INTRODUCTION TO VOL. I OF THE TOWN RECORDS--1649-1680.
The town of East-Hampton settled in 1649, in 1653 built and thatched
a church. Tradition (probably correct) locates that church on the east
side of the present burying-ground, opposite to and west of the house-lot
of Lyon Gardiner. South of Lyon Gardiner and also on the east side of the
street lived William Hedges. On the west side of the street then lived
Thomas Baker and Thomas Osborn, and all within one-fourth of a mile of
that church as a centre. Jonathan T. Gardiner, descendant of that Lyon;
Jonathan Baker, descendant of that Thomas; Joseph S. Osborn, descendant
of that same Thomas Osborn, are a committee chosen by their fellow townsmen
to procure the publication of the ancient records of their town. They have
invited the writer, a native of their town and descendant of the same William
Hedges, to prepare an introduction to such publication. More than two and
a fourth centuries have passed since the ancestors of these descendants
with others, the first settlers, laid the foundations of the good old town
of East-Hampton. Our forefathers wrought in harmony the great work of planting
a colony which should endure for coming centuries. Side by side their bones
are mouldering in the old "Southend" burying ground. Succeeding generations
took up their work in turn to cease, and again beside each other there,
to rest in the last long sleep. The animating sentiment, the impelling
motive, the moving impulse, the sustaining fortitude, the elevating aims,
the upholding faith, the cheering friendships, the darkening perils were
similar for all. They were in life united and in death not divided. This
invitation to the writer from the descendants of such sires, is enforced
by the memories of eight generations of the dead. Their mighty shades make
the call to him sacred.
The free Government and institutions of the United States of America were born in its early settlements. Of necessity the first colonial communities were self governed. They were in a wilderness which must be subdued to sustain them.
Wild beasts and wild Indians encircled them. They were visited by roaming tramps and vagabonds. Discordant elements divided them. Gaunt famine threatened. On every side without and within the dark cloud of danger hung over them. Untiring industry alone could keep away starvation. Fearless strength alone subdue the wild beast. Sleepless vigilance only secure from the savage foe. Organized power only could settle and put down individual grievances and quarrels. Combination only could build churches and schoolhouses, roads and bridges. Martial law only could gather power to repel the enemy. Self-preservation required self-government. Discord and disorder was ruin.
The government must embody the people's will or be a shadow. It must be strong to act or be defied. It must be swift to strike or fail of opportunity. It must drown all discord or be overwhelmed by it.
In such conditions were all the early colonial settlements.
Therefrom sprang a hardy race who by unshrinking toil felled the forest, built villages and towns, made laws suitable to their requirements, instituted churches, organized armies and in self-reliant hope and courage founded a nation on the Western shore of the Atlantic. As truly as the river's source is found in remote springs and fountains whose union forms the rolling stream, so truly the springs and fountains of these great States are found in the early settlements of this fair, free land.
The Records of the Town of East-Hampton are more full, more clear, more continuous, more intelligent than are usually found in like early colonies. They contribute clear historic light wherein from the source in the past we may trace the causes which produced the present. Every native of the old town, every careful student of our National History will rejoice that these records by publication have become an enduring memorial to the world, and thank the sons of her early settlers for this generous contribution to the history of our nation.
From the settlement of the Town in 1649 until the conquest of the Colony of New-York in 1664, East-Hampton was practically self-governed. Left mainly to itself these fifteen years the colony gained an experience of self-control and self-reliance that educated it for free institutions which in succeeding ages arose out of like experiences in all the old settlements of the country.
The Town Meeting was the originating organizing, electing, legislating and deciding power. As early as October 3, 1650, at a Town Meeting then holden, called a "Court of Election," Thos. Talmage, Jr., is chosen recorder. Also "four men with the constable for the ordering of ye 'affairs' of ye Towne." The ordinances then and thereafter enacted were such as were called for by their peculiar condition.
The oaths prescribed for the offices of Recorder, the three men, sometimes 4 and sometimes more, holding magisterial authority; the pound-master and constable are on pages 6 and 7. The four men or any two of them could try cases involving any sum under forty shillings. See page 7.
The Montauks were the most powerful and probably numerous tribe of Indians on Long Island, claiming tribute and service from all the other tribes at the time of this settlement. Even after the universal massacre of their warriors by the Narraghansetts, (see pages 174, 175-6) and the terrific ravages of the small-pox (see page 201), their number was large and stated in 1761 to be 180.
An alliance with the nearest settlement for purposes of security of defence and improvement of adjoining lands, was vital. The entry succeeding the earliest record of the Town Meeting shows the care taken to make this secure, (see pages 8, 9, 10.)
