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  • Writer's pictureLocal History Collection

Forgotten Faces

It is evident from archival accounts that Roslyn residents of African American and mixed ancestry have been vital members of the community for several centuries. They sustained their families through physically taxing work on both land and water, performing jobs that were important to sustaining the local industrial and agricultural economy.

Altharchival-gaze-the-local-history-collectionough their names are mentioned only in passing, and few, if any, images of them exist, the Local History Collection remembers the following individuals:

Cato, who lived in Roslyn in the late eighteenth century and drove a market wagon between Roslyn and Brooklyn. He “would accommodate passengers who were willing to occupy what space was left by calves, sheep, etc.”

William H. Eato, recognized as “a first class mason, stone cutter and well digger,” who risked his life digging wells as deep as 100 feet and was called on to retrieve the bodies of other diggers who died in cave-ins and other tragedies.

Joseph S. Mott, known as “Old Blind Joe,” sustained himself by sawing wood for residents throughout the North Shore, walking miles from his cottage in Roslyn to Glen Head, Westbury or Glen Cove in all types of weather. He died in 1899, at 90 years old, after falling through the ice in Hempstead Harbor.

Hewlett Hicks, who was described in a 1894 Brooklyn Times article as “one of the most reliable workers in the Hicks’ lumber yards at Roslyn” for more than sixteen years. He owned land in Roslyn Heights as well as the horses and wagons used in his lumber transport business.

With the exception of Hewlett Hicks, seen below wearing a bowler hat at his 1860 wedding to Maria (Mary) Espelletta Hicks, no images exist of these individuals. Yet, we imagine their visages among those of these unidentified, but possibly local, individuals whose portraits were saved in the albums of Hicks' daughter, Marcellena Hicks Pearsall.

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