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By Wayland Jefferson
Southold, NY 1932
     To appraise the Southold of 1776, it is essential that we have some knowledge of what had gone into the making of the town in 1640. There has been much loose writing about religious freedom, Puritanism, and kindred subjects. A student who goes to original sources quickly finds that there was little of the pietistic motive in our beginnings. Southold was founded by a group of men who had left England, in the main, for economic reasons. There was, indeed, a fringe who had at first been attracted to the New World from a desire to worship in a manner that found but little favor at the time. They had been called, in derision, Puritans. Like the Christians of eld, they had taken the title which was thought to be uncomplimentary and adopted it as their own, and they made it a term of respect.
     This class was in the minority. After a few years in New England, they were glad to quit its shores and to begin life anew in Southold. No one knows their exact number, but enough has been learned to prove that practically every man of the original band had spent some time in either Connecticut or Massachusetts before attaching himseslf to Pastor Young and his band. During their stay in the northern colonies they learned many things which we find them putting into practice in Southold.
     Coming over from the `main' under the wing of New Haven, and in the presumption that they would need assistance from the mother colony to protect them from the Indians, they brought with them a redoubtable Indian fighter, Capt. John Underhill. He found nothing to do and the colonies, irked by their agreement to pay what seemed to them like tribute to New Haven, exhibited for the first time the spirit, of independence which distinguished their fourth generation in 1776. Operating under the same charter as Guilford and fully aware of its provisions, even if William Wells found it too great a task to copy it all into the Town Records (as an examination of page 320 of Volume I of the printed records will show) Southold found New Haven taking a hand in her affairs with the appointment of John Tuthill, son of Tharston, as Constable to keep order in the town and to see to it that they made their reports to the General Court at New Haven as they had covenanted to do in the beginning. This first sign of restiveness under outside control happened in 1643.
     In 1657 Captain Nathaniel Silvester openly scoffed at the power of both Old and New England. He openly declared that he was out of the power of the Lord Protector a statement that bordered closely on high treason.   Southold paid but little attention to this; but when Giles Silvester made contemptuous remarks about the ministers of New England, with veiled allusions to Pastor Young, it was another matter and he was forced to make a hasty apology.
    These seemingly minor happenings mirror the times more accurately than the uninformed appreciate. There was freedom of speech in the mid-years of the 17th century. When Captain Silvester made his statement, he knew that he would not be called to account because he voiced the sentiment of the colony. He was sure of safety at home and, according to the spirit of the times, there was slight chance of his being called to account at New Haven.
     Silvester's safety arose from the fact that relations between the towns making up a colony were on precisely the same basis as those existing between the several colonies. They hated each other with a complete and satisfying ardor. John Lion Gardiner, in his `History of East Hampton', has told of the bitterness of feeling between East Hampton and Southampton. He states that this was so intense that intermarriage between the citizens of the two towns did not occur until after the Revolution. He fires a parting shot at the neighboring town with the remark that the speech of the Southampton citizenry was scarcely understandable. What was true of these two towns was true of Southold and Southampton. There had been a long quarrel over the western boundary which had made for unpleasantness and, in addition, several minor matters had cropped up. Specifically, Southampton had paid Jeremy Veale a bonus to settle among them as a blacksmith. He had pocketed the bonus and had then moved on to Southold. This was the Southampton version of his coming hither. William Wells was accused of accepting a home lot in Southampton and then settling in Southold and, whatever the justice of the claims and accusations, they did not make for brotherly feeling. To the westward Huntington had objected to Southold's dumping a lunatic within her borders, and this made for more unpleasantness.
