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Excerpted from HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS
of the State of New York by John W. Barber and Henry Howe
Published by S. Tuttle, 194 Chatham-Square
(A history of Long Island
in an octavo volume of 536 pages, by B. F. Thompson, Esq., has been recently
it is to this valuable and
interesting work that the authors are deeply indebted for the account given
of the various towns on Long Island)
Links to County Information within this
Formerly part of Queens County became Nassau County in 1899. The following
is the history of that section of "Queens County."
County - which comprises about two thirds of Long Island,
was organized in 1683, at which time the ridings were abolished, and Long
Island was divided into three counties, as they have remained ever since
Island may be described as the southeasterly portion of the state of New
York, and extending from about 40° 34' to 41° 10' north latitude,
and from 2° 58' to 5° 3' east longitude from Washington city; being
in length from Fort Hamilton, at the Narrows, to Montauk Point, nearly
one hundred and forty miles, with a mean range north, 90° 44' east.
Its breadth from the Narrows, as far east as the Peconic bay, varies from
12 to 20 miles in a distance of ninety miles." A ridge or chain of
hills commences at New Utrecht, in Kings county, and extends with occasional
interruptions to near Oyster Pond Point, in Suffolk county. The surface
of the island north of the ridge is in general rough and broken, while
the surface south of the range is almost a perfect plain, with scarce a
stone exceeding in weight a few ounces.
south side of the island is the great South bay, extending from Hempstead
to the eastern boundary of Brookhaven-a distance of more than seventy miles
of uninterrupted inland navigation. It varies in width from two to five
miles, communicating with the sea by a few openings in the beach, the principal
of which is opposite the town of Islip, called Five Island Inlet.
In this bay are very extensive tracts of salt marsh, and islands of meadow
furnishing immense quantities of grass; while its waters contain great
quantities of shell and scale fish. Wild-fowl of many kinds
and in almost countless numbers are found here, and many hundreds of people
are engaged in taking them for the New York market. The north shore of
the island is very irregular, and where not protected by masses of rock
and stone, has been worn away by the sea to a considerable extent. The
soil on the north side generally consists of loam, on the south side it
consists more of sand, while through the middle of the island it consists
chiefly of sand and gravel. The soil on the high grounds is
in most cases better than that upon the plains, yet that found upon the
necks or points on both sides is better than either. The soil in the vicinity
of New York is highly productive and valuable, but in the greater part
of the island it is naturally light and poor. Much of the land in the central
part of the island is covered with a vast pine forest, in which wild deer
are still to be found.
Island Sound is a bay, or inland sea, with two outlets. If
considered as extending from the Battery, in New York, to Fisher's Island,
its length is the same as that of the island. Proceeding from
the city, easterly, it has a tortuous course of 16 miles, in which it varies
from half a mile to two miles in width. From the Battery to
Harlaem river, the course is NNE. 8 miles, and thence to Throg's Point,
nearly E., 8 more. This portion is known as the East river.
At the bend, opposite to Harlaem river, is the noted pass of Helle Gat
(Dutch) or the gut of liell, narrow, crooked, and to the inexperienced,
dangerous. The water here, when the tide is rising or falling,
forms cataracts and vortices, which may dash to pieces or swallow up the
largest vessel coming within their influence. The best times
for passing it are at high and low water.
Throg's Point, the Sound, properly speaking, commences, and turns to the
NE. 18 miles, between Lloyd's neck and Stamford, in Connecticut. Thus far
the shores are rugged and the channel rocky, and much interrupted by small
islets and projecting points; but beyond Lloyd's neck it opens into a noble
elliptical expanse, from 8 to 20 miles wide, and with depth sufficient
for the largest vessels of commerce or war; presenting, along its northern
shore, a continued picture of gradually rising hills, bold promontories,
and commodious havens, which is chased before the eye like a brilliant
phantasmagoria, in the rapid passage of the steamboats."
