The History of Long Island,
from its earliest settlement to the present time.
Peter Ross.
NY Lewis Pub. Co. 1902

[transcribed by Coralynn Brown]


Peter Ross
A history of Long Island: from its earliest settlement to the present time.
New York: Lewis Pub. Co., 1902

Brookhaven is the largest township on Long Island. It extends the entire width of the island and has 20 miles of coast line on the Sound, 221 on the Great South Bay and about 30 on the Atlantic, facing Fire Island or Great South Beach. Its acreage has been figured at 132,500, its square mileage at 250, and besides it rejoices in the possession by geographical and legal right of some 70 square miles of water.

The first purchase of land was made in 1655 from the Setalcott Indians, by a party of 6 pioneers, who were evidently acting on behalf of others, prospecting, as it were, for a spot on which to establish a colony. Five of these were from Massachusetts - John Scudder, John Swezie, Jonathan Porter, Roger Chester and Thomas Charles, and one, Thomas Mabbs or Mapes, belonged to Southold and was one of the original settlers of that township. Probably he accompanied the others as being a man of experience in dealing with the natives; it could hardly be because he had any knowledge of the land. The party had with them the usual collection of coats, hatchets, powder, knives and the like with which to do a land business with the Indians, and appear to have driven a fairly good bargain.

Pretty soon those for whom the prospectors were acting began to arrive; most of them were from New England, but severeal came from other portions of Long Island, from Southampton and even from Jamaica. Within years the following were found in the settlement according to a list in "Thompson's History":

Richard Woodhull.
Zachariah Hawkins.
Peter Whitehaire.
John Jenners.
Henry Perring.
Andrew Gibb.
Thomas Biggs.
John Tooker.
Henry Rogers.
William Fancy.
Jacob Longbothorn.
Daniel Lane.
Richard Floyd.
Francis Muncy.
Obed Seward.
John Wade.
William Salyer.
Robert Smith.
Edward Avery.
John Smith.
Samuel Dayton.
John Davis.
William Frost.
John Thomas.
Elias Baylis.
John Thomson.
Thomas Ward.
John Roe.
John Budd.
Henry Brooks.
William Williams.
Robert Woolley.
Samuel Akerly.
Arthur Smith.
John Combs.
Richard Waring.
Joseph Mapes.
Thomas Thorp.
Richard Bryant.
Samuel Elburne.
Timothy Brewster.
John Brewster.
William Poole.
Daniel Brewster.
Thomas Sharpe.
George Phillips.
Thomas Smith.
Moses Burnet.
Richard Smith [Bull].
Thomas Helme.
Joshua Garlick.
John Moger.
Robert Akerly.

It was essentially a New England community and as usual the scheme of town government was at once set up. A town was fixed which afterward became Setauket and around it were the home lots, one of which was reserved for a meeting house, and one for the minister, when he should come. Each of the original settlers had a home lot and a further allotment of meadow, or a lot on the beach, besides each settler was at liberty to buy what additional land he pleased, only the purchase had to be comfirmed by town meeting. The power was put in operation very early in the story of the colony, and probably a town meeting decided the primal allotment of the lands. A house was in time built upon the home lots, which served the purpose of a place for town meetings, and for divine worship until the first church was built in 1671. So far as can be seen the colony was an independent body; its town meeting was the supreme dictator of all its affaris until 1661, when it voluntarily acknowledged itself as under the Government of Connecticut and sent Richard Woodhull and Thomas Pierce to repesent it in General Meeting. The connection, sentimental as it mainly was, did not last long, and Gov. Nicolls made it clear, soon after he assumed control, that the Long Island colonies should look to New York and not to Hartford for protection and support.

