When the new Boston Post Road opened in 1792 on a route that partly followed the Bronx River, it quickly became a popular road for cattle drovers bringing livestock to New York City, and gave West Farms and Morrisania a new importance.
In the days before railroads and refrigeration, most meat was delivered “on the hoof” from upstate farms and pastures. The new road offered a welcome shortcut to a long and dusty trail, and the Drovers Inn, in the old Jennings homestead at present-day Boston Road and Jefferson Place, became a popular pause for the thirsty drovers.
It was not only the drovers who were thirsty. The other advantage of the new route was its nearness to the Bronx River, where the cattle too were encouraged to drink up. Cows normally drink a lot of water – up to 40 gallons a day – and canny stockmen knew that with a handful of salt tossed into their feed they’d drink a lot more still, ensuring that the water-bloated cattle would fetch an inflated price at the market weigh-in. (This was the original meaning of “watered stock.”)
With both cows and drovers fully tanked up, the last leg of the trip would be over the Harlem River and down the stem of Manhattan. Drovers met buyers at the Bulls Head Tavern at present-day Bowery and Canal Street, then it was on down the Bowery to the aptly-named Fly Market at the foot of Maiden Lane.
Stephen Paul DeVillo