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Egbert Tangier Smith and Friends
Gossipy Lefter of Washingfon Mills
Chester G. Osborne

    Sometime in February of 1845, Egbert Tangier Smith wrote to his friends, William Sidney Mount and Washington Mills. His letters have probably long since passed out of existence but the replies they evoked have been found among Smith's papers in his ancestral home in Mastic. Smith must have written about illness in his family for Mills replied, "I received your exciting letter a few days ago, & was exceedingly sorry to hear of your Sister's illness, & the speedy prospect of your becoming a victim to the same disease. . "
    Mount was more specific: "I hope you will soon be relieved from that troublesome complaint, the Measles - dangerous if you take cold . . ." And Mount was correct in assessing the danger; in those days Measles often left the victim in such a weakened condition that he became susceptible to pneumonia or tuberculosis.  Mount was too busy with his painting to write at great length; - he noted that Mills had fallen from a horse and that Mills' family was in Washington to attend the inauguration of James Knox Polk. Mills was not as busy - he may have been nursing his bruises and the result is a long, gossipy letter of courting, parties and marriages in old Smithtown.
    Smith, though he lived on the other side of the Island, was no stranger to the parties with "all classes mingling together like so much Gold, silver & copper, & so much noise as when rattled together. . "  for in his correspondence is a brief "notice" folded into a dainty little envelope not much more than two by three inches in size; no year was given with the date, but it was probably around 1846.

"The Ladies of Smith Town will hold a Fair at the Inn of Thomas Hallock on Wednesday and Thursday,
July 29th & 30th commencing at 3 o'clock PM."

    A number of the people mentioned in Washington Mills' letter can be identified: Egbert's sisterwas Lydia Smith (1810-1898). She married David Gelston Floyd on July 31, 1845.
    J. L. Smith was John Lawrence Smith (1816 -1889). On February 4, 1845 he was married in St. Mark's Church, New York, by the Reverend Dr. Anthon, to Miss Sarah Nicoll Clinch (1823-1890). She was a relative.
    Jeremiah Vail was Jeremiah Platt Vail (1822 -1872); on February 6, 1845 he married Julia Ann Gardiner (1828/9 - 1893).
    S. B.Strong, Seiah Brewster Strong (1792 -1872), a son of Thomas Shepard Strong and Hannah (Brewster) Strong. The maiden name of Hannah's mother was Rebecca Mills. Selah served in Congress as a Democrat 1843 - 45. In 1823 he married Cornelia, daughter of Dr. Richard and Prudence (Carl) Udall of Islip. (Prudence was a daughter of Silas Carl of Huntington.)The Misses Strong may be a reference to Selah's teenage daughters: Comelia Shepard Strong, born February 14, 1826. who married Marcena Munson; Mary Augusta Strong, born October 31, 1827; and Caroline Amelia Strong, born June 6, 1832. R. Udall & lady were General Richard A. Udall and his wife Marie Antoinette (Carle); they were married February 5, 1845. He was a son of Dr. Richard Udall (above), hence the reference to S. B. Strong as brother-in-law. General Udall was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1842, '46 and '66.
    The Misses Laurence, Misses Floyd, neighbor Joel (Joel L. G. Smith) and Miss Anna Laurence (Lawrence) were mentioned in Mills previous letter. Mills did not provide enough information for an identification of A. T. S., Miss Amelia B. or M iss Marsha Smith; however, the latter may be a misspelling for Marcia Augusta Smith, (1825-1867), a sister of John Lawrence Smith (above). She married James Crutchett.
    Mr. Doane was Charles F. Doane, according to Pelletreau's "Records of Smithtown" but Thompson's history gives Doane's middle initial as "W". He married Elizabeth A. Floyd, daughter of Jesse Woodhull Floyd and Miami (Shepard) Floyd on May 25, 1845.
    Mr. Wright may be a reference to Silas Wright, Governor of New York 1845 - 47.
    Mills' observation that "Smithtown as well as the City have run party mad, in the way of marriages & parties . . ." was not just an idle statement: there were four weddings in four days: February 3, Laws - Mills; February 4, Smith - Clinch; February 5, Udall - Carle; February 6, Vail - Gardiner. In addition to the parties Mills cited there were in all likelihood the usual showers and receptions; and if "the Misses Strong should give one also or at least I shall expect it . . ."; that party may have been set for Cornelia's birthday, which was also St. Valentine's Day.

