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|Suffolk County Pre-History to 1683||1883-1914|
|1683-1783||Colonial Long Island: 1650-1783 - an overview|
|1783-1883||The Early History of Suffolk
County ,Long Island, New York
Compiled by Sherrill Halsey Stevens, Lt Colonel, US Army, retired.
Suffolk County Pre-History to 1683
Suffolk County occupies the eastern two thirds of
Long Island, New York, which juts about 120 miles into the Atlantic. The
County covers roughly a thousand square miles of territory and is eighty-six
miles long and twenty-six miles wide at the widest point. The weather is
temperate, clean water abundant, and the soil is good and in fact, Suffolk
is the leading agricultural county in the state of New York. That it is
still number one in farming despite all of the building developments and
urban sprawl is a tribute to the excellent soil, favorable weather conditions,
and the farmers of this region.
Over the past millennium there has been a procession of all kinds of people from Indians, explorers, pirates and colonists, to an invading army that maintained control for years. There have also been whalers, railroad men, Nazis, summer people, bootleggers, groupies, commuters, and spacemen. Of course, homeowners and farmer fisherman have always been the mainstay of this County. There is a cosmopolitan mixture of 1,300,000 people of all kinds today and the population is still growing.
A variety of nationalities and groups built the area known as Eastern Long Island: Algonquins, English, Dutch, French Huguenots, Scots and Welsh at first. Later, Italians, Germans, Russian Jews, Poles, Asians, Irish, Blacks, Hispanics and Scandinavians. Slaves and freemen, they came from almost every nation on earth , hoping for a better life.
The first people to dwell on Long Island were Algonquins, the group with similar languages and culture which lived throughout New England and the middle Atlantic coastal region. They came to this area crossing small steams and low lands where now the Hudson and East Rivers flow.
Others came south from what is now Connecticut more than 10,000 years ago across low marshlands now covered by the waters of the Long Island Sound. They came hunting caribou and following small game. These small hunting and gathering bands and their ancestors had been on the move for thousands of years always seeking more favorable conditions for living with good shelter, wood for fires, clear drinking water, fish, game, berries, nuts and grains.
Time passed and the earth warmed gradually, causing the massive continental glacier to recede northward, leaving soil and rock deposits which shaped the land into a glacial moraine. The sea evel rose as glacial ice melted to water and the place known today as Suffolk County took shape.
At a time when the great pyramids of Egypt were still a dream, the descendants of the first bands to wander onto Long Island were settled in the Suffolk area. They were thinking people with a common Algonquin language base, culture, and customs. They lived on the shores for the fishing and abundant shellfish and hunted inland during the colder months. They advanced in hunting technology from the spear and atlatl to bow and arrows tipped with stone points.
Indian life was based on a seasonal cycle of resources and an intricate social structure. The concept of land ownership was alien to them. Initially, the Indians of this region exchanged the use of their lands for protection from theIr enemies by the Europeans who had guns, metal weapons, and other things of value. The colonists, either misunderstanding or ignoring their concepts of land use, claimed ownership of the Indian lands and denied them access to it. This denial of their livelihood, was aided by such phenomena as the smallpox plague of 1662, which decimated the Indians since they had none of the immunities that Europeans had. Indians were forbidden to come into towns for fear of pox and were forced to live in outlying, less desirable surrounding areas. As the European population increased, native people were pushed further off traditional lands. They were also forced into farming, instead of their hunting, gathering life. In time the Indians were displaced or destroyed.
At the time of contact between the European and Indian cultures there were somewhere between sixteen and thirteen groups of Indians, each occupying its own loosely defined area of the Island. These groups included the Montauk, Shinnecock, Manhanset, Nissequogue, Setalcot, Matinecock, Massapequa, Merrick, Corchaug, Uncachogue, Secamans, togue, Rockaway, Canarsie and
Most historians in referring to the European contact period refer to the Indian tribes existing at the time. In fact, these native groups were hardly large enough to be called tribes. They were more like large extended family groups who dwelt in one area of the Island. No firm estimates of native populations here goes above 6000, so the Island was a very sparsely populated wilderness in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The English claim to this area was established by an Italian seafaring man, John Cabot, who sailed in the l5th Century under the flag of an English king. While there is no record of a landfall here, his voyage laid claim to all lands in these latitudes.
Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian explorer sailing under the flag of a French king, was the first European of record to sight Suffolk. He saw this area from the ocean in April 1524. In 1609 Henry Hudson anchored in what is now New York Bay and explored the western end of Long Island. Captain Adrian Block, a Dutch explorer, landed at Montauk and met with local natives. Later in New York Bay his ship, The Tiger, burned. He and his men built another ship, The Onrust,
during a stay in Manhattan.
Visits by far ranging Vikings or European fishermen may have taken place at a much earlier time. Indeed, several historians believe that a careful interpretation of old Norse sagas has produced evidence that Karsefni, Leif Erickson's son-in-law may have landed at Belle Terre near Port Jefferson. It is claimed that Karsefni released two Irish slaves directing them to explore the
land to the South. If these men did explore in 1010 AD as claimed, they were among the first Europeans to see this area.
The first white settler was Lion Gardiner, a soldier engineer who came to this area from Connecticut in 1639 to start a plantation on land he had purchased from the "ancient inhabitants" and the Earl of Stirling. Lion Gardiner settled on the Isle of Wight between the North and South Forks with his wife, two children, and some of his men. That island bears his family name today and Gardiner 's Island and is still owned by his descendants.
Both Southold and Southampton claim to be the first English settlements in this area in 1640. The original people in these towns migrated from New England. The eight men, one woman and child who settled Southampton came from Lynn, Massachusetts; the settlers of Southold from the Colony of New Haven in Connecticut.
While English colonists were coming across the Sound to settle, Dutch families were moving eastward from New Amsterdam (now New York City). Clearly, it was only a matter of time before the rival English and Dutch interests would clash.
At issue was more than land, because Long Island was the best source of the only hard currency of the time, wammans, wampum. These strings of beads made from Long Island clams and whelk were the money of the colonists. Moreover, wampum was absolutely necessary for any social or trading contacts with the interior Indians who had the beaver furs so prized by Europeans. Whoever controlled Long Island's wampum manufacturing, had a control of the economy in general and the fur trade in particular.
The fur trade went something like this: A European trader brought cheap woven trade cloth (duffle) to costal Indians on Long Island. The cheap cloth was traded for wammans, at a good rate of exchange. The wampum was taken to inland Indians where it was highly valued. Lengths of beads were exchanged for beaver and other furs. The furs were shipped to Europe where they
commanded high prices. Thus at each step of this trade enormous profits were possible. Long Island the wampum "mine,” was of critical importance!
The English seemed to have seen this more clearly and acted accordingly. They used strong military force to seize sources of wampum. This gave them a commercial and financial advantage over the Dutch.
By 1650 the Dutch recognized the weakened position they were in and agreed to divide Long Island. By agreement, the English took control of the East End with the remainder left to the Dutch. The dividing line for the boundary is almost the same line as the one now dividing Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The agreement of 1650 lasted until 1664 when Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch
governor, surrendered New Amsterdam to Colonel Nicolls in a bloodless coup. James, Duke of York, and brother to the King, now owned New York and all Long Island.
The new settlers of these times were middle class families who left their homeland for new lands for many reasons. Some sought greater freedom in political and religious matters but many others simply wanted more control over all aspects of their lives. Economic considerations played a part; people were looking for good cheap farmland, and bountiful fishing and hunting. Long Island offered this and something else, a chance to engage in the lucrative privateering and smuggling going on in the waters around New York.
Sometimes privateers went beyond the legitimate bounds of seizing the ships of an enemy and preyed on all merchant ships. These acts of piracy were not uncommon in this period of conflict when European countries were struggling for power and wealth in the new world and governments lacked the power to enforce the law. This era produced some of the most colorful legends in
Suffolk's heritage. Pirate tales involving men like Thomas Tew or Captain William Kidd. But privateers did not all become pirates and the traditions, skills, and equipment they developed would later serve as the beginnings of the American Navy during the Revolutionary War of 1776-1783.
