Commodore Simonson, Reveal Thyself

I’m on a quest to sort out all of my ancestors named Abraham Simonson (there are ten). Once I figure out Abraham, I’ll work on the Isaacs (11) Elizabeths (15) and Johns (22). It would help if they were in different lines of work, but no. Mariners all, it seems – or mostly.

Our current person of interest is Commodore Abraham Simonson, king of shad fishing. The goal is to figure out who his parents were, or his wife, or his children, so I can see where he fits.

Commodore Simonson

New York American, Saturday March 24, 1838

The old Commodore was in the newspapers all the time for his legendary shad fishing expertise, but none of the articles are helpful in pinning him down. Here’s a few more:

Kate's Lighthouse, Robins Reef

Kate’s Lighthouse, Robins Reef (Photo credit:

“Commodore Abraham Simonson a citizen of Middletown caught four fine shad on Saturday evening at Robins Reef being the first taken in our bay this season” – Richmond County Gazette, Wednesday, March 26th 1862

“The first shad of the season was caught by Messrs Simonson & Co in their nets at Robins Reef on the 27th of March” – Richmond County Gazette, April 1st 1868

You know he was something of a celebrity, because he was even the subject of some snark:

“We came …to Springfield [Connecticut] where we supped and found a cleanly and sumptuous entertainment for the night. Here we feasted on Connecticut River shad just out of the pot, of super excellent flavor and fatness far superior to the first trophies of the season caught by Commodore Simonson yearly in New York bay and served up on an Astor House platter.  – F.W.S., The Knickerbocker; Or, New-York Monthly Magazine, Volume 45

Sounds like someone was jealous she didn’t get invited to Astor House.

Finally, there was this:

“Commodore Abram SIMONSON, an old and respected inhabitant of Richmond county, died at his home in Van Duzer street, Stapleton, on Monday evening, in the seventy-eighth year of his age. He had been for nearly sixty years engaged in the Staten Island shad fisheries and was the head of the well known firm of SIMONSON & Co., fishermen”. – Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, January 5 1877

That’s Rochester, as in New York, so either he was a shad fish god or it was an extremely slow news day.

After he passed on, his firm kept going, though apparently not quite so successfully:

Smack and VanDuzer

New York Times, April 12, 1880

Our phone lines are open and we are desperate to know:

Parents, siblings, children’s names?

And while we’re at it: what is a gilt-net? And are shad really better in Connecticut?

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