     But the really important factor in the growing sense of independence arose from the geographical situation of the town. Including Shelter Island and stretching westward to the Wading River,, on the north and south it was isolated by the seas. Westward from the Wading River lay the Great Forest beyond which were several towns. Southold knew vaguely of them, for some of her citizens had gone on to these new plantations. Beyond these towns were the Dutch, and Southold was one with Connecticut in hating this race. The beginning of this dislike may be traced to the treatment accorded some of the Pilgrims during their stay in Holland prior to their coming to the New World. This hatred was transferred to the Duke of York and his government when they wrested New Amsterdam from the Dutch. The period of the Duke's government was long enough to further alienate the people of Southold, and its misrule was in large measure responsible for Southold's decision to cast its lot with the Continental Congress.
     To cite a specific case during the reign of Thomas Dongan: Every boat sailing out of Southold Harbor had to report to New York and clear before going about her business. When Colonel Arnold was in his hey-dey and the Southold bottoms were found in every port in the Seven Seas, this was a serious matter. Suffolk County in 1690 was the second county in the State; and the three towns, East Hampton, Southampton, and Southold, bade fair to outshine the capital city. Much has been written about the exceptional harbor that belongs to New York; but at this time the residence of the Colonial Governor was of infinitely more importance than boldness of water, and the presence of a tiny court meant more than the protecting presence of mighty palisades. Money talks a universal language-the salary of the Reverend Joshua Hobart was greater than that of the incumbent of the largest church in New York City in 1690.
     Dongan's order for the clearing of Southold vessels from the port of New York was made with the deliberate intention of crippling the growing town. It was fought with resolution, and a ship was dispatched to watch over the waters of Peconic Bay and to enforce this regulation. The captain found it more to his profit to take bribes from the Southold seamen than it was to render honest service to the Duke, and he acted according to the best modern practices.
     The fact that the town had been forced by Andross to accept a charter added to the dissatisfaction; and the continued policy of pin pricks gradually worked on the collective mind preparing them for the day when they would boldly refuse to acknowledge their king. There has been no attempt to set these things down in chronological order, nor are the examples cited all-inclusive. But there was one event that the historians of the town have never viewed in its proper perspective the French and Indian War. Without this event, there would never have been a Revolution.
     To Virginia the French and Indian War brought a contempt for the King's professional troops; to Southold, which had sent 150 men to Ticonderoga, to contempt was added hatred a hatred born of the only method of discipline known at the time, the lash. The sons of Southold returned from that campaign and carried with them memories of those horri'ole days of fever and of privation, days made more terrible by the incessant lashings of their officers. It had been one thing to watch the sheriff punish some loutish bondservant on court day, or to stroll down to the duck-pond (where Koke Brothers' Garage stands) and see some ancient crone dipped beneath the muddy waters for the crime of having over-employed a rum-loosed tongue; but for the best blood of Southold to writhe beneath the lash was quite another; and the King in whose name it had been done must pay for it should the opportunity 
ever come.
     By 1775 Southold was ready for independence, and that brings us to the Refugees. Three Yale men are the outstanding figures of the time. Ezra L'Hommedieu, Jared Landon and Colonel Thomas Wickham were entrusted with the task of lining up the eastern towns under the banner of the Continental Congress. They did their work well, and in Wickham's report to the Continental Congress, he told them that East Hampton had signed to the last man. Thomas Dering of Shelter Island should be added to the list as a patriot of the first order. L'Hommedieu, Wickham, and Dering acted as commissioners and approved the accounts of those who helped the Refugees make their flight to New England.
     Ordinarily I should not think it needful to describe the Refugees, as I had taken it for granted that everyone knew who and what they were. I have been disillusioned; so I append this brief description.


