Romance, adventure, and beauty have been contributed to central Long Island
by the Half Way Hollow Hills, one of the most picturesque and attractive
portions of Paumanok. A glance at the map of the old Town of Huntington
will disclose the origin of the name. Just about half way between the Sound
and the Atlantic Ocean is a pleasant wooded valley to which was given the
name of Half Way Hollow. This delightful vale divided two groups of hills
- Dix Hills on the north and Half Way Hollow Hills on the south. Many noted
people have lived in the alluring southern uplands. The first of these
was Jacob Conklin.
The distribution of the proceeds received from the sale of town lands is recorded in the Huntington records for 1713.
One of about 150 who had received allotments of land was Jacob Conklin of Huntington, the son of Timothy Conklin. The grand, hill-top residence built by Jacob in 1710 was the first home erected in the Wyandanch area and one of the oldest in the southern part of the town. This property is marked "Goshen Purchase 1706" on a map drawn by Silas Wood (1769-1847), the noted historian. Jacob Conklin had an exciting personal history.
The adventurous young man was impressed on board the ship of Captain William Kidd (c. 1645-1701) and served him on one of his piratical voyages. On Kidd's return from his last cruise and while his vessel, the San Antonio, lay in Cold Spring Harbor, Conklin and several other members of the crew deserted. Usually it is stated that Conklin was sent ashore to obtain water, but according to one of the numerous Conklin legends, his mission was to bury treasure for Kidd; instead he escaped with the chest and from the proceeds bought the estate in the Half Way Hollow Hills.
Jacob Conklin was born in Huntington (correction from orig text), about 1675. He died at his home in the Half Way Hollow Hills in 1754. His wife was Hanna Platt of Huntington. One of their sons, Platt, married Phoebe Smith, and their son, Nathaniel Conklin (1768-1844) was a contemporary of Silas Wood, the historian, who no doubt knew him and visited at the Hills estate. "These early Conklins were unusually prosperous, owning lands both north and south in the Town, as well as vessels whose trade enriched their masters and share-holders."
Four generations of the Conklins occupied the mansion in the hills. Later owners included General James J. Casey, sheriff of Suffolk County, a brother-in-law of General U. S. Grant, and the latter's son U. S. Grant, Jr. General Grant, while President, often found in visits to the old Conklin home the peace and quiet he desired.
Near-by were several fine springs of water, one of them containing medicinal qualities. The water of this spring was commercialized by the Colonial Mineral Springs Company, but the firm was not of long duration.
In 1918 while unoccupied, the home was destroyed by fire. The site of the early mansion is now owned by Brosl Hasslather. On a near-by hill is the Conklin cemetery wherein rest the remains of Jacob Conklin and many of his descendants.
Romanah Sammis gives this sympathetic description of the Conklin home in Huntington-Babylon Town History:
"Among the early farm homes of the Half Way Hollow Hills, the Jacob Conklin house unquestionably was the finest. Built in 1710 and destroyed by fire in 1918, only photographs of it remain to us, but for these we are grateful. It stood on the western slope of the southern hills, and its site is easily found.
"Going south from Melville on the Pinelawn Road and looking across to the hills to the east, the light of the afternoon sun falling on the gravestones in the old Conklin burial plot on a hilltop, you behold one of the highest points in the town of Babylon; and down the steep slope from the burial place, is a broad opening of comparatively level ground where great oaks and walnut trees stand. Here Jacob Conklin built his home."
"It faced the south, the one story below its long, lean-to, rear roof looking up the hill behind it, while before it was a gentle slope to the valley and a wide outlook to west and south. A porch extended across the entire front, its roof edged with a low balustrade."
There it is, the old Conklin duck pond hidden in the backwoods at the bottom of the hills, lined with tall oak and maple trees, some of them well over a hundred years old. It's an old, dreamy and quiet place, as nature in its undisturbed glory can be. The old duck pond is steadily fed by numerous small, crystal-clear mineral springs. It's mighty restful there under the shade trees and near the placid pond.
The high grass and some reeds around the old duck pond provide ideal protection and hiding places for a breeding ground for wild ducks. Regularly every spring, they return to this natural breeding ground and nestle down for their seasonal life. Occasionally one can see there a beautiful blue or white crane perched in a tall tree.
Woodpeckers hammer lustily a song-like rhythm. The place is alive with birds of all kinds. It's a veritable sanctuary. It is a convenient watering place for deer with their hidden paths through the woods, and a happy hunting ground for nocturnal carnivorous animals like the raccoon, the possum and the red fox.
It's a beautiful spot, the old duck pond in the back woods with its romantic old atmosphere, and the present owner, the writer's good friend, Brosi Hasslacher, is doing his best to preserve its original character. The old duck pond is somewhat a mystery but it still remains with us with all its hidden secrets of an old and glorious past; yes, it is still there at the foot of the hills, as cozy as ever, while the immediate area is getting stocked with new life.
Although the trees are ages old, the pond itself is older yet; for centuries life passed it by. Only the mineral springs feeding the old duck pond stay forever new, alive and sparkling clear; and new and bright, too, is the tall grass which sprouts anew with every spring.
Alanson Ketcham of Farmingdale, N. Y., informs us that his ancestors came to Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1635, then migrated to Huntington in 1657, and later married into the Conklin family.
Mr. Ketcham has a picture of his great-great-grandmother, Charity Conklin. She is buried in the Conklin cemetery. He. has one relic from Jacob Conklin who once owned 3,500 acres in the Half Hollow Hills -- a small hide-covered chest.
10 September 1696
11 April 1700
and Accomplices of William Kidd
and Accomplices of Joseph Bradish
Headlam, Cecil, ed., Calender of State Papers, Colonial Series (Volume 18), America and West Indies, 1700, Preserved in the Public Record Office (Vaduz: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1964) First Published London: HMSO, 1910. pp. 162, 199-200.