The Town of Blue Brook derives it’s appellation in part from the Algonquin word for blue water – “boolruck”. According to 17th Century Dutch fur traders, a small native village was located on the site of the modern town. It was next to a stream where the shallow water rushed smoothly over a wide bed of slate. In sunlight, it appeared to be bright blue. Mispronouncing the Indian word, the Dutch called the place Bloobruek, which eventually became in English “Blue Brook”.
Founded 1702 by British Colonel Leonard Lewis, Blue Brook was located at the center of the Colony named for the brother of King Charles II: the Duke of York, that is: New York.
By 1720, a tall, austere Church of England steeple looked out over a substantial Town. There were sizable estates in every direction. Manor houses, high barns and wide stables with tight stone walls, were surrounded by rolling fields and thick woods. Blue Brook had become home in the countryside to many British aristocrats and officials.
Well built roads brought commerce through Blue Brook from as far West as the Hudson, teeming with trade, and Eastward from the Great Sound, where smuggling thrived.
In those days of yore, Blue Brook became the epitome of bucolic beauty and rustic sophistication — with good reason.
The town’s enterprising merchants offered European fabrics, glass, enamels, silver, paper, books and ceramics. Well crafted firearms, flatware, cutlery, as well as tobacco, spirits, wines and beers, fine imported teas, china, exotic spices, even coffee could be found there. The town’s lively Inn and Tavern, called the Spotted Duck, was crowded with travelers, yeoman farmers, drovers, artisans and merchants, and one writer-poet. That country bard recorded some of the early events that appear in my stories.
It can be said that the local gentry’s lives were giddy with blood sport and social intercourse. Their households had many handsome livery, grooms, gardeners, game keepers, housemaids, cooks and serving girls, who deftly attended to them.
In every season, they rode to the hounds and threw splendid balls and banquets. Outdoor parties and roasts by the light of bonfires lasted late into the night. Noble visitors came from far away to enjoy the countrified pleasures available to guests in Blue Brook.
On the Sabbath, Country Gentlemen and their Parisfrocked wives arrived at the Church in well polished carriages. They sat (dozing), in their family pews, harangued by fiery sermons warning of sin and damnation, while outside there was a heaven on earth.
The fields were fruitful, the woods full of game. The Red Man in that region had been pacified, even allied. There was bounty, there was order – here the British aristocracy ruled in peace with ease and grace.
While most of these genteel country folk were God fearing and stayed within the bounds of propriety, some stories from the era are about the aberrations that can happen where privilege prevails — cautionary tales.
Jonathan Quigley, a Crown Magistrate, lived in Blue Brook. He was not known as harsh Judge, for he did not relish handing out the severe penalties typical of the time. He was often in his cups about it when he did. Magistrate Quigley was also easily swayed. His hearings mostly involved offenses by one common townsman or woman against another. If many witnesses would swear on a bible, as to who and what, his ability to perceive the truth, and then make justice prevail, was limited.
Many times unwitting innocents suffered in his Court, duped by unscrupulous attorneys, while scoundrels were allowed to go scott free. His lack of suitability as a Judge was not at issue, being not elected, but appointed by the Chief Magistrate, his cousin.
One notorious case he heard in Poughkeepsie on his Judicial Circuit, involved a young lad, no more than ten. The boy was indentured by his criminally destitute parents to a widowed Aunt. A cruel and bitter person, the Aunt beat the boy mercilessly in private and in public. There was no one to appeal to in those days. Though the Townsfolk shunned her, they did not interfere.
This boy’s life was without joy of any kind but for one exception. His Mother had secretly given him small keepsakes before she was shipped to Perth: two blue glass marbles.
One fateful day, the boy, thinking the Aunt was out, was playing with his secret little blue rounds of glass when they rolled under a cupboard. He tried to reach underneath for them. There his hand came upon a stash of coins. He drew one out to look at in the light. At that very moment, the Aunt returned and found him. Along with furious blows, she accused him of boldly stealing from her.
Dragging him to the Court she swore she would now be rid of him. The law was clear. This kind of theft was punishable by hanging, his tender age did not matter.
At the Court, Judge Quigley blandly listened to the Aunt’s accusatory rant. She dramatically produced the coin found in the boy’s hand. He asked the boy if he had been reaching under the cupboard to steal the coins. The boy explained about the marbles, but did not have them to prove his innocence.
