INTRODUCTION TO VOL. II OF THE TOWN RECORDS--1680-1720.
The attentive reader closing the first volume of printed records of the town of East-Hampton, is assured that the elements of perpetuity have been so developed that by the natural law of growth, a larger life and progress was coming to the Colony. The settlers had overcome the first and the worst foes that imperilled their being. The close of King Phillip's war had removed all danger from the Indians. The most formidable wild beasts had been destroyed; the most venomous reptiles exterminated; unwelcome intruders had been warned and left for other homes. The patent of March 13th, 1666, from Gov. Nicolls, was thought to have assured their title to the purchased territory, beyond cavil. More than all, they had proved able to govern themselves. Rules, laws, customs, habits--had crystallized into a fixed system. In 1687, the population was:
Males 223 No. capable of bearing arms 98
Females 218 No. of merchants 2
Male servants 26 No. of marriages in 7 years 28
Female servants 9 No. of births 116
Male slaves 11 No. of christened 198
Female slaves 14 No. of burials 57
Documentary History of New York, p. 360, Vol. III.
The state of the Church, Oct. 5, 1704, as laid before the clergy at New York, then convened by appointment of Lord Cornbury and Col. Francis Nicholson, Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, is thus given:
ACCOUNT OF SUFFOLK COUNTY
The Governors were:
1682--Col. Thos. Dongan.
1688--Edmund Andros. " Francis Nicholson, Lieut.-Governor.
1691--Henry Sloughter. " Richard Ingoldsby.
1698--Richard Foote, Earl Bellemont.
1699--John Nanfan, Lieut., Governor.
1700--Earl of Bellemont.
1701--William Smith. " John Nanfan, Lieut.-Governor.
1702--Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury.
1708--John Ford, Gov. Lovelace.
1709--Peter Schuyler, President of the Council. " Richard Ingoldsby, Lieut.-Governor.
The three eastern towns of this County--Southampton, Southold and East-Hampton--were
the back bone of the county, if not of the whole Colony of New York, in
advocating representative government and resisting encroachments upon their
liberties. As between the Colonists and the King, the Governors were uniformly
servile to him, and hostile to them. In this, Andros and Dongan, "the Catholic,"
were alike. Fletcher was "covetous and passionate." Cornbury "had every
vice of character necessary to discipline a colony into self-reliance and
resistance." (See Bancroft History of U. S., pp. 56 and 60, Vol. III.)
The conflict between our Puritan forefathers and these governors was long,
unequal, and often resulted adversely to the people.
"But freedom's Battle once begun, Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son, Though baffled oft is ever won."
The conflict waged in 1681 for chartered rights, and representative government never ceased until freedom won at Yorktown.
There was an attempt in 1682 to levy customs without a colonial assembly, which had been defeated by the Grand Jury, and trade became free just as Andros was returning to England. In 1683, the newly appointed Gov. Dongan was instructed to call a general assembly of all the freeholders, by the persons whom they should choose to represent them. In October, 1684, the assembly met and claimed in a bill of rights as Englishmen, that "Every freeholder and Freeman should vote. Trial to be by Jury." "No tax to be levied but by consent of the assembly," etc. In 1685, in less than a month after James the Second ascended the throne, he prepared to overturn the institutions he had conceded. By ordinance a direct tax was decreed. The titles to real estate were questioned that larger fees and quit rents might be extorted, and of the farmers of East-Hampton who protested against the tyranny, six were arraigned before the Council. (See Bancroft's Hist. U. S., Vol. II, pp. 413-14-15.) In May, 1686, Gov. Dongan was endeavoring to compel the people of East-Hampton to purchase a new patent at an exorbitant price, and they were resisting the attempt at extortion.
The proprietor vote of that date regarding the four men on whom a warrant had been served, p. 186; the vote of "the purchasers and proprietors of this town," June 11, 1686, choosing a committee for the defence of their rights; the committee vote of June 14, 1686, appointing "Leiftenant John Wheeler and Ensine Samuel Mulford" to defend the town's interest, p. 187--all relate to this controversy with the Governor.