Despite international struggles, Long Island continued to prosper and develop. With the passage of time more towns spun off the original settlements. Southolders, for example, settled Setauket (Brookhaven) and in turn Smithtown.
Southampton people founded Watermill, Sagaponack, Bridgehampton and Springs in the 1650's. East Hampton, settled in 1648, extended its influence to Montauk by 1657. Shelter Island was settled in 1652. The island was first granted town privileges in 1666 but it was not designated a town until 1683. The Town of Huntington dates its founding from 1653 when land was purchased from the Indians. Subsequent purchases during the next fifty years expanded the town area from the Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1872 the southern portion split off to become the Town of Babylon.
The Town of Brookhaven was established in 1655 along the north shore from Stony Brook to Port Jefferson. Additional land acquisitions in succeeding years rounded out the present town. Patchogue and its environs became a part of the town in 1773.
Smithtown dates back to 1663 when Richard "Bull" Smith received the land as a bequest from Lion Gardiner, to whom it had been given by Wyandanch, the Indian sachem. In 1665 a town patent was granted. The Town of Islip was founded in 1710 following a series of large land grants, the first to
William Nicoll in 1684 covering the eastern part of the town. Riverhead Town was formed from the westerly part of Southold Town in 1792. As early as 1727 it was recognized as the County Seat when the County courthouse and jail were located there.
The colonial period was generally peaceful. Wild places and woodlands were turned to farms, and rough log shelters were improved to relatively comfortable homes. Churches, roads, mills, and shipyards were built. It was a time of hard physical labor, but here was land for farming and home sites for those who were willing to work. That excluded slaves and Indians in many places, but basically there was an atmosphere of freedom within the framework of a highly ordered religious society.
By the 1670's political unrest was growing from the continued refusal by the Duke of York to permit the colonists a legislative assembly and greater self rule One result was that collection of taxes had dwindled; people were openly refusing to pay them. The colony was in a hostile mood and the Duke of York had to face a painful decision: whether to continue ruling with an iron hand and face continued losses, or give away some rights for greater self rule in the hope of greater profit from the colony. William Penn, who was visiting England fresh from a trip to North America, counseled the Duke to give in and make some concessions to the colonists. The Duke was finally persuaded to do this and from that persuasion this county it is known today developed .
The Duke of York sent a young Irish Catholic gentleman named Thomas Dongan to govern. Governor Dongan convened the first assembly that head ever been gathered to represent the colonists soon after arriving. The group sat in AIbany for nearly three weeks from the middle of October until the first day of November, and out of those deliberations came a document entitled: The Charter of Liberties and Privileges Granted by His Royal Highness to the Inhabitants of New York and Its Dependencies. It really wasn't a charter, but rather an act of the legislature itself. It spelled out in clear language the principle that the sole legislative powers shall forever be, and reside in, a government council and the people met in general assembly.
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Suffolk was English for just over one hundred years
from its founding as a county on November 1, 1683 until the last occupation
troops of the British Army left this area late in November of 1783.
This century of rule by representatives of the British monarch saw a steady growth in population rom about 2000 people in the scattered original settlements and their offshoots to 16,440 people in a rural society of farmer, fishermen by 1783.
The population of Suffolk was rather sparse. Exclusive of Indians but including Negro slaves this was the population during the colonial period:
1698 - 2679
1723 - 6241
1731 - 7676*
1749 - 9384
1771 - 13,128
*The total count of Indians in Suffolk in 1731 was set at 715.And when Suffolk's population stood at 16,440 in 1790 the total population of the United States was only 3,231,533 people.
