INTRODUCTION TO VOL. IV, OF TOWN RECORDS--1734-1749.
The events of the century covered by this volume of the records are
noticed in newspapers, magazines, histories and laws. They are perpetuated
in the memorials of courts, of churches, of cities. They are recorded in
cemeteries on the headstones of graves and in enduring monumental structures.
The rude currency of coin or paper that circulated tells of finance; the
ponderous furniture tells of honest mechanism; the massive chimney and
fireplace tells of abounding forest; the wide oven's mouth of abounding
sustenance; "the moss-covered bucket that hung in the well" of simple tastes;
the tinder-box and steel, of rude invention; the tallow dip candle, of
limited discovery. The spinning wheel, large and small, sung the song of
industry. The reel and swifts, the hatchel and crackle, the shuttle and
loom, told the tale of household manufacture. The trencher and keeler and
pipkin and piggin and noggin, revealed the prevailing frugality of home
life and paucity of foreign manufactures. The powder horn and shot bag,
the old king's arm and the old flint-lock, tell of an age fled forever.
These memorials of the early and even the later years covered by this volume,
had but just gone out of practical use at its close. No introduction can
minutely remind the reader of the many events occurring in this hundred
and fifteen years. The stream of history runs rapid. Like the descending
current of a mighty river we get a glimpse of some cliff, some bank, and
are swiftly borne to another elevation; to some other point, or other view.
Change follows change, scene succeeds scene until the objects multiply
indefinitely and swiftly obscure each other by their multitude. Although
this volume reaches to the age of steamboats, of friction matches and the
beginning of anthracite coal and railway travel, yet it does not reach
or far extend beyond the time when the sickle and scythe had fallen before
the conquering march of the reaping and mowing machines, when the horse
rake had superceded the handrake; when the horse power was threshing the
grain, which by the human arm had been slowly pounded out with the flail;
when ocean steamers chased the surging billow from the shore of one continent
to another; when petroleum had come to light the world; when the telegraph
and telephone had the ear of man. Hard, grinding labor still laid his exacting
hand upon the masses of mankind and claimed them for his own, The wood
that warmed, the whale oil lamp or tallow candle that lighted the homes
of this fair land, the food that fed the household, the coarse homespun
garments that protected the person from cold in winter and unseemly exposure
in summer, were obtained at the cost of almost unceasing toil. The range
of the newspaper, how narrow! the time and ability of the masses to
purchase and read its issues, how limited! Human comfort, instruction
and culture were rare and costly. The gifted and resolute and ambitious
overcame. The weak, the undecided, the unsusceptive overcame not.
The wars of England with Spain began Oct. 23d, 1739, her war with France
commencing in 1744, in which Louisburg was captured in 1745, her later
French and Indian war begun in 1755, the wars with England, of the Revolution,
and of 1812 all pour their ensanguined tide in the historic stream running
through this volume.
ALLOTTMENT OF LANDS.
The preference for individual over joint and common improvement of undivided
lands is often and clearly shown in this volume. Long before its close
the last allottment of undivided lands within the town purchase had been
made. They were all made to the commonage owners according to their several
interest and amount of acreage therein. They were all based upon the equitable
ownership and acreage of commonage held by individuals entitled thereto.
