Captain Brown, one of the principal slave dealers of the New World

Retirement Hall
Where Prince William Henry, the son of George III., is said to have dined

From Historic Houses of New Jersey by W. Jay Mills, 1902

In old Pamrapaugh, a scattered Dutch settlement frequently visited by hunting-parties from New York City during the eighteenth century, a Captain Thomas Brown, who had won some distinction in the French wars, built, in the year 1760, a large mansion, costing many thousand pounds, which was one of the finest dwellings in New Jersey.

Tradition says Captain Brown was the son of English parents residing in Bergen County. While still a young man he married Anna Van Buskirk, a great heiress, who inherited from her parents, Lawrence and Feytie Van Buskirk, a large portion of a tract of land situated at old Minarchquay (commonly called Pamrapaugh), now Greenville, about three miles south of Jersey City, extending from New York to Newark Bay. It was on the choicest portion of this land, some years after his wife’s decease, that Captain Brown erected his great mansion, which, with its immense rooms, wide double galleries, and profusion of English and French furniture, silver plate, and other luxuries, became quite noted, notwithstanding a rather isolated situation. Travellers of distinction journeying between New York and Philadelphia were generally entertained at its hospitable board, and in the spring and fall it was always the scene of extensive hospitality.

There is a halo of uncanny mystery around the career of Captain Brown, for he was one of the principal slave dealers of the New World. Shipload upon shipload of human freight are known to have been confined in the underground cellar of Retirement Hall, and many of the old manacles and chains were in place in its walls until a few years ago. Search among the records of colonial slave-dealers reveals very little about him. The one bright spot in his life, looking at us from this somber page of history, is the marriage of his only daughter and heiress, in October, 1772, to Andrew Gautier, a member of a prominent New York family. (Andrew Gautier was then in his early teens, and had recently been a student at King’ s College.)
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Tradition says that it occurred one stormy evening. Several boats full of redcoats, one of them containing the young prince, having left the Black Horse or the Rose and Crown, the famous Tory resorts on Staten Island, were driven by a squall over towards the Communipaw shore, and made for the little wharf near Retirement Hall, where they demanded refreshment.

Prince William Henry, the third son of George III., was the hero of the hour among the British and Tories on his landing in New York in September, 1781. The arrival of a son of the sovereign gave them fresh hope of subduing the erring colonists. Fetes and dances marked his arrival in the city, the fairest belles taught him to skate on the Collect pond, and a writer of the time has pictured him followed every step he took by Tory entertainers and Hessians singing high Dutch tunes and dancing rigadoons.
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