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The outlines of the Sheep Pasture are pretty clearly defined from the grants and conveyances of those early times, and may be generally stated to have been confined within the limits of which the present following streets form a boundary : New street on the west; Beaver street, from New street to William street, on the south; William street, from Beaver street to Wall street, on the east; and Wall street, from William street to New street, on the north ; its contents varying but little from 15 acres.
The convenience of this public common for purposes of pasturage induced its reservation for some years after the gradual progress of the town had foreshadowed the necessity of its appropriation for improvement. This at last, however, came, and the meadow land in the valley, along the line of the present Broad street was taken up for tanneries, and the remaining part was soon after granted, in several large parcels, to persons of influence with the powers of State, apparently on speculation. It is not necessary for the purposes of this essay to enumerate these divisions, except to say that a great part of the northerly portion, extending along the line of Wall street, was granted to the officiating clergyman in the Dutch church, Domine Drissius. His grant bounded upon the farm-fence of the Damen estate, which ran parallel with and a few feet north of the present Wall street. It extended from the present line of New street to William street, and is described in the grant as “in the place called the Schaape Waytie to south of the land of Jan Jansen Damen, containing in breadth on the west side 21 rods, on the east side 15 rods ; in length on the north side 33 rods, as granted by Governor Stuyvesant in 1653.” *
The subsequent establishment of streets left comparatively little of this property for building purposes.
The line of the Damen farm ran parallel with the present northerly line of Wall street, from Broadway to William street; thence it formed what was called an outhoeck, or an oblong projection, extending along the easterly bounds of the Sheep Pasture or present William street to near Beaver street; then eastwardly some distance along the latter; and then along the rear of the gardens, &c., fronting on the present Pearl street, as far as Maiden lane.
West of New street the original grantee of the land through
* The Dutch rod was about 13 feet.
which Wall street runs was Cornelis Groesens, one of the early settlers, who was killed by the Indians in the foray of 1655.
Thus, without venturing more minuteness in description, we have endeavored to show the original grantees of the greater part of the land through which the street was run, and will now approach the period when it took its rise and became established as a public thoroughfare.
The Dutch were in frequent altercation with their New England neighbors, arising from alleged encroachments of the latter upon the rightful domain of the former. The weapons of argument were powerfully used by Governor Stuyvesant, but apparently with little success. The people of New England were growing stronger in numbers and were disposed to take, without much regard for technical rights, what territory their progress required; and finally threatened to end the dispute by an attack upon the capital of the Dutch province. To defend their city the Dutch authorities resolved to erect a line of defenses along the suburbs, extending from the north to the East river.
Proposals for the construction of the work were issued in March, 1653. The palisades to be 12 feet in length and 6 inches in thickness, pointed at the top. At every rod (13 feet) a post 7 inches thick, to which split rails were to be nailed at the distance of 2 feet from the top. These palisades were to be sunk 3 feet in the ground, and thrown up against them on the inside was to be a breastwork of earth 4 feet in height, 3 feet in width at the top, and sloping to the width of 4 feet at the bottom. Two and a half feet within this breastwork was to be a ditch, 2 feet wide and 2 feet deep. The whole length of the work, from river to river, was estimated at 180 rods, (2,340 feet). A rough diagram or pen sketch was attached to the proposals, from which, with the description given, the engraving on the following page of a section of the walls has been drawn.
In 1656 it was resolved “to erect a large and suitable gate at the wall near the East river, according to the plan of Captain Coninck,” who was an educated officer in the service of the company then stationed in New Amsterdam. This structure crossed the present Pearl street at its junction with Wall street, and was known in its time as “ T'Water Poort,” or the Water Gate, in distinction from that known as the “ Land Gate,” situated on Broadway.
It was about the same period that the East river shore, in the
vicinity spoken of, was first improved by the construction along its natural shore at high water mark, of a street filling or wharf, this work being completed at the Water Poort in 1656.
As a work of defense the city wall was not called into actual use, as the threatened invasions were abandoned. It was nevertheless kept in tolerable repair for some years; and, in 1673, when the Dutch Captain Colve recaptured the city from the English, it was renewed with considerable additions ; at that period several buildings had been erected outside of the walls, which were regarded as obstructions and were removed by order of the authorities. But it is a curious commentary on the march of events to read such entries in the records as the following: Jan Vinje, living on the Damen farm, at the present junction of William and Pine streets, sues several of his neighbors for damages done by their school-boys running in his fields and among his peas on their way to school in the city.
When the wall was built, it was considered necessary that there should be a considerable width between it and the line of buildings within and parallel to it, and for this purpose a space of about 100 feet was left for the evolutions of troops, etc.
Soon after the completion of the palisades we find that build