The rights of the humblest inhabitant were guarded with the same care
that exacted the performance of duty from the most honored. When Lion Gardiner,
leaving to his son the care and management of his Island, removed, to enjoy
the congenial society and friendship of the settlement in East-Hampton,
he took upon himself, with the privileges, all the obligations of a freeman.
Oct. 10th, 1655, he was by the Town Meeting appointed "to call forth men
by turns to look out for whales at all seasons as he shall appoint." For
the prevention of fires two men were appointed to examine chimnies monthly
and see that they were so built and cleaned as to be secure. Feb. 4th,
1656, Lion Gardiner was one of the two men so chosen. The renowned commander
of Saybrook fort, the proprietor of an Island a manor and lordship of itself,
the friend and compeer of Wyandance and Winthrop, thought it not beneath
his dignity to serve the Plantation in promoting its prosperity in whaling
and its safety from conflagration. His fellow townsmen, in choosing him
to discharge these duties, intended no discredit to the man whose merits
owned and honored. When in 1669 Thomas Chatfield and Robert Dayton neglected to pay their dues to Mr. James "for the work of the ministry," although among the most reputable settlers, a warrant of attachment was issued to enforce payment by seizure of their goods. When in 1657 infirmities afflicted William Hedges, in view of his hard lot, "he is freed from paying rates." The justice that rigorously exacted the performance of obligation from those
who had the ability was tempered with mercy to those who by misfortune were disabled.
The Town Meeting of 7th October, 1651, ordered "that the three men shall have power after the 10th of March to to call forth men to burn the woods," and "that every man that hath a house shall within six weeks get a ladder that may reach so high that a man may go to the top of his house." October 28th, 1651, "It is ordered that whosoever shall deliver fire to any without they have a thing to fetch it that is closely covered shall be liable to pay five shillings."
The roof and sometimes sides of the first built houses were thatched and very easily fired. The hardships of the Pioneers were alleviated by habitations both rude and scanty. The loss of one and endangering more, would be a calamity we now can hardly measure. If the forest was burned in early Spring the upper layer of leaves only would be consumed. The low, slow smouldering fire would not blaze so high or grow so hot as to destroy the growing wood. It checked the growth of weeds and underbrush and increased that of the nutritious grasses which fed the game and cattle. The experience of the Indian became the property and experience of the English colonist. The disastrous forest fires of a later season were prevented by an early burning. In this preventive and permissive legislation, designed to guard against danger that might ruin the plantation there is no element of uncalled for severity. Both wisdom and prudence would prompt the authorities to enact in positive law just what we find they put on enduring record.
The idea of an uncultivated territory, and of a primeval forest thoughtlessly reiterated as designating the character of the country at its first settlement, is misleading. Thereby we naturally conceive that then the woods of gigantic trees extended unbroken over the surface of the earth. Evidence abounds that this conception is incorrect. Silas Wood, writing of Long Island more than four score years gone by, remarks on the scarcity of timber and assigns as a cause the annual burning of the woods by the Indians. He cites records of orders prohibiting the sale of wood "for pipe staves or heading," and "to any person not being a townsman."
November 10th, 1668, the Constable and Overseers in East-Hampton ordered "that there shall not any man fall young small trees for palasadas, fence," &c. "in the common."
At a court of sessions held at Southold, June 6, 7 and 8, 1676, an order reciting the scarcity of "good timber" in the town of East-Hampton under penalty of ten shillings for every tree, without a license, &c., prohibits all persons having "no allottment" from "cutting or using any timber," &c. "fit for building or fencing or for the use of coopers in making casks." A recital of the date of April 7th, 1713, that "the sheep and swine running on our commons made the fencing stuff "scarce" is further evidence, and as a known fact that cattle grazing in woods will in time deforest the pasture, it points to a cause.
The Trustees' order, October 16th, 1716, "that there shall be twelve men sent to Mr. Gardiner's island to get timber in order to the building of a new meeting house," confirms the then scarcity of timber and the tradition that the proprietor of the Island contributed as a free gift the timber for the frame of the church of 1717.
