Nelson Brewster – Melancholy Accident

The Corrector (Sag Harbor, NY)
9 April 1859, Page 2

Centre Moriches, April 5th, ’59

On the evening of the 31st of March, as a colored man by the name of Nelson Brewster was returning from a gunning expedition at Smith’s Point [on Mastic Neck], and when about one mile from the house of William Roberts, Esq., his attention was attracted by the barking of his dog a short distance ahead of him. After listening for a few moments, he heard a noise among the bushes, which, he supposed, was occasioned by the movement of game, and after attempting in vain to drive his dog farther in the direction from whence the sound proceeded, and it being too dark to distinguish one object from another, he drew up his gun and discharged the contents in that direction, when, to his horror, he heard the scream of a human voice, and proceeding to the spot, imagine his feelings upon finding that — instead of game — he had actually shot two human beings. One of them afterwards proved to be a colored man by the name of Apollos Rose, aged about twenty-two years, who was instantly killed; the other was a colored girl by the name of Mary A. Hawkins, aged about sixteen years, both of whom were domestics in the employ of William Roberts, Esq. They had left the house together for the purpose of attending church at Poospatuck, and after proceeding one mile, they retired a few feet from the [not readable] while in this disgraceful position, the melancholy accident accurred (sic). A coroner’s inquest was held upon the deceased, and a verdict of accidental death rendered, after which, the jury severely reprimanded the said Nelson Brewster for his carelessness and discharged him.

In the 1850 census of the nearby Hamlet of South Haven, just across the Connecticut River (now known as the Carmans River) from where the accident occurred, there were two extended households of black families. These families were recorded adjacent to the homestead and inn of Samuel Carman, and were likely in his employ. One was headed by Cato Townsend (age 50), likely wife Candice Townsend (age 50), and included Charlotte Hawkins (age 35), Paul Hawkins (age 40), John Hawkins (age 14), Fanny Hawkins (age 7), Mary A. Hawkins (age 5), Nelson Brewster (age 24), Juliet Smith (age 30), and Mott Fanning (age 10). The second adjacent household consisted of Samuel Smith (age 45), Susan Smith (age 35), Stephen Smith (age 10), Isaac Smith (age 13), and Martha O. Smith (age 12). All the adult males were laborers. Not only did Nelson Brewster know Mary A. Hawkins, as might be expected in this then sparsely settled region, but they had lived in the same household when she was a young girl.

No supplemental information on Apollos Rose has been found.

In the 1860 census, Nelson Brewster appears to have removed to Mastic with wife Sarah. There were no black families enumerated in the Hamlet of South Haven in 1860. Cato and Candice Townsend, and the family of Samuel and Susan Smith appear to have moved a few miles further west into what is now the Hamlet of Brookhaven.