     The Refugees were those supporters of the Continental Congress who, being threatened with a military occupation and with the consequent forced victualling of their enemies, deserted their farms and took refuge in Connecticut until the tide of war had rolled back.
      Much of what follows has been taken from the pages of Mather's monumental work, "The Refugees of 1775 et Cet."; but much comes from a collection of private papers which may be called the Landon Manuscript. This collection includes the ledger of Samuel Landon, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, His Majesty's Commissioner of Excise, Supervisor of the Town of Southold, and Acting Surrogate of Suffolk County; and it covers a period from 1740 to 178?. The book is then carried on by his son, Jared, first Surrogate of Suffolk County, Commissioner of the Loan Office, nine-time member of tlne Assembly, holder of many town offices but, most important of all, liaison officer between the patriot forces making their headquarters in New England and those supporters of the Colonial cause who, by stress of circumstances had to remain within Lord Howe's lines.
     In addition to the great ledger, there are a bundle of smaller notebooks and a mass of papers of the Revolutionary period which throw a great light on the conditions existing in Southold from 1776 to 1783. With these papers are the notes of Dr. David Conkling, Quartermaster of the Southold company of Minute Men These contain his reports to Colonel Livingston on his efforts to obtain arms and ammunition in Southold at the beginning of the Revolution. To these may be added the personal accounts of Long House John Conklin for the same period, which list his expenditures while a Refugee at Guilford. Added to this is the great ledger of Joseph Cleveland for the same time; and constant cross-reference from one book to the other makes it possible to recreate the scene with confidence in its verity.
     To return to the Refugees, most of whom had signed the "Association," as it came to be known, the news that Lord Howe proposed to invest the town with a force that would be of sufficient size to be able to enforce absolute control, and the added indignity of being driven by Hessian hirelings to cultivate the land, not for their own profit, but for the purpose of feeding the armies to fit the yoke to their shoulders, was more than the men of Southold could contemplate.
     When the news came there was instant confusion. The town which had known a placid existence since the return of its sons from Ticonderoga was thrown into a turmoil. All was disorder, but disorder with a purpose. Under the direction of Jared Landon, the populace made haste to abandon t11e land of their fathers and seek refuge in New England. Crops were garnered, grain was threshed, and by fall the whole town was ready to abandon their several homes. Cattle were penned, hogs were rounded up, surplus fodder burned, and the oxen strained late into the night drawing the great wains to a score of landing places where great heaps of furniture were piled awaiting the coming of a score of captains whose glorious service in the patriot cause is not too well known. Everything movable in the town was packed and made ready for transportation.
     To the approaching invader, nothing was left. Empty houses, close mown fields, cropless acres, but nothing that could be of use. 129 captains superintended the great hegira. 48 of them came from Long Island, and Southold gave to the cause Gamaliel Bayley, Samuel Beebe, Benjamin, John (Skipper) and Joseph Conkling, Daniel, Jasper and Peter Griffing, Joseph Hallock, Barnabas Horton, Benjamin King, David Landon, Jonathan Salmon, Isaac Schellinger, Benjamin, Elisha, John, Jonathan and Joseph Vail, James and John Webb, and David and James Wiggins.
     The costal contour of Southold has changed in the last one hundred years. Waters that were once deep are now shallow; inlets that afforded a port are now closed, and places along the beach, such as Petty's Bight at Orient, are no longer looked upon as good landing places. To the westward, blattituck Creek offered the best point of departure. North of the Hermitage (Peconic) Goldsmith's Inlet offered a fair haven. Jacamiah Goldsmith had bought a piece of black walnut for a new gunstock, loaded himself down with fifteen pounds of powder and all the bullets he could stagger under and had departed in the direction of Lexington and Concord.
     Night saw the departure of many families. While a small squadron of the King's navy cruised about in the Sound, the hardy skippers ran their loads of contraband across under the very guns of the British fleet. The Britons hated these waters. The Sound offered innumerable chances for shipwreck. `Plum Gutte' was especially dreaded and only half-hearted were the attempts to bottle up Peconic Bay and the thirty-odd creeks which emptied into it. Once Skipper John Conkling was caught with a load of goods in the Bay. The cannon of British sloops of war waited for him at South Ferry. Off Long Beach waited another ship. Nothing daunted, Skipper Conkling ran his load into Crab Creek, unloaded it in the darkness, and the Dering oxen carted it across Shelter Island, where it was again loaded and sped on its way to Connecticut.
     Buried in the depths of Mather's massive work is an almost complete list of those who left Southold. For the information of the reader, I will cite in complete detail the account rendered by Captain David Landon, sailing the sloop "Polley," 55 tons burthen, belonging to his brother-in-law, Samuel Brown of Guilford. The appended is an exact copy, spelling, abbreviation and capitalization being that of the time, 1776.

