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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 1841
(A history of Long Island in an octavo volume of 536 pages, by B. F. Thompson, Esq., has been recently published;
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 section

Nassau County - Formerly part of Queens County became Nassau County in 1899. The following is the history of that section of "Queens County."
Suffolk 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

    "Long 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.
    On the 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.
    "Long 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.
    "Above 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."
    Long 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.

    "When the 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.
    "The 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.
    "The 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.
    "The Rockaway tribe claimed the territory around Rockaway, and more or less of the lands in Newtown and Jamaica.
    "The Merikoke and Marsapeague tribes extended from Rockaway through Queens county into Suffolk, on the south side of the island.
    "The territory of the Matinecoc tribe extended from Flushing through Queens county to Fresh Pond in Suffolk, on the north side.
    "The Nissaquague tribe extended from Fresh Pond to Stonybrook. " The Satauket tribe claimed from Stonybrook to the Wading river.
    "The Corchaug tribe extended from the Wading river through South Old on the north side.
    "The territory of the Manhanset tribe was Shelter-Island.
    "The territory of the Secataug tribe adjoined that of the Marsapeagues, and extended to Patchogue.
    "The territory of the Patchogue tribe extended to South Hampton.
    "The Shinecoc tribe extended from the Canoe Point to Montauk, and that peninsula was the seat of the Montauk tribe.
    "There 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.
    "Those 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.
    "The 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.
    "At the 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 been.
    `"The 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.
    "The state of the Indian population must be ascribed to their perpetual wars, by which they had been diminished.
    "All 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.
    "It appears that Long Island had been overrun by hostile tribes, and many of the natives must have been destroyed by them.
    "The 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.
    "There 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 home.
    "Some 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.
    "The 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.
    "It was 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 purchased.
    "The 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.
    "The 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.
    "It is 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.
    "In 1637, 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."
    "From 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.
    "In 1656, 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.
    "They 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.
    Long Island is divided into three counties, Kings, Queens, and Suffolk.