The Indian name of that part of Sag-Harbor within the bounds of the town
of East-Hampton was Wequagannuck, or Wiquagonock. William W. Tooker, Esq.,
of Sag-Harbor, a profound student of the Indian language and history, locates
their village on the north shore, below Sleight's or Fort Hill, where shell
heaps denote an Indian settlement. He says the Indian name We-quae-adnanke,
signifies the land or place at the foot of the hill. Since the Indian names
of places were descriptive of local peculiarities, we see the fitness of
this name, denoting the village at the foot of the hill, which probably
survived long after the town of East-Hampton was founded by the whites.
Tradition dates the English settlement of Sag-Harbor about 1730, and
locates it at first at the cliff, or north side of Turkey Hill, which then
extended from the vicinity of Main street west, to near Rysam street east,
and Washington street south. On the north declviity or cliff of this hill,
holes were dug as a refuge from the storm. The shelter of rude fishermen's
huts followed, and houses set in the ground, one story beneath and one
above, so as to be in front two and in rear one story; only succeeded in
the place of huts. The attractions of this locality to the Indians were
many. It abounded in game of the forest, in fowl of the air and clams and
fish of the sea. Commerce and intercourse by water in canoes was easy with
the tribes inhabiting Shelter Island, Cutchogue, Shinnecock or Montauk.
It was secluded from the whites for three or four score years from their
establishment on eastern Long Island, and yet not so remote as to
preclude the profits of their trade and commerce. Southampton made North
Sea its harbor. East-Hampton shipping made North West their harbor and
landing. Merchant Howell, at Poxabogue, cut a road through the woods east
whereby to cart his goods landed at North West. From that day to this the
road is called "Merchant's Path." West of Conkling's Point a creek put
in, fringed with meadow. East of Turkey Hill and Meeting House Hill, from
away south, a swamp or ravine poured its drainage across Hampton and down
Burke street, into the meadow and creek above named. Sagg road was unmarked,
Division street impassable, Main street unknown, and all its western line
water, marsh or miry meadow, sweeping north around the base of Turkey Hill,
at the cleft or cliff, where now is the livery of John DeCastro, and south
nearly or quite to Garden street. After one-and-a-half centuries of excavating
the west side of Turkey Hill and Meeting House Hill still stand up above
the street level.
The hollow between Meeting House Hill and Turkey Hill extended south
from the vicinity of Washington street until it met the former hill, and
ran eastward into the ravine that crossed Hampton and Division streets,
flowing its waters along Burke street into the creek. A swamp crossed Main
street, and probably a large part or all of Madison street, just south
of where Miss Anna L. Babcock now resides. A ridge crossed Main street
just south of Garden street. This ridge and these hills have gone to fill
the swamps and grade the streets. All the north end of Main street, until
past David Hand's corner, is mostly made land over marsh and meadow from
four to six feet deep. The ancient road from Bridge and Southampton ran
between Otter Pond and the Cove, and skirting the Cove went to the old
wharf just east of the toll house at the old North Haven bridge. The old
Sagg road ran north of the intersection of Wainscott and Sagg roads, and
then west and south of Otter Pond into the one first named. The Brick-kiln
road was first used, and crossed from the Brick-kilns to the vicinity of
Ligonee Brook, near the residence of the late Samuel T. Hildreth, deceased.
The road from East-Hampton to Sag-Harbor originally ran to the shore at
Little Northwest, and then skirting the shore into East Water street, under
the cliff, where at high tide one cart wheel travelled low in the water
and the other high on the land almost to tipping over the cart. Afterwards
the road came at the bars at Eastville into the one now used. Main street,
Madison street, Division street, and the two Turnpike roads to Bridge and
East-Hampton, were unknown as highways travelled by the people until long
after the settlement of the village and the beginning of its commerce.