The town of Setauket had hardly been founded than addition tracts of land were secured by the colony from the Indians. In 1657 a large tract at Mastic was purchased; in 1664 their purchases gave them a vast tract from the Great South Bay to the middle of the island, and for a coat, a knife, a pair of stockings, two hoes, two hatchets and two shirts they secured practically the land along the north shore from Old Man's Harbor to Wading River. In 1675 the purchase of all the land from Stoney Brook to Wading River was confirmed by the Indian Sachem Gy, and bit by bit all the territory included in the present limits of the township, and indeed much more, was given up to its representatives so far as the Indian power of disposal was concerned. In accomplishing all this quite a large variety of coats, stockings, penknives, powser and the like was doubtlessly expended, but the Indians were made complaisant in another way, for in 1671 the buyers were told to "take some likers with them to the Indians," and charge the coat to the town.

The principal regotiator in all these transactions, evidently the leading and most representative citizen of the young town, was Richard Woodhull, the founder of a Long Island family, which from his day to this one has given a large number of distringuished citizens to the State and Nation. He was born in England in 1620, and in 1640 came to this country and settled at Lynn, Mass. For a time he resided in Southampton, then in Jamaica. He was a man of superior attainments, a practical surveyor, of undoubted personal courage, a. born diplomat and an able executive, all the qualities in fact which were reproduced in the most famous of his descendants, General Nathaniel Woodhull, the Long Island hero of the Revolution.

There does not seem to have been any idea of anything but a civil government at Setauket and the town meeting passed the usual laws for the regulation of affairs just about the same as we have seen similar bodies lehislating in previous chapters of this history. Yet a clergyman was present, if not among the first batch of settlers at least very soon thereafter. This was the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a grandson of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrim Fathers. His three sons were among the pioneers and it is thought that he merely went to Setauket to visit them and was induced to stay. There is no record that for a number of years, at least, he was regarded as the minister of the town. In fact, in 1662, the town meeting extended a call to a dominie named Fletcher to become the minister at a salary of 40lb a year, but whether he accepted or not cannot be determined. But from his arrival Brewster acted as minister, and in 1665 seems to have fully accepted the charge, for a house was purchased for his use as a manse. It was evidently a most superior structure, for it had doors and glass windows and other modern improvements. Brewster died in 1690. In 1685 he was laid aside from active work through ill-health and Samuel Eburne, one of the men in Thompson's list, was chosen as his successor. He was to receive a salary of 60lb per annum "soe long as hee should continue to preach amongst them." At the end of the year, however, the salary was not forthcoming - probably they did not think much of his preaching - and he appealed to Gov. Dongan to enforce payment. This the Governor ordered, but probably the controversy destroyed Mr. Eburne's usefullness and closed his ministerial career. In 1687 Mr. Jonah Fordham, of Southampton, became minister, and from then on the town meeting was always zealous in seeing that the spiritual interests of the people were attended to, but the church as such had no special power in the community.

In 1666 the town received a patent from Gov. Nicolls and in 1686 that patent was confirmed by a fresh one issued by Gov. Dongan. Besides the territories contained in the patents there were four large tracts, which, about 1770, were formaly annexed to the town of Brookhaven - the Moriches Patents - on land originally purchased from the Indians in 1677, the Winthrop Patent for land between Islip and Bellport and extending to the center of the island Halsey's Manor, bought in 1716 from Col. W. H. Smith, and the Smith Purchase, the largest of them all. When these became part of the legal territory of the township it started in, in 1797, to define its boundaries and then ensued a series of squabbles with its neighbors, which were not wholly settlee until 1860.

In the Revolutionary struggle Brookhaven was most emphatically on the side of the Patriots from the beginning of the conflict. While the struggle lasted it was the scene of many exploits which have already been chronicled in these pages, and it had its own full share of the hardships and wrongs of the days of the occupation. But the special glory of Brookfield in this connection is in the men she contributed to the cause of American liberty - General Woodhull, William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence: Caleb Brewster, a descendant of Setauket's first minister and who did such grand service with his fleet of whateboats; Major Benjamin Talmadge, a son of a minister of Setauket and born in that village; Captain Nathaniel Norton, who was at the capture of Burgoyne and his army; Co. Josiah Smith, who led the Suffolk County Militia, and many others who might be named. Her record in the Civil War, while it did not furnish so many brilliant names, amply demonstrated that the fighting qualities of its citizens had not diminished with the years of "inactive ease." To that conflict it furnished more men by far than were demanded by the drafts, while in a financial sense its contributions were most generous.