They were called ten, five or three acre divisions, according to the number
of acres of undivided lands allotted to each acre of commonage. These divisions
and all of them were made as to individuals of right; as such entitled
to individual and varying proportions, and in no respect made as of corporate
or town property. History clearly shows, and the facts show this, even
if judges or courts decide otherwise. By the patent of Dongan, lands "not
appropriated to any particular person or persons" were confined to "such
as have been purchasers thereof and their heirs and assigns forever in
proportion to their several and respective purchases thereof made as tenants
in common," &c. The allottments followed this language of the Patent,
(See Vol. II, p. 198), and never proceeded on the theory that the undivided
lands were town or corporate property, but always individual undivided
property owned by the purchasers thereof in proportion to their several
David Gardiner, lawyer, statesman and historian, the accomplished author
of the "Chronicles of East-Hampton," than whom no better authority can
be cited, takes this view of the construction of the Patent in the Chronicles,
p. 67, and on page 40 declares "the lands which still remain undivided
were not considered of much value. They are all held in tenancy in common
and are subject yet to allottment among the heirs or assigns of the original
purchasers whenever any of them may require it,"--and see introduction
to Vol. I of Records, p. 10 and 11, and introduction to Vol. II of Records,
pp. 5, 8, 9. In the 49 lots made and drawn for June 4th, 1736, called the
ten acre division because ten acres of land was allotted to one acre of
commonage, and in all subsequent and preceding divisions, this acreage
of commonage was the measure and gave name and amount to the lands divided.
The divisions recorded in this volume are nearly as follows:
Ten acre division, June 4th, 1736, p. 17 to 27, a little over 7,000
Five acre division, Feb. 6th, 1739-40, p. 64 to 81, a little over 3,100
Five acre addition, Feb. 6th, 1739-40, p. 86 to 96, a little short
Second five acre division, Feb. 6th, 1739-40, p. 96 to 110, a little
over 2,800 acres.
Three acre division, March 30, 1747, p. 138 to 160, a little short
Thus over 15,000 acres were allotted in the years commencing in 1736
and ending in 1747, when the last called, the three acre division, was
made. Efforts since made to complete and perpetuate the list of commonage
owners by committees thereto appointed have been unavailing, and the town
Trustees seem to have claimed title to all the yet undivided lands in the
town purchase, the value whereof was reckoned so small as to create little
or no opposition or adverse claim, (pp. 82, 305, 308, 312.)
A large portion of the wealth and means of subsistence of the people of
the town consisted in their cattle, sheep and horses. They were chiefly
pastured on the peninsula of Montauk, where were kept some 2,000 cattle,
??,000 sheep, and many horses. Necessity required the ownership to be designated
by ear marks, and hence these, like trade marks having value, became a
species of property, the subject of town record. Among the first gifts
of parents to sons was an ear mark entered of record.
Montauk was some ten miles long, contained from 9,000 to 10,000 acres,
was well watered, well adapted to pasturage, required little fence, and
was desired as a valuable acquisition to the town territory at an early
date. In 1658 an agreement with the Indians was made to secure the pasturage.
In 1660 and 1661, after the overthrow of the Montauks by the Narragansetts,
and the flight for refuge to East-Hampton, title was acquired to the "Hither
End." In 1670 title was acquired to a tract between Fort Pond and Great
Pond. In 1686 the remainder was acquired, subject to certain reservations
and Indian rights. It was a valuable addition to the agricultural value
of the town territory. Its improvement was regulated by a system of rules
appropriate, and so peculiar that Chancellor Sandford, a proprietor, declared
his inability to understand them. It remained undivided, and owned chiefly
by the farmers of East-Hampton and Bridge-Hampton, until the
year 1879, when by partition sale it passed to the purchaser and present
owner, Arthur W. Benson.
The reader of these records will not fail to see the legislative power
actively working in town meetings, in the meetings of the proprietors of
the undivided lands, in the meetings of the proprietors of Montauk, and
of the Trustees of the town. As late as 1751 the town was infested with
wild cats and on ordinance thereof fixed a bounty to be paid as a premium
for their destruction, (see pp. 167-176). The scope of legislation was
wide, varied, penal, permissive, prohibitory, and embraced within its sphere
both church and state. Trespass on the undivided lands at home, at Napeague
or Montauk, was restrained, (pp. 248-266, &c.)
The pews, not heretofore hired, about 1799, were rented,
(p. 309, &c.) The tything men were chosen to preserve order in
the church, especially among the irrepressible youth, (pp. 320-820, &c.)