Mills'  Pond March 2nd 1845

My Dear Friend,

    I received your exciting letter a few days ago, & was exceedingly sorry to hear of your Sister's illness, & the speedy prospect of your becoming a victim to the same disease. But I hope by the time you receive this letter you will be convalescent, & sufficiently renewed in spirits, to give me a brief detail of what you have passed or expected to pass through on the couch of affliction.
    Two years ago this spring it fell my lot, (about corn planting time) to be frightened into it a week before I was broken out which gave then all the rig on me for some time. But by the by I had a serious time of it & left me in a very weak state for some three months. There were nine in our house sick with it at one time, including three of the servants. Those days I shall never forget & when brought to mind, they harass me, the most wretched way.
    There are many that are highly favored, who never take to their bed, but it passes off like a headache attended with a severe cold. But the greatest danger is after you think you are well, by taking a cold, which ensures a serious time. Since I last wrote to you, circumstances which alter cases have turned up, which put a veto on my Washington tour, If you recollect it was but a mere matter of supposition at the time that is provided my Father did not go. He is now there, having my Sister & Mother with him. They left home on the 24 of Feb & will return on the 8th of March.
    I am sorry that you could not have met them, at the Inauguration & especially the ball. I have said all along that there was no news, but I now say to the contrary, Smith Town as well as the City have run party mad, in the way of marriages & parties. J. L. Smfth has had a Clinch in leading a Miss Clinch to the matrimonial alter of Dr. Anthons Curch (sic) during one of the most terrific snow storms that we were ever visited with; I fortunately with my Sister, saw them pronounced Husband & Wife.
    The deep snow storm prevented them from takeing their intended tour to Philadelphia; but on the next week came off one of the greatest most magnificent parties given by A.T.S. in behalf of the wedded pair, that your eyes could wish to see. So endeth the first lesson. On the 3 of Feby. myself & Sister attended a wedding of the tallest kind in East Broadway of a Miss Mills & a Mr. Lowe who took the nuptial vow. So far so correct.
    Now comes the domestic trouble of our own little town; Mr. Jeremiah Vail to a Miss Gardner at Commac; it was a rich affair. Next the arrival of R. Udall & lady Howards Hotel when I called, they had left for Washington to see his brother in law S. B. Strong; he married the daughter of Platte Carl; The Misses Laurence of our town have given a number of parties, also the Misses Floyd; but Miss Amelia B. & Miss Marsha Smith have spent there (sic) winter in the City.
    But they are now all at home, & will soon be the Misses Strong, then look out for a real (break down) J. L. Smith is expected to give a party in a few days, if we give any credit to the rumor; I should not be surprised if the Misses Strong should give one also, or at least I shall expect it. My neighbor Joel is paying his distresses to a Miss Anna Laurence, & I think will not find Miss Floyd there, so look out for another freeze. A Mr. Doane is now all the talk of the young ladies; he is a Farmer & a Horticulturalist at the Branch & is putting forth his best to captivate Miss E. Floyd; it is doubtful, but I am not supprised at nothing now-a-days.
    On the 19th of last Month we had a charitable tea party & supper at Mr. Halliocks, to raise a fund sufficient to procure blinds for our Church, which came off in handsome style, all classes mingling together like so much Gold, silver & copper, & so much noize as when rattled together; It was got up in this way--the ladies to find the eatables & the Gentlemen to pay one dollar & eat all put before them; the tables did look splended & sumptous enough to please the most fastidious.
    What a motley group to breath the same air & partake of the same gobbler. Now don't be chained to Smith Point any longer, but come & take a peep at these fairies who are blooming like the roses. I think on the whole we must see Mr. Wright inaugurated in 1849, & probably by that time we can follow Mr. Udels example, & also be likely to get some office; quite likely by that time Stony Brook & Smith Point may become ports of entry, & we may be appointed Collectors--Ah! AhI I shall expect a letter from you soon, I remain Yours truly

Washington Mills
Stony Brook,NY  Mar 5
Egbert T. Smith Esqr.
Smith Point Fire Place, Suffolk Co., Long Island

First appearing in the LI Forum 1971 No Copyright Information Data Found