Monday, January 23, 2012

Solving the Riddle of Anthony’s Nose


Historians have long puzzled over Anthony’s Nose, the name of the granitic prominence at the southern gateway to the Hudson Highlands that serves as the eastern anchor of the Bear Mountain Bridge
.     Two possible origins are recorded for the odd name of this topographic feature. One is Spanish, the other, Dutch. Let’s explore the Spanish claim first.

Spanish Claims
From time to time, an elusive tale surfaces and asserts that Esteban Gomez--not Giovanni da Verrazzano--discovered the Hudson River, which he named for St. Anthony.
That Gomez, a Portuguese sailing for the Spanish crown, explored and mapped the North American coast a year after Verrazzano's 1524 voyage is not in dispute. Gomez may indeed have given the saint's name to our river. On later Spanish maps, a Rio San Antonio is shown at about this latitude.
Maritime historian Samuel Eliot Morison, however, gives solid credit to Verrazzano, sailing for the French, for the discovery of the river. In his fascinating and diligently researched work, The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America, Morison devotes an entire chapter to the exploratory voyages of Verrazzano between 1524 and 1528.
Gomez, on the other hand, gets short shrift from Morison. He is mentioned--unflatteringly and only in passing--on six scattered pages. After fomenting a mutiny, Gomez took over the San Antonio, one of the ships of Magellan's expedition, and returned to Spain, where he became a teller of lies about Magellan. Morison says nothing about the 1525 voyage of Gomez.
No evidence exists, however, that Verrazzano or Gomez penetrated any deeper into the continent than the Upper Bay. As former Westchester resident Robert Boyle pointed out in his now-classic 1969 work The Hudson River, the true honor for the discovery and exploration of the river falls to the navigator after whom it is named: Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch
The Gomez story is occasionally embellished locally with the claim that he reached the Hudson Highlands. According to this legend, as his ship sailed past the highest peak on St. Anthony's feast day, June 13th, he named it St. Anthony's Nose.
Nice try--but no cigar. Anthony's Nose--or St. Anthony's Nose, if you insist--is not the highest mountain in the area. And the progression of this mountain's names went in the opposite direction--and then back again. First called Anthony's Nose early in the 17th century, toward the end of the 18th century, it mysteriously became St. Anthony's Nose. Just as mysteriously, in the 19th century it became Anthony's Nose once again.
As a college student majoring in geology and an avid hiker, I came to know the trails and peaks of the rugged Hudson Highlands. Storm King, Crow's Nest, Bear Mountain, and the Dunderberg Massif on the western side of the river, and Mount Beacon, Breakneck and Bull Hill on the eastern side are all taller and more impressive than Anthony's Nose, which barely reaches 900 feet. It is still the highest point in Westchester County, easily nosing out Dickerson Mountain on the old Valeria property.

Dutch Origins of Anthony’s Nose
Solid evidence exists for the name’s Dutch provenance. In the years after Hudson’s exploration of the river in 1609, Dutch pilots sailing their sloops on the river named every prominent natural feature useful for navigation, including Anthony's Nose.
Identifying a specific Dutchman as the Anthony of the nose is not easy. Early sources give that honor to Antoine de Hooges, an official of the colony of New Netherland at Fort Orange (Albany).
In his 1836 Letters About the Hudson and Its Vicinity, magazine publisher Freeman Hunt described a visit with Philip Van Cortlandt at the Upper Manor House near Peekskill. Van Cortlandt, who had joined the American cause in the Revolution and became a brigadier general, liked to be addressed by his military title.
Hunt wrote: “General V. is the owner of Anthony's Nose (on the river), as it is called. He gave me the origin of that name.” Van Cortlandt claimed that the peak was named before the Revolution for a Capt. Antony Hogans who had an enormous nose. Antony Hogans was probably the Anglicization of Antoine de Hooges. This would have been a likely name conversion in a society moving from Dutch to English.
Washington Irving later recounted an often-repeated anecdote about the naming of the mountain in his whimsical 1809 satirical work, Knickerbocker's History of New York. Irving insisted it was named for the prodigious and bejeweled nose of Anthony Van Corlear, Peter Stuyvesant's courier, who was dubbed "Anthony the Trumpeter" and who drowned trying to swim across Spuyten Duyvil Creek.
The late Richard Lederer spent a good part of his life tracking the origins of Westchester’s names. In his exhaustive The Place Names of Westchester County, he records that the name Anthony's Nose was first used in the 1683 Indian deed to Stephanus Van Cortlandt, patroon of Van Cortlandt Manor.
Perceiving a nose in this rocky mass was not easy for some observers of the mountain. Inveterate traveler James Kirke Paulding noted in his 1828 guidebook, The New Mirror for Travellers, "The most curious thing about it is that it no more looks like a nose than my foot."

