The War Years
  • Civil War Era

Rev. Nicholas Vansant, former pastor of Bethel UM Church, Amboy Rd., candidly wrote about the atmosphere in Tottenville during this period in his book, Sunset Memories:

 “The war fever ran high, making it needful for me in that eminently conservative locality to stand up in private and in public for the government, which, of course, evoked some criticism and opposition, not to say threats of violence………..During the reign of the bloody draft riot in New York in July 1863, a sensation amounting to a veritable scare was produced by a rumor that the rioters were on their way to Tottenville.  The appalling message, “The rioters are coming! The rioters are coming!!” passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, till the whole neighborhood was wrought up to a ferment of tremendous excitement.  Our good neighbor, Mr. Taylor, living nearly opposite, rushed over to the parsonage and, repeating the rumor, advised us to come at once to his house, saying that the rioters would be sure to raid the parsonage first. So, taking his advice, we vacated our own home and took shelter in his.  But the rumor, though not an intended hoax, was a totally false alarm, without the least foundation except in the heated imagination of its originators.”

  •  Grand Army of the Republic

 The GranGAR Postcardd Army of the Republic (GAR), a national fraternal organization of Union Army veterans, was founded in 1866 in Decatur, IL.  On May 22, 1880, GAR Lenhart Post No. 163 was organized in Tottenville with the following charter members:

 William Tysen  *  Jacob Cougle   *  John J. Vaughn, Jr.  *  William DeWaters,  *  D.S. Reckhow  *  David Newberry  *  Joseph Morey  *  H.R. Yetman,  *  Andrew Abrams  *  Wesley Marshall  *  Nathan Reckhow,  *  William Stewart,  *  John W. Corson  *  David J. Johnson,  *  John W. Gibbs  *  David C. Johnson

The post was named in honor of Naval chaplain John L. Lenhart, Tottenville resident, who drowned aboard the USS Cumberland during the historic battle at Hampton Roads, VA in 1862.  Lenhart was the first naval chaplain to die in service to this country.  A monument to his memory was erected in Bethel Cemetery, Tottenville.  The Lenhart Post disbanded in 1924.

Civil War Monument

 A tall, white marble memorial, erected in Bethel Cemetery and dedicated on Decoration Day 1891, is inscribed as follows:

Sacred to the / memory of our / Defenders / The Noble and / Gallant Men who / Died in the late / Civil War

 Civil War MonumentThe soldiers’ names inscribed on the base of the Bethel monument are:  Philip A. Joline; John Stevens; Rev. John L. Lenhart, chaplain U.S.N.; Cornelius M. Sprague; Albert A. Johnson; David M. Bartine; John J. Decker; Daniel Simonson; Charles Newbury; Daniel Lyons; David Latourette; David J. Sprague; William M. Latourette; John McNamara; Duncan Carr; Richard Laforge; Cornelius Dissosway. 

"Now the great day of dedication had come, and an elaborate program had been planned, featuring a parade and the unveiling of the monument… ..visitors from all parts of the Island and from New Jersey began to arrive. A large delegation of distinguished guests were met at the railroad station by a special guard and marched from there to the churchyard. The parade started at the foot of Main St. at 10:00 A.M. Tottenville’s “finest” took the lead and were followed directly by the Tottenville Cornet Band. The place of honor fell to the Lenhart Post of the G.A.R., the sponsor of the occasion…..The parade ended at the Bethel Church. There a solemn memorial service took place. The Soldiers’ Monument, a marble shaft, suitably engraved to the memory of the men who died in the late Civil War was unveiled. The band played “America” and the gathering was dismissed with a benediction. So ended a most memorable Memorial Day in Tottenville.”