The Aunt flew into violent rage. Then The Lord, it was thought, caused the old woman to have a fit of Apoplexy. She fell drooling and gasping to the floor, clutching her chest, and perished in front of the whole assembly. While they were carrying her corpse from the room, the cook from the Aunt’s house stepped forward with the two little blue glass marbles. She explained that she feared the old crone’s wrath, and remained silent, waiting to introduce the evidence only if necessary.
Since the plaintiff was now dead, and exculpatory evidence was in hand, Quigley gladly slammed his gavel down and set the boy free. His indenture was dissolved by her death.
Having been saved by Divine intervention, the boy was deemed Blessed, and was immediately taken in by the venerable Church Deacon. He grew up in the Rectory next to the Church, and there matured into an eloquent Preacher.
The cook who had brought forth the marbles, continued living in the dead woman’s house. There were no relatives to complain, or sue her to vacate the property. Soon she created a thriving business by renting rooms to visiting merchants. She meticulously paid her taxes. Her well-run lodgings were seen as an asset to the town. She also became a devout and generous member of the Church.
Eventually, the property became hers officially, by the process of adverse possession.
However, upon the cook’s death, her private diary was found. It contained a shocking revelation. Apparently she had poisoned the mean old woman.
So it was not the hand of God that saved the boy that day, merely a timely dose of nightshade. At the cook’s burial, the boy, now Preacher, asked God’s mercy on her soul for the same act that had saved his life. She bequeathed the house to the Church. Oddly, there is no mention in the record regarding the deposition of the coins beneath the cupboard.
Now let’s go back to the morning following that traumatically eventful trial. Judge Quigley headed home. He had slept badly. The boy’s case left him feeling odd. He thought God Himself had sat beside him on the bench. Without the (what he thought was) Divinely applied Apoplexy, he would have hanged an innocent child. It unnerved him. He freely visited the flagon of Port he had brought along for the ride back to Blue Brook.
By the time he got to town it was the dark of night. He was weary and having trouble remaining upright in his saddle. Taking a shortcut to his lodgings through a narrow, unlit lane behind the tavern, he drunkenly stepped on (with his horse) a newly arrived serving girl named Abigail Bridges. Hearing her faint cries from behind him, he blithely continued on his way in a personal fog.
The next day he feigned to first learn of the accident in the Spotted Duck, where, by Noon, he was awash in Port as usual. The Magistrate had no comment.
Everyone in the Blue Brook knew it was he who had injured the girl, but because he was a Crown Official, they remained silent. The girl’s Master, a very elderly widower, was quite deaf and never really understood what happened even though it was explained repeatedly.
Abigail herself dared not confront the Magistrate, because everyone knew she could only have been in the dark lane, at that late hour – for some form of mischief.
Fortunately, the injury to her foot was not too severe, and healed quickly. She soon appeared again, a comely, buxom lass with vivid red hair, limping briskly through the town on errands.
The Magistrate, now feeling guilty, secretly brought her a small amount of money. Apparently her thankfulness was so well rendered, that he began bringing her money and gifts more often. She soon became his mistress.
After a few months, the Chief Magistrate heard of the illicit folly and intervened. Abigail was shipped back her relatives in Dorset. It was said that she left carrying in her womb Jonathan’s bastard child, and in her purse, one pound sterling — considered at that time a generous patrimony.
Seventy four years later — 1776, the descendants of a good many of the industrious trades folk and farmers, together with certain treasonous gentry, including a Matthew Quigley (descendant of Jonathan), rose up with cannon and shot, ending the Crown’s hegemony over the bountiful paradise.
The record shows that Matthew was a brave fellow. He and a group of patriots that had gathered in the Spotted Duck learned of Royal troops marching towards Blue Brook. They immediately rode out filled with revolutionary zeal (and schnapps). They successfully stopped the Redcoat’s progress by ambushing them with volleys of withering musket fire at every turn.
In the same action, it is legend that Patriot Quigley, armed only with a brace of pistols and his saber, single handedly attacked a reconnoitering patrol of Dragoons, and left them all mortally bleeding or dead. He thus preserved the element of surprise that won the day for his comrades.
Matthew went on to distinguish himself with Washington at Valley Forge, and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Continental Army. For his service, he was awarded a vast tract of land in Blue Brook, seized from the British.
Now that we have laid the historical groundwork for the more contemporary tales, let us move forward dramatically three hundred years. A time when Blue Brook has been an American town for almost that long.
The year is 2006, the location is Le Canard, the cozy French-style bistro on the site of the tavern where those farmers and tradesmen hoisted local brews and conspired to revolt so long ago.
