2. A killing ground for notorious pirates

The Gibbett-Ellis Island-Gibbet Island-NYC
A man rides past a gibbet on horseback Lithograph by W. Clerk. Courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

Under English colonial rule, Ellis Island — though it was not called that at the time — changed names various times depending on who owned it. In the late 1670s, Captain William Dyre, a customs collector who was granted the land by Sir Edmund Andros, the English colonial governor of New York, was the first English owner of the island. Over the next few years, the island went through many more hands, including Thomas and Patience Lloyd and New York State.

While the state owned the island, they referred to its as Bucking Island. However, this did not last for long. In the mid-1700s the notorious pirate Anderson was hanged on the island. Over the next several years more pirates were hanged on the island, and it earned the moniker Gibbet Island. Gibbet is another word for gallows. However, the legacy of the island’s first victim did not go unnoticed as the island was often referred to as “Anderson’s Island,” continuing the history of the infamous pirate.