George Raymond/Samuel Waugh

A photo of the framed Samuel Waugh painting of George Raymond. (Courtesy of the Bordentown Historical Society.)

The legacy of George Raymond (1814-1899) began with a wintry gale as the hard pounding surf crashed against his ship, the Atalanta, off the coast of Cape May in December of 1844.

As evening approached, screams from the piercing winds resonated between the fastened sails as the sun danced on an uneasy horizon. Undeterred by the situation, Capt. Raymond heard cries for help. He grabbed his telescope and stood at the crosstrees of the mast until a rowboat came within view.

Seated were seven sailors. As a rope was thrown to the boat, the men climbed aboard the safety of the awaiting vessel. One of the men identified himself as the captain of the Alabamian, a cargo ship that was returning from Europe with vast quantities of marble and silk. The relentless gales and the force of the marble slamming against the hull foretold the ship’s imminent demise, and the captain called for his crew to abandon ship.

Safe aboard the Atalanta, he said that another row boat with 11 men was drifting near the shipping lane, and pleaded for their rescue. Luckily, they too were spotted and brought on board.

Aboard the second boat were two young Americans that took passage on the Alabamian after travelling through Europe. Their names were Abram Hewitt (1822-1903) and Edward Cooper (1824-1905). Instinctively, Cooper had tied a black silk handkerchief that he bought on the trip for his mother to the end of his oar as a rescue signal. Shivering from clusters of ice pellets that clung onto their clothing, the entire crew was fortunate to escape such a harrowing experience.

Upon arriving in New York City, Hewitt and Cooper realized that coming home wouldn’t have been possible without the bravery of Captain Raymond and his crew. The ordeal strengthened the friendship between them and their later contributions to the world of industry and politics. Hewitt married Cooper’s sister, Sarah, in 1855, and both men served as mayors of New York City. They would go on to become the foremost ironmasters in America, founding such esteemed businesses as the U.S. Steel Corporation, the American Bridge Company, and the Trenton Iron Company.

Their companies produced our nation’s first iron beams and girders, rolled iron rails, and transformed the landscape of New York City with the first subway system.

Hewitt also established Cooper Union, a private educational institution, with Cooper’s father, Peter. Regardless of these challenges, Hewitt and Cooper remained indebted to Captain Raymond for his rescue efforts and annually reminisced about their survival at sea together, even after a half century.

In 1846, the New York-born Raymond gave up the sea and moved to Bordentown with his wife, Louisa Brown (1819-1898). Her fine intellect and gracious manner stemmed from the fact that she was a direct descendant of the family that founded Brown University in Rhode Island.

Now she and her husband resided in a modest toll collector’s house, where her husband maintained an office for the Delaware and Raritan Canal. Since Lock No. 1 in Bordentown served as its southern terminus, Raymond’s position as collector and inspector of all canal boats and barges was extremely important.

Actively interested in the progress of the town, he became a viable council member, which prompted him to run for mayor. In 1855, he was elected to the office and served two terms.

With a positive outlook on life and a stellar reputation, Capt. Raymond and his family of seven children moved to Park Street, where they entertained guests quite extensively. Commodore Charles Stewart, retired naval commander of the U.S.S. Constitution and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, lived a few miles away and visited the family often.

Despite the wide age difference between Commodore Stewart and Capt. Raymond, their mutual admiration and discussions of the sea solidified their friendship. Other titled guests included the Gilder and Waugh families, who also maintained residencies in town. Samuel Waugh was considered Philadelphia’s premiere portrait painter, and had Captain Raymond sit for one of his works of art before presenting it to him.

Waugh’s daughter, Ida, was a renowned illustrator of children’s books, and graciously drew images of the captain’s children at play.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Raymond was appointed chief freight agent of the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company in New York City. This important position required the control of shipping through one of the Union’s busiest ports.

He remained active on the job (even after the railroad’s merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1871) until his death at age 85. In August 1862, he was appointed Provost Marshall of New Jersey, which gave him the authority to direct weapons, provisions, and steamships from Philadelphia to Annapolis in order to supply Union troops. It was a daunting post that he did not approach lightly.

After the war, the success of the canal and railroad brought more people and industries into Bordentown. In 1867, the town became incorporated as a city, pushing the local government into accepting more businesses and employees. Immigrants from many nations continued to maneuver themselves as part of the landscape along with wayward vagrants either in search of jobs or unsavory opportunities to exploit their fellow man.

As with any society, most citizens abided by the law, but it was those that did not that people like Capt. Raymond found unsettling.

In 1886, after a random series of unlawful acts performed by criminal elements, including pickpocketing at the train platform and assaults from juveniles along the Hilltop, Raymond felt that it was necessary to save the good name of Bordentown by forming a “Law and Order League.” This was basically a group of vigilantes determined to expel lawless behavior that permeated the streets of Bordentown like an overpowering stench.

Citizens who believed in the “preservation of evidence of violation of the law and to the fullest prosecution of offenders” were able to apply as dutiful agents of the organization. On chosen Sunday mornings, these “agents” would also monitor and eject street loafers from sitting on church steps and refusing to leave unless parishioners paid for access.

Furthermore, they assisted local law enforcement by rounding up gangs of boys that congregated on Second Street and reported any unruly behavior by residents living in the former Murat home on Park Street, thus earning its lively moniker as “Rotten Row.”

As for the Celtic nature of Thompson Street, the best solution was to avoid confrontations at all costs.

When Capt. Raymond died in June 1899, he was quietly laid to rest in the corner of Christ Church Cemetery near his late daughter, Louise, who died a few days earlier. Below the cemetery wall could be heard the rumbling of locomotives as their cylindrical frames screeched down the track. It was those daily crescendos that Raymond never grew tired of, whether at his desk or outside.

George Raymond was a captain of integrity. He navigated well along the rivers of life, and maintained control during the entire voyage. As with many voyages, there were treacherous currents, shallow waters, and jagged rocks along the way but he knew the capabilities and strength of his ship in order reach safe passage. He tried to do right and lived a meaningful life.

You can’t ask for better than that.

Doug Kiovsky is the vice president of the Bordentown Historical Society.

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