Island was claimed by the Dutch and English nations respectively by right
of discovery. The Dutch commenced their settlements as early as 1625, at
the west end of the island. In 1623, the Plymouth company,
by order of Charles I., issued letters patent to William Alexander, Earl
of Stirling, for the whole of the island. The English made settlements
at the east end of the island, but they were for a season resisted by the
Dutch. The settlements, both at the E. and W. end, were nearly
cotemporary. In the Dutch towns, the Indian title was bought by the governor,
and the lands granted to individuals by him; in the English towns lands
were obtained under the license of the agent of Lord Stirling, and after
his death, by the people of the several towns for their common benefit.
The line of division between the two nations was a source of much contention
and many complaints. The several English towns united themselves
with the colonies of Connecticut and New Haven. After Connecticut
received her royal charter, in 1662, she exercised jurisdiction, and gave
each of the towns who united with her, permission to send a deputy to the
general court. But before these measures could be fully completed they
were frustrated by the grant of Long Island to the Duke of York.
The following account
of the Indians on Long Island, is taken from "Wood's History of Long Island,"
published in 1828.
first settlements were made on the island by the Dutch and English, it
appears, from the original Indian deeds, that the principal tribes that
occupied it, were as follows.
Canarse, the Rockaway, the Merikoke, the Marsapeague, the Secatague, and
the Patchogue, on the south side---the Matinecoc, the Nissaquague, the
Satauket, and the Corchaug, on the north side; the Shinecoc, the Manhanset,
and the Montauk, from the Canoe Place on Montauk Point.
Canarse appears to have been the only tribe, or the only tribe of any consequence,
in Kings county. This tribe claimed the chief part of the lands in Kings
county, and a part of the lands in Jamaica.
Rockaway tribe claimed the territory around Rockaway, and more or less
of the lands in Newtown and Jamaica.
Merikoke and Marsapeague tribes extended from Rockaway through Queens county
into Suffolk, on the south side of the island.
territory of the Matinecoc tribe extended from Flushing through Queens
county to Fresh Pond in Suffolk, on the north side.
Nissaquague tribe extended from Fresh Pond to Stonybrook. " The Satauket
tribe claimed from Stonybrook to the Wading river.
Corchaug tribe extended from the Wading river through South Old on the
territory of the Manhanset tribe was Shelter-Island.
territory of the Secataug tribe adjoined that of the Marsapeagues, and
extended to Patchogue.
territory of the Patchogue tribe extended to South Hampton.
Shinecoc tribe extended from the Canoe Point to Montauk, and that peninsula
was the seat of the Montauk tribe.
are one or two other tribes named in the old records, but the place they
occupied cannot be ascertained, and it is evident from that circumstance,
that they must have been very small, perhaps the intee remnants of tribes
which had been destroyed in their wars.
above enumerated are the principal tribes that occupied the island when
the English and Dutch commenced their settlements there, and the original
purchases of the several towns were made of these tribes.
Indian settlements were all on the bays, creeks, and harbors on the north
and south sides of the island, and their territories were divided from
each other by the middle of the island.
time of the first settlement of the island, the whole Indian population
was considerable, but by no means as great as the facilities of subsistence
would have authorized us to expect, nor as great as it probably had formerly
shell banks which indicate the sites of their villages, on the western
half of the island, are large and numerous, and beds of shells of some
size or other are found at intervals of a few miles all around the margin
of the island. From these it would seem that the population of some parts
of the island was once very numerous, or must have been stationary there
a long time. The shell banks in the western towns of Suffolk county
are much larger and more numerous than in the eastern towns, where shell
fish are as abundant: which proves that the western part of the island
had been the longest settled, and that the Indian emigration proceeded
from west to east.
state of the Indian population must be ascribed to their perpetual wars,
by which they had been diminished.
savage nations are addicted to war. The causes of war among them
are numerous, and the mode of carrying it on destructive to their numbers.
that Long Island had been overrun by hostile tribes, and many of the natives
must have been destroyed by them.
confederacy of the Five Nations extended their conquests as far south as
Manhattan island, and had passed over to the west end of Long Island, and
subdued the Canarse Indians.
is a tradition among the Dutch, that at the time of the first settlement
of the island, the Canarse tribe paid the Mohawks an annual tribute of
wampum and dried clams, and that they discontinued the payment of it on
the persuasion of the whites, in consequence of which a party of the conquerors
came and destroyed the whole tribe, except a few who happened to be from
writers have supposed that the conquest of the Mohawks extended to the
whole island, but there is no tradition to support it, and it is believed
that the conquest never extended beyond the territories of the Canarse
Indians. This may have been owing to the fact, that all the
other Indians were in subjection to the Pequots. It is well
known that this tribe never was subdued by the Five Nations, and it would
have been a violation of their rules of warfare, to have turned their arms
against a tributary people, when they had not subdued the power that held
them in subjection.