July 29, 1686, ten persons complained to the Governor that the town will lay out no land to them, and he by order in council then directed Josiah Hobart, High Sheriff of the County, to lay out to each thirty acres. The written protest against this laying out, dated October 6, 1686, was deemed a libel, and an information to that effect filed by the Attorney General. Warrants issued for the arrest of Stephen Hedges, William Perkins, Jeremy Conkling, Daniel and Nathaniel Bishop, Samuel Mulford, Robert Dayton, Samuel Parsons, Benjamin Conklin, Thomas Osborne and John Osborne. October 17th, 1686, Thomas James preached from the text Job xxiv, 2: "Some remove the land mark." Nov. 18th, 1686, Sheriff Hobart attested under oath to the text and, teaching of the sermon. The same day an order in council was entered that a warrant issue against Minister James on the ground that the sermon was seditious. A like information against him was filed. A warrant for his arrest issued Nov. 18th, 1686. He was arrested, and some three weeks thereafter petitioned the Governor for his release, reciting this as "the first tyme (for almost forty years of my being a minister of the Gospel) that I have been called to account by any authority I have lived under." (See Documentary History of New-York, pp. 351 to 360, Vol. III.)
The arbitrary power of Dongan prevailed; a patent was procured, dated December 9th, 1686, which secured individually to the holder all lands "then taken up and appropriated," to the purchasers all lands "unappropriated," "in proporcion to their severall & respective purchases thereoff," and gave to the trustees of the corporation the pre-emption or first purchase right as to the then unpurchased part of Montauk. (See pages 194 to 204.) The patent is a mass of redundant verbage perplexing to the ordinary reader. The pith of the whole regarding title, is on page 198, which determines the sense and meaning of the instrument. Thus the proprietors obtained from the Governor a patent which confirmed their title to all the unallotted lands in the town as purchasers thereof, in proportion to their several contributions of purchase money. This was just what they had claimed from the beginning. and neither less or more. The consistency of the Governor in arbitrarily ordering a division of thirty acres each to those not entitled, and thereafter ignoring their claim, and by patent confirming title to the purchasers, is not apparent. It seems plain that the whole proceedings were designed to force the people to pay as they did pay the extortionate charge of two hundred pounds for the patent. Eighty pounds thereof was charged to Montauk. An extra amount was assessed to pay the costs arising "about mens protests," (p. 204.)
The people of the Town of East-Hampton claimed the right to be represented in a colonial assembly, and that taxes could rightfully be levied only by assent of their representatives. This was the burden of their grievance; this the reason why again and again they petitioned to be placed under the aurhority and jurisdiction of Connecticut where representative government was established. Only in the light of such claims of right can the records be properly read. The address voted at a general training, June 21st, 1682, (page 112). The appointment of a committee to obtain redress from the Duke of York, (pp. 112 and 113) in this view, are significant.
Samuel Mulford, Samuel Parsons and Thomas Chatfield signed the letter dated March 10th, 1689-90, written to Leisler, reciting that "we have agreed to send over to his Majesty both a true narration of ye grievances we have suffered this many years under an arbitrary power, and a petition to their majesties yt we might be rejoined with Connecticut government as formerly, agreeably to the act of Parliament, yt all places (NE being particularly mentioned) shall have the same privileges they enjoyed in ye year 1660, restored unto them." (See Documentary History of New-York, Vol. II, page 187.) This recital is unequivocal, and makes the more clear many entries in the Town Records. The address to the Governor, dated Oct. 1st, 1685, (pages 169 and on) is not only a recital of the fact that formerly by "deputies" at Hempstead, "the whole Island being assembled in our representatives," but a claim to such representation "as a fundamental privilege of our English Nation," and the expression of a fear that by the denial of such privilege, "our freedom should be turned into bondage and our ancient privileges so infringed yt they will never arrive at our posterity." The address is said to have been written by minister James. It bears marks of his strong devotion to freedom. It is worthy of enduring remembrance as one of the luminous monuments of the ardent love of this people for liberty. The wise architect knows where and how to imbed in the deep foundations of the rising structure, strong bars of iron, to hold fast the springing arches, the massive walls, the spacious dome, the lofty spires. Like such a bar this "address" seems imbedded in the foundations of the fair temple of American Freedom. The expression of 1685 would develop by the laws of growth into the "Declaration" of 1776.