In this time there was a succession of royal
governors representing the English Crown who tried to govern, impose taxes,
and collect them with limited success. Much of the failure could be attributed
to the system itself. The governor was not an American but an Englishman
coming here for a limited stay serving only so long as he was in favor
with the monarch. His ties were clearly to the mother country. Also more
than one governor saw his position as a way to get wealthy at the expense
of the colony. And often the royal governor was at odds with his representative
assembly as they were Americans in tune with their fellow countrymen's
With the prevailing attItude toward royal authority,it is understandable that the people of Suffolk were not too concerned about paying taxes. They preferred to deal with New England which was easy to reach by water and where tax collection was "forgotten" in the transactions. Smuggling and privateering were common in everyday life along the coast. Even piracy was overlooked by a weak government that lacked the power to enforce its own laws. Poor communication helped the buccaneer too!
One governor, the Earl of Bellamont, decided to stop smuggling and other acts against this authority on the sea. He commissioned a respected merchant, William Kidd - in 1696 to sail out of New York to rid the coast of piracy. It didn't work out as intended. Within a year the name of Captain Kidd was feared, for he had turned buccaneer. Captain William a respected merchant, turned pirate in 167 self. And from his exploits come persistent Suffolk legends of buried pirate treasure.
Although there are disputes on several points, historians generally agree that Captain Kidd was sailing from the West Indies to Boston when he stopped at Gardiner's Island off Suffolk's East End. Here he landed and buried a chest of pirate loot consisting of gold, silver, and jewels. Kidd then sailed to Boston in July 1699 where he was seized and put in irons by order of the very man who had commissioned him.
Kidd was sent to England where he was Imprisoned, then given a shoddy trial, found guilty, and executed in May 1701. The mystery of his true relationship to the Governor and the resting place of all his treasures still excite the imagination and make interesting speculation.
Despite the flaws in local colonial government, people were generally loyal to the King except, of course, during the last decade of British rule. There were many shades of attitude within this loyalty however. The people of Long Island's north shore and east end were the more independent being influenced by their New England contacts and the distance from New York. Those on the south shore and western end of the county tended to conservatism due to their proximity to the thinking of New York City. Perhaps a comment by George Washington just two years before the Declaration of Independence sums up how many Americans thought at the time. Washington said in 1774-he was convinced that not one thinking man desired Independence.
Through times were generally peaceful a militia was organized in Suffolk that had 614 men by the year 1700. This would grow in size and expertise during the French and Indian War which began in 1754.
While the war with the French did draw men from the area, its impact on progress here was minimal. The farmers went about their business undisturbed. Most were now growing wheat. The two most easterly counties of the Island were truly the "bread basket" of New York. This fact was noted by an important Englishman and it was to affect life in Suffolk for many years. The man was Lord Howe, commander of British forces. He said of Long Island that it was "the only spot in America for carrying on a war with efficacy ... in this fertile island the Army could subsist with (1683-1783) out any succor from England ... ' Clearly, Long Island's Importance was well known to the leaders of Britain. Wheat, hay, cattle, and wood were seen as critical to any military
force trying to hold New York City. And New York was a key location not only because of its fine harbor but because it separated the colonies of New England and the Middle Atlantic. Communication within Suffolk and with the outside world was almost nonexistent. There was no postal service so that messages had to be slowly passed along by coastal sailing vessels or given to horse and rider who might pass a particular place on the way to his destination. Because of lively trade with Connecticut, people in Eastern Suffolk often knew more about what was going on across the Sound than in a neighboring town on the Island.
A postal route was setup in 1764 by which a rider carrying mail would set out every two weeks along the north shore returning to New York along the south shore. It was not until 1793 that Suffolk had its first post office. The system of justice was equally simple a Court of Sessions holding forth in selected Suffolk towns only twice a year.
There was a good hat making trade here using American beaver fur so prized in European markets. Begun in the early 18th Century, by 1732 the hat industry was so prosperous and threatening to English manufacturers that Parliament passed an act prohibiting any export of hats from Suffolk County. This kind of treatment created frustration and anger in people who were trying to build a better life for themselves.
No one knows for sure when the first Revolutionary thoughts began to surface in the minds of local colonists but the French and Indian War certainly played a part in creating such thoughts. Not only did local men, in the service of the Crown, learn the arts of warfare but the cost of this military effort caused Britain to levy taxes on her colonies to pay for it. This led to the odious Stamp Act which taxed almost everyone involved in any kind of a business or personal transaction.