About 1739 both towns of East and Southampton, finding the improvement
of their lands in common unsatisfactory, made extensive allotments thereof
in severalty. Southampton ran a middle line from its east bounds, adjoining
East-Hampton, to Sebonac, and made therefrom a Great North and South Division,
of almost all the territory then undivided within the limits named. But
the North Division did not include any land north of Union street, which
ran from the north-west corner of the old burying ground to Main street,
past the house then of Braddock Corey and late of Jeffrey Fordham, and
thence west near where is now the dwelling of Miss Sarah E. Fordham.
East-Hampton, in 1739, made division of large portions of its territory,
including all or nearly all bordering on the boundary line of the two towns,
from shore to shore, and
laying out the roads substantially as now in being, including the main
highway to Sag-Harbor.
Southampton in 1740 voted to Samuel Russell "four poles of land at
Sagg Harbour adjoining to his meadow to be sold to him," showing him then
a resident there, and owner of the meadow early allotted as of chief value.
Not until 18th November, 1745, was there made a survey and division of
the lower part of Sag-Harbor, when seventeen lots and seventeen amendments
thereto were divided Lot 1 commenced "at the clift," was "3 poles wide
at the west end and 4 foot at the east end." The lots ran from Main street
east to Division street and varied in width from 24 to 40 feet. The amendments
were from 39 to 40 feet wide at the west end. Washington street is between
the 5th and 6th amendment. Lot 1 was at or near the livery stand of John
DeCastro. The south line of the amendments was nearly opposite the junction
of Main and Madison streets, at David Hand's corner. November 3d, 1761,
a return was made of a survey of a tract called the twelve acre division,
comprising substantially all the unallotted land between Main and Division
streets, and north of Union street, as it then ran. Commencing at David
Hand's corner with lot No. 1, fifteen lots were laid out east of Main street
and extending to Union street. Lots 16 and 17, and some amendments to lots
5 and 6, were north-west of Main street. Mrs. Abigail Price said her father
told her he remembered when there were but four houses in Sag-Harbor. In
the light of these divisions of land at so late a day we can well believe
it. Yet the divisions are of exceptional character, appropriate for a village,
and indicating faith in the coming commercial supremacy of the Harbor as
a port of entry.
Long Island Sound, as an avenue of travel and commerce, opened facilities
powerfully affecting all settlements on its borders and far into the interior.
Transportation by water was far preferable to that by land and through
the forest. The history of Sag-Harbor, or of Long Island, English or Aboriginal,
cannot be rightly rightly read with this element lacking. Looking to the
travels of the sainted Brainard, missionary to the Indians, we find him
in February, 1743, at Lyme, Ct., crossing the Sound, landing at Oysterponds,
on Long Island, and thence travelling to East-Hampton. In March he preached
at Montauk to the Indians.--See Life of Brainard, pp. 70, 72, 73. Three
times he visited that town; the second time in April, 1744, (ib. 112);
the third time in Oct. 1745, (ib. 163.) He had strong friends and a large
following with at least twice an escort therefrom, with a call to settle
there. At first Brainard condemned some ministers as unconverted men. An
error he confessed in later years. Like Jonathan Edwards and Davenport,
he condemned the toleration and practices of the half-way covenant.--See
ante. p. 82. Undoubtedly he came in collision with minister Huntting, who
advocated it. This explains some dark hints of dissension and church troubles
not otherwise cleared up in the latter years of Huntting's ministry, and
why Buell, a partial new light advocate succeeded. In the history of Sag-Harbor
the halfway covenant is unknown.
Prime's history states: "Between 1760 and 1770, while as yet the commerce
of New-York was carried on principally by schooners and sloops, this little
retired port had opened a small trade with the West Indies in larger craft.
Col. Gardiner at that time owned and employed two brigs in that business,
while several smaller vessels were busily engaged in the fishing and coasting
trade. At this early period two or three sloops cruised in the Atlantic,
a few degrees to the south, for whales, which were then so plenty that
more or less of them were taken every year by boats along the whole southern
coast of the Island."
