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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 245 [newspaper clipping], November 1858

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Identifier: DX03608360

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 9, page 245 [newspaper clipping], November 1858

Description: Newspaper clipping regarding a scandal involving Harbormaster Willis Patten.


DEVELOPMENTS IN THE HARBORMASTER BUSINESS.—A curious case came yesterday before the Mayor, implicating Mr. Willis Patten, one of the Harbormasters 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 consistent 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 [Fernando Wood] issued a summons commanding Patten to appear for examination. Yesterday, therefore, 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 before 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 Patten, $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 he is not employed by Patten, he has frequently 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 difference 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 vessels 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 Harbormaster'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 Herndon, 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. Patten 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 Harbormaster; 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. . . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: 1858-11

Type(s): Diary

Maker/Creator: New York Tribune

Subjects: Bribery


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