Protests and petitions for relief of grievances grew as the people became more aware that increasing taxation without any real voice in government was unfair. A sense of common fate grew as people from one part of the colonies reached out to others. Sag Harbor people, for example, had active regular trade with Boston so news of events and patriot efforts there were soon reaching the farmer and fisherman of the East End.
When four regiments of British troops occupied Boston under General Gage and that port's commerce was blockaded by warships of the British Navy in May of 1774, an already grim situation was getting worse In the colonists' eyes. Foodstuffs and other goods were collected at several ports in Suffolk to help the people of the Boston area.
In the early days of April 1775 people here elected Colonel William Floyd, a gentleman farmer of Mastic, to again represent this area at the Continental Congress to be held in May at Philadelphia. (He had attended the 1st Continental Congress previously) But events outside Boston in the little towns of Concord and Lexington soon changed his plans. The "shot heard round the world" when British Redcoats and local militia clashed at Concord Bridge quickly mobilized Suffolk people to action and rebellion.
William Floyd was an unlikely rebel wIth everything to lose. By position and wealth he should have been conservative supporting a "wait and see" Tory position. But he was a Welshman, like Long Island's other representative, Francis Lewis and the Welsh have a tradition of opposing British rule.
When William Floyd left his beloved 2000 acre farm to make the long journey to Philadelphia he little realized he would not see home again for seven years. He and his colleagues from the other colonies would draft and sign a document on July 4th of 1776 that closed the door on compromise with Britain. Signing The Declaration of Independence made William Floyd a marked man. His home and property were seized and vandalized just after his wife and family fled to safety in Connecticut.
Lord Howe was now in local waters and on Staten Island with the largest military force the British had ever sent out. By mid August of 1776 10,000 sailors in almost 400 ships carrying 1200 cannons had transported 32,000 fighting men to encampments from which they could capture New York. The city was protected by a much smaller force of troops sunder George Washington entrenched in defense positions on Brooklyn Heights.
On Aug. 22, 1776-just a matter of days after Washington's troops had heard the Declaration of Independence Lord Howe struck the Long Island fortifications of Washington moving 15,000 British and 5,000 German (Hessian) mercenaries across The Narrows to Brooklyn from Staten Island.
The Battle of Long Island was a stunning victory for the British who outmaneuvered Washington at every turn. But as he was to do repeatedly in the years ahead - Washington saved the day when hings looked their worst. Using fishermen troops from the seaport of Marblehead, Massachusetts he ferried the battered remains of his Army across the East River at night under cover of a providential fog. Lord Stirling and 250 brave Marylanders fought a valiant rear guard action that enabled this troop evacuation to take place. Without their bravery and the 'favorable' elements of wind and fog, the American Revolution might have ended the month after it had begun. For Long Islanders - and Suffolk residents in particular - the Revolution was over. For the next seven years they lived sunder the heel of an occupation army. But if they could no longer fight openly, they soon developed ways to aid the Patriot cause by hit and run guerilla tactics, harassment and spying.Perhaps best known are the exploits of Washington's "secret service"the famed Culper Ring.
Based in New York, Setauket, and Connecticut this ingenious group of men and women kept the American commander informed about British troop movements, strength, fortifications, and plans from 1778 until 1782 and on at least one occasion, they pinned down a large English force by deception.The key spy was Robert Townsend, who gathered the intelligence in New York City while he made his rounds of the coffee houses frequented by British officers. His "cover" was a store in the City that delivered merchandise around town.
Townsend's sister Sally also provided information that she gathered at their family home, Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay, which was then occupied by Colonel John Simcoe of the loyalist Queen's Rangers. The Hall was a meeting place of British officers including the celebrated Major Andre whose capture saved West Point.Townsend called himself by the code name of Culper Jr.Culper Sr.. was Abraham Woodhull, a Setauket farmer who gathered information on troop movements and plans on Long Island based units.
