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A Bit About Oyster Ponds
Thomas R. Bayles - 1970

    The first settlers of Southold town, of which Orient is a part, came from England in 1638 and remained near New Haven until 1640 when the group of thirteen men chartered a vessel and sailed with their families across t h e Sound, landing at Southold.
    This group of pioneers were under the leadership of Rev. John Youngs and the thirteen men were Rev. John Youngs, Barnabas Horton, William Wells, Peter Hallock, John Tuthill, Richard Terry, Thomas Mapes, Matthias Corwin, Robert Akerly, Jacob Corey, John Conklin, Isaac Arnold, and John Budd.
    According to tradition the first man to spring ashore was Peter Hallock, and the spot where they landed has been known as Hallock's Landing. All except Peter Hallock had their wives and children with them. He had left his in England.
    On their approach the Indians looked upon them as rare curiosities but were inclined to he friendly. (From Griffins Journal.) Peter Hallock is supposed to have made the first purchase of land in Orient in 1641. He afterward returned to England for the purpose of bringing over his family, but as he was gone a long time the Indians sold it again to other parties.
    The first settlers at Orient about 1646 were John Tuthill, John Youngs, Jr., Israel Brown, Samuel Brown and John King. The following description of Orient is taken from "Historical Sketches of Suffolk County" published by Richard M. Bayles in 1874.
    "Orient is a village of about seven hundred inhabitants occupying the peninsula formerly called Oyster Ponds, and by the Indians Poquatuck. The peninsula is about five miles long and two to three miles wide. Farming operations, which occupy most of the people, are successfully carried on and the soil kept in a high state of cultivation. On its eastern extremity a fort was erected in 1776 by Col. Livingston, with a view to prevent the landing of British troops on this part of the Island.
    "The principal village of Orient lies on the shore of Orient Harbor, on the western part of the peninsula. The village is rather compact, and contains two churches, three stores, two hotels, two boot and shoe shops, and a few other tradesmen. A commodious steamboat wharf projects into the harbor, and the village school is well sustained. A wind grist mill stands near the shore.
    "The name of the village was changed to Orient in 1836, and according to Griffins Journal contained six families in 1650; in 1750, forty-five families, and in 1855 136 families. The first church is supposed to have been commenced about 1717 and completed about ten years later. This belonged to the Congregational order. This building is said to have been a peculiar type of construction, resembling a series of squares piled one upon the other, and the whole surmounted by a spire and a sheet iron weather vane representing a game cock.
    "This church was torn down in 1818 and a larger one built, which did not prove satisfactory, so in 1844 another much larger and more handsome building was erected. (This is the church in use today and contains beautiful stained glass windows). The old village Burying ground lies across the road nearby, and a much more ancient burial place lies near the Sound shore, north of the village, in a deep valley. The Methodist church, standing near the center of the village, was built in 1836.
    "Orient Point is the eastern extremity of this peninsula, and about 25 houses are located along the road to the point, where a steamboat wharf is located, and near it a large summer boarding house which was built in 1834, with accommodations for 250 guests.
    "Plum Island lies across Plum Gut, about a mile east of Orient and is about three miles in length, containing some eight hundred acres. This island was purchased from the Indians by Samuel Wyllys of Hartford, Conn. in 1659 for one barrel of biscuit, one hundred muxes, and a few fish hooks.
    The historians tell us of a singularly poised rock, which was found upon this island that was roundish in shape and about ten feet in diameter. It stood upon the edge of another larger rock on the extreme edge, and looked as if a small effort might dislodge it from its resting place. During the war of 1812, while Commodore Hardy was stationed in Gardiners Bay, a number of officers and men went on shore with crowbars and wedges, and with much effort succeeded in dislodging the rock.
    "A light house was erected on the west end of this island in 1827 and refitted in 1856. The tower is thirty four feet high and stands on a hill which gives the light an elevation of sixty three feet above the water level.
    "A few miles east of Plum Island are Great Gull and Little Gull islands. These are composed almost entirely of rock. Great Gull contains about fifteen acres and Little Gull only one acre. A very important light is located on this island which marks the entrance from the ocean to the Sound. This light was established in 1806 and refitted in 1857, and is seventy four feet above the water, with a fixed light, visible for thirteen miles."
Griffins Journal tells the following amusing story which illustrates the dispatch with which people in olden times used to transact their important business:
    'It was on a pleasant day in the summer of 1780 that Doctor Joshua Clark, a respectable physician in the parish of Mattituck, mounted his horse and rode east to Southold village, about six miles, and stopped at the dwelling of a Mr. Chase, who was a poor but respectable man with a wife and two daughters, Polly and Ann.
    The doctor was a widower, about 70 years of age at the time. His business was urgent, being no less than to obtain the hand of Polly as a wife, with the consent of the parents, and without further courtship. His proposals were generous and frank if she would willingly consent. She modestly assented, although only in her seventeenth year.
    A message was sent to Judge Samuel Landon, who lived within thirty rods. The judge, who was more than eighty years of age, soon arrived, and with a dignity and gravity natural to old age, he performed the ceremony of pronouncing them man and wife. The entire time was not more than one and a half hours. The drama closed with the Doctors exit with his young bride mounted on the same old roan horse with him."
    In the old cemetery north of Orient, which has been abandoned as a burial place for over a hundred years, we find a gravestone with the inscription: "Mr. John Youngs, Minister of the Word and first settler of the church of Christ in Southold on Long Island. Deceased the 24th of February in the year of our Lord 1672, and of his age 74."

First appearing in the LI Forum 1970 No Copyright Information Data Found