The town meeting fixed the minister's salary, (320-325) defined the seats
for singers, (320-335) chose the chorister and his assistants. The vote
of 1802 directing that "Joseph Dimon be principal chorister and David Talmage
3d, David Sherril, David Hedges, Jr., and Isaac Dimon, Jr., be assistant
choristers," seems like modern history to those who yet remember the same,
and the melodious and mysterious pitch-pipe used by the principal chorister,
who fairly earned the Sunday dinner voted him, (pp. 396-402.)
In 1785, in the excitement of the moment probably, over the loss of
many sheep, and moved by the indignant eloquence of some sufferer, the
good people of the town voted "that all the dogs in the town be immediately
killed," p. 247. Yet notwithstanding the narrowness shown in legislating
to prohibit the export of clams, the fiery excitement expressed in the
resolve that all dogs be "immediately killed," the ivasion of the sphere
of church action in choosing "tything men" and "choristers" and "singers'
seats," and renting pews and fixing the minister's salary, in the main
ends sought the legislation was appropriate, effective, judicious, and
of itself a school of instruction. We learn to swim by swimming, and as
truly learn to legislate by legislating.
In all these records the action of the town as a unit by vote to enact,
to execute and enforce laws, stand out in bold relief. Self-government
thus began, thus progressed, thus learned to act by acting, to govern by
governing, until every town in this county contained within itself the
indestructble elements that grew into national union and in independence.
If the aggregation of our population in cities shall continue, if in place
of government by towns be substituted the government by counties and cities,
by Boards of Supervisors and Boards of Aldermen, if the governing power
be removed from the people in towns and delegated to Councils and Boards
as is now being done, it may be questioned whether the people are thereby
best educated for self-government. The diminishing power of rural life
and the overshadowing power of city life in legislation is yet to be proved
for the perpetuity of Freedom.
After the Battle of Long Island, 28th August, 1776, East-Hampton and all
the Island fell within the lines of British occupation and under their
rule. The records would be open to inspection and all expressions therein
hostile to the royal power would incur the censure of the military authorities.
Those occurring before would naturally be concealed or erased. Thereafter,
until November 25th, 1783, when New-York was evacuated, none would be permitted.
Hence the absence on the records of such allusions. Yet we know by
the records of the Provincial and Continental Congress, and other sources,
that the freemen of this town unanimously advocated the patriot cause,
sustained and sympathized with their countrymen in Boston and elsewhere,
fought for their liberties on land and sea, the most active in the Revolution
sometimes taking refuge in the continental army or the towns in Connecticut,
and thence sometimes as privateers contributing gallantly to the cause
of freedom. East-Hampton nurtured no Tory and no drop of Tory blood. (See
Onderdonk's Rev. Incidents of Suffolk Co., pp. 14, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25,
26, 27, 29, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, &c.)
The presence of the portion of the British forces quartered in Sag
Harbor and the Hamptons was a standing menace, their conduct exasperating,
their language provoking, their incessant pillaging a burden, their insults
a trial, their brutality a grievance. The people of East-Hampton, not without
cause, held them in utter loathing and abhorrence. The discipline and conduct
of the officers and men on the fleet in Gardiner's Bay was more respectful.
Between the people and them visits were exchanged and social civilities
were not unfrequent. At Col. Abraham Gardiner's a company of officers of
the British fleet on one
occasion dined, there meeting some young ladies of East-Hampton. Until
recently one of the two large black walnut tables on which the provision
was laid, was retained in use. There is a tradition that the carver at
this dinner asked the ladies to what they would be helped. The first one
asked replied "a wing." The others, in unthoughtful diffidence, continued
to answer "a wing," until the carver, seeing the supply short of the demand,
said, "Madam, you will please understand that the fowl is not all wings."
That was the age of the Eagle, this of the Dove. The sweet peace with
soft wings that now reigns would not reign had that age nurtured no resolute,
fiery and masterful souls. The spirit of Cromwell and his avenging Ironsides
lived in the Revolutionary regiments, panted for the field of conflict,
exulted in the fight for freedom, shouted its battle cry--Independence.
