Probably the settlement of East-Hampton was commenced by a few pioneers
who erected rude dwellings for temporary use, some partly under ground--some
partly covered with earth and some like log cabins. As late as 1678 (T.
R. Vol. I, p. 414) the sale of a home lot "and cellar" indicates this kind
of structure as then in being. It is not improbable that the preparing
Pioneers stopped awhile at Southampton, proceeding from thence as a base
to East-Hampton. It has been said Tradition is the fragments which history
loses on its way to eternity. The uniform tradition that East-Hampton was
settled by a company from Lynn, until of late years, was unquestioned and
is yet undisproved. In Lyman Beecher's Historical sermon of 1806, p. 7,
it is stated that six families commenced the settlement "at the south end
of the town." "That they were discovered by some Indians who were out on
a hunting party. That the chief warrior applied to the Sachem (then living
at Three Mile Harbor) for leave to cut them off--that the Indians who made
the discovery were called and interrogated. Did they invite you into their
houses? They did. Did they give you to eat? They did. Did you experience
any harm from what you ate; did it poison you? It did not. The reply of
the Sachem turning to his warrior
was, you shall not cut them off." This relation is there stated to have been made to persons then living, by a native of Montauk, then dead, 50 years ago and about an hundred years old at the time of her death, who, if she did not herself recollect the first settlement of the town must have lived so near that period as to have received correct information. The dwellings would be located compactly; for social convenience, for easier fortification, for defence against the wild beast and the prowling savage. Every house was fortified by palisades. The church was central and used as a meeting house, court house and fortress. The spring then running in the middle of the street, and probably into the Hook Pond, furnished water for the settlers, was within gun shot of the dwellings and defensible therefrom. These rude dwellings with thatched roofs soon disappeared and before the first half century had expired, more spacious and comfortable houses had taken their place. They were succeeded by single houses generally fronting the south, two stories high on that side and running down to one story in the rear, framed of massive timber, shingled on uprights and roofs, constructed of enduring materials, wrought with honest care and for future ages. The long low roof, the leaden window sash, the miniature diamond shaped glass, the red cedar window frames, the projecting posts, the big beams overhead in the rooms, the queer blue painted wainscotting, the hard shell lime walls, the huge fireplaces, the spacious oven, the vast chimney are relics almost unknown. The eel spear and clam rake that hung at the end of the house was often used to procure food from the waters. The old "King's Arm" that hung over the fire place failed not to bring down ducks and geese and brant that flew in abundance now unknown. The samp mortar hard by was a large hollow log, upright, and over it hung the huge pestle suspended from an elastic sapling hung in a crutch. The operator held the pin driven through this pounder, beating fine into samp the corn in the huge mortar. The spring of the pole raised the pounder again to descend, blow on blow, until the song of the samp mortar worked chiefly of a Saturday for Sunday's food, had ceased with the close of the labor of the worker. The well pole rose from every rear yard and "the moss covered bucket" "hung in the well.
The abundance of the waters, the game of the woods, the swarming wild fowl of its air, the profitable enterprise of the whale fishery were all attractions of the place. Clearings had been made by the Indians where corn could be raised. Southampton and Southold were not too remote for counsel and succor. Gardiner on his Island desired, and probably invited the Pioneers. Wyandance at Montauk was friendly. Connecticut had crushed the terrific Pequot tribe and would hold over them her protecting wing. Harbors for small craft opened for prospective commerce, at Napeague, at Three Mile Harbor, at Northwest. The sound was an avenue for travel and transportation that prevented isolation, and was convenient for the fleet of a Nation. As years passed on the settlement prospered. The dwelling of 1684, with its one front room and low long roof, gave place to the dwelling of 1784, with its two front rooms and two story heighth, and its substantial comfort, its more capacious barn, its more enlarged field and agricultural products. The exterior of the dwellings changed. The interior was almost identical. The same sanded floors, the same projecting posts, the same modelled mantel piece, the same closet over the fire-place and in the corner of the big parlor, the same place of honor for the gun. The like dining table, similar chests of drawers, carved dragon's feet are yet underneath them; flag bottomed chairs, the handiwork of the Indian; all these, from age to age, for nearly two hundred years, remained practically the same. Even the tobacco patch of the planter of 1689 was like that of 1784, and the smoke of both not unlike.