The modern story of Brookhaven presents little to detain us. After the Revolution was over it resumed the quiet and even tenor of its ways and until the advent of the iron horse was apparently forgotten. Its people were farmers, shipbuilders and fishermen, and very little manufacturing was done within its bounds. For many years shipbuilding was the greatest of its industries, the one that kept it most in touch with the world, but as the era of wooden ships passed, so passed that industry, although yacht building has in recent years made some of the old yards lively again and opened many new ones. Manufacturing has been tried at Setauket, but has never reached anything like the proportions it was at one time hope it would attain, and it remains yet a village with only some 600 inhavitants.

Yet Setauket is a place with a good deal of historic interest. Tradition says that its ancient "Green" was the headquarters of the Setalcott Indians and that on it the bargain was struck by which the red men abandoned their lands for a few trinkets. The Green still remains the centre of Setauket's story. The origin of the Presbyterian Church, as a town meeting house, has already been touched upon. A new and large structure devoted wholly to religious use was built in 1671 and around it lay the spot which the fathers had selected as the town's burying ground. This structure served until 1714, when a grander building was erected on its site and by a vote of the town was to be "a Presbyterian meeting house forever." It gave way, however, to another building, still large, in 1766, which was used by the British during the occupation as a barracks and before they left was completely destroyed. However, it was soon replaced. The church during its long existence has had many well-known pastors, the Rev. David Youngs from 1745 to 1751; the Rev. Benjamin Tallmadge from 1754 to 1786; the Rev. Zachariah Greene from 1797 until 1858. During the latter part of his ministry Mr. Greene had several "helpers" and the last of these, the Rev. James S. Evans, entered the charge in 1850, and continued until 1867, when he was succeeded by the Rev. W. H. Littell, who is still its pastor.

Setauket has got another old church - Caroline Episcopal - which dates from 1730. In detailing its history Mr. R. M. Bayles wrote:
The church was organized during the first quarter of the last century. The earliest notice on the books of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts" is of the appointment of the Rev. Mr. Wetmore as missionary in the town of Brookhaven in 1723. That the services of the Church of England were known here, and worship in accordance with that form conducted many years before that date, there is scarcely room to doubt. It is not known, however, that the church had an edifice of its own until the present one was erected in 1730. For this building, which appears to be enjoying a robust old age, is claiming the double honor of having been the first church edifice ever erected at the expense of the Episcopal denomination on Long Island, and at the present being the oldest church edifice standing on the island. The original name of the church was Christ Church, but the name was changed to its present one in compliment to Queen Caroline of England, who had presented to the parish a silver communion service and embroidered alter cloths. This royal gift was sacrilegiously abstracted during the Revolutionary period. Through a long term of years the society in London helped to sustain the missionary stationed here by a contribution of from 50 to 60 a year. The church was stronger and its services were more largesly attended during the colonial period than for many years afterward.

Within a few years past the parish has recovered somewhat. Since 1878 a new fence has been set up around the churchyard, a rectory of handsome appearance and comfortable dimensions has been erected, and the church repaired and thoroughly painted. Within the same period 24 adults and the same number of infants have been baptized, 38 have been confirmed, 33 communicants added anew and 22 received from other parishes. There are now 70 communicants. The Sundah-school, under the superintendence of the rector, consists of 50 children and six teachers. The following is a list of the rectors, which also shows the term each served the church, as nearly as can be ascertained:

Rev. Mr. Wetmore, 1723-1725; Rev. Mr. Standard, 1725-28; Rev. Alexander Campbell, 1728-30; Rev. Isaac Brown, 1733-43; Rev. James Lyons, 1746; Rev. T. Lambert Moore, 1781-83; Rev. Andrew Fowler, 1788-90; Rev. Mr. Sands, 1800; Rev. N. B. Burgess, 1811-14; Rev. Charles Seabury, 1814-44; Rev. William Adams, 1843-44; Rev. Frederic M. Noll, 1844-77; Rev. Robert T. Pearson, 1878.
[Rev. D. Marvin is the present rector].

