shore Road. Very large and fashionable, it was built in the romantic Italianate Villa style, with a large porch overlooking the waters between Staten Island and New Jersey. It was located near the family business, a large mill, which also was situated on the Shore Road.
Edmund Bodine could trace his ancestry back to some of the earliest settlers on Staten Island. The family was of French origin and emigrated to America sometime in the 17th century, adding a letter to their French ancestors' name, Bodin, in the process, for, in 1701 we find the name "John Bodine" listed in Staten Island county records as having purchased land here. He was still living in 1744, as records show that he and his wife, Hester, sold land on that date.
A descendant of this first Bodine on Staten Island, also named John, married Nathanial Britton's sister, Catherine. The couple had three sons: Vincent, Jacob and, of course, John.
John and Catherine's son, John, was known in the local history of the north shore as "Squire John." An elegant man, he owned much property in the area, and it is believed that it was he who purchased the manor house that had been built by Governor Dongan, the renowned Cassiltowne Manor. Along with the purchase of the manor house, Squire John bought Dongan's Mill and the pond and property alongside it. He later sold the manor to his father, who died in the house in 1835, at the age of 82.
Jacob Bodine had eight children. Two of his sons, William and Edmund, were to become the principles of the firm described as: "Bodine Brothers, dealers in lumber and building materials generally, also fuel, bluestones and slate, planing, sash, blinds, doors, mouldings, etc."
Early maps show the name Bodine on a good many parcels surrounding the mill and the manor house. Very large pieces of land were owned by the family, which they purchased as the mill prospered. The family also owned a large pond, which is listed in a map of 1874 as Bodine Brothers Mill Pond. It was near the intersection of Clove Road and Richmond Terrace, and was fed by the brook that still is visible. The pond was filled in long ago.
William Bodine owned a large parcel of land across the Shore Road from the mill business, on which he eventually built a splendid home, which has since been demolished.
Edmund was to build the wonderful mansion with tower at 1828 Richmond Terrace that is the focus of today's column.
I imagine that the "compound" which the Bodine family created by acquiring the mill and the manor house, and by building homes close by, was something akin to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis, but with the family business next door.
And like the Kennedys, the Bodines had a skeleton in their family closet -- a very big skeleton. Two decades before Edmund's house was built on Richmond Terrace, the Bodine name became notorious in one of the most sensational crimes of the 19th century on Staten Island; a crime that shocked the country. In 1844, the wife of Edmund's nephew Andrew, Mary Housman Bodine, was arrested and charged with a gruesome double murder.
On Christmas Eve 1843, two young boys noticed flames roaring out of the kitchen wing of Captain George Housman's frame house in Graniteville and gave the alarm. There was no organized fire department at that time, so neighbors scooped water from a nearby well to put out the flames. After the fire was under control, curious locals rumagging through the ashes made a grisly discovery: The blackened corpses of Mrs. Emeline Housman and her 20-month-old daughter, Ann Eliza. But they hadn't died as a result of smoke or fire. Their skulls had been battered savagely before the fire began.
Captain Housman, an oysterman, was away at sea at the time, but his sister, Mary, better known as "Polly," not only was on Staten Island, she reportedly had stayed with her sister-in-law the night before the murders because Emeline feared being alone in the house.
Polly soon became the prime suspect, fleeing as she had to Manhattan on Christmas Day to join her paramour, Dr. George Waite, a dentist and druggist, and her 16-year-old son, Albert, who worked for Waite at his drugstore on Canal Street. She was captured when she returned to the Island days later, accused of selling possessions taken from the Housman home. Polly, along with Waite, was arrested for the murders on New Year's Day, 1844. It would take three trials before she would be declared not guilty. (See accompanying story.)
We can only wonder what Edmund Bodine thought of the scandal that had rocked the country decades before, putting his family's name in the national spotlight. Nevertheless, we know that the Bodine family prospered on Staten Island. We also know that Edmund's wonderful Italianate home in West Brighton may be the last tangible evidence of the Bodine family's importance to the growth of 19th-century Staten Island. The grand manor house is gone, the mill and the rest of the family's property have been sold off and divided, but this one last remaining structure gives proof that the Bodine family once called Staten Island home.
Of course, there is the nagging question of a murderess in the family. But, don't we all have a skeleton or two in our family closets?
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