It is evident that the settlement was small anterior to the allotments
of 1745 and 1761. Tradition, probably correct, tells of three or four houses
perched on the brow of Turkey Hill, supported in front by poles or pillars,
as the first habitations of white men there. These were probably located
just over the Southampton line, on the East-Hampton side. As the East-Hampton
territory was divided years before that of Southampton, in the nature of
things it would be first settled. But before the allottment of 1739 title
would be merely a possession liable to ouster, and we could look for no
more than temporary huts until thereafter. We now see why Mrs. Abigail
Price, daughter of James Howell, said her father told her he remembered
when there were but four houses in Sag-Harbor. The writer heard Elisha
Osborn, deceased, state the same of his father.
May 5th, 1792, the Trustees of the town of Southampton appointed a
committee to go to Sag-Harbor and make choice of a place to build a wharf,
but denied to the committee any power to charge the town therefor. April
7th, 1741, Nathan Fordham, Jr. and James Foster obtained from the same
town "the liberty and privilege of building a wharf and setting up a try-house
at Sag-Harbor," &c. "the town reserving the privilege of landing their
whale upon said wharf at all times, and they shall receive it into their
tryhouse, and try said whale on reasonable terms." "In 1760 three sloops
owned by Joseph Conkling, John Foster and some others, called the Goodluck,
Dolphin and Success, cruised for whales in Lat. 30øø N."--See
Thompson's Hist. of L. I. Vol. I, p. 349.
Probably the wharf referred to was located near the south end and east
of the old North Haven bridge, and was little more than a mere bulkhead.
Near by this were, in the Revolution, three windmills, one east and two
west, according to tradition. The East-Hampton Town Records, Vol. IV, p.
220, contain the abstract of a deed from the Town Trustees to petitioners
named therein, of whom William Nicoll was one, with thirty residents of
Southampton and nine of East-Hampton, in all forty, conveying to them and
their heirs, &c., "full and free liberty to build and maintain a wharf
at Sag-Harbor, thirty-five feet wide, beginning at Southampton east patent
line, where Southampton grant for said wharf ends, and to run north-easterly
thirty rods, and to have sixty feet of water on each side of the wharf,"
&c. This deed, dated 12th Feb. 1770, marks a new era in the progress
of Sag-Harbor. By its terms the wharf was to be finished "at or before
the end of three years." It was probably completed before the time expired,
because by deed dated 25th April, 1771, Thos. Foster Cooper sells to Daniel
Fordham, victualler, half a share in the "new Long Wharf at Sag-Harbor."
And by deed of 1st December, 1773, Jeremiah Hedges, physician, of East-Hampton,
conveys to David Gelston, merchant, of Southampton, one share of the great
Wharf and storehouses at Sag-Harbor, being one fortieth part. April 21st,
1798, the Commissioners of Highways of the town of Southampton, describing
a highway running west from the north-east corner of the house of John
N. Fordham, refer to the "old wharf" as included in the highway. September
15th, 1776, it is said "wharves at Sag-Harbor crowded with emigrants."--See
Onderdonk's Rev. Incidents of Suffolk Co. Thus we find the two wharves
in being in 1776, and the old one discontinued in 1798. September 15th,
1808, the Trustees of the town of East-Hampton conveyed to the people of
the State of New-York, a parcel of land covered with water from the end
of "the Sag-Harbor wharf, extending northerly three hundred feet," &c.--See
T. R. Vol. IV, p. 357. This was the grant for the "State Pier," built by
an appropriation from the State Treasury. The thirty rods granted for the
long wharf in 1770, with the 300 feet granted in 1808, made together some
The growth of the wharf measured the commerce and practically the growth
of the port. The population in the town of Southampton was estimated to
be from two-thirds to three fourths and that in East-Hampton accordingly.
