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The graceful old windmill
that stands on the Sylvester estate on Shelter Island succeeded one which
was burned down more than a century ago. The first mill dated back to Revolutionary
times when Nicoll Havens ownd a thousand acres there and ran the mill as
an essential adjunct to the islands farming operation. Following his death
and that of his eldest son, a large part of the tract was sold, about the
year 1800, to Joseph Congdon Sr. who thereupon ran the mill.
It must have been a very old structure even in Congdons day as its works wore out some years before it burned,. Following the fire his son, Joseph Jr. transferred its two stones to his blacksmith shop, a half-mile away, and there one still remains. The other was acquired some years ago by Congressman Lathrop Brown for a windmill on Montauk which he had purchased and was remodeling into a summer residence.
The present windmill on the Sylvester estate was originally erected across the water in Southold town. Purchased by Joseph Congdon Sr. in 1840, he had it taken apart and transported by boat to the west shore ot Shelter Island. In the process of moving, however, the main cogwheel which supported the wings of the mill was lost overboard. Congdon had this replaced and erected the mill near the present public library where for a decade under his management it served the communitys grinding needs.
Sylvesters Mill on Shelter Island Mill contains one run of burr and rock stones. Two crown wheels are mounted on upright shafts above the
spur wheel. In 1839, it was moved across Long Island Sound to Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island. Its owner during the war, Cornelia Horstord,
had it renovated and worked in order to provide meal and flour to the inhabitants of Shelter Island during the food conservation period of World War I
Shelter Island is an irregular shaped land situated between the two forks of eastern Long Island. In 1641, the owner, James Farrett,
sold the land to four Royalists seeking shelter from European tyranny. One of the four, Nathan Sylvester, later bought the island
and built a mansion. His descendants are still among its inhabitants. In 1656, during the religious persecutions on Long Island,
the Quakers sought refuge on Shelter Island. It has become a renowned resort for New York City patrons.
Shelter Island - "The Gristmill" c. 1890
The windmill was built in 1810 in Southold by Nathaniel Dominy jr. using parts
of a previous mill. It was moved to Shelter Island by barge and put to use
grinding corn and wheat at its location by the schoolhouse
A Modern photo of the Shelter Island Gristmill
Be sure to visit the Shelter Island Historical Society Website for more information on Shelter Island History
First appearing in the LI Forum 1957 No Copyright Information Data Found