The Rev. Charles Seabury was the son of the first American bishop, and was introduced at the recommendation of Bishop Hobart, in 1814. After 30 years of faithful service he was buried in the churchyard, and a marble pillar there marks his tomb. Rev. F. M. Noll, who served the church 33 years, was unmarried, and for many years occupied rooms at the rear of the church, where the graves in the surrounding churchyard lay so near that one could step upon them from his threshold or reach the marble slabs from his bedroom windows. Amid such gloomy surroundings he enjoyed undisturbed seclusion.

In 1662 the shipbuilding industry is Setauket appears to have had its beginning and the yards afterward turned out some famous craft. The Hand family were for years conspicuous in this line, and as late as 1870 David Bayles constructed a vessel - the Adorna - of 1,700 tons, but the industry has since then lost its vitality.

Near Setauket is Stong's Neck - Little Neck it used to be called. It was once a royal seat and a favorite residence of the Indians. The principal part of the neck was bought from the red men by Daniel Lane, whose title was transferred to the town proprietors in 1663. According to Thompson a certain part, called the "Indian Ground," about 70 acres, not included in this purchase, was bought of the Indians by Andrew Gibb Nov. 28, 1685, and a patent was issued for the same by Governor Dongan December 20, 1868. Colonel William Smith bought the interest of the town proprietors in this neck Sept. 11, 1691, and it was included in his patent of 1693. His grandson, William Smith, in 1768 sold it to Andrew Seaton, reserving a mortgage upon it. This being soon after foreclosed the property was bought by Selah Strong, and by him and his descendants it has ever since been held.

The most thriving place in the township is Patchogue, which, with a resident population of 4,250 and four times as many in the summer season, its handsome stores, its large hotels, its surrounding country seats and its general air of wealth and refinement, has been called "the Queen City of the South Shore." Its oyster trade has reached wonderful proportions, while some of the fastest yachts on the South Shore waters are from such yards as those of S. C. Wicks & Co., Fillmore Baker, G. Smith and De Witt Conklin. Patchogue has a history which extends back until the middle of the 18th century, and has been more or less of a manufacturing centre since about the year 1800. It still has many establishments of that class, among them being extensive silk mills. But the glory of the place is its summer business. It is a gathering place for bicyclists, canoeists, yachtsmen, automobillists, and all sorts of descriptions of pleasure seekers; its roads are among the best on Long Island, its streets are macadamized and lighted by electricity, its bathing facilities are of the best, and it caters in a sensible and progressive way to the wants and wishes of the great army of "summer folks," who descend upon it year after year, and add to its popularity and its material wealth.

As much might be written of Port Jefferson if it would only throw off its inertia and try a step or two in the march of progress. But somehow or other it seems to defeat every movement which has been begun to open up its many beauties to the world. Its location is a beautiful one, on one of the finest harbors on Long Island, a harbor which brings up many stirring memories. Paul Jones used to rendezvous here, one of his vessels was fitted out in the harbor, and here he killed two officers belonging to the British frigate "Nahant." In the war of 1812 two British frigates sailed into the bay and made off with six sloops, and a seventh which they burned at Dyer's Neck.

At that time, up, in fact, to 1836, Port Jefferson rejoiced in the name of Drown Meadow. Its modern history may be said to begin with 1797, when John Wilsie began the shipbuilding industry. At that time there were only five houses in the village, and for a number of years the increase was small. Wilsie built a dock into the bay on his property; and seems to have done a good trade, but up to the time of his death, in 1818, the shipbuilding industry remained in his hands and added but little to the prosperity of the place. But a beginning had been made and by 1825 there were several firms in the business.