The territory of the port in East-Hampton town, as incorporated, is probably
over one-third part. Joseph Conkling of East-Hampton is reputed to have
owned a large part of the East-Hampton territory in Sag-Harbor, and by
some thought to have resided there. "Conkling's Point" is probably derived
from his ownership thereof. His conveyance to his son Edward, mariner,
of about twelve acres, "bounded south-westerly by the highway that parts
the two towns," in June 1775, would confirm the tradition that Edward was
also a resident there.--See T. R. Vol. IV, p. 234 and ib. p. 257. The reference
to his "water fence," Sept. 3d, 1779, and to "his house" in Sept. of that
year in the records removes all doubts thereof. This Edward is probably
the Capt. Conkling who in 1779 commanded the sloop Beaver and with other
vessels took a British privateer brig from Sag-Harbor wharf, and again
took two brigs from Cork via. New-York with rum, wine and 12,000 bushels
of oats for the troops on the east end of Long Island.--See Onderdonk's
Rev. Incidents of Suffolk Co. p. 80.
During the Revolution the wharf became out of repair.
At the Town Meeting in April, 1783, it was "voted that such persons
who shall work in repairing the wharf at Sag Harbor shall be exempt from
mending the highways." This resolution and the petition for the wharf grant
of 1770 speak from the record of the intelligent interest of the people
of this town to promote commerce by wharf building, and the petition speaks
in like manner for the town of southampton. If the reader regrets the space
devoted to the wharf, let him think, there centered the business, the trade,
the commerce of the port. Its growth marked the growth, its decay the decline
of the village. The wharf was its throbbing heart. The streets were arteries
whence its mighty pulsations sent life and activity and business to its
stores and houses. When its palpitations ceased paralysis reigned. Heart
failure is death to human life; wharf failure death to commercial life.
East-Hampton contributed its proportion of inhabitants to Sag-Harbor
from its foundation. The first rude houses at the cliff were near and probably
a major part over the East-Hampton bounds. In the census of Southampton
town made 4th July, 1776, we find these names of residents probably of
East-Hampton origin if not from there: John Hudson, Uria Miller,
Jonathan Conkling, Timothy Hedges, Wid. Eliz Hicks, Edward Conkling, Jeremiah
Gardiner. It is not improbable that Joseph Conkling and Dr. Jeremiah Hedges
and a Russell resided in the East Hampton part of Sag-Harbor, and the Jeremiah
Hedges, Jr. who April 5, 1791, obtained liberty from Town Meeting to "erect
a house below the cliff at Sag-Harbor on the common land," may be another
resident, and perhaps John Edwards. When Division street in 1807 was changed
so as to run east of the dividing line of the towns, Daniel Fordham, Hubbard
Latham and Henry P. Dering, whose lots were thereby improved, obtained
land therefor of David Russel. Thus the record confirms the tradition of
the early settlement of that family in Sag-Harbor.
Soon after the battle of Long Island, Sag-Harbor was occupied by the
British forces. A garrison was stationed there and occupied a fortification
on Meeting House Hill, which consisted of a breastwork there, enlarged
and strengthened by palisades, extending southerly towards the old burying
ground. The infamous Major Cockran at one time commanded the garrison,
whose inhumanity and cruelty were notorious. Traditions of his barbarity
abounded in olden time, over all Eastern Long Island. Unprovoked and wantonly,
he often cut peaceful Americans with his broadsword, and some were by his
orders subjected to the indignity of the lash. Poor Russell of Sag-Harbor,
was unmercifully so tied and whipped. It was here on the western declivity
of this hill that the first dead were buried, including it is said some
of the British garrison. In excavating east of Madison street and Madison
Square, human remains have been found, the last recently, in the ??ear
of the store and dwelling now owned by R. J. Power. It was here in May,
1777, that Col. Meigs, starting from Sachem's Head in whale boats, travelled
by water and land, transporting the boats over a narrow part of Southold
town, into Peconic bay, and leaving them in the woods under guard near
the foot of Long Beach, marched thence to Sag-Harbor. One division of his
forces took the fort and captured its garrison and its officers, who lodged
at the house of James Howell, father of Mrs. Abigail Price, deceased, then
a child, who remembered and related the occurrence. Another division marched
to the wharf, and although under the fire of an armed schooner of twelve
guns, set fire to and destroyed about one hundred tons of hay, ten transport
vessels, mostly sloops and schooners, and one armed vessel of six or eight
guns, &c. In twenty-four hours from starting Meigs returned without
the loss of a man, and with ninety prisoners. This was one of the most
brilliant achievements of the war of the Revolution. John White, of Sagg,
grandfather of the present John E. White, was in this expedition, and may
have been its pilot and guide. The writer has heard the story from his
The possession of Sag-Harbor by the British was important.
