During the years that Staten Island was inhabited by the Raritan Indians, a settlement was established on the Island’s South Shore, known as Smoking Point. At the time, they had created trails, which have been marked on more recent maps. One such trail, which lead to Smoking Point, was known as Blazing Star. By 1661, the Dutch and French established their own settlement on Staten Island. About twenty-five years later, the English had taken over, purchasing Staten Island from the Indians. By 1708, public ferries began to operate from Staten Island to Manhattan, Long Island, and New Jersey. One of these ferries, which began operation by around 1722, was known as the Blazing Star Ferry. This ferry traveled from Smoking Point, across the Arthur Kill, to the Woodbridge Township in New Jersey.
Taverns were located at the ferry houses of each ferry on Staten Island. Due to the tavern being named Blazing Star Inn, after the ferry, the name of the settlement was changed from Smoking Point to Blazing Star. During the early nineteenth century, Blazing Star’s name was changed yet again. In honor of a wealthy landowner in the community, the name changed to Rossville in the 1830’s. This landowner, Colonel William E. Ross, was notable for constructing a replica of Windsor Castle, a castle in Windsor, Berkshire, England, in 1850. The mansion was originally known as the Ross Mansion or Ross Castle, but changed to the Lyon Mansion or Lyon Castle, when the home was sold to Governor Caleb Lyon, a notable poet, author, and member of the New York State Senate and House of Representatives. Lyon died in his home in 1875, and the building was demolished forty-five years later.
Much of Rossville’s history can be found lying around the neighborhood. For example, the Sleight Family Graveyard, which had been designated as a New York City Landmark on January 17, 1968, and the Blazing Star Burial Ground, or Rossville Cemetery, are two cemeteries located off of Arthur Kill Road with gravestones dating as early as the 1750’s. Although originally mostly farmland, Rossville has become largely suburban in nature — a fact lamented by its original residents, nearly all of whom have since moved away, in many cases after having been bought out under pressure from aggressive developers who have torn down most of the original homes and replaced them with condominium developments and semi-detached homes.
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