The Impermanence of Place Names
Place names often undergo transferred identities. Consider the famous "Turk's Face," a rocky feature on Breakneck Mountain, itself sometimes called Turk's Face Mountain. Long a landmark for travelers on the Hudson about two miles north of Cold Spring, this rock formation bore a striking resemblance to a human face.
One indefatigable English traveler, John Maude, jokingly remarked in 1800 about the Turk's Face during a voyage between Albany and New York City: “The profile of the Face Mountain so strongly resembles the profile of the human face, that I had for some time my doubts whether art had not assisted in improving the likeness. I have seen other blockheads which did not possess so sensible a countenance.”
In 1846, a rapacious quarryman blew Turk's Face to smithereens. With one mighty blast of black powder, Capt. John Deering Ayers reduced 10,000 tons of picturesque scenery to a pile of rubble. Ayers blew himself to kingdom come a few years later while checking an explosive charge that failed to go off. Conservationists of the period saw his violent end as justly deserved retribution.
Despite the disappearance of the stone visage, the name Turk's Face Mountain persisted.  By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the long-vanished Turk's Face was being remembered as St. Anthony's Face, according to Wallace Bruce, author of a series of popular guidebooks to the Hudson River. References to it as St. Anthony's Face, of course, led to inevitable confusion with Anthony's Nose farther to the south.

St. Anthony’s Nose Again
The first occurrence of St. Anthony's Nose in print was in Charles Carroll's account of a passage through the Hudson Highlands by sloop in April of 1776. Carroll, a member of the Continental Congress, was sailing up the Hudson with Ben Franklin on an unsuccessful mission to Canada to get the Canadians to join the American cause. He later signed the Declaration of Independence and became a U.S. senator.
Carroll recorded that the vessel encountered a storm in sailing around “the cape called St. Anthony’s Nose,” where a blast off the mountain tore the sloop’s mainsail to shreds. An aquatint etching by J.W. Edy, after a drawing by G.B. Fisher, bears the title, View of St. Anthony's Nose in the North River, Province of New York, 1795.  More recently, an early name of the hamlet at the little-used Manitou railroad station was St. Anthonysville.
The derogative quality of the name St. Anthony's Nose has always been bothersome to this writer. Would any sincerely religious person disparage a gentle saint like St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese-born Franciscan monk and patron saint of the poor? According to legend, he once preached to an attentive audience of fish.
St. Anthony's Nose has the same derisive, antireligious ring found in comparative references to the posterior part of a roast chicken or turkey. (Depending upon one's prejudices, this usage described it as "the Parson's Nose" or "the Pope's Nose.")
In his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Eric Partridge notes the latter expression first appeared in print in 1788. This would agree timewise with the corruption of Anthony's Nose to St. Anthony's Nose. If derogation was the objective behind calling it St. Anthony's Nose, Charles Carroll's unwitting and unquestioning use of the term is ironic: Carroll, one of the richest men of his time, was a prominent Roman Catholic layman.
We should not conclude that abandonment of the saint's name and the return to the use of Anthony's Nose on today's maps necessarily represents a setback for the good father. Think of it instead as another small victory in a never-ending battle against mindless bigotry.

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