Barricades at Staten Island

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 30, 1856


Great excitement has for a long time prevailed at Staten Island, relative to the yellow fever, there being more vessels quarantined at this time, on account of that infectious disease, than was ever before known in the sanitary annals of our harbor. Originally the quarantine of Staten Island was isolated, and answered every practicable purpose. But the towns which have sprung up inclosing the grounds, and the fact that Brooklyn reaches down the bay, so as to bring a large population directly in contact with the quarantined shipping, makes quarantine really as useless as if it were in the heart of our city, so far as defending the people from contagion is concerned.

Over fifty persons, many of the highest respectability, have died already of contagion , and this fearful sacrifice of life is to be ascribed to the apparent indifference of the proper authorities to a proper quarantine, which should be located at “the Hook,” and so protected that it could not be infringed upon by outside residents As Castleton Village, which is in the immediate vicinity of the quarantine marine hospital, two or three meetings of the Board of Health of that place were held subsequently to the 10th of August. The result of these meetings has been the preparation of a series of stringent rules and regulations for the preservation of the health of said town. These regulations, printed on large handbills, were on Saturday, August 9th, placarded in the most conspicuous places about the village. About eight o’clock on Saturday morning, a deputation of workmen commenced digging post holes in front of the entrance to the marine hospital, preparatory to erecting a barricade, so as to prevent further ingress or egress through the gate.

The proceedings were watched by a number of residents. After laboring about [two] hours, Dr. Harris made his appearance and ordered the workmen to desist.  Operations were now suspended, and a conference was held between Dr. Thompson, Dr. Lea, Dr. Harris and the others, the result of which did not transpire, further than that the workmen were directed to resume their work of barricading.  The barricade was completed about noon. It consisted of boards ten feet long, placed in perpendicular position, and so arranged as to make a semi-circular inclosure of the gateway, reaching about twelve feet from the centre of the gate and extending to the wall about fifteen feet in either side. Constables have been stationed along the hospital walls, and others placed on the beach to prevent [boats] from landing from the vessels at anchor in quarantine.

About eight o’clock on Wednesday the 13th of August a party of captains and sailors from New York [???], landed at the quarantine, and thence proceeded directly to the barricade. Without ceremony they made an attack upon it, and broke it down after a few moments’ determined work. As soon as it was completed, the parties interested gave [three cheers] and then returned to their tug and came up to the city.