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QueensLine: Ryder family once owned most of Rockaway peninsula

On Aug. 9, 1895, Smith Ryder, 76, died at his home in Brooklyn. Ryder had the distinction of being the first white child born on Rockaway Beach.

His father, Nathaniel Ryder, who served during the War of 1812, received a grant from the government for the land between Arverne and Rockaway Point. It would correspond to the modern communities of Somerville, Hammels, Seaside, Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor, Neponset, Roxbury and Breezy Point.

Nathaniel Ryder tried to sell it, but had no success. Not certain on what to do with it, he and his family moved there. In the midst of this sandy desert, his son, Smith Ryder, was born in 1819. The family seemed to have later abandoned the peninsula they thought worthless.

Smith grew to adulthood, got involved in building the Long Island Rail Road and achieved another footnote in history: He was the first conductor on the railroad’s inaugural run between Brooklyn and Greenport.

It was the legendary Boston Express, a rail-boat service that linked Manhattan and Massachusetts, reducing an arduous three-day journey over rutted roads into a 24-hour adventure. A ferry first took passengers from Wall Street to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where they boarded a train. The train conveyed them to Greenport at the tip on the North Fork. Here, they disembarked and took a ferry to New London, Conn., where they again boarded a train for the last leg of the route to Boston.

Within a decade, cheaper and faster rail service through New England connected the two cities and the Long Island Rail Road went bankrupt. With his savings, Smith Ryder opened a stock brokerage business on Wall Street.

By this time, the Rockaways became a popular resort. Single lots commanded rents in a month that far exceeded anything his family could obtain for the entire peninsula 80 years before. They tried to recover their property in the courts, but failed.

Nathaniel Ryder had deemed the land so worthless he never bothered to take title.

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On Aug. 15, 1965, Beatlemania invaded Shea Stadium, where 56,000 attended the concert. Before the excitement was over, 115 people, mainly young girls, had to be given medical treatment for ailments such as skinned knees, sprained ankles and hysteria. Twelve people were removed to the hospital and police had to find friends and relatives of at least 20 lost youngsters. Several girls in the first aid room were crying hysterically because they did not get an opportunity to talk to either Paul McCartney or George Harrison.

During the performance, about a dozen boys and girls raced onto the field and were quickly subdued by the more than 250 special police on duty. To add to their burden, police had to check out three bomb scares during the concert.

The group was transported to and from the stadium in a Wells Fargo armored truck. On its return, the police had to remove one screaming girl from beneath the truck’s wheels as it pulled out of the stadium parking lot.

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or visit astorialic.org.

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