How did Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow get their names?
It should be noted that "Tarrytown" is not a made up name by Irving. Tarrytown is a village near the Hudson River and north of Manhattan, New York. Irving grew up in Manhattan, the son of Scottish and Irish immigrants. In 1798, when Irving was 15, his parents sent him to Tarrytown to stay with a family friend due to an outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan. (The friend was James Kirke Pauldin, a writer and at one time, the United States Secretary of the Navy.)
It was while staying with Pauldin that the young Irving became acquainted with the town of Sleepy Hollow, just a short distance from Tarrytown. Already an aspiring writer, (Irving became bored with school and often snuck away, seeking adventure and attending the theater), Irving soaked in the rich Dutch culture and listened attentively to their captivating tales of the supernatural.
Like many towns and villages in New York, Tarrytown's original inhabitants were Native Americans. Tarrytown was home to the Weckquaesgeek tribe, who had distant ties to the more formidable (in numbers and in strength) Apaches. When European settlers arrived in New York, some Dutch selected Tarrytown as their new home. Records date the first Dutch settlers to 1645. A part of the larger "New Netherlands," Tarrytown and other nearby Dutch settlements were taken over by the English as a result of the Treaty of Westmister in 1674.
Washington Irving can be considered one of the world's first literary superstars. In addition to his fame in the United States, his reputation spread worldwide, largely due to his colorful descriptions in an era that was still hungry for a glimpse of life in America. Here is Irving describing Tarrytown in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:
In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators of the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port which by some is called Greenburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.
Tarrytown has several claims to fame. Jay Gould, the railroad tycoon, owned a palatial home there, as did the tycoon John D. Rockefeller. During the Civil War, Tarrytown was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Tarry Town got its name from "the good housewives of the adjacent country" who gave the city its name because their husbands would linger, or tarry, around the village tavern on market days.
Sleepy Hollow was named because of the "listless repose of the place and the peculiar character of its inhabitants - a drowsy, dreamy influence" seemed to "hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere".