East Hampton and "Home, Sweet Home"

     It has often been claimed that East Hampton was the birthplace of John Howard Payne, the author of the famous song, "Home, Sweet Home," and even now occasionally such a statement may be read in print. Scholars have proved repeatedly the poet, playwright, and diplomat was not born in East Hampton, but such myths die hard. "Ramona's birthplace" is pointed out to tourists in San Diego, California, but the Indian heroine was not born there. It is good business to keep the tale alive. False claims about the birthplaces of famous people are common. Dozens of cities in Greece claim to be the birthplace of Homer.
     The assertions that John Howard Payne was born in East Hampton center about the fact that his parents had an attractive home in that village. His father was an early teacher in Clinton Academy.
 While East Hampton must forego the honor of being the birthplace of John Howard Payne, it may with considerable authority claim to have inspired the nostalgic memories which inspired the beautiful song.  "Home, Sweet Home” is the product or property of Long Island," Daniel M. Treadwell declares in his book, Personal Reminiscences of Men and Things on Long Island.
     The distinction of the song "Home, Sweet Home" is to be found in the fact that it glorifies the greatest of all human institutions, the home. The home comes ahead of the tribe, the state, or any international group because it is very close to love and sympathy and all the finer things in life.
 A committee, composed of Treadwell, F. Dana Reil, and Fred T. Hoyt was appointed by the Faust Club of New York to investigate the claims of East Hampton that Payne was born there. They visited the village on April 1, 1872, and studied records elsewhere  Treadwell reported in his book:
     "The trip of the committee to East Hampton was without incident. East Hampton is an inconsiderable village of straggling homes, windmills and wells with oaken buckets, identical with the old well at Stockbridge which inspired Samuel Woodsworth to write the song, “The Old Oaken Bucket,” destined to an immortality equal to ”Home, Sweet Home.”
 The old Payne homestead was easily located  "It is a typical building of the period. It stands nearly opposite to the ancient residence of Lion Gardiner adjacent to Clinton Academy (now the Town Hall)."
     The report made to the Faust Club by the committee contained this information: John Howard Payne was not born in East Hampton but at 33 Pearl Street, New York City, on June 9, 1791.
 Payne's love for East Hampton was very great and that affection followed him in all of his wanderings and breathed through his vast correspondence during his entire life.
     "Home, Sweet Home," was part of Payne's play, "Clari, the Maid of Milan," which was first presented on May 6, 1823, at the Royal Theater, Convent Garden, London. The song was first heard in the United States in December, 1823, when Payne's play appeared at the Prune Theater in Philadelphia. Mrs. H.A. Williams sang the song "which was received with marvelous enthusiasm by the countrymen of the homesick poet." Payne died in 1852, in the consulate in Tunis, Algeria, "sighing to the last for the rural simplicity of his loved East Hampton."  A booklet, Landmarks of Long Island, issued a few years ago by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities at Thompson House, Setauket, has this item of information: "Home, Sweet Home, east side James Lane parallel to Route 27 (Main Street), East Hampton. "This gray shingled salt box house (built 1660), the boyhood home of John Howard Payne (1791-1852), is credited with having inspired the words of his immortal song. Many Payne items are on display, also a fine lusterware collection, completely equipped Colonial kitchen and other antiques. A 1771 windmill in the rear of the house also contains historical exhibits."
     Few of the present generation have heard "Home, Sweet Home," or read the poem. Here are the appealing words of the melody which once thrilled the nation and caused multitudes to weep. "The theme of the song and the beauty of the melody have given it world-wide fame:"

Mid pleasures and palaces though I may roam
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain,
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that come at my call;
Give me them, with that peace of mind, dearer than all.

To thee, I'll return, overburdened with care,
The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there,
No more from that cottage will I roam,
Be it ever so humble there is no place like home.

Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

Return to Biographies and Family Stories from Early LI

Return to Long Island Genealogy Home Page