Time had vindicated the wisdom of the colonists in the selection of their home. As early as 1654 by an ordinance the dwellers on the street were enjoined to "clear the highway in the street six feet from the payles," &c. Thus early was nurtured a sense of neatness and a culture of beauty, that made the "Town Street" a charm one hundred years ago and a living landscape that is an abiding delight. From that day to this, the stranger looking on its wide avenue, its old trees and old houses, its sward of "living green," and breathing its pure air, has sought rest in its quiet and restoration in its simple and natural beauty.
The policy of England was to restrain the commerce and manufactures of the colonies, and at their expense promote her own aggrandizement. Connecticut was a focus of invention, yet the first carding machine there was constructed in 1802. Previous to that time wool was carded at their own firesides only by females. The shoes, stockings, caps, straw hats, clothing, linen for the table and bedding, the harness, brushes and brooms were manufactured largely or wholly in the family. Within the memory of the writer there were resident in one-half the dwelling houses on East-Hampton Main street a shoemaker member of the household who made the shoes for the family. Nothing was bought that could be made at home. The spinning wheel was constantly running and carried in visits to neighbors. The farmer raised, and his wife and daughters spun the flax and wool that kept the family warm with clothing by day and covering by night. The family meal was eaten from wooden trenchers or pewter plates and platters, with the smallest possible allowance of tin and crockery ware. Corn and rye with very little wheat furnished flour for bread. Fish, beef and pork salted for the year's supply were the chief items of animal food. Unceasing industry and toil occupied all the members of the family, young and old. Rigid economy ruled every expenditure. The simplest, cheapest diet satisfied the appetite. The homespun apparel in summer and mostly in winter was then worn. For clothing the cost of buttons, for harness the price of buckles, bitts and trace irons were almost the only expenditure. Looking back three score years and ten it is simply astonishing how little money was sufficient to buy all that the then wants of a family required. In life frugality reigned; in death a stained pine coffin made by a neighbor carpenter enclosed the mortal remains of young and old, of rich and poor. Four friends raised the coffin on the bier and bore it on their shoulders to the grave. No display of hearse, no cavalcade of horse and carriage, no pomp of ostentations or idle mourning made outward sign of unfelt grief. The rites and ceremony of burial were as simple and unobtrusive as the life. The lament, less conspicuous, may have been as sincere then as now. Possibly the hard struggle for life made it easier to let go our hold of it. It is true Summer and Autumn and Spring each had days "almost divine." But Winter, cold, cheerless, shivering Winter tried soul and body. I remember the one fire on the hearth of a cold dark morning, so cold that a blanket hung from the hooks in the wall encircled the family and fire as an additional protection from the cold.
The ham is frying, the Johnny cake is baking, the coffee pot is boiling, the table is set and for convenience is small, not half as large as now is required. Now it is twenty five cents' worth of plate and twenty-five cents' worth of meat; then five cents' worth of plate and twenty-five cents' worth of meat. The old sat, the young stood, around the breakfast table. A dish of meat cut in pieces ready for eating was in the middle of the table. All hands broke the Johnny cake in small pieces and with the fork dipped it in the gravy held in the meat dish, and occasionaly speared out a piece of meat in the same way. It was a cold, frugal, hard, narrow, severe winter life.
The clustering location of the dwellings favored frequent visitation and social intercourse. The testimony of witnesses in the controversies recorded in the Town Records, sometimes give us a flash of light revealing social enjoyment. There might be pressing danger from Indians, from Pirates, from belligerent nations. There was a limited commerce in which all were interested. There was a far off Fatherland to which for long years they were bound by ties of blood and kinship. Their isolation demanded concert. Their worship brought them together. The thoughts of the thoughtful became the thoughts and property of all. The welfare of one became the concern of all. Neighborly kindness and sympathy reigned over the habitations of our
forefathers. Poverty evoked pity. Misfortune called for mercy. Sickness appealed for sympathy to tender hearts from that day to this.
