In the beginning there was land. The hill on which Queens College is located is part of a ridge that crosses Long Island from east to west; it consists of terminal moraineÑthat is, gravel, silt, sand, and boulders that were deposited by the last glacier as it withdrew northward some 15,000,000 years ago. One of the boulders fell off the retreating ice and was buried in sand until recently, when the foundation area of the New Science Building was being excavated. It proved to be a fragment of gneissÑa billion years oldÑthat had endured high temperatures and extraordinary pressures in the Hudson Highlands. It was swept up by a glacier, moved more than sixty kilometers southward, and then dropped on the campus of Queens College. The discovery of the boulder, which is seven cubic meters in volume, delighted the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (also known as the Geology Department), and it is now permanently on exhibit at the northeast comer of the New Science Building.
The College is located at the intersection of Kissena Boulevard and the Long Island Expressway, which runs along the ridge of deposits left behind by the glacier. The hill is not very high. It is about fifty-five feet above sea level at its lowest point and no more than 108 feet at its highest. It covers an area of seventy-six acres.
About 10,000 years ago tribes of nomadic Indians moved into the region to hunt, fish, and farm. They were skilled in making spears, canoes, fishnets, and wampum or sea-shell currency. This medium of exchange, made of black or white seashells and strung on a belt like beads, was so abundant that Long Island
was sometimes called Sewanhake or "island of shells." It was also called Paumanake or "fish-shaped island" and was immortalized as "Paumanok" by Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass.
It was the Matinecock Indians who were settled in the Flushing area in the seventeenth century, when the Dutch assumed control of western Long Island. They allowed English and Dutch colonists to farm and build houses along Flushing Bay in the 1640s. On October 10, 1645, the Dutch Governor William Kieft granted the town of Flushing (Vlis-singen in Dutch) a patent, and on February 15, 1666, the English Governor Richard Nicholls affirmed its validity on behalf of the English crown. New Netherlands had become New York in 1664, four years after the accession of Charles II to the throne of England. The monarch's wife, Catherine ofBraganza, of the royal family of Portugal, honored Queens County with her name in 1683.
The Matinecock Indians gave up title to Flushing on April 14, 1684, when they deeded all of the area from the Long Island Sound to the Jamaica line to representatives of the white freeholders of Flushing, reserving to themselves the "liberty to cut bulrushes . . . forever in any place within the said tract." They were paid "one axe or its equivalent for each fifty acres." It is not clear how long the Indians claimed their right to cut bulrushes on the property, but the hill at Queens College soon became farmland, like the rest of Flushing, passing from family to family over the years.
The City of New York took title to it on November 9, 1904, and then, in the spring of 1909, opened a parental school and work farm there for wayward boys, who were taught such practical trades
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