The Sea Monster of Old Inwood

Turn of the Century Hudson River fisherman.

Being surrounded by water on three sides fishing has long been both a pastime, and even an industry, throughout the history of Inwood.   Even the Native Americans, as evidenced by shell middens scattered throughout the neighborhood, knew the area was blessed by an abundance of seafood of all sorts.

But a baby sea serpent?

Such was the rumor in 1906 when John McDonald, an early Inwood resident, captured perhaps the largest creature ever pulled out of local waters.

New York Sun, May 31, 1906.

New York Sun
May 31, 1906
Inwood on the Hudson Thinks It Has the Biggest Eel on Record, Anyway.

“Inwood, not being a seaside resort, there was naturally some skepticism expressed when the rumor spread along the Hudson last night that a sea serpent had been caught in the neighborhood.  John McDonald, watchman at the mantle works of Rufus Darrow & Co., at the foot of Dyckman street, who captured the creature, said it was not a sea serpent, but might have been if it had been allowed at large a little longer and permitted to attain its full growth.

Stewed Eel recipe from “Common Sense in the Home.”

He found it in his eel pot early last evening.  It was a very proper thing to be in an eel pot, as it was unquestionably an eel.  As to its size, McDonald would not commit himself, but he declared that it was the biggest eel ever caught in the Hudson.  It might be a matter of six feet in length and it might be more.  Perhaps if an angler had caught it off a pier it would have been ten feet long.

McDonald said he hoped to sustain his family on the eel for at least a week, which indicates dimly that it was an eel big enough to be mistaken for a sea serpent if it had been at sea of a resort supporting a live press agent.”


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