Books were costly and rare; so costly that "Willard's Body of Divinity," (a folio) was written out in full by minister Huntting, and was extant at a recent date. Newspapers were unknown. A volume of sermons, in the time of the Long Parliament, might be among the literary treasures
of the community. The Bible was the Book. The Minister was the guide in politics, in law, in morals, in religion. Instruction was mainly oral and traditionary. In the absence of other teaching the two hours' sermon was to them a lecture of untiring interest, and to us with our wealth of books, magazines and newspapers, a commonplace and unedifying lesson.
Yet in that far off day there was not wanting the courage to dare, the genious to instruct, the power to lead. The men of 1717, who erected the church building of that date, were worthy to be counted founders of a commonwealth. The men of 1784, who built Clinton Academy lacked not the heart but the wealth and numbers to found a University. The community wherein lived Lion Gardiner, William Fithian, John Mulford and his greater son Samuel, Ministers James and Huntting, could not sink to low abasement. When after their career was run, and Samuel Buel resided there, Eleazar Miller the "Assemblyman," and his sons Burnet, and Abraham the Judge, Judge Chatfield, Col. Abraham Gardiner and his son Nathaniel the surgeon of the Revolution and friend of Andre, Capt. John Dayton, Col. David Mulford and his kinsman Capt. Ezekiel, and Capt. Thomas Wickham illuminated the life of the village and town. If Alfred Conkling, father of Roscoe; Sylvanus Miller, long time Surrogate of the City and County of New York; Jeremiah Osborn, once surrogate of Rensselaer County; Burnet Miller, member of the colonial congress, removed from East-Hampton, with many others, there still remained those who would have been lights in any cultured community; men whose names are recorded with honor in the civil list of their state and nation. William S. Pelletreau, a distinguished antiquarian, writing of East-Hampton in "Munsell's History of Suffolk County," said, after exhausting study, "A town that in proportion to its population has produced more men of talent and high position than any other in Suffolk County.".
On Monday afternoon the women of the village devoted some time to friendly
visits. Carrying the light linen spinning wheel, they sought social enjoyment
to enliven their unrelaxing labors. In earliest days the wit and charm
of the maidens of this town were famed. In later days their accomplishments
were not less known.
In September, 1696, minister Huntting commenced his minute and careful record of baptisms and deaths, which minister Buell continued to his death, in July 19th, 1788. This continuous record, extending over one hundred years, historically is invaluable and yet unprinted.
Minister Huntting baptized infants 1,241
Minister Buell baptized infants and adults 1,797
Minister Huntting records deaths 646
Minister Buell records deaths 1,093 1,739
The baptisms exceed the deaths 1,299
The record should substantially include all deaths. The number of baptisms
recorded by Huntting excludes adults and the record of Buell includes them.
It is improbable that much over four-fifths of the infants were baptized
during the term of Huntting and much less during that of Buell. Adding
one-fifth, 607 to 3,038 gives 3,645; subtracting the deaths 1,739, would
leave the births in excess 1,806, being more than double the number of
deaths for the
century covered by the record. This result, very nearly exact, demonstrates the proposition that the town as a locality was favorable to health by a long record seldom equalled. Beecher's sermon recites:
"From the year 1751 to the year 1775, there were the highest bills of mortality. In this period of 24 years the bill of mortality arose twice to 38, once to 37, once to 36, once to 35, once to 32, once to 30. It often exceeded 25 and once arose to 51. This was in the year 1775. Since that time, a period of thirty years, there have been but two years before the present in which the bill of mortality exceeded 20. It has been as low as 9. In this sickly period of twenty-four years there died 642. In the thirty years since there have died 405, making a difference of 237; 10 persons annually, notwithstanding the increased population of the town, which has been very considerable. The cause of this surprising change is ascribed by many to the death of the prim, (now generally called privet) which constituted a principal part of the fencing of the town, all of which died suddenly and unaccountably about the time that this favorable change took place."