Their fleet commanded the harbor of New-York, the Sound and Gardiner's
Bay, wherein their men-of-war often lay at anchor. Sag-Harbor was a convenient
centre for collecting supplies; it was easy thence to distribute them,
and the naval supremacy of Britain enabled it to take and hold this port
at little cost. If the detachment of troops, at times quartered at Sagg,
and in East and Southampton, lived like a vampire on their blood, it is
no less true that their presence in Sag-Harbor was more disastrous. It
paralyzed commerce; it cramped and discouraged industry; it held back manufactures
and enterprise; it impoverished its people; it covered the village with
distrust and inaction and gloom.
On a preceding page we have referred to that order of the Town Meeting
of East-Hampton, in 1785, which granted to those repairing the wharf exemption
from laboring on the highways. This order speaks volumes of the destitution
and desolation of Sag-Harbor; so deep, so wretched that even the wretched
pitied her. The compassion of one community of eastern Long Island, for
the sufferings of another, is worthy of lasting remembrance, as a star
of light in a night of darkness. It seems as if the port, after the Revolution,
had sunk so deep in poverty as to lose the power of recuperation. Doctor
Gardiner and his brother, on the close of the war, sent the first ship
(called the Hope) on a whaling voyage from Sag-Harbor, commanded by Capt.
Ripley; and about the same time a large brig on a like voyage. The Hope
returned with only some twenty or thirty barrels of oil, and the brig was
more unfortunate. In 1785 a vessel owned by Col. Benjamin Huntting and
Stephen Howell was sent, as an experiment, to a more southern latitude,
and by her success laid the foundation of a more extended commerce. Soon
after the brig Lucy, owned by Col. Huntting and others, made the first
voyage from this port to the coast of Brazil, and the experiment proving
more profitable than was anticipated, was followed by others.
The foregoing, on the authority of Prime, Thompson and the Chronicles,
differs from the account in Calkins' History of New London, on p. 640,
where it is reported that the Hope had 140 barrels; that in 1785 the brig
Lucy, George McKay, master, and the brig Amelia, Daniel Havens, master,
fitted and sailing from Sag-Harbor, went to the Brazil Banks and returned
that year, the Lucy May 15th with 360 barrels and the Amelia June 4th with
300 barrels. Also there it is stated that the first vessel from Connecticut
which sailed for whaling in southern latitudes was in 1794, being some
nine or ten years later than the Sag-Harbor voyages. In the same history
we read, p. 240. 1711, Sept. 8th, "Skolinks sailed for Long Island," probably
Schellinger.--See ante, p. 74.