The town of East-Hampton united in alliance with the colony of Connecticut, November 7th, 1649. The records of that colony of that date recite: "It is further ordered that East-Hampton of Long Island shall be accepted and entertained under this Government, according to their importunate desire." May 20th, 1658, that colony voted "a confirmation of the combination with East-Hampton," &c. At the same time, regarding the jurisdiction of magistrates, it was ordered: "And that those of Southampton and East Hampton shall joyne together in the exercise of judicature amongst them and to summon juries out of either place;
and that they have liberty to repair to any court held at New London for help in any controversy." In 1662 Southold was admitted into the same combination and its inhabitants advised, if occasion required, "to repair to South and East-Hampton to ye authority there settled by this court." May 26th, 1643, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven, with the plantations in combination with them, adopted articles of confederation for their mutual welfare and protection. The combination with Connecticut made East-Hampton not only a member of the colony of Connecticut but also a member of the general confederation of the four colonies. Thereby East-Hampton was bound to the defence of Connecticut and the whole confederation, and they were all pledged to aid in her defence. The confederation was called "The United Colonies of New England." It was represented by two Commissioners chosen from each colony. While local and
internal affairs in each town and colony were left to their control, questions of offence and defence, mutual advice and succor upon all occasions, both for preserving and propagating the truth and liberties of the gospel, of their own mutual safety and welfare, "were controlled by Commissioners representing the colonies so leagued and confederated. Except "the exigency constrained, one colony might not engage in war" "without the consent of all." Except "by consent of all," no two members shall be united in one, and no new members shall be received. The appointment of men, money and supplies for war were to be assessed on the respective colonies in proportion to the male population, "between the ages of sixteen and sixty," and "the spoils of war were to be distributed to the several colonies on the same principle. The concurrence of six Commissioners controlled, and failing this, the questions being referred to the general courts of the several colonies, the concurrence of them all was binding. The Commissioners were to meet yearly on the first Thursday in September, and oftener if occasion required, at places prescribed. The choice of a President, the general policy of proceedings towards Indians, the return of fugitives from justice or service, the remedy for breach of the alliance by an offending colony--all these subjects were included in and provided for, in the Articles of Alliance and Confederation. Thus early on American soil was instituted this first of all confederacy of colonies, so complete in its anticipation of contingencies, in its conception of surroundings, in its adaptation to circumstances, that it endured assaults, external and internal, for twenty years, until the invasion and subjection of New Netherlands by the Eeglish, and the enforced rule of Royal Governors in 1664, under the then Duke of York, afterwards King James the second. This league, so complete in its extent, so just its provisions, so wise in its principles, so practical in its policy, comprised in its scope the democracy of the Town Meeting, the representation of towns in the Colonial Assembly, (called also the General Court), the representation of the united colonies in the body of Commissioners. Seemingly complex it was in reality simple. Its teachings were well fitted for the work it had to do.
In all local and town affairs the practical knowledge of the yeomanry of the town in Town Meeting assembled, surpassed that of any non-resident, however wise. They knew their wants, their grievances, their interests, their ability and inability, and could devise the best measures for relief or redress. The delegates of the towns composing the colony, assembled as its highest Court or Legislature, representing the whole and every part of the colony, could wisely legislate and decide for all. The Commissioners of the United Colonies representing their union and clothed with powers that covered, and only covered, subjects of general concern, affecting the welfare and safety of all the United Colonies, conld best legislate for the union. The thought of the reader outstrips the words of the writer. This machinery of government by towns, by colonies, by confederated states, foreshadowed what was to come. The search of the early history of these colonies, brings to mind the flashing conviction that therein the free institutions of this wonderful Nation were born. The self-constituted government of East-Hampton, and other early settlements in their Town Meetings or General Courts, was an ancestral immunity transmitted to posterity, and now surviving in the modern "Town Meeting." The delegates from the towns in a colony assembled as its Legislature, and called its "General Court," foreshadowed the State governments, which were born of the colonies. The confederation and union of the New England colonies, including the colony of Connecticut, which with other towns included East-Hampton, predicted the coming union of the colonies and independent States. The Colonial Congress must grow out of the root of the New England confederacy and union.
On the conquest of New Netherlands by Gov. Richard Nicolls, acting for the Duke of York, in 1664, the Governor by proclamation, called for the election of two representatives from each town, who were elected and attended the convention at Hempstead, March 16th, 1665. Thomas Baker and John Stratton, were the deputies from East-Hampton. The delegates continued in session but two or three days only. The proclamation of the Royal Commissioners, antecedent to the conquest, promised the people protection "and all other privileges with his majesties subjects." The colonies of New England, Maryland and Virginia enjoyed the privileges of a representative Assembly. The language of the proclamation gave the people of Long Island ground for expecting the same privilege. By letters to Captain John Young and Major John Howell, the Governor had assured them that the people should enjoy the privileges of equal "freedomes and immunities," if not greater, "than any of his majesties colonies in New England." All this prior to the Assembly meeting at Hempstead, followed by that, satisfied the people that their hopes of representation would be gratified. When the Duke of York had pacified the people, and established his power, he conveniently forgot the promises of his Governor. The next Assembly convened in 1683, because of the difficulty of levying by tax and customs sufficient means to supply the wants of government in other ways. The Duke of York conceded representation unwillingly, and only as a means to replenish his treasury. His perfidy in England was notorious in America. The name of the Royal Stuarts the world over, stood as a synonym for falsehood.