It does not appear that the Town recognized Leisler as Governor. The trustees' vote, September 2d, 1689, (page 240) authorized the committee to order and impower Capt. Leisler "to secure for this town's use, what monies is to be found in New York unjustly by tax or taxes leyied on this town." In singular contrast the entry on page 260, Feb. 13, 1680, expressly names Sloughter Governor. Although the town had been constrained to pay an extortionate price for a Patent from Dongan, the stern spirits that panted for freedom still hoped and still fought on with unabated ardor for an assembly of representatives of the people. Neither Thomas James or Samuel Mulford (mighty names!) would tamely surrender the rights of a free born people to arbitrary power. The angel of American Liberty was unfolding his wings preparatory to a flight above the power of servile Governors, base-minded Lords or irresponsible Kings.
The student of history will scrutinize with intense interest the experience of this community in the improvement of lands in common. The compact village settlement, with small, narrow home lots, was convenient for the purposes of mutual protection, social enjoymet, education of the youth, religious worship, pursuit of the whale fishery and common improvement of outlying lands. On the one Main street the Colony was planted. It grew chiefly northward, and in two score years extended a mile in length. Outside of these home lots, the lands were tilled and pastured before and after allotment, in fields enclosed by fence made by the owners in proportion to their ownership. Each owner tilled his just number of acres to which he was entitled in the field devoted to cultivation, as he would have done had he fenced it separately. Each one turned in the number of cattle to which he was entitled according to the stint fixed for each, on the basis of his ownership in the lands pastured. The popular idea that a common of pasturage is an unlimited, unregulated right, is a popular mistake.
"A right of common without stint cannot exist in law," vid. note Blackstone's Comm. vol. 2, p. 34, etc. Just as to a recent date the lands of Montauk were stinted for pasturage; so in early days the lands referred to were stinted for pasturage. Jonathan T. Gardiner kindly loaned me the April number of the "Magazine of American History" for the year 1883. The article therein entitled "Montauk and the Common Lands of East-Hampton," was contributed by Prof. John Franklin Jameson, of John Hopkins University. With much learning the improvement of lands in common here is sought to be traced back to New and Old England and the Germanic races who "Migrated to Britain."
The circumstances were favorable for such improvement; the location of the village settlement, the common interest and convenience of the people, and their general honesty all tended to make this experiment successful and lasting. But the infirmities of human nature come to the front in every age--in every race. The boys in meeting were sometimes unruly and required "looking after," by James Bird. (See page 113.) The owners of these lands seem to have required "looking after" in matters of fencing and common improvement. Very stringent rules were enacted--(pp. 102, 148, 165, 185, 217, 225, 265, 346, 401.)
Severe penalties were ordained--(pp. 125, 130, 148, 166, 209, 226, 266, 400.)
Fences were subject to the stern censorship of inspectore--(p. 191.) Delinquents in fencing were exposed by ths initial letters cut on the fence--(p. 234.)
Yet all these failed to enforce the performance of the common duty, trespass occurred, fences were sometimes poorly made and sometimes not made at all. As time rolled on--except Montauk and certain meadows--the lands came to be improved in severalty and not in common. The Vil lage system of settlement, the saving of fence, the saving of many drivers of cattle, the scattered lots of land, the habits of the people, seemed to call for the perpetuation of common improvement. The failure of the experiment here under most favorable circumstances, is in itself a strong testimony against communism or any like system, that seeks to substitute the common in place of the several improvement of lands by their owners.
The Records abound in evidence that whaling continued to be an increasing and prosperous enterprise. Several companies were engaged in this perilous pursuit; young men came from Connecticut, New Jersey and other localities to share in the hazard and excitement of the whale chase, and often married wives at East Hampton. Farming and shoemaking soon attracted much attention, yet whaling was second only to agriculture. (See pages 77, 79, 86, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 119, 120, 152, 153.
Incidentally through the accounts, we learn of events transpiring of which there is no other record. In 1682 we find a charge of œœ26 13s. 00d "to ye Carptr yt makes the gallery for the church," showing with other items that the people had been rebuilding and enlarging their church and constructing a gallery therein. (See pages 108-9-10-11.) Boards were carted from Northwest, and barrels carted down there; (see page 111) showing that their harbor or landing place at that time was Northwest. That there was a Fort, we know by the charge on page 107: "Stephen Hand for ye Gate of ye fort $0-5-00."
That they had a cannon termed "Great gonn," loaded at Montauk by Joseph Osborn; carted thence to Northwest by "John Cerles team" and "John Millers Sen," we find from charges therefor, entered on page 247.
I find no positive recorded evidence locating the fort. I think probable it was near the church, if it did not enclose it. There the men carried their arms on the Sabbath at their meeting. That was the central rallying point when the New England settlements were assailed by the Indians, and a central point in East-Hampton. (See pages
32 and 54, Vol. II.) Just south were the graves of the dead, now extended over the site of church and fort, (if fort there was), as age after age enlarged the city "where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep." It is stated in the chronicles of East-Hampton that the burying ground had never been fenced. (See page 28.) June 16th, 1685, there was a vote to fence it "with a good peeke pale." (See page 167.) It seems probable it was then fenced. Forts were constructed by setting firmly in the ground half-tree sticks, some 8 to 12 feet long. Being split they were flat on the one side like a "pale," being sharpened on the top they were "peeke" or peeked. Dwelling houses here were so fortified and enclosed. (See pages 71, 301, Vol. I.) The burying ground was ordered to be so enclosed. It is not improbable that the enclosure of fort and burying place was then made by continuous lines of "pales." The early burial grounds were near the residence of the settlers. They were chosen for the purpose of being accessible; often on a hill as a conspicuous reminder of mortality, and an incentive to the living to defend to the death the graves of their dead from the savage foe. Nor is it certain, as has been charged, that the Puritans deliberately selected desolate, unsightly or unsuitable locations for this purpose, and with intent to exhibit disregard to the memory or sacredness of the dead. The vote referred to is as truly significant of the reign of the finer feelings as the vote of the town in April, 1685, when Thos. Squire was sick, that his taxes "were remitted," (see page 164) is evidence of practical benevolence. Beneath the austere self-controlled demeanor of the Puritan, there breathed a gentle tenderness for the child of misfortune, a sacred reverence to the memory and the ashes of the dead.
June 16th, 1696, Minister James died. He had been partially disabled so as to require an assistant in the ministry for some years. For nearly half a century he had been an able and devout minister to his people, intelligent in the understanding of their rights as free-born Englishmen, fearless in their defence. Only with his last breath went out his watchful regard as their minister. In attestation of his conscious discharge of duty, his intrepid soul prompted the desire to be so buried as to rise facing his people on the resurrection morn.
In September, 1696, Rev. Nathaniel Huntting came to East-Hampton and commenced his ministry of fifty years there. He was wise in counsel, diligent in study, faithful in doing his work, devout in spirit and an untiring chronicler of the church and settlement. All accessions to the church, marriages, baptisms and deaths for half a century he minutely recorded. In this, he was faithful unto death. To the historian and genealogist his record is invaluable, and his work solid and enduring.
To these Puritans the voice of the minister was grave, his teaching serious; but the voice of the ocean, on whose shore they lived, was not less solemn. Within its depths countless human lives had perished. Their sad fate seemed to invite the desponding to join them there. The fascination was strangely attractive to the disordered mind, and often impelled to self-destruction. Its stormy roar hushed and awed the thoughtless. To the great souls who panted for freedom, it spoke encouragement. Its illimitable expanse symbolized the vastness of their thoughts. Its resistless wave was an emblem of the people's might. To the devout it spoke of the Almighty Maker. Its seeming quiet was beguiling as that of the serpent. The storm of its wrath who could withstand? Its soft evening murmur lulled the weary to rest. The unceasing beat of its billows echoed in the ears of the living. In its ebbing tides the souls of their dying had gone out. Over the graves of their dead rose the moan of its anthem. The fearful mysteries of ocean, mutable, majestic, measureless, are unuttterable.
From the days of ministers James and Huntting to the present, the thoughts of the prayerful might read:
"And musing here I dream
Of voyagers on a stream
From whence is no returning,
Under sealed orders going,
Looking forward little knowing.
Looking back with idle yearning,
And I pray that every venture,
The port of peace may enter,
That safe from snag and fall,
And syren haunted Islet,
And rock, the unseen Pilot
May guide us one and all."
BRIDGE-HAMPTON, Sept. 30th, 1887.
H. P. HEDGES.
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