The death of Col. Huntting and the embargo law, again tied up the whaling
enterprise. The war of 1812 followed with continuing hindrances. In September,
1817, the ship Argonaut, owned by Silas and Lewis Howell, and commanded
by Eliphalet Halsey, sailed for the Pacific and returned therefrom in June,
1819, with 1,700 barrels of sperm oil. This fortunate voyage was soon followed
by a great expansion of the whaling enterprise. The Custom House records
of Sag-Harbor show these figures.(*)
In 1794, 472 tons reg'd, 473 tons enr'd and licensed vessels
" 1800, 805 " " 1,449 " " " " "
" 1805, 1,916 " " 2,228 " " " " "
" 1810, 1,185 " " 3,223 " " " " "
" 1815, (+)808 " " 2,719 " " " " "
" 1820, 2,263 " " 3,416 " " " " "
Luther D. Cook, deceased, prepared memoranda which was published in
Thompson's History of Long Island, as follows:
"From the statement furnished by him, it appears that in 1837 there
were 13 arrivals and 29 departures of whaling ships from this port; the
number of men and boys employed on board of which exceeded 800. To appreciate
the extraordinary progress made in this business, it is only necessary
to remark, that in 1815 there were but three ships owned here, yet that
in 1838, the number had increased to 29, being an addition of 26 ships
in 23 years. It shows also how much may be accomplished by a spirit of
enterprise, so characteristic of the American people, and which is nowhere
more nobly portrayed than in this department of our navigation. It is calculated
by Mr. Cook, that from 1804 to 1837, there were 198 arrivals of whaling
vessels at this port, producing 338,690 barrels of oil, 40,504 barrels
of sperm and 1,596,765 pounds of bone. In, 1834 and '35 there were 17 arrivals,
amounting in the aggregate to 6,361 tons, or 318 tons to each vessel. In
1837 there were 23 arrivals, producing 8,634 barrels of sperm, 31,784 of
oil, and 236,757 pounds of bone. During the same year the departures were
29, including one from Jamesport, one from Cutchogue, and two from Greenport,
all bound to the South Atlantic. In 1838 the tonnage employed was 11,700
to which may be added 5,437 of enrolled and licensed tonnage, employed
in the coasting trade, making 17,137 of tonnage from this port. During
the year ending January (*) Vide Address of Hon. Henry A. Reeves at Suffolk
+) A decline caused by the war.
1st, 1841, there arrived in this district 19 whaling ships, the contents
of which were 3,479 barrels of sperm and 91,600 of oil, of the value of
$600,000. Between the 16th of June and 20th of December of the same year,
there sailed 15 ships, 4 barques and 1 brig to the South Atlantic, Indian
Ocean, New Holland, New Zealand, Crozett Islands and N. W. coast. The average
duration of voyages of the whalers that returned in 1840, was little short
of 16 months. The tonnage in 1841 was 13,945, besides two ships and two
brigs added during the year, and the quantity of produce 6,726 barrels
of sperm, 58,827 of whale oil and 482,110 pounds of bone; the net proceeds
of which was $863,000, The whole value of the fleet (43 vessels) with its
outfits, amounts to at least $900,000, and the number of officers and seamen
is 1,025. There are now more than 40 vessels engaged in this business,
which, with those from other parts of the district, increases the number
"Henry T. Dering, Esq., the present collector, states the arrivals
in 1842 at 15, bringing in 24,410 barrels of (right whale) oil, 4,175 of
sperm and 192,000 pounds of bone. The whole number of vessels Low engaged
in the whaling business from this district is 52, the registered tonnage
of which is 17,310, and the number of hands employed 1,217.
A TABLE, Exhibiting at one view the extent of the whaling commerce of
the port of Sag-Harbor for the year 1841, follows:
NAME OF VESSEL. MOS DYS NAME OF MASTER. BBLS. OF SPERM. BBLS.
OF WH. OIL LBS. OF BONE. MANAGING OWNERS.
Ship Washington 20 1 William Osborn, 82 2,436 22,214 Huntting
Ship Fanny 20 27 S. Woodruff Edwards, 120 3,060 25,500 N. &
Ship Thos. Dickenson 20 Wickham S. Havens, 247 3,780 38,000
Mulford & Sleight.
Ship Henry 10 20 John Sweeny, 154 1,900 14,358 Samuel L'Hommedieu.
Ship Columbia 20 18 Lawrence B. Edwards, 63 2,455 25.207 Luther
Ship Thames 22 2 Jeremiah W. Hedges, 139 3,077 26,884 Thomas
Ship Neptune 20 6 Shamgar H. Slate, 30 2,695 22,206 S. &
B. Huntting & Co.
Ship Panama 33 25 Thomas E. Crowell, 440 3,376 29,000 N. &
Barque Franklin 21 David Youngs, 227 2,636 20,246 Chas.
