Why Spuyten Duyvil Is So Named

The tide-water creek that forms the upper boundary of Manhattan Island is

known to dwellers in tenements round about as Spittin' Divvle. The

proper name of it is Spuyten Duyvil, and this, in turn, is the

compression of a celebrated boast by Anthony Van Corlaer. This

redoubtable gentleman, famous for fat, long wind, and long whiskers, was

trumpeter for the garrison at New Amsterdam, which his countrymen had

just bought for twenty-four dollars, and he sounded the brass so sturdily

that in the fight between the Dutch and Indians at the Dey Street peach

orchard his blasts struck more terror into the red men's hearts than did

the matchlocks of his comrades. William the Testy vowed that Anthony and

his trumpet were garrison enough for all Manhattan Island, for he argued

that no regiment of Yankees would approach near enough to be struck with

lasting deafness, as must have happened if they came when Anthony was


Peter Stuyvesant-Peter the Headstrong--showed his appreciation of

Anthony's worth by making him his esquire, and when he got news of an

English expedition on its way to seize his unoffending colony, he at once

ordered Anthony to rouse the villages along the Hudson with a trumpet

call to war. The esquire took a hurried leave of six or eight ladies,

each of whom delighted to believe that his affections were lavished on

her alone, and bravely started northward, his trumpet hanging on one

side, a stone bottle, much heavier, depending from the other. It was a

stormy evening when he arrived at the upper end of the island, and there

was no ferryman in sight, so, after fuming up and down the shore, he

swallowed a mighty draught of Dutch courage,--for he was as accomplished

a performer on the horn as on the trumpet,--and swore with ornate and

voluminous oaths that he would swim the stream in spite of the devil

[En spuyt den Duyvil].

He plunged in, and had gone half-way across when the Evil One, not to be

spited, appeared as a huge moss-bunker, vomiting boiling water and

lashing a fiery tail. This dreadful fish seized Anthony by the leg; but

the trumpeter was game, for, raising his instrument to his lips, he

exhaled his last breath through it in a defiant blast that rang through

the woods for miles and made the devil himself let go for a moment. Then

he was dragged below, his nose shining through the water more and more

faintly, until, at last, all sight of him was lost. The failure of his

mission resulted in the downfall of the Dutch in America, for, soon

after, the English won a bloodless victory, and St. George's cross

flaunted from the ramparts where Anthony had so often saluted the setting

sun. But it was years, even then, before he was hushed, for in stormy

weather it was claimed that the shrill of his trumpet could be heard near

the creek that he had named, sounding above the deeper roar of the blast.

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