Ephraim J. Totten

TottenThe Totten family is considered to be one of the oldest generations who lived in this borough.  The Totten’s were mentioned several times in the records that are found in churches.

Ephraim J. Totten was born on March 30th, 1806, on the homestead at Tottenville, where he lived there for seventeen years. Growing up, he was raised to know the ways of farming, but the marine life excited him more. At the age of nineteen, he pursued his dream of sailing the seas and started out. In the total of twenty-two years, between 1823 and 1845, Totten sailed the ocean.

On his returns back to land in those twenty-two years, Totten fancied himself a wife, marrying Harriet, the daughter of Jesse Oakley, on June 27th, 1827. Together, the couple has eight children.

In the year 1850, Totten purchased a homestead farm in California. Alongside, he was also a businessman in Tottenville. He was a successful merchant and focused a lot of his time in politics as well, until the year 1874. Totten was a republican and was a member of the state legislature in 1848, just two years after he returned back from sailing. During his time in politics, he held less important positions as well.

Totten's wife had died in August of 1866. Ephraim was remarried to Mrs. Elizabeth Downer, who was the daughter of Jeremiah T. Bower of Belleville New Jersey.

He was one of the early directors and projectors of the Staten Island Railroad. He was a member of the Bethel Methodist Episcopal church for thirty-three years, as a recording steward. At the age of 40, he devoted his time and life in the church.

The southernmost neighborhood of Staten Island was originally named Bentley Manor, by one of the first settlers, Captain Christopher Billop; he named the town after a small ship he owned named the Bentley. In 1869, the district was renamed Tottenville, in honor of the locally prominent Totten family. The family rest in Bethel Methodist Church on Amboy Road and their names can be spotted on the tombstones on the grounds.

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