That is how Washington Irving described Ichabod Crane, the fictional protagonist and gangly schoolteacher terrified by the Headless Horseman in his short story, “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow” -- published in 1820, but still read and beloved by generations, often required reading in school.
But the real-life Ichabod Crane was a graduate of West Point and a 48-year career military man.
And, he called Staten Island home -- after his distinguished service in both the Marines and the Army, he lived with his wife at 3525 Victory Blvd., a farmhouse in Travis.
Ichabod Crane was born in Elizabeth Town (now Elizabeth), N.J., on July 18, 1787. He enlisted in the Marines in 1809 and served for two years aboard a 44-gun frigate. He served in the Army during the War of 1812 and was assigned to Sackets Harbor, N.Y., where he oversaw the defenses of the harbor and aided in the construction of Fort Pike. He also fought in the Black Hawk War and the Mexican-American War, retiring as a respected colonel.
During the War of 1812, Irving was an aide-de-camp to New York Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins, the namesake of Tompkinsville and the sixth Vice President of the United States. He accompanied Gov. Tompkins during inspections of the harbor’s military defenses, including a tour of Fort Pike.
Crane and Irving may have had a chance encounter there.
“I can say that Irving was fond of manufacturing ‘Yankee’ names, which he had done since before the War of 1812 (when he may have met Ichabod Crane),” said Dr. Elizabeth Bradley, an Irving scholar, in answer to a question posed by the New York Times in 2015.
She also noted there was no evidence the two ever met.
“It shows you how quick New Yorkers are to claim a piece of Irving’s ‘Legend’ for their own community," she told the Times. "Much like George Washington, we all want to say that the Headless Horseman Slept Here.”
The real-life Crane moved to Travis in 1853 with his wife, Charlotte. Despite many efforts to preserve their house, it was demolished in 1989. Crane died on Oct. 5, 1857, and is buried in Asbury Methodist Cemetery in New Springville.
This inscription on his tombstone pays tribute to his military service, not his fictional portrayal: “SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF COL. ICHABOD CRANE OF THE U.S. ARMY WHO WAS BORN IN ELIZABETH TOWN, N.J. JULY 18, 1787. DIED ON STATEN ISLAND OCT. 5th, 1857. HE SERVED HIS COUNTRY FAITHFULLY 48 YEARS AND WAS MUCH BELOVED AND RESPECTED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM.”
(Crane's gravestone in Asbury Methodist Cemetery in New Springville, courtesy of the Staten Island Advance/SILive.com)