If the way to freedom was laid only through war, who shall say that their
wrath was wrong, and that being angry they sinned, or that their avenging
justice was not a baptism from on high? Thank God that no weak sentiment,
no illusive hope, no deceitful promise unnerved their arm or stayed their
march, until they stood on the mount of Independence, in the citadel of
In 1752, by act of Parliament, eleven days were dropped between the 2d
and 14th of September, and the year was to commence January 1st and not
March 25th, as before. In reducing old style to this new style add ten
days from 1500 to 1700 and eleven days from 1700 to 1752. March in old
style was the 1st and June the 4th month, &c. In writing the year 1752/53,
or other years preceding or succeeding, the bottom figures represent the
actual year as we reckon and the only figures to be read.
Gardiner's Island was originally an independent Manor or Lordship, whose
proprietor had power to hold courts and maintain authority over his territory,
by grant from royal authority. When Gov. Dongan, in 1686, proposed to annex
this Island to the town of East-Hampton the remonstrance of the proprietor
availed to prevent it and a confirmatory patent from the Governor continued
his title and rights to his Lordship. By act of the Senate and Assembly
of New-York, passed 7th March, 1788, it was annexed, probably without opposition,
to this town. The Manorial and Lordship incidents conferred by royal patent
fell with the royal authority at the revolution, and the ancient inheritance
from Lion Gardiner became a part of the great Republic, and its proprietors,
descendants of his honored stock, ardent advocates of the free institutions
of their country.
This volume commences some twelve years before minister Huntting vacated
the pulpit, and nineteen years before he was laid in his grave. He was
mild in manner, social in disposition, kind of heart, generous in feeling,
profound in scholarship, logical in argument, dignified in demeanor, retiring
in deportment, consecrated to the great work of the ministry; and in the
warmth of his affection, the wealth of his tenderness, the sensibility
of his soul, a fitting friend and guide to his people. He died Sept. 21st,
1753, some seven years after he had resigned the active duties of the pastoral
relation in which he had served the Master fifty years.
This volume covers the whole fifty-two years of the ministry of Samuel
Buell, D. D., from Sept. 19th, 1746, when he was installed, to July 19th,
1798, when he died. Ardent, earnest, imaginative, active, shrewd, positive,
social, hospitable, cheerful, observing, magnetic within and without the
pulpit, he was a living force long impressed upon the church and people
of this town. He enlarged their views, elevated their thoughts, purified
their purposes, inspired to intellectual culture, to more thorough education,
to higher devotion of the heart, to nobler ends in life. His fervent eloquence,
his sparkling wit, his wide learning, his genial manners, his ready repartee,
his hunting feats, his fearless riding, his indomitable energy, his flow
of anecdote, and variety of experience--all these are historic. But for
him Clinton Academy had not been. Lyman Beecher, D. D., of world-wide fame,
successor of Minister Buel, and preaching here soon after his decease,
was ordained over the church, Sept. 5th, 1799, and remained until 1811.
At this time in East-Hampton were many gifted men, thoughtful, inquiring,
well read, argumentative, logical, of powerful mind, some of whom were
his near neighbors. Of this number were Abraham Parsons, Town Clerk, Justice
and School Teacher; Jonathan S. Conkling, afterwards State Senator and
first Judge of the County; Abel Huntington, M. D., Jonathan Dayton, David
Gardiner, David Hedges, Jr., and others with whom Beecher often conversed
and argued on questions connected with his sermons. The writer has been
told that Beecher thus arguing sometimes met nearly if not quite his match,
and in later life attributed his facility in debate and illustration to
this early experience.