The temperature of the ocean is higher in winter and lower in summer than thatof the adjacent land or o'erarching air. From every quarter the wind blows over bay or sound or ocean, modifying the climate by lessening the extreme cold of winter and the parching heat of summer. The effect of the gulf stream, some 110 miles distant from Montauk Point, is an important element in alleviating the severity of winter's cold. The prevailing sea breeze from the south-west is a factor not less grateful at all seasons. The atmosphere lacks the dry, stimulating character known inland and is conducive to sleep, to rest and restoration of the wearied powers of body and mind. To the products of the earth for the sustenance of man are added "the abundance of the sea." All afford an agreeable variety and all tend to lengevity. An epidemic that often desolates the masses inland seldom enters the gates of East-Hampton. The thousands of summer visitors, constantly increasing in numbers, attest these facts.
The County of Kent, in southeastern England, is surrounded on nearly three sides by the waters of the River Thames and the English Channel. The Straits of Dover divide it from France. Its location invited invasion and its rich, productive, soil gave impetus thereto. The Belgae from Gaul early made a lodgment there. Cesar landing on its shores thence moved his legions, north and west. In its early history the inhabitants were numerous and increasing. The census of 1881 gives 977,585. Commerce and its deep seafishing, immense hop-fields and orchards, thriving manufactories and ship building, poured wealth into the lap of this old county. It was early emancipated, from the darkness and thraldom of feudal barbarism. The tenure by which its lands were holden was free and unhampered comparatively. In other parts of England, lands descended to the eldest son. In Kent the custom of "Gavelkind" prevailed, by which all the sons inherited alike. In the patent of Gov. Dongan to "The Trustees of the Freeholders and Commonalty of the Town of East-Hampton," lands were to be holden "in free and common socage, according to the Manor of East Greenwich in the county of Kent, within his majesty's realm of England." The home of our ancestors there, in its level plains and surrounding seas, had like features here. There as "Kentish men" they were known as substantial freeholders. Here in thrift, in industry, in economy, in liberality, they retained the characteristics of their Kentish home. In my early practice I often heard from a testator the remark "I must give something to my children or the will will be void," probably a tradition of the old home, like that of "cutting him off with a shilling."
The English Maidstone from whence our ancestors came is located chiefly on the eastern bank of the River Medway, about 30 1/2 miles E. S. E. of the city of London, in a rich agricultural district in the county and hundred of Kent, and Lathe of Aylesford. The city or town of Maidstone,
has for centuries possessed a charter, and is the shire town or capital of the county where its courts are holden. In 1891, its population was 52,150. Its main street ran nearly northeast and southwest. Our ancestors in East-Hampton, as if planning from the same model, laid out their main street in the same direction. From early times the borough of Maidstone, sent two members to Parliament. The inhabitants of the city and county from the earliest history were devoted to the cause of freedom. and jealous of their rights. In the court which tried Charles the 1st, Andrew Broughton mayor of Maidstone was a secretary, and as such read the sentence of death to the King.
The citizens of Maidstone, trained in the vicinity of courts, were familiar with the foundation principles of law, and with Jury trials. As qualified voters there, they were acquainted with the elective franchise, and the right of representation in government. Their records demonstrate a capacity for free government, which we might infer they owed somewhat to their training in the motherland. Out of chaos they evolved order. They overcame anarchy, repressed riot, subdued lawlessness. They framed and enforced rules, constitutions, laws, government. They were based on the intelligence, the virtue, the piety of the first settlers, and they securely reposed on those solid foundations. The inquest held at the death of George Miller, in 1668, and at the death of John Talmage, in 1670, evince a disposition to comply with the demands of law and familiarity with its forms unusual in frontier settlements.
They not only felt the responsibility of self government, but they fully determined that each one of their number should discharge his duty. With them there was no escaping the burdens of government--no shirking it off upon a few of their number. Measures were taken to compel every one to attend their Town Meetings, as has been seen. (See Chap. I, p. 11.)
Further measures were taken, that when they were assembled in their Town Meetings, every one should express his opinion, and that too, in such a manner that all might know it. With them no bold minority could overawe the timid majority.
The following Order, entered on the records, expresses their opinion in their own language:
"Nov'r 2nd, 1652.--Every man to vote by holding up his hands, under penalty of 6d; the thing being before deliberately debated."