Messages carrying the secret information were transported with supplies, written on paper with invisible ink, using a code of numbers and names. These messages were carried by Austin Roe who rode a relay of horses to cover the 50 mile distance from New York to Setauket as quickly as possible. He left the messages on the Woodhull farm. These trips were sunder the guise of delivering supplies ordered from Townsend.
Another important person was Anna Strong who used a prearranged signal system of clothes on her wash line to let others know what was happening and where. For example, the number of white handkerchiefs on the wash line told where the whale boat courier from Connecticut was hidden among the bays and inlets of the Long Island shore.
Caleb Brewster was responsible for three whaleboats that kept crossing the Long Island Sound between Setauket and Connecticut. There Washington's riders were waiting for the intelligence reports; they delivered them to Major Benjamin Tallmadge who took them to Washington's head-quarters for decoding.
The Culper Ring operated successfully throughout the war without being detected. Indeed their secret code was so secure that even today one of the women agents who gathered information in New York is known only by her number; Agent 355.
Both sides had spies operating and one of America's earliest martyrs was in this number, Nathan Hale. Nathan Hale's patriotism, devotion and willingness made him a prime candidate for being a hero. And indeed he was but he was supposed to be an effective spy. He was not! He was tall, blonde, and uncommonly handsome in a time when people were smaller of stature and very often pockmarked. Hale stood out in any crowd which is not good for spying. His cover story was weak: he was supposed to be a Dutch schoolmaster, yet the diploma he carried was in his real name. And when he was caught with plans and papers that might have been explained away, he immediately confessed to being a spy. It was in facing death that Hale won the hearts of Americans in all generations although the British tried their best to conceal his bravery so "the rebels should never know they had a man who could die with such firmness."
Nathan Hale's "one life to lose for my country" may have been added to the tale later but whatever the source, it seemed totally appropriate to this fine young American who accepted the greatest sacrifice with no trace of fear.
Nathan Hale's courage in the face of the enemy was matched time and again by the unsung heroes and heroines of Suffolk County during the seven years of military occupation by the British. Civil government had been dissolved and many good people were seized and placed in dreaded prison ships for no reason. "Rebel" property and stock was taken without compensation or wantonly destroyed by lawless bands of soldiers and "cowboys." The latter were outlaws who answered to no flag, but who plundered to satisfy their own greed. Fences, churches, buildings, wood lots were removed to meet the endless need for camp cooking fires, grains were taken, and innocent people forced under penalty of death to give up family heirlooms and possessions.
With no power to oppose the enemy openly and in spite of all the privation, people fought back. Individually and in small groups they harassed the enemy, spied, burned stores, and helped stage whale boat raids on the Sound. This was not without heavy sacrifice by farms and homes destroyed, families broken and lives lost. They acted knowing the consequences and they paid the price.
Peace was finally negotiated after Cornwallis surrendered and on November25, 1783, the last British left Long Island. If this brought a well deserved sense of joy, that emotion was soon dampened. By an act passed by the New York State legislature seven months later, Long Island was taxed 37,000 Pounds for "not having been in a condition to take an active part in the war against the enemy." !!!
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Suffolk began its second century in an atmosphere
of bitterness that undermined the hopeful spirit of newly won Independence
from Britain. The scars of war could be seen in neglected farmlands, burned
buildings, and other destruction left by the departing redcoats Patriots
were returning to their homes penniless or in debt from years of military
service or the hardships of exile. They could not be blamed for hating
those who had aided the enemy and prospered under British rule. Actions
taken by patriot assemblies against Tories bred more hatred as family after
family was ordered to leave their lands and homes behind because of their
allegiance to the Crown.
Had the departing British army paid its debts to local people perhaps the situation might have been alleviated somewhat but the Army did not. Instead they left debts, promissory notes, and worthless pledges which meant that simple farming folk who had provided food, goods, or stock in good faith, had only scraps of paper to show for It, and anger!