The order that all that are fit to bear arms be sufficiently "provided of such armes" and the prohibition to sell "powder, lead, shot, sword, flint, gun or pistol to any Indian," (page 8,) show the sense of impending peril.
In all that required care for the general safety against outside foes, internal dissension, individual neglect, violence, fraud or injustice against oppression, avarice, theft, crime, disorder and vice, the Town Meeting fitted the Law for the emergency, and with heavy hand repressed all disorder.
Although the Town Meeting met often, sometimes monthly and sometimes "in 3 wekes," "or els the first wet day and all to appere at the beat of the drum" (p. 12); although the magistrates, generally "3 men" were directed to hold court "every month," see page 17), yet it might be too long for an impatient litigant to wait until the sitting of either. In case the real or supposed necessity so required a court could be demanded sooner provided the litigant paid the fees therefor (see pages 7, 74 and 424. The term "purchased court," or purchasing a court, occurring in these records simply means that the court was held at an extra occasion and the fees of the court were paid by a litigant and were simply a compensation for the time of the court. In the sense that the judgment of the court was "purchased" or purchasable, a comparison of the ancient with modern tribunals or legislatures would do no discredit to the former.
The Town Meeting, the acorn out of which grew the stately oak of local and national government in these United States acted under so many occasions and emergencies that entire classification is hardly possible. The following may assist the reader in the study of the subject:
THE TOWN MEETING.
The entry of June 24, 1672, page 346, is significant. In the March of
1672, France and England had declared war against the Netherlands. Governor
Lovelace had summoned the eastern towns of Suffolk County to assist in
defending the Colony and contribute to repairing the fortification at New-York
city. The Justices and deputies from these towns meeting at Southold, had
determined that they would so contribute "If they might have the privileges
that other of his Majesties subjects in these parts do have and enjoy."
The determination "is well approved of by this town and they are willing
to answer their part in the charge according to their act if the privileges
may be obtained but no otherwise." The novice in history will understand
that representative Assemblies were granted to Rhode Island and other colonies
by charter, and had just been granted to New Jersey. This privilege so
dear to free born Englishmen, inherited from Magna Charta, the safeguard
against arbitrary taxation, is the privilege so earnestly desired by them,
and the granting whereof is made the condition for their contributing.
Thus early the sons of this old town evinced their undying attachment to
the liberties of the citizen. The experiment of self-government conducted
by them in their forest home for a generation had borne good fruit. In
their own experience of nearly one-fourth of a century secluded from the
hand of power, too obscure for the notice of rulers, they had administered
among themselves such laws, civil and martial, as suited their simple habits.
Well they knew no laws made in Parliament wherein they were unheard, could
fit their condition so exactly as their own taught them by their circumstances.
In after years, through the voice of their representative, Samuel Mulford,
they spoke for freedom. Its undying spirit burned in all their succeeding
history. The resolve of this liberty-loving town was no more doubtful than
the resounding echoes of Bunker Hill. If the heavy hand of despotic power
found servility elsewhere in these old towns the unequivocal tones of freedom
rang out as warning bells for the coming centuries.
This volume of the Records extends about thirty years from the first settlement. The colony was fairly launched on the political ocean where were sailing many like towns on the borders of the Atlantic. The members of the colony had increased. Dangers from the savage had lessened. Adventurous hearts panted for more acres and more room. John Osborn selling land at the east and acquiring much more at the west at Wainscott, was located there in 1670, and being so "remote from the town," in June of that year a grant of preference "to grind at the mill" is given him. The tradition that he was the first settler of Wainscott is confirmed by this and other entries in the records. His home lot taken by the settlers given to Thos. Smith, a blacksmith, who soon leaves, then dedicated by vote for a parsonage, is finally sold to Josiah Hobart, who settles on it and afterwards becomes High Sheriff of his county.
LETTER TO EAST-HAMPTON. "GEN & LOVING FRIENDS:
THE TITLE TO THE LANDS UNDIVIDED.
The 13 acre lot of
William Barnes, " 437
The 20 " " " Robt. Bond, " 445
The 13 " " " Richard Brooks, " 447
The 21 " " " Thos. Chatfield, " 451
The 20 " " " William Edwards, " 474
These and others are simply illustrations of the principle admitted
on the records, of individual ownership in all the undivided lands covered
by the deeds, in proportions well understood and recognized in the allotments
or divisions of lands whenever made.
The word "commonage" is often applied to these undivided rights in the unallotted territory, as on page 374, in the gift of John Mulford, senior.
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