Nor did they stop here. They understood and acted upon the principle, that each one, as a member of their community, owed certain public duties, the discharge of which were as imperative upon him as those arising out of his private or domestic relations. When once the duty was settled, the rights of their community upon the individual were rigorously exacted. Entertaining these opinions, and with this end in view, they passed the following enactment:
"October 7th, 1656.--It is ordered that if any being chosen Secretarie or Constable, refuse to serve, and not give a sufficient reason, shall pay 30s; and if any being chosen Townsmen, refuse without a reason, shall pay 40s.
Those three orders, compelling under penalty, attendance at Town Meetings, voting when there, and acceptance of office when elected, show their clear and perfect apprehension of public rights, and with their other acts, exhibit the founders of this little Commonwealth, as worthy of being the founders of an empire.
They knew, likewise, right well where, and by whom, and in what proportions the pecuniary burdens of the commonwealth should be borne. They enacted a rule by which each man himself should give an account of his property to the proper taxing officers; and in the same enactment they coupled a penal provision against a fraudulent concealment of any part of the estate.
"November 8th, 1656.--It is ordered that concerning men's giving in their States for the Rates, that whosoever shall not give in their whole estates that is visible, whatever is not given in according to order, the partie so doing shall lose the one-half of those goods not given in for the rate."
It may well be doubted whether any advancement has been made in the system of equitable taxation since the days of our forefathers. And in these times of shuffling off the performance of public duties, and more particularly of individual concealment and evasion for the purpose of avoiding the just proportion of the public taxes and burdens, it may not be improper for legislators to consider the preceding provisions of our fathers, as a remedy for this prevalent evil, and we commend it to their notice and consideration.
Amid the scarcity of money it was found convenient to pay their rates in produce of their farms or in whale oil or other commodities, and accordingly that primitive method of payment was adopted. The schoolmaster, the minister, and public officers were paid their salaries and fees in like manner. For the satisfaction of the curious, I have given the following extracts from their records:
"Dec'r 8th, 1656.--It is ordered by the 3 men, that for the payment of the towns rates, wheat shall be paid at 4s. and 6d. per bushel, and Indian corn at 3s. and 6d."
"On a meeting of the trustees, being legally met, March 6th 1688-9, it was agreed that this year's towne rate should be held to be good pay if it be paid as follows:
Dry merchantable hides att 0l. 0s. 6d.
Indian corn 0l. 3s. 0d.
Whale Bone, 3 feet long and upwards. 0l. 0s. 8d
and what other ways is paid, lett the rule in the county rate be your
The Puritan theory of government included the church as an inseparable, if not controlling element. Their government was no godless, no atheistic, no mere earthly and worldly power. The colony at East-Hampton, while not denying the elective franchise to non-church members, was impelled by the strong current of the church. The church and the towns were so far identical that all the churches erected during the first two centuries were built and paid for by authority of the town as a town charge. The salaries of all the ministers for nearly or quite that period were paid by the town authorities as a part of the town expense. It seems singular to find this record of the action of the Town Meeting as late as 1840: "Voted that the whole amount due from the parish for the parsonage house and six months salary of the Rev. Mr. Ely be levied on the taxable property of this town and collected by the town collector" And again in 1847: "Voted that all the pews and slips be hired out in the meeting house and the money arising from the rent thereof be appropriated to defray the necessary expenses of the meeting house, and the overplus towards the payment of the clergyman's salary." The church and parsonage were built and owned by the town. The town Trustees managed and controlled them. While a student of law I inquired of an old deacon of the church where was the title. He answered "In the town," adding, "you now see how it behooves us sacredly to guard the town government." The impress of the church was indelibly stamped upon the town. Its claims to be supported by the town seem to have been here perpetuated long after they had vanished elsewhere. It is noticeable that although Connecticut repudiated the restriction of freemen and the elective franchise to church members which Massachusetts and New Haven ordained, yet their overshadowing influence constrained the delegates of the General Assembly at Hartford, Oct. 13th, 1664, to vote: "The court desires yt ye several officers of the respective churches would be pleased to consider whether it be not the duty of the court to order the churches to practice according to the premises if they do not practice without such an order." It should be understood that previous to this vote complaints had been made that applicants thereto had been denied church membership. That the court do "commend it to the ministers and churches in this colony whether it be not their duty to entertain all such persons who are of an honest and godly conversation, having a competency of knowledge in the principles of religion and shall desire to join wit h them in church fellowship by an explicit covenant, and that they have their children baptized, and that all the children of the church be accepted and accounted real members of the church, and that the church exercise a due Christian care and watch over them, and that when they are grown up, being examined by the officers in the presence of the church, it appear in the judgment of charity they are duly qualified to participate in that great ordinance of the Lord's Supper by their being able to examine themselves and discern the Lord's body, such persons be admitted to full communion."--Vid Connecticut Colonial Records, Vol. I, p. 438. For two hundred years the thought of New England in religion, in morals, in manners, in education, in agriculture, in commerce, in industry, in scientific progress, in free aspiration, in human sympathy, in individual and national being, in what animates and restricts the sphere of human action was the thought of East-Hampton. As an evidence of their views of their own rights and a determination not to suffer an infringement therein, we find the following record:
"November 24, 1656--It is alsoe ordered that noe Indian shall travel up and downe or carrie any burdens in or through our Towne on the Sabbath Day. Whoever is found so doing, shall be liable to corporall punishment."