Every State and almost every farm has had its boundary disputes and questions, and it would be singular if such a difficulty had never ruffled the tranquility of the citizens of our Town. In accordance with all historic analogy we find that during the first half century from the settlement of the Town, a violent dispute was at different times carried on in reference to the Division Line between the two towns. East-Hampton claimed much more than Southampton would concede, and at one time extended her claim to "Hog Neck," (now North Haven.) This contest continued thrice the period of the Trojan War, was finally settled on the 25th of June, 1695, by men chosen from the two Towns and a highway one rod each side of the line, was laid out. Their decision remains of record.
The men chosen were as follows:
Previous to 1673, John Osborn's lot, lying on the east side of Main
street, south of a highway and just south of
where the present church stands, together with the high way, were purchased by the town for a parsonrge, "it being in the hart of the Towne."
In 1676, December 18th, the same premises described as consisting of "fourteen acres," bounded by Robert Dayton south, and John Wheeler north, were conveyed by the town to "Captaine Josiah Hobbert," whom they have "latelie accepted as an inhabitant amongst them."--Book A, p. 73, Town Records.
At a very early period emigration commenced from almost all parts of Long Island to other colonies.(*)
In the letter of Gov. Hunter to the Board of Trade, April 1716, he remarks:
"I cannot say that the inhabitants increase in that proportion, (at least) as they do in the neighboring provinces,
NOTE.--Among the manuscript papers of J. Lyon Gardiner, deceased, exists a rough draft of part of East-Hampton Main street, representing localities and residences in 1655. On the south-east side of the street, adjoining the lot of William Hedges, one of the first settlers, is marked off the "Calf Pasture," which afterwards became "the Parsonage," and since 1849 has been sold by the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church to John Hedges, and by him incorporated with the seven acres and a half which formed the "home lot" of his ancestor, William Hedges.
This draft represents the home lot of those who resided on the west side of the street, extending northward as far as Mrs. Buell's (formerly Catherine's) Lane, and locates them in the following order, commencing south wardly: John Stratton, Thomas Talmage, Robert Bond, John Mulford, Arthur Howell, Thos. Thomson, Thos. Baker, Wm. Mulford.
The house formerly owned by William L. Osborn, of East-Hampton, next south of the residence of his father, Deacon Abraham Osborn, is supposed to stand upon or near the ancient residence of Thomas Talmage. And the house formerly owned by Col. Samuel Miller is supposed to stand upon the lot and perhaps upon the very foundation of the house of Thomas Baker, the first Inn Keeper of East-Hampton.
It is a most singular coincidence, and striking proof of the former comparative populousness of the town, that after the lapse of 195 years the precise number of houses now stand upon the same space where the same number stood in 1655.
(*)By an examination of the Records I find from conveyances and other recorded papers that Thomas Simons, formerly of East-Hampton, removed to Little River, in Albemarle county, before 1684. Jonathan Osborn, formerly of East-Hampton, removed to Cape May as early as 1690. John Shaw, grandson of Joshua Garlicke, and son of Richard Shaw, one of the first planters of East-Hampton, resided in Cape May, in "West Jersie," in 1693. Thomas Hand resided in Cape May in 1697.
John Parsons resided there in 1699. Jacob Dayton resided there in 1699, and became a Justice of the Peace for the county of Cape May. Benjamin Mulford, a brother of Thomas Mulford, who was eldest son of Wm. Mulford, of East-Hampton, then resided there. John Chatfield removed to Cape May before 1700. Edward Osborn resided in "Elizabeth-Town, in East Jersey," in 1701. Ephraim Edwards resided in Cape May in 1702. Joseph Hand, Sr., resided inGuilford, Connecticut, in 1693. John Davis resided in New Haven, Ct., about the same time. It is supposed that all the above named persons removed with their families
from East-Hampton. where the purchases of land are easier had than with us. Great numbers of the younger sort leave Long Island yearly, to plant in the Jerseys and Pennsylvania."--Doc. His. N. Y., Vol. I, p. 692.
Suffolk County, for a very long period of time, remained the fourth and fifth county of the State in the aggregate amount of population. In 1698 the whole population of Suffolk County amounted to 2,679. The population of East-Hampton at this time was probably at last from one fourth to one-fifth of the population of Suffolk County.
The following memoranda upon the Town Records, throw
still more light upon the subject??
"Feb. 17th, 1703.--œœ56, 15s, 0d, was p'd, being East-Hampton's quota of œœ270, which the county of Suffolk was rated att, as their proportion of œœ1800 tax laid by the last Gen'l Assembly upon the whole Province, for securing the Frontier.
It will be seen that Suffolk County paid over one-seventh of the whole tax of the State at that time, and East-Hampton more than one-fifth part of the tax of the whole County of Suffolk.
According to the Rate List of the town, made out in 1683, it appears that there were then 71 taxable inhabitants in the Town, exclusive of the minister; and it may be inferred that the population of the Town was then at least 350, and rapidly increasing after that period.(*)
Sequestered from the rest of the world, shut out from its intercourse, uninfluenced by its fashions, and to a great degree unruffled by its passions, a race of freemen arose--hardy, contemplative, intelligent--and yet retaining the manners, language, dress and appearance of their ancestors, untarnished, unalterable and uncorrupted, for more than a century. The grace and polish of more modern times, (*)For rate lists of 1675 and 1683 see Appendix. might not have adorncd their carriage, but the frankness, intelligence and noble bearing of freemen, dignified their gigantic forms. Their ignorance of the passing customs of the world might sometimes render it difficult for the more deeply initiated to repress a smile, while their sterling qualities of head and heart would ever redeem them from contempt.
John Lyon Gardiner, deceased, the father of the late Samuel B. Gardiner, Esq., of East-Hampton, as has already been intimated, reduced to writing, much of the early traditionary history of East-Hampton. In his memoranda, under the date of June 15th, 1794, the following amusing incidents are related:
"Mrs. Miller, my overseer's mother, now living here with him, about 78 years old, was a Hedges, and lived at Montauk when a girl. She could speak Indian.
"Mrs. Miller remembers well when they first began to drink tea on the east end of Long Island. She tells a number of curious stories about their awkward manner of using it. One family boiled it in a pot and eat it like samp-porridge. Another spread the leaves on his bread and butter, and bragged of his having eat half a pound at a meal, to his neighbor, who was informing him how long a time a pound of tea lasted him. She remembers the first teakettle that was in East-Hampton. It came ashore at Montauk in a ship, (the Captain Bell.) The farmers came down there on business with their cattle, and could not find out the use of the tea-kettle, which was then brought up to old 'Governor Hedges'.' Some said it was for one thing, and some said it was for another. At length one, more knowing than his neighbors, affirmed it to be the ship's lamp, to which they all assented."
The narrow life, the unyielding spirit, the overshadowing parental restraint, the stern adherence to the letter of Sabbath observance, the intolerance of a differing religious sentiment, the severity of punishment inflicted on the transgressor, the strictness of dicipline in the family and church and state, the small measure of mercy and the large and unalloyed measure of justice administered in the conduct of affairs public and private, fostered occasional opposition then. They have incurred the condemnation of the present generation, and sometimes the censure of the descendants of Puritan forefathers, as if these unlovely traits were attributable
solely to those forefathers rather than to the age and the people then living. The stream of history, ever flowing like a river, is ever changing. The standpoint of to-day has back of it centuries of thought fraught with the conquests of truth, with the contributions of art, of science, of literature. of culture, and is not the standpoint for a correct judgment of a far past age. Go back on the march of time two and a half centuries; leave behind the landmarks of progress; blot out the triumphs of freedom, the discoveries of enterprise, the achievements of science, the inventions of the mechanic arts, the light of universal education. Stand where they stood and measure our forefathers by the thought, the culture, the sentiment, the piety, the liberality of their compeers, and our ancestors will suffer nothing in the comparison. Besides all this enemies imperilled the safety of the early settlements, which made the enforcement of martial or preservative law an imperative duty. On the line where advancing civilization confronts barbarism, tramps, outlaws, vagabonds, villains, march with the pioneers of light and letters. The records of courts in East-Hampton show some of these there. If banished, its citizens are regarded as intolerant. If suffered to remain, they are censured as if conniving at their acts. The loud complaints of these classes that their liberty was restrained have reverberated through the ages. Appealing to that element of the soul which intuitively condemns oppression, their outcries enlisted as advocates the sons of Puritans, who should have justifled their fathers in driving drones from the hive. With the foremost saints whose feet trod the soil of this fair old town, came "Border Ruffians," whose misdeeds have been charged to those who strove with all their power to prevent them. The culprits have been absolved, and the innocent charged with their crimes. The Great West resents the stigma that her people are defined as "Border Ruffians." With like indignant protest can the sons of Puritan sires justly demand that they be exempted from the like injustice. The novice who is sure that his surface view is the true one has sometimes convinced many that the Puritans committed the deeds they abhorred, while the earnest searcher after truth has discovered that the evidence acquitted them.
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