The Tory exodus, some 100,000 people in all - had begun locally in 1780 when the larger units of British troops were pulled out of Suffolk for action in Southern states. Some 14,000 Tories, native New Yorkers, left their ancestral homes to journey to England, the West Indies or Canada to escape persecution. In 1783 3000 Tory refugees, most from Long Island, founded the city of St. John in New Brunswick. An additional 2000 sailed from Huntington later for the same destination. It was years after the Tory exodus before all property claims and counterclaims were settled. The bitterness faded slowly.
In 1790 an unparalleled excitement came to western Suffolk as word of George Washington's tour of Long Island reached people here. Washington was in the second year of his Presidency and a man of enormous popularity and respect. His purpose was to meet and talk to citizens along the route." He was interested in their views on the government just constituted. Also, as a gentleman farmer, he was curious about Long Island crops, agriculture, and soils.
Traveling with some of his officers, Washington used a cream colored coach drawn by four gray horses with riders. It was an informal tour with no parades or ceremonies. Veterans flocked to see him, and the President greeted and talked with these men and their families. A real politician, he kissed the babies and older women as well.
Washington crossed into Suffolk on April 21, 1790 stopping to sleep at Squire Thompson's, now known as Sagrikos Manor. From here he headed east in the morning stopping at Sayville having lunch in Patchogue. Next, his party headed north through Coramto Setauket where he spent the night at the home of Captain Roe. On the last morning he paused at the Blydenburg home in Smithtown continuing on to the Widow Platt's tavern on the Huntington village green for supper. Washington and his companions drank toasts and dined on native oysters, striped bass, turkey, a round of beef, stuffed veal, and chicken pie. A meal fit for a President
Two other men who would occupy the presidency also visited Suffolk during this period: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They were guests of the William Floyds of Mastic in June of 1791 and while there Jefferson studied the language and vocabulary of the Unquachog or Puspatuck Indians.
The new government took a census in 1790 which showed Suffolk County had 2,868 heads of families; 3,756 white males above 16 years; 3,273 white male children; 7,187 white females, and 1,098 slaves.
Concern for navigation and safety also led the Federal government to erect Montauk Point lighthouse in 1796. This was to become Suffolk County's most enduring landmark. In time other lighthouses were added to aid coastal shipping: Eaton's Neck off Huntington in 1798; Little Gull off Fisher's Island in 1806; Old Fields outside Port Jefferson; Cedar Island at the entrance to Sag Harbor; Ponquogue Beach in 1857 and the light at Fire Island in 1858.
By the beginning of the 19th Century steady progress in rebuilding the Suffolk area was in evidence. That progress was to be slowed by the three year War of 1812 and the "Year Without Summer" in 1816.
While the War of 1812 involved virtually no land action on Long Island, the presence of warships of the British Navy - in the Sound and off Gardiner's Island - posed a threat of sufficient concern to keep privateers and several militia companies occupied.
Sag Harbor bore the brunt of the action. British naval patrols did impede Sag Harbor whalers who then used Connecticut ports to escape harassment. And in 1813 there was a threatened assault from the sea at Sag Harbor. Fortunately people in Sag Harbor were prepared with an arsenal and artillery battery.
The threat was met by militia units, one foot artillery, one infantry and one horse artillery augmented by other troops. No attacks materialized and after the Treaty of Ghent in February 1815 the troops were demobilized and gun installations dismantled by 1816. But Long Island, like much of the nation, fell prey to a disaster ,weather so unusual that there was a crop killing frost every month of the year.
The year 1816 began with unusually warm weather followed by numbing cold spells until mid March. The end of March was very warm but a heavy snowfall ruined April. Farmers ploughed fields and planted in late April thinking things would soon improve rapidly with Spring in the air. Not so. May brought the most severe cold of the year. Plantings were frozen as were all fruit and berry blossoms.
Now farmers were thoroughly alarmed. They replanted with a rising sense of panic when June brought more snow and ice. Winter weather lasted through July and August. Trees were losing leaves and fodder for stock was virtually non-existent. By now birds and other wild game were dying by the thousands for lack of feed and grain. Things were desperate with people surviving primarily on seafood be- cause livestock was dead or dying for want of hay and grain. Public funds were used to ship fish from coastal ports to people inland.
The following spring when seeds were needed for planting, the long-term effects were felt. Since there were no seeds to speak of locally they had to be imported at considerable cost. Fortunately, this natural disaster-which some believed was caused by excessive volcanic ash in the earth's atmosphere.
Suffolk County people lived out their lives-in these times-within the confines of their own farms and villages. There were a half dozen Suffolk newspapers by the 1830's to bring word of outside events but farm families here led rather isolated lives except for stories brought in by seamen and traveling tradesmen. Education and social life were limited to the home, church, and one room schoolhouse where the fundamentals of the 3 R's were taught.
This isolation was to change to a considerable degree because of two commercial developments, the building of the railroad and the growth of the whale oil industry.
In 1834 men of Industry, engIneers and fInancIers, were looking for a quicker railroad transportation route from New York to Boston. An engineering survey declared the Connecticut coastal route "impassable" because of the rugged hills and many rivers to cross. But, on the map between the two cities lay Long Island, flat and cheap. And so was born that noble institution, the Long Island Rail Road. Tracks were laid from the East River to Greenport at the east end of the county where a ferry took passengers and freight to Connecticut and then by train to Boston. The Long Island Rail Road right of way went right down the middle of the island with no regular stops except to take on wood and water. It is ironic that the world's largest local railroad began with absolutely no thought of
service to peopIe of Long Island. Trains ran from the East River to Greenport as early as 1841, but not
without trouble. Local residents did not take kindly to the noisy engines, which frightened livestock and sent soot and hot embers spewing over homes, burning fields and wood lots.
Farmers complained, but to no avail. Their frustration led to violence. Depots were burned, train crews ambushed, rails loosened and tracks soaped, to slow down the "march of progress." But these efforts were no more successful than latter day attempts to stop jet traffic with its
pollution and noise.
What did bring a change in the Long Island Rail Road's attitude was the completion of a direct rail connection between New York and Boston along the "impassable" Connecticut shore route in 1850. Suddenly the Long Island was a railroad without purpose and no place to go. Its tracks were in the middle of the island and most all its potential customers were settled in towns along the north and south shores.
In a short span of years, some twenty separate railroads came on the scene to connect people with the main line. It was a jumble of wheeling and dealing, violence, and conflict, that reflected, in microcosm, what was happening all across the nation. Suffolk was moving from an isolated agrarian society toward its place in an interdependent industrial economy.
As the railroad took its fIrst steps, another principal industry, whaling was reaching its heyday. By 1840 the off shore whaling begun by Indians and the earliest colonists, was a well established part of the Suffolk towns facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Whaleboats were kept in readiness and lookouts posted to spot whales. Mastic Beach had three boats equipped for Instant action; Shinnecock had two boats; six were at Southampton and others were at Bridgehampton, East Hampton, and Amagansett. This offshore whaling effort produced anywhere from one to six whales a year
By the 184Os, when America was a growing nation of twenty two states and 17 million people whalers had expanded their sights to all the oceans of the world. Sailing ships were being fitted out as floating factories to sight, catch and kill whales and to extract their oil, hone and other valuable products.
The principal whaling towns in Suffolk were Cold Spring Harbor, a small town of 600 people which had five vessels claiming it as home port; Greenport with seven vessels, and Sag Harbor. Of the three, Sag Harbor was acknowledged as the leader in whaling. By 1847 eighty eight whaling vessels called Sag Harbor their home port.
Stories of boredom, bad food and treatment mixed with hardship, salt water, and high adventure came back with the whalers after their two and three year trips to the ends of the earth. These tales raised people's consciousness of a larger world. But "out there" events were to take place
that would doom the American whale fishery.
Gold was discovered in California in 1849. The lure of that precious metal attracted young adventurers, whale men and others interested in getting rich quick. No less than 800 whale men abandoned Sag Harbor alone for California. Many whale ships were refitted to carry these
"Forty-Niners" to Panama or around the Horn to the West Coast.
And not so far away in Pennsylvania, a retired railroad conductor, "Colonel" Drake, was to bring in the first