ancestryink fisherman

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sailor's Snug Harbor

Postcard of Sailor's Snug Harbor
Sailor's Snug Harbor on Staten Island, Richmond County, NY harbored many an aged or ill mariner, sailor, seaman.  Some men would stay for periods of time, leave to work on the seas, and then return later.  Many stayed until their death and were buried in the cemetery there. Some men were without means, some without family to care for them in their old age, and I believe some came just to be in the company of other mariners, upon their retirement. My great-grandfather resided there, periodically, and finally until his death in 1932.

Perusing the census records for New England mariners one will often come across their name on a census report for "Richmond, NY."  Do not suspect you've found a different person than the one you are searching.  It's very likely this seaman, after residing so long in a coastal New England town, will have come to live in Sailor's Snug Harbor.

Below is an excerpt and (a rather eerie) photo from the extremely well-researched USGen website for Staten Island, Richmond, NY.
Click here to visit their pages.
Marine Hospital on the grounds of Sailor's Snug Harbor

"Seamen's Retreat Hospital and Mariner's Family Asylum"

Founded 1831. Cornerstone of building laid 1834. Located between Stapleton and Vanderbilt Landing, aka Clifton, aka Edgewater, over 35 acres. It was supported by a Seamen's Tax collected upon each ship entering the port. All nations used the Retreat. (Sailors' Snug Harbor required seamen to have served five years under the U.S. flag.) They also had a Lunatic Asylum, Mariner's Family Asylum (15th Anniversary: 1868), Old Ladies' Home, and a small cemetery "beneath the shadows of the willows" and mentioned a cemetery book "kept so well that a few days ago a woman from Chicago came to look after a brother she had not seen for years, and was at once shown the spot where the body had laid for fourteen Summers." In 1854 there were 170 patients being treated and in 1871 they had 140. In the first 25 years, they received 58,215 patients, cured 47,029, relieved 4,917, discharged at own request 1,777, and 2,813 died. In 42 years, there were 59,146 patients, 47,821 restored to health, 4,971 relieved, 1857 discharged and 2856 died. In 1882, New York sold the Seaman's Fund and Retreat property to the marine Society, of New-York, for $160,000 (or 86,000). The Government decided in 1885 to purchase the property from the Marine Society for $280,000 for the purpose of permanently establishing there a marine hospital for the port. Not mentioned again.


  1. If you have an ancestor who resided at Sailor's Snug Harbor, you can search for their records and request a copy of them from the SUNY Maritime College Archives where the records are stored. See SUNY Maritime weblink below for more info.

  2. Hello, Thank you for the SUNY link. I did get in touch with their archivist several years ago and he sent me all the records pertaining to my ancestor. It was fascinating and I was so grateful for the information. They sent me the his intake forms, for example, which included all his (few) personal possessions at that time, next of kin, previous employment, etc. Even the number and location of his grave at the cemetery. It took a few weeks to receive the info, but was well worth the wait.

  3. You are confusing two places. The Seamen's Retreat and Marine Hospital (pictured in photo) had its own cemetery that was obliterated. The building in the photo is still standing in Stapleton, Staten Island. Snug Harbor is further west in Randall's Manor, Staten Island. Their cemetery still exists, but is not open to the public. Most of the markers were removed to stop thieves from stealing the copper plates for scrap.

  4. FYI - the SUNY Maritime College Archives has changed the weblink to information regarding their Sailor's Snug Harbor records collection. The new link is the following: