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Sands family papers

Call Number



1776-1795, inclusive


Sands, Joshua
Codwise, George
Fisk, John
Sands, Comfort
Sands, Benjamin


0.03 Linear Feet in three folders.

Language of Materials

English .


The Sands family was one of the original three families that settled in and owned what is now Sands Point, N.Y. In 1784, Joshua and Comfort Sands, who were brothers, purchased 160 acres of land along the Brooklyn waterfront for $12,000. The Sands family papers consist of four items, dating from 1776 to 1795, and include two financial accounts pertaining to the American Revolutionary War, one indenture for apprenticeship at the Sands brothers ropemaking business, and one receipt.

Biographical note

The Sands family was one of the original three families that settled in and owned what is now Sands Point, N.Y. Born in Reading, Berkshire, England, James Sands (d. 1695) immigrated to Plymouth, MA with his wife Sarah and their children, circa 1658. Along with several other men, James Sands obtained what is now Block Island, R.I. from the original inhabitants of the island, the Narragansetts, in 1660. In 1661, Sands sailed from Taunton, MA and moved his family to Block Island. James and Sarah had six children.

Their eldest son, John (d. 1712), married Sybil Ray (d. 1733), also of Block Island, and in 1691, they purchased farmland in Cow Neck, Long Island, N.Y., now Sands Point, N.Y. John Sands also bought a family burying ground where many of the Sands family are now buried. John and Sybil lived out the remainder of their lives in Cow Neck and had eight children. Their eldest child, John (1683-1763) married Catherine Guthrie (1690-1769) in 1706. John and Catherine lived on Block Island directly following their marriage but moved to Cow Neck around 1716. They had 13 children between 1708 and 1735 including their eldest son, John (1708-1760), and their youngest son, Benjamin (1735-1824).

In 1736, John (1708-1760) married Elizabeth Cornwell (1711-1782), who also descended from one of the three original families who owned Cow Neck. There they had eight children, several of whom served on the side of the colonists during the American Revolutionary War. John Sands (1737-1811), their eldest son, served as a colonel during the Revolutionary War and was also a member of the New York State Assembly for Queens County, 1784 to 1785. He married Elizabeth Jackson of Jerusalem, Long Island, and they had 10 children. John's younger brothers, Comfort Sands (1748-1834) and Joshua Sands (1757-1835), also served on the side of the colonists during the Revolutionary War. Joshua and Comfort went on to become merchants, bankers, and politicians.

Comfort Sands was born in Cow Neck, Long Island on February 26, 1748. While still in his teens, Comfort left Long Island for Manhattan to work as a clerk. He worked at several positions including at Joseph Decker's store that was located on Peck Slip in lower Manhattan. Around 1769, Comfort opened his own store and by 1776 he had become a wealthy merchant. During the American Revolutionary War, Comfort was a member of the New York Provincial Congress and was appointed as the first New York State Auditor-General (now known as the New York State Comptroller) in 1776. He served in this position until his resignation in 1782. In 1784, Comfort served as the first director, and one of the founders, of the Bank of New York, the oldest bank in the United States. Concurrently, he continued in public service in several capacities including as a member of the New York State Assembly for New York County (1784 to 1785, and 1787 to 1789) and as President of the New York Chamber of Commerce, 1794 to 1798.

Following the conclusion of the war, Comfort and his brother Joshua became business partners. Their partnership included real estate ventures and a ropemaking manufacturing business in Brooklyn. In 1784, the Sands brothers purchased 160 acres of land along the Brooklyn waterfront for $12,000. They acquired the land, originally owned by the Rapelje family (also spelled Rapelye), early Dutch settlers of Brooklyn, under the 1779 New York State "Act for the Forfeiture and Sale of the Estates of Persons who Have Adhered to the Enemies of this State." The land acquired in the purchase included what is now the location of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (previously the New York Naval Shipyard), as well as the DUMBO and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods bordering the East River in Brooklyn. The waterfront area was to be the site of a new, planned community, called Olympia. It was to be divided into both commercial and residential properties and would be connected to Manhattan via the nearby ferry service. Though the land was surveyed, Olympia was never completed.

Comfort Sands married twice. In 1769, he married Sarah Dodge (1749-1795) of Hunts Point in Westchester County, N.Y. (now part of the Bronx). After the death of Sarah, Comfort married Cornelia Lott (1761-1856), daughter of Abraham Lott of Brooklyn. Comfort Sands had 18 children, 15 of whom were born to his first wife Sarah and three born to his second wife Cornelia. In 1825, Comfort and Cornelia Sands moved to Hoboken, N.J. where he died in 1834.

Joshua Sands was born in Cow Neck, Long Island on October 12, 1757. Though nearly 20 years younger than his eldest brother John, Joshua also served during the American Revolutionary War, as a captain in the 4th New York Regiment. Following the war, and concurrently with his business and real estate pursuits, Joshua held public office. He was a member of the New York State Senate (1792 to 1797), served a one year term on the Council of Appointment (1796), was appointed Collector of the Port of New York by President John Adams (April 26, 1797 to July 9, 1801), served as a member of the New York State House of Representatives (Federalist) in the 8th United States Congress (March 4, 1803 to March 3, 1805), and then served again as a congressmen in the 19th United States Congress (March 4, 1825 to March 3, 1827). Closer to home, Joshua also served as president of the Board of Trustees in the Village of Brooklyn in 1824. Outside of public office, Joshua was the second president of the Merchants' Bank (1804 to 1808) and was also one of the original Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Savings Bank, founded in 1827.

Joshua Sands married Ann Ayscough (1761-1851) and they had 12 children. In 1786, Joshua moved his residence from Pearl Street in lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. Following the purchase of the land along the Brooklyn waterfront in 1784, Joshua had a three-story Federal style mansion built at 31 Front Street in what is now the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the time of its completion in 1787, it was the largest mansion in Brooklyn. As a resident of Brooklyn, Ann Sands is accredited as being a founding member of St. Ann's Church (originally known as The Episcopal Church of Brooklyn), the oldest Episcopal parish in Brooklyn, incorporated in 1787. Ann Sands hosted weekly church gatherings in the family home for many years. Joshua died in Brooklyn in 1835, and was buried at St. Paul's Church Cemetery in Eastchester, N.Y. and was later reinterred at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery in 1852. Ann Sands died in Brooklyn in 1851.

There are several places that hold the Sands family name in New York; Sands Point, N.Y. and Sands Street in Brooklyn. Further, St. Ann's Church, in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, was reorganized, renamed, and reincorporated in 1795, honoring Ann Sands for her contribution to the founding of the church.


  1. Scoville, Joseph Alfred. The Old Merchants of New York City. New York: Carleton, 1870.
  2. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. DUMBO Historic District Designation Report, December 18, 2007. (accessed September 7, 2010).
  3. Fish, F.G. St. Ann's church, (Brooklyn, New York) from the year 1874 to the year 1845 with a memorial of the Sunday schools. Brooklyn: F.G. Fish, 1845.
  4. Hubert, Philip Gengembre. The Merchants' National Bank of the City of New York: a history of its first century compiled from official records at the request of the directors. New York: Merchant's National Bank, 1903.
  5. Bernardo, Leonard and Jennifer Weiss. Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names. New York: New York University Press, 2006.

Scope and Contents

The Sands family papers consist of four items, dating from 1776 to 1795, and include two financial accounts, one indenture for apprenticeship, and one receipt.

The Benjamin Sands financial accounts consist of two items. The first account lists stock (livestock), cash, and property taken from Benjamin Sands in September and October of 1776 during the American Revolutionary War. The list details the monetary value for the livestock and each item of property, as well as the amount of cash taken. The second account records money Benjamin Sands buried in Cow Neck, Long Island during the American Revolutionary War to "conceal it from robbers." The account also notes money sent during the same period from Benjamin Sands to his nephew Comfort Sands in New York.

The John Fisk indenture is an apprenticeship agreement binding Fisk, "aged eighteen years and four months," to work as an apprentice rope maker for Joshua and Comfort Sands, dated October 11, 1791. Fisk's apprenticeship was divided into two terms--October 11, 1791 to June 11, 1794 and June 11, 1794 to October 11, 1795--totaling four years. For the duration of the apprenticeship, the Sands agreed to pay for all of Fisk's expenses in exchange for his complete loyalty to them while serving out his apprenticeship. The indenture lists the many the activities Fisk was forbidden to do during his apprenticeship including to marry, gamble, or visit taverns.

The Sands and Codwise receipt is for a cash payment towards one share to the Tontine City Tavern and Public Rooms, dated April 2, 1795. It was received by George Codwise and signed by Comfort Sands.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Sands family papers, ARC.096, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source and date of acquisition for items in this collection are unknown. Items in the collection were formally accessioned in 1974 and 1977.

Related Archival Materials

Brooklyn Historical Society also holds two related collections. Interested researchers should see the John Sands Revolutionary War collection, 1991.006 and the Sands, Ayscough, Langdon, Tucker, Wortendyck, and Lawrence families genealogy manuscript, 1974.064.

Collection processed by

Patricia Glowinski

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:21:23 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English.

Processing Information note

Minimally processed to the collection level.

This collection combines the accessions 1997.101, 1997.648, and 1974.186.


Brooklyn Historical Society


Box: A0045 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201