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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 245

              [newspaper clipping]
  DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HARBORMASTER BUSINESS.
�A curious case came yesterday before the Mayor,
implicating Mr. Willis Patten, one of the Harbormas-
ters of the city, showing how Mr. Willis Patten makes
his money, and also throwing considerable light on the
whole matter of the way of doing this sort of business.
  Mr. Nathaniel M. Russell, who is a captain, and an
agent of a towing company, came to the City Hall to
complain of the grievances he has suffered at the
hands of Mr. Willis Patten, Harbormaster, &c.  Mr. 
Russell charges that Mr. Patten not only shows a con-
sistent partiality to the boats of the towing company
of R. Coffin & Co., but that he does other things in
the rascally way that shows him to be an unfit and
improper man for his office; and Captain Russell
therefore prays that Mr. Willis Patten, Harbormaster,
speculator, peculator, &c., be removed.
  All this came to pass on Monday last; and on the
complaint that Mayor issued a summons commanding
Patten to appear for examination.  Yesterday, there-
fore, Mr. Patten, accompanied by his counsel, Mr. J.
H. White, appeared, as did also Mr. Russell, with Mr.
McMahon as counsel.  An investigation was forthwith
instituted, with the view of sending the affidavits be-
fore the Governor.  The points of the evidence are as
follows:
  Mr. Timothy T. Dwight said that he had some times
offered Patten extra fees, but that Patten had never
accepted the money, although he (Mr. Dwight) had
once paid Mr. Marshall, who keeps an office with Pat-
ten, $5 for securing a berth for the bark Mirabel.
  Mr. Marshall was then brought up.  He says that
he lives corner of Laight and Hudson streets that, 
although ht is not employed by Patten, he has fre-
quently received money for securing berths for vessels,
which money he had handed over to Patten; he had
received $5, $10, $15, $20, at a time; Patten used to
allow him part of the money for himself�sometimes
$2 or $3; had heard captains say that it made a dif-
ference in getting berths for their vessels from Patten
whether they were towed by Coffin�s line or not.
  Samuel N. Smith, a shipowner, testified that he had
frequently paid in the bills of Dollner & Potter, his
agents, charges of from $5 to $15 for procuring berths
from the Harbormasters for his vessels; thought it
made a difference in securing berths whether the ves-
sels were towed by the Coffin line or another.
  Mr. Potter of the firm of Dollner & Potter, was
sworn.  He said he had paid such bills for Harbor-
master�s fees, and he exhibited one containing a charge
of $15 for such fees.  Mr. Chamberlain, the agent for
the Coffin Towing Line, in a conversation, had told
him that he paid to Mr. Patten one-half the money he
received as Harbormaster�s fees, and the other half he
kept himself.
  Mr. Gaskell, Captain of the coasting-schoner Hern-
don, testified that for a long time he has been in the
habit of paying these fees.  He paid $2 for getting a
berth for his schooner; if he missed it one voyage he
had to pay it the next.  He understood that Mr. Pat-
ten was to have the money, although he had never
paid it to him in person.
  Mr. E. S. Powell, a packet-agent, has been in the
habit of paying Chamberlin $5 when he was Harbor-
master; and after Mr. Patten was appointed, Mr. 
Chamberlain came to him and offered to still secure
him berths at the same price as formerly.  His exact
words were: �Capt Powell, I attend to your berths,�
and he gave it to be understood that he had a private
understanding with Mr. Patten.  Witnesses had been in
the habit, up to July 31, of paying $5 for each vessel.
  The money was for Harbormaster�s fees, though he
had never paid any money to Mr. Patten in person; he
had asked Mr. Patten to call and settle, but Mr. P. had
never made his appearance, and so he had never paid
him.  He had heard the captains of vessels say that it
made a difference in securing berths what company
towed their vessels, and he had been of that opinion
himself, but has since thought that he might be mis-
taken.  He has had several communications with Mr.
Patten about securing berths for vessels; but Patten
had never told him that Chamberlain had no authority
to collect fees for him, but he did say �if you have a
�mind to pay Chamberlain $5, or anybody else, that
�is none of my business.�
  The investigation was then adjourned.               
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