Montauks had probably been the most warlike tribe on Long Island, had overrun
the other tribes on the island east of the Canarse territory, and had reduced
them to some kind of subjection. At the time of the first settlement of
the island, the Montauk sachem claimed and exercised some kind of sovereignty
over the whole territory, and it is stated that he justified his claim
before the governor and council in virtue of a former conquest of the country.
In 1659, he conveyed the territory which constitutes the town of Smithtown,
then occupied by the Nissaquague Indians, to Lyon Gardiner.
under a belief of his superiority over the chiefs of the other tribes,
that the first settlers were anxious to have their purchase deeds signed
by that chief, as well as by the sachem of the tribe of whom the land was
confirmation deed of Hempstead in 1657, the deed for Lloyd's neck, and
others, are executed in this manner, and in some of the original deeds
the Mantauk chief is styled the sachem of Long Island.
superiority ascribed to the chief of that tribe after the settlement of
the country, might have arisen in part from the distinction conferred on
him or recognised by the commissioners of the united colonies. In 1651
it is stated in some of our early records, that they constituted one, who
is supposed to have been the Montauk chief, grand sachem of the Long Island
Indians. It is probable that the commissioners only recognised or
confirmed an authority with which they found him invested.
evident from the early writers of New England, that the Pequots, who occupied
the country around New London, and was the most warlike tribe in Connecticut,
had subdued the Montauks with their tributaries, and that at the time of
the first settlement of New England, the Long Island Indians were in subjection
to the Pequots, and paid them a tribute. The victory over the Montauks
involved the subjection of all the tribes that were under them, and the
conquest of the Pequots must have embraced all the tribes on the island
east of the Canarse territory.
the New England colonies made war on the Pequots, to avenge the murders
and other hostile aggressions which they had committed on the whites, and
subdued and dispersed the whole tribe. The Long Island Indians who
had been subject to the Pequots, immediately repaired to the English to
make their peace with them. Winthrop, in his journal, states
that on the reduction of the Pequots in 1637, 'sachems from Long Island
came voluntarily and brought a tribute to us of twenty fathom of wampum
each of them."
this time they seem to have considered themselves to be in subjection to
the English, and to have paid them tribute, perhaps the same they had paid
the Pequots. In 1644, they applied to the commissioners for some evidence
of their relation to them, and the commissioners gave them a certificate
in writing, in effect promising them security from injury by the English,
and all others in friendship with them; at which time they as. sured the
commissioners I that they had been tributaries to the English ever since
the Pequot war, and that they had never injured the English or Dutch, but
had been friendly to both, which implied that they had been subject to
the Pequots and followed their fate. In 1650, the commissioners
sent Captain Mason to Long Island to require payment of the tribute due
from the Indians there, and to settle a way in which it might be punctually
discharged in future.
the Montauk chief visited the commissioners at Boston, and in answer to
an inquiry whether he had paid the tribute due from him, stated that he
had paid it at Hartford for the space of ten years, and that it was in
arrear for the four last years, which they re. mitted in consideration
of his distressed condition by the late war in which he had been engaged
with the Narragansetts. In 1653, Ninnigrate, the chief of the
Nehantic Indians, who were either a tribe of the Narragansetts or closely
connected with them, made war on the Long Island Indians, which lasted
several years, and reduced them to great extremity. He invaded the territory
of the Montauks, and would have extirpated the whole tribe, if they had
not found protection in the humanity of the people of East Hampton.
were obliged to abandon their villages, and to flee for refuge to East
Hampton, where they were kindly received, sustained, and protected. They
continued to reside in that town for several years, before they deemed
it safe to return to Montauk.
Island is divided into three counties, Kings, Queens, and Suffolk.