Barque Roanoke 8 15 Benjamin Glover, Jr. 123 1,509 12,028 Wiggins
Ship Daniel Webster 22 10 Edward M. Baker, 340 2,810 26,241 Mulford
Ship Triad 21 4 Isaac M. Case, 241 1,406 11,291 H. & N. Corwin.
Ship Ann 20 17 Ezekiel Curry, 428 1,764 14,640 Mulford &
Ship Portland 23 Wm. H. Payne, 320 2,051 16,201 S. &
B. Huntting & Co.
Ship Delta 22 10 Seth Griffing, 328 1,560 12,484 H. & N.
Barque Noble 10 18 James Sayre, 245 1,132 6,945 Ira B. Tuthill
Brig Seraph, 10 25 George W. Corwin, 180 315 3,000 Samuel H.
Ship Arabella 22 13 John Bishop, Jr. 178 2,130 16,200 N. &
Ship Hannibal 10 4 Lewis L. Bennett, 59 1,611 9,459 S. &
B. Huntting & Co.
Ship Gem 10 24 Theron B. Worth, 52 2,200 14,690 Huntting Cooper.
Barque Nimrod 12 10 Albert Rogers, 110 1,533 13,419 Chas. Thos.
Ship Hudson 23 23 Samuel Denison, 298 1,682 15,858 Luther D.
Ship Bayard 12 Francis Sayre, 104 1,244 7,432 H. &
Ship Acasta 10 2 Sylvester P. Smith, 1,920 14,900 Mulford
Ship France 37 13 Robert L. Douglass, 402 3,636 29,730 N. &
Ship Washington 12 13 Robert N. Wilber, 130 1,122 9,500 Wiggins
Ship Cadmus 27 Henry Nickerson, Jr. 553 1,473 12,000 Mulford
Barque Marcus 15 8 David Loper, 832 904 4,070 N. & G. Howell.
Barque Camillus 13 22 Ezekiel H. Howes, 201 1,409 11,377 Chas.
Brig Wickford 3 18 Davis Miller, 100 David T. Vail.
Total Number of arrivals, 30. Number of tons, 9,722. 6,726 58,827
On the present main road from East-Hampton to Sag-Harbor rises an elevation
long known as "Chatfield's Hill," some one-and-a-half miles south thereof,
and stretching west nearly to the line between the towns. In the division
made June 4th, 1736, Thomas Chatfield drew the 46th lot, containing 236
acres, bounded northwardly by Joseph Conkling's lot, eastw ardly by Sag-Harbor
highway, southwardly by the town commons, and westwardly by the line between
the two towns. In this lot Chatfield's Hill, conspicuous in itself and
also in the view therefrom is located. It is now in the possession of the
children of George B. Brown, deceased, whose mother was a Latham, and inherited
from her father, and he from his father. The transfer from the Chatfield
to the Latham family is associated with one of the most singular and exceptional
events that ever occurred in the tranquil and law-abiding town of East-Hampton.
Gifted with the power of speech it could tell this story: Ebenezer Dayton,
a merchant and pedlar, residing in Bethany, Connecticut, and travelling
as such on Long Island and in East-Hampton before the Revolution, was widely
known. In 1780 his store in Bethany was broken open and robbed of œœ450,
in gold, silver and other property, by tories from Long Island, who were
arrested, convicted, sentenced, and escaped from prison to Canada. After
the Revolution Dayton visited East-Hampton with fancy goods for sale, arriving
Saturday evening. On Sunday, although having symptoms of the measles, and
against the advice of the hostess who had entertained him, he persisted
in attending church service, thereby notifying the public of his presence
by occupying a conspicuous seat in the church, and indirectly advertising
his goods. News of his indiscretion was spread over the town on the dismissal
of the afternoon audience from the church, and the indignation of the people
was so obvious that he left in the early morning following. He was pursued
by a few young men, overtaken, brought back to the village, rode on a rail
through the street, ducked repeatedly in Town Pond, and subjected to other
indignities before his release. Nearly one hundred took the measles, of
whom several died. To this day tradition perpetuates the story of the "Dayton
Measles." Col. Aaron Burr, then a young aspiring lawyer, advocated the
suit of the pedlar, and under his powerful presentation the jury rendered
a verdict of One Thousand Dollars damages against the young men. One of
them was a Chatfield, whose father to raise money for payment of the damages
awarded against his son sold "Chatfield Hill" to a Latham. Both Thompson
and Prime record the tradition substantially as my mother told it.