This volume extends over the ministry of the grave, sedate and learned
Ebenezer Phillips, ordained 5th May, 1811, resigned March 16th, 1830. In
the utterance of admonition Phillips was unexcelled. On a Sabbath morning,
after two Deacons of his church had engaged in a contest at law, he read
for the morning lesson Chap. vi, of I Corinthians, commencing, "Dare any
of you having a matter against another go to law before the unjust and
not before the saints?" Possibly some aged hearer may still recall the
emphasis expressed in the utterance of "dare,"--deep, prolonged, terriflc,
reverberating, inimitable, as the roar of "Jupiter Tonans."
This volume covers the ministry of the sweet and sainted Joseph D.
Condit, from 5th Sept., 1830, to April 2d, 1835. It reaches over the ministry
of Samuel R. Ely, D. D., as stated supply from 1835 to 1846, whose genial
ways, social fondness, fatherly care, and abounding love still linger in
the memory of his flock. It covers the short ministry of Alexander Bullions,
1846-1848, and almost all that of Samuel Huntting, begun in 1848 and closed
in 1849 by his lamented death. The stream of history running through this
volume, measured by the career of the many eminent men who lived and died
within its years, seems still more long and rapid.
Eleazar Miller, grandson of John, the first settler, elected member
of Assembly in 1748, re-elected continuously until 1769, was thence called
"Assemblyman Miller." In the latter year, after a warm contest, Col. afterwards
Gen. Woodhull, of sad Revolutionary fame, secured the majority for Assembly
over Miller. This useful, hospitable, prudent patriot and venerable legislator
died March 15th, 1788, aged over 91. Doctor Nathaniel, son of Col. Abraham
Gardiner, surgeon in the army of the Revolution, represented this County
in the Assembly in 1786, 89 and 90. Thomas Wickham, (Capt. of a privateer
in the Revolution) was Assemblyman in 1800-1-2. Jonathan Dayton in 180??-5-8.
Jonathan S. Conkling in 1811-14. Abraham Parsons in 1817-20. Dayton and
Conkling were subsequently in the State Senate. The writer well remembers
these two representatives and others in public life fifty years and more
by gone--men of mark, known in the councils of the State and Nation; as
David Gardiner, father of Mrs. President Tyler and author of the "Chronicles"
mentioned, Abel Huntington, M. D., David Hedges, Jr., Josiah C. Dayton,
Samuel Miller, and many more, men of strong intellect, practical judgment,
independent thought and personal power among the distinguished minds of
the Nation. Fifty years since few streets, even in the great cities of
the land, presented a brighter constellation of minds than East-Hampton
Main street. In her palmy days it may be doubted if the Senators of East-Hampton
would compare unfavorably with the illustrious Senate of the Roman Republic.
The instruction and teaching of her brilliant line of ministers and
statesmen may well be summed up in the words of Josiah Quincy, of Boston:
"Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom, none but
virtue; virtue none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor
knowledge, has any vigor or immortal hope except in the principles of the
Christian faith, and the sanctions of the Christian religion."
By the munificence of the Town of East-Hampton her ancient records
for two hundred years are rescued from oblivion and perpetuated in print,
to be an imperishable legacy of instruction and light to the world.
Since 1849, when by invitation the writer delivered the Historical
Address commemorating the bi-centennial of the settlement of his native
town, forty years have gone. By the partiality of his townsmen he has been
invited to write and permitted in old age to complete with his own hand,
introductions to the former three and to this fourth volume of printed
records. Thanks to them. Thanks to the "Power Supreme." For the good of
his native town and native isle his heart until its last expiring pulsation
will never cease to beat. For the culture of our youth, for the diffusion
of knowledge, for the preservation of our traditions and history, for the
perpetuity of our free institutions, his desire will never die. My nat
ve isle and native town, may they be forever free!
"Free as the winds that winnow
Her shrubless hills of sand;
Free as the waves that batter
Along her yielding land.
Than hers at duty's summons,
No loftier spirit stirs.
Nor fails o'er human suffering
A readier tear than hers.
God bless the sea-beat Island,
And grant forevermore,
That Charity and Freedom dwell
As now upon her shore."
Bridge-Hampton, November 13, 1889.
H. P. HEDGES.
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