Mr (Thomas) Dearing 7
Ezra L'hommadieu Esqr 10
Samll Landon Esqr 10
(Capt.) Daniel Hedges 5
(Capt.) Joseph Hallock 9
(Capt.) Benjn Vaill 11
Ebenezer Ward (Wade) 6
John Busseau (Boisseau) 11
Doctr (David) Conkling 3
Joshua Horton 4
Benjn Pain 2
Recompce Howell 4
Joseph Cleaveland 5
Hannah Moore 5
Peter Danes 9
Natha Overton 2
Richd Terrey 11
Jonathan Wells 3
Joshua Reaves 3
Abijah Wines 5
Thos Hutchinson 4
Jona Conkling 2
John Dickinson (Dickinson) 6
Abijah Coey 6
Capt. (Barnabas) Horton 6
Barnabas Horton (Jr.) 4
John Drake 5
Jonathan Horton 3
Joseph Peck 5
(Capt.) Gamaliel Daily 5
(Capt.) Jonathan Daily 4
(Capt.) John Ingram 4
Molley Hart 3
(Ebenezer) Jennings 2 
Thomas Hempstead. 3 
Single Persons, by Estimate 50

Total 237

To Freight or Passage

of 237 persons at 3s...... 35-11-0 
To the Sloops Hold four times full of Household Goods grain & other Effects allmost Innumarable Estimated by the number of Barrels the Sloop will Carry-Capt. Benjn Vaill of whom I bot her say 300 a 1-6.......... 100-00-0
a 1--6 ................ 100- 0-0
To Freight of 100 headCattle & Horses a 6.... 30-00-00
To Do of 600 Sheep &
Hogs a 6d..... :......... 15-00-00
To Lighter hire for 25 days to ship & unship cattle and horses (Charge disallowed)Charges for repair to the lighter were also refused payment

Total 168-14-00

     These charges were met by the Committee appointed by the State of New York which worked in company with Commissioners from Connecticut. This is far from a complete list of the Refugees. In fact these are only those transported in the months of September and October. The Committee of Southold had anticipated the result of the Battle of Long Island by sending their cannon and ammunition to Saybrook. Following this, permission had been given to leave for the `main'. The bill cited above was the first general answer to this.
     From 1776 until 1780, there was a steady stream of exiles and, though no correct estimate has ever been made of their number, Mather was of the opinion' that nearly half of Southold fled to Connecticut. It should be noted that this number was largely the male population. It was with the idea of defeating the British commander's scheme of using Southold as a victualing ground that the men absented them-selves, taking the cattle with them. In many cases the women stayed behind and kept their houses from occupation. It had been the policy of the royal governor not to allow soldiers to occupy houses that were tenanted by their owners. This was more than a gracious gesture and probably was due to the influence of Colonel Phineas Fanning, who had cast his lot with the Tories and, tough he was thoroughly hated, an examination of the records will show that he stood as buffer between the Whigs and Tories. Tempers were high and prejudices violent, but Phineas Fanning managed to steer a course of loyalty to his king and loyalty to his fellow townsmen and by his efforts softened many a blow. So successful was he that he was allowed toretain his lands, although his contemporary, Parker Wickham, was stripped of his estates by a bill of attainder.
     James Fanning, a nephew of Phineas, was a blacksmith by trade. There could be no doubt of James' attachment to the cause of freedom. When Tryon and his force at last occupied the town, he refused to shoe the horses of the enemy. Once, it is related, a Hessian orderly brought his master's horse to James Fanning's shop. Fanning had seen the man approaching and had allowed the fire to die down at the forge. He had covered the glowing cannel high with fresh coal and, as a special favor to the Hessian, he had placed a liberal handful of powder on top of the coal. The Hessian, with slight command of English, made known his wants and Fanning conveyed the information that if he wanted the beast shod, he could do it himself. The orderly finally got the drift of what was being said and, approaching the bellows, gave them a mighty tug. The fire sprang up, the Hessian blew up, and our story ends.
     With the departure of the first consignment of Refugees, the town began to know the hardships of war. Raiding parties of British soldiers began to appear and seize grain and cattle of those who had stayed behind. Those who had signed the Association in behalf of the Continental Congress found themselves in a bad way. Their crops and cattle were subject to seizure for their evident disloyalty. Those who professed regard for the royal cause found that adherence to the king's cause meant nothing and they were told that they should not protest as it was for the King's good that their cattle were taken. Raiding parties began to appear and prey on both the patriots and the Tories. Whence they came no one could be certain. The stay-at-home patriots accused their Tory neighbors of being the instigators of these forays. The Tories retorted in kind. The disorders became so great that the long threatened invasion became a reality. Tryon with 500 infantry and 50 cavalry appeared and Southold was formally invested. Without access to the British records, historians have failed to establish the exact date. It was certainly some time after Lt. Col. Return Jonathan Meigs made his famous raid on Sagg Harbor. Before we consider either Tryon and his army of invasion, or Meigs and his whaleboat expedition, we must consider the Southold that the 237 Refugees had left behind. Parenthetically, in speaking of Southold, I mean all of it, from Laurel (Benjamin Franklinville) on the west to Oysterponds Point on the extreme east.