Seated at the snug bar is Edward Boswick, attorney at law. His clients are mostly angry spouses seeking justice (and a bigger settlement), as well as wealthy individuals needing skillful representation in the face of vexing taxation. There is a fairly constant call for these services in Blue Brook, so Counselor Boswick has there prospered.
After his third glass of pricey Merlot, the coldness of the current winter comes up in conversation. At the insistence of the other lushes at the bar, Edward — “Eddie” relates a tale he is famous for, which takes place in late winter when the roads of Blue Brook were as slick with ice as they are that night.
Zooming along in his fancy European sports car, traveling at well over the posted limit, as the story goes, Eddie is unable to avoid colliding with a large unlucky beast just outside of town. The deer is fatally injured, and expires immediately. The lawyer is unhurt, though shocked and disheveled.
The deer carcass is too heavy to move, and the car has suffered a great deal of damage, also rendering it unmovable.
At the edge of town, this mess could not be missed by passersby for long. He would have to report the incident immediately. Just a case of nasty bad luck that night, except that Eddie was thoroughly drunk at the time.
In his mind he saw the gavel come down — DWI (again) — loss of license for sure, disbarment perhaps, if he reported the incident in his current condition.
A shrewd and crafty individual, he searched his lurching brain for a strategy that would keep him from having to bicycle to a McDonalds job for the next 32 months.
That’s when the “Honorable Jonathan Quigley” strategy came to mind.
He remembered the local tale involving a well connected Judge back in the Forties. Judge Quigley’s family (whose venerable roots I have already explained) put up vast
amounts of moola for his election campaigns, as well as similarly encouraging many other high level County officials. This allowed him to continue on the bench for
nearly a decade in spite of a notorious degree of drunkenness and other flagrancies. His family and their cronies always had a friend in Court.
That story goes as follows: one pleasant Summer day, half past Noon, Judge Quigley went to park his car in the reserved lot behind the Court. Because he had his usual
early luncheon of Bourbon, he did not notice the turnstile at the entrance to the lot was down, and drove through it, attaching the yellow arm to his bumper.
Realizing that in moments the attendant would return from lunch, and he would be found inebriated, he rushed inside to his chambers and poured more Bourbon (of
which he kept an abundant supply). When the officer in charge came to find him, the Judge was seated behind his vast desk, a cut glass beaker before him, half a tumbler of Bourbon in hand.
He explained slowly and carefully that an insect had flown in the window and blinded him just as he came to the barrier, causing him to crash through. The incident so unnerved him, he needed a drink to calm himself.
The officer knew well Judge Quigley’s reputation, but could not reasonable question the story…or test his sobriety…under the circumstances. That was that. The tale instantly became a Blue Brook legend.
Shakily standing by his wrecked car, Eddie went on, he remembered the ploy. Pulling himself together, he sprinted from the scene of the crash directly to Le Canard, and
asked immediately for a glass of wine. Once he had downed that one, he used the house phone to report the dead deer to the State Police, and ordered another glass.
By the time the officer got to Le Canard to take his statement, Counselor Boswick was beginning to sip his third glass. He slowly and carefully explained to the hard
faced Trooper that he was soberly driving at the speed limit, when the deer suddenly appeared from behind untrimmed foliage. By swerving sharply, he managed to
come to a stop on the icy road without rolling over, thank God.
But the deer had caught it bad. His ruined car and the messy slaughter seriously shook him up. He realized that he must immediately report the accident. He knew there was a public phone at Le Canard (his cell phone was lost in the crash). At the bar he could make the call, and also get a drink to calm himself.
The trooper was not convinced, noting previous offenses. But the bartender corroborated that the Attorney had appeared quite shook up…and not intoxicated as far as he could tell. (The shock of the crash and the sprint in the freezing cold had in fact somewhat sobered Eddie).
The trooper could not reasonably question his story…or effectively administer a sobriety test at this point. He perused Eddie with a lingering expression of disgust. Finally, he snapped his report pad shut, adjusted his garrison hat and decided to let the matter drop, under the circumstances.
As the Police cruiser quietly pulled out from in front of Le Canard, Eddie entered Blue Brook legend with what has since been referred to as the “Boswick Gambit”. The crowd at the bar rewarded him with mumbled appreciation, light applause and guffaws. Then everyone resumed drinking. Eddie called for a taxi to take him home that night, it being deer season.
So ends these stories about a place and the people there.
Though there are more, no room for them here.