"About the year 1836," wrote Mr. Bayles, "a new era seemed to open up to the progress of this industry and the improvement of the village generally. This was in a considerable measure owing to the enterprise of Captain William L. Jones, who probably ventured more capital and energy in developing the village than any other man has ever done. Captain Jones was a member of a native family, and was born about the year 1792. In early life he naturally took to the water. His parents were Daniel and Bethia Jones. He inherited considerable landed property about Comseqogue, which furnished him with the means for carrying out the designs of an inventive and enterprising genius. The estate of the Roe family comprised the greater part of the present village site, and from this Captain Jones purchased a large tract, reaching from about the site of the Presbyterian Church, along the west and north sides of Main street to the neighborhood of the Baptist Church, and so northerly to the shore of the bay; including also a tract on the east side of Main streeet, up Prospect street as fara as the residence of John R. Mather. November 10, 1837, he received a grant from the town for a dock into the bay from the shore of his property, and at the same time entered into an agreement to construct a causeway over the sale meadows to the dock through his land, so as to make a public highway 18 feet wide, to be stoned up on either side and of sufficient height to be above ordinary high tides. This two-fold enterprise was completed in a few years, at a cost of several thousand dollars. The dock is maintained in part, and the highway thus opened over the flooded meadows is now the busy street that runs from Hotel square to the shore. Nearly half the business of the present village is carried on upon the land that forty years ago was owned by Captain Jones, the greater part of which was made available for business by the improvements just noticed. Captain Jones was married November 30, 1814, to Hetta Hallock. After her death he married the widow of Richard Mather, and his third wife was Hannah Hallock, who survived him. He died in 1860."

For a time Port Jefferson really was prosperous, and its shipbuilding industry grew until it had the largest business of that kind of any town in Suffolk county, and other industries - notably milling - found entry. A Methodist Church was erected in 1836, a Presbyterian Church in 1854, and a Congregational tabernacle in 1855. Up to 1868 it seemed on the high road to prosperity, but somehow it began then to recede, and even the opening of the railroad, in 1892, does not appear to have renewed its old-time business prosperity. It has a splendid body of citizens, everything that has made other Long Island shore villages so successful, but it seems to fail to make them available. Its streets are narrow and ill-kept; its electric lights are few and far between and are turned off carefully at midnight. It has miserable bathing accomodations. In fact, as one of its citizens remarked to the writer, "It does not care about visitors." In winter it is virtually dead, and has not, like Patchogue, even the memory of summer gayeties and profits to carry it smiling through the gloomy months of the year. The late P. T. Barnum once took a ferry to Port Jefferson and intended tp "build it up." He would certainly have succeeded, but he found that his plans were impeded by the very people who would most quickly have profited by them. It is hoped that this inertia will soon be thrown off and Port Jefferson take the place which seems hers by right - that of the most popular village on the North Shore.

Stony Brook now boasts a population of some 700, and can trace its history to 1699, when a mill was established by a pioneer bearing the afterward famous name of Adam Smith. Its population grew slowly, but surely, and in 1801 it reached the dignity of having a school-house, and in 1817 a church building. For many years its principal trade, outside of farming, was the manufacture of cord wood and fertilizers, and in 1843 it boasted a fleet of 1 brig, 8 schooners and 15 sloops. Then it became a little manufacturing place, but that soon passed, and it slowly drifted backward until, with the opening up of the railroad, it received a new lease on life and is steadily winning a place among the popular resorts. In 1900 it had a population of 500, so its progress has been fairly satisfactory. Its situation is one of exceeding beauty, and it possesses many rural and aquatic attractions concerning the curious Brookhaven village of Bohemia. The following details have been supplied by a recent visitor:

One of the quaintest places to be found near New York city is the village of Bohemia, which lies a few miles from Stony Brook, a prosperous village on the Long Island Railroad. This village is inhabited by Bohemians who maintain in the heart of Long Island the customs, manners, language and prejudices of their native land.

There are about three hundred inhabitants in the village. It has one main street, on which are shops and stores with the names of the proprietors and the character of the business marked in words that appear to be made up mostly of consonants.

The inhabitants seem primitive in many ways. The men wear the heavy shoes, short jackets and cape of the European Bohemia and the women wear the wooden shoes of their fatherland and go bareheaded. A New Yorker who happens suddenly to fall in among these people can scarcely believe he is still on Long Island. The men are mostly farmers, some working tracts which they own and which lie beyond the village. Others work for American farmers in the neighborhood. They are sober and industrious and hard times have never struck the vilage.