     The Southold of 1776 was a town of 3000 inhabitants. This was the number exclusive of the slaves. The census had been made at the order of the royal authorities and the slaves had been omitted on the theory that they would attach themselves to the King's cause. Contrarily, they were quite as loyal to the Continental Congress as were their masters who had signed. On a page of Judge Samuel Landon's ledger I find a series of entries whereby lie had caused the mending of Pomp's musket and bayonet and from his personal supply of powder had given this chattel of Benjamin Sawter four pounds of powder and had sent him with his blessing to New England. Southold as a town had not been a great user of slaves. A few of the grandees of the town had establishments similar to those on the James River-notably Col. Matthias Hutchinson at Peconic . His `Old Castle', for many years the residence of Henry Davids Horton, swarmed with slaves. William Albertson of Arshamomaque and John Conklin, his neighbor and relative by marriage, had a great number. Ezra L'Hommedieu took a half-dozen to Connecticut. But the average citizen had one or two, as was the case with Captain Barnabas Horton, whose `Jack the Guiney-man's' chair may be seen at the house so long known at the Austin Horton home at Hogg Neck.
     Southold had had varied industries in their 136 years, and at the time we are considering, they were becoming a farming community. Flax seed was their chief interest. This was their money crop. Horses were raised for export to the upper counties of the state. Oxen were their draft animals and their roads were laid with an eye to easing the burden of these slow footed beasts. The road which now passes over the crest of Willow Hill was unthought of during this period. The road to the western plantations deployed to the north and went around the base of 
the hill. Only cleared land paid taxes and this had served to deter the growth of the town. Many families, unable to secure land for themselves, had departed for Vermont, Orange County, the district about Utica, and some of the more hardy had even ventured to go among the hated Quakers of Pennsylvania. Nathan Landon, in a letter to one of 
his relatives, complains that the Pennsylvanians refused to accept the emigrants from New York as citizens and for a time refused to allow them to take title to lands. The enormous family holdings of the Corwins, the Conklins, the Wells, the Hortons, the Hallocks and so on through the list of those who had. first come to the town were beginning to be broken up. New names had begun to appear on the tax roll and much new blood had come into the town. No amount of new 'blood could alter the customs of the country and the trend of trade was still across Sound as it had been in the days d Governor Dongan. Although visits were made to New York, the major part of the merchandising of the town was done in New England ports.


     This had served to keep Southold fully acquainted with the happenings in New England and in a large measure accounts for the people's support of the patriot cause. Although the New London Gazette was circulated in Southold, the chief source of news was the returning mariner and the center of distribution was the tavern. In Henry C. Kittredge's `History of Cape Cod and Its People', the writer devotes severalparagraphs to the importance of the tavern in the economic scheme of things ancient, specifically as a broadener of minds and as a center for 
the diffusion of news.
     Granting him his premise, Southold should have been the best informed town in America, if the presence of ale-houses and taverns may be taken as criteria.
     When Samuel Landon, the most methodical of men, began to close his affairs preparatory to retiring to Guilford, he put his accounts into exact order. He was Commissioner of Excise and he wrote down a complete list of the retailers and tavern keepers. He enters memoranda as to wills left in his care, and he gives an exact account of the supply of pow-er and shot in his care. Why this supply of munitions was not in the possession of Dr. David Conkling, Quartermaster of the Minute Men, or with Capt. Paul Reeve, who headed the body, I am unable to say. He so ordered his affairs that in case lie should not return-he was 76 at the time-the exact amount due the town could be computed in short time. Seemingly he was an overseer of the poor, for he lists town charges of one shilling for going to Hogg Neck and sitting with `Wido Corey' and for similar service with Mot Melican he debited the town with 
a charge of a shilling, six pence. Why it should have cost the town six pence more in the case of Mot Melican will be left to the reader's speculation.
     To return to the tavern keepers and retailers, it should be here stated that no apology is needed as some of the best names in the town are included either as sureties or as holders of licenses .

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