Conscious as they were of the evils of intemperance, one of their first efforts was to guard against its seductive influences. In 1651 the General Court passed the following Act or Order:
"That no man shall sell any liquor but such as are deputed thereto by the town, and such men shall not let youth, and such as are under other men's management, remain drinking at unseasonable hours, and such persons shall not have above half a pint at a time among four men."
How solicitous to preserve the peace and morals of their community! How guarded against the inroads of vice! How watchful in their care over the young!
Nor did their sympathy or their vigilance stop here. Knowing the sad havoc which spirituous liquors had made with the aborigines, as well as their unconquerable thirst for those liquors, they passed laws for the prohibition of the evil, and the protection of the Indians.
"May 28th, 1655.--It is ordered that for the prevention of drunkeness among the Indians, by selling strong water--First, That no man shall carry any to them to sell, nor send them any, nor imploy any to sell for them. Nor sell them any liquor in the Town for the present drinking, above 2 Drams at one time, and to sell to no Indian but such as are sent by the Sachem, and shall bring a written Ticket from him, which shall be given him from the town, and he shall not have above a quart at a time."
Enlargement might be made to an indefinite extent, upon the characteristic traits of our ancestors. And while there is much in their history in which their descendants may well exult--much reflecting equal credit upon their understanding and their heart, we are assured from an attentive search, that there is little of which we need be ashamed.
Stern and unyielding as they were in their adherence to duty, tenacious as they were of their rights, uncompromising in their sense of justice, they yet had the most tender sympathy and kindness, mingled with the more rugged elements of their nature; and when there was an appropriate
field, they rarely failed to manifest them. Their commisseration and sympathy is most touchingly displayed in exempting the unfortunate and the poor from public burdens, and in protecting, with a strong arm, the helplessness of the widow.
At a very early day, and before the year 1700, they manifested their kindness and sympathy in voluntarily providing for the wants of a poor cripple who was a sojourner among them. They conveyed her to the west end of the Island, where medicine, advice and assistance could be obtained, (there being then no physician among them,) and they freely paid out large sums of money at different times on account of the support, maintenance, and the medical aid furnished abroad, to this child of suffering and want, as their records still show.
As a homely, and yet substantial token of their sympathy and kind regard, they exempted widows from those labors and burdens which their generosity led them to suppose devolved on others. After naming all the proprietors of the Town, liable to fence the common "Pasturing Field,"
placing one column on the side of Widow Baker, and one on the side of Widow Mulford, they say:
"At a meeting of the Trustees, being legally met, Aprill ye 12th, 1689, it was Ordered by ye s'd Trustees, that all the above s'd Parsons do cause their proportion in the above s'd Fence to be sufficiently sett up forthwith; so that ye said Widdows may be preserved from Dammages coming throw any neglect therein; or expect no other favor than the Law will allow each man yt neglects his Duty herein, viz: to have it sett up for him, and he to pay the double vallu thereof, to him that shall sett up the same. The above s'd forthwith is allowed till Wednesday night, next insuing the date hereof, and not farther."
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