Here on a Sunday afternoon the people give themselves up to amusement. The music sounds strange to American, but it is that of the ancient kingdom. The villagers gather in the public dance halls and young and old dance and make merry. The provisions of the Sunday liquor law do not seem to apply to the village, and between the dance and hop brew and wines of the old country pass freely around. While the men are good citizens, still, there is more talk of the happenings in the country across the sea than of what is going on in the United States.

One of the most prominent features of the village is a monument erected to John Huss. It stands near the village church. Recently the monument has fallen into decay. Some of the leaders of the village have started a fund to repair it."

Moriches, a district rather than a village, and generally understood as covering Moriches, Centre Moriches and East Moriches, may be said to lie between Forge River and the village of Eastport, on the line of Southampton township. The territory formed a part of the Moriches patent. It is a popular summer resort, with large hotels and boarding houses of all sorts and degrees. It is a place given over in the summer season to outdoor amusements, and in the other months of the year to oystering.

Coram, in the cnetre of the township, is one of the oldest settlements, and Middle Island has likewise some claim to considerable antiquity. Both are small farming communities.

Yaphank started in 1739 as a mill-site and in time other millls were started and a settlement grew slowly, but it was not until 1853 that it was large enough to have a church, and in that year St. Andrew's Protestant Episcopal Church was erected. In 1871 the Suffolk County Almshouse was erected in the village on a farm of 170 acres, and which, in 1879, was extended by the addition of 80 acres.

Mount Sinai, a village which according to the records formerly boasted a larger population than now, lies on the coast some three miles eastward from Port Jefferson. It was called by the Indians Nen-o-wan-tuck, but the more commonplace New England settlers dubbed it "Old Man's." It seems to have come into use as soon as the choice plots in Setauket were appropriated, for its rich meadows appeared desirable settling places, while its forests stretched away in the distance in seeming inexhaustible extent. But the soil did not prove as fruitful as it looked, and Old Man's grew very slowly. Early in the nineteenth century sloopbuilding was begun, and for many years cordwood was shipped in great quantities, and the business in clams reached large proportions. In 1720 a preaching station in connection with the Setauket Presbyterian Church was established, and it grew into a separate congregation in 1760. A Congregational Church, founded in 1789, upon, it is supposed, the "remnants" of the Presbyterian fold, has fared better, and still continues to shed the light of the Gospel with an active membership of 120. The total population of Mount Sinai is about 225.

Sill eastward along the Sound is Miller's Place, a settlement with a population of some 200, which takes its name from its original settler, Andrew Miller, who removed there from East Hampton in 1671. Its antiquity is all that calls for remark, as it is a widely scattered farming community. Rocky Point and Woodville are small settlements between Miller's Place and Wading River - the latter town lying on the boundary line between Brookhaven and Riverhead, but belonging mainly to the latter. From St. James' to Wading River, Brookhaven possesses a magnificent stretch of shore line, which will some day be utilized for resort purposes and will bring to the township a degree of prosperity it has not yet dreamed of. The opportunity lies waiting and only needs energy, enterprise and capital to develop rich and lasting results.

Among the other villages in the township are: Bellport, population 795; Mandeville, 380; Old Field, 200; Mastic, 50; Blue Point, 355; Brookfield, 380; Dyer's Neck, 150; Lake Grove, 330; Ector, 355; and Brookhaven, 325. The latter used to bear the name of Fire Place up to about 1876. It is entirely a place of modern growth, its first church society dating from 1848. South Haven, a neighboring village, is much older, although its population is only about 100. It was large enough in 1745 to have a Presbyterian meeting house and several mills. At that time it was known as Yamphank Neck. The name was changed to South Haven in 1757 as the result of a vote of its people, so we see that the fashion of substituting more fanciful names for the often homely but always expessive primitive ones is not quite as modern a fad as is commonly supposed.

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