Popular opinion in that day justified the young men. The friends of
those who died from the contagion so contracted were not moved by the verdict
from that opinion. This is almost if not the only case where the supremacy
of law has been questioned by the people of the town, from its settlement.
The fortunes of the Hamptons were not remotely conconnected with that
of Sag-Harbor. In the prosperous whaling days many ships were owned in
shares, called "company ships," wherein the residents of the Hamptons were
generally large and often majority owners, in numbers and interests. The
masters and crews were furnished in large proportions from the Hamptons.
From them came the supplies of wood, of vegetables, of provisions. From
them recruits for that vast army of mechanics, of riggers, of laborers,
that swarmed around the wharf in summer, and whose strong arms moved the
incoming cargoes, and refitted, repaired, and stored supplies, for out-going
voyagers. The hum of the spindle is soft and low, as becometh the manufactory.
The roar of human industry, hammering on Sag-Harbor wharf in its whaling
days was like that of the mighty deep whereto its ships would sail. The
master mariners from East-Hampton, would fairly represent her share in
this stupendous enterprise. Writing from memory, at the distance of half
a century, names may be omitted, yet I recall these Captains, born or resident
in East-Hampton town: Jonathan Osborn, Sylvanus Miller, Davis Miller, Joshua
Bennett, Lewis L. Bennett, Erastus Barnes, Melvin Edwards, Eli Edwards,
Howell Babcock, George Brown, Henry Conkling, George Hand, William Osborn,
Edward M. Baker, William H. Hedges, Hiram Hedges, Wm. Mulford, Jeremiah
Mulford, Davis Osborn, Hiram Osborn, Wickham S. Havens, Ezekiel Howes,
William Howes, William Lowen, Thomas Lowen, Freeman Smith, Sylvester Smith,
James Madison Tabor, Vincent King.
From the earliest days of the Hamptons their people were alive to the
genial influence of commerce. Their trade with New England, New-York and
the West Indies was almost coeval with their settlement. In the grant of
East-Hampton for the wharf, in 1770, they record this intelligent thought:
"Trade and commerce are in general a benefit to mankind, and in particular
to the inhabitants of this town." The allusion may be simply to the pecuniary
results. The benefits were larger and grander. The commerce of Sag-Harbor
attracted and developed latent powers that might have been dormant. To
the enterprising it opened an alluring field. It enlarged the sphere of
human activity and thought. It was a school teaching the most complete
self-reliance, the most consummate skill, the highest daring. Not a muscle
of the body, not a power of the mind but was toned to grandest achievement.
It fostered and inspired a patriotism that dared all and gave all to defend
the land of its birth. Out of the whale fighter was made the hero mariner.
In the Colonial and Revolutionary wars, and in that of 1812, in every battle
on the seas, these men certified to American valor, in letters of light
that the world has read. Compeers of Paul Jones and Decatur and Commodore
Porter, under the stars and stripes they gained for their country a name
of undying renown. In the most noble and ignoble lines the commerce of
Sag-Harbor was a blessing to the town. The characteristics of the people
who tilled the soil were unlike those who sailed the seas; but the caution
of the one tempered the adventurous impulse of the other, as the diversity
of notes tend to the sweetest harmony. And the commerce of the one was
no less secure, that in part it rested upon the bed rock of the agriculture
of the other.
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