Another redoubtable Bronx River woman was a contemporary of Aunt Sarah Titus, Ann Hanson of West Farms.
The old Bronx River town of West Farms owed its industrial heyday partly to the river’s fall that powered its watermills, and partly to the river’s tidal estuary that provided a navigable channel to a point just below the town. Small river sloops and canal boats could make their way from the East River to West Farms, and by the mid-1800s a little river port had developed there to handle the products of West Farms’ increasingly variegated industry.
In the late 1800s business was brisk enough to require the appointment of a professional stevedore at West Farms. Originally meaning a cargo handler who worked from the deck of a vessel (as opposed to a longshoreman who worked from the pier,) the term stevedore had come to mean a contractor who hired work crews and organized the loading and unloading of vessels.
Little seems to be known today about Ann Hanson, who won the appointment as West Farms’ official and only stevedore, but she successfully managed the job into the1890s. In the hard-nosed world of the waterfront, a female stevedore was a rare thing indeed, and Ann Hanson was perhaps unique in New York’s maritime history. But to the boatmen who had just exchanged pleasantries with Aunt Sarah Titus as she raised the drawbridge for them at Westchester Avenue, the sight of Ann Hanson giving orders on the piers at West Farms wouldn’t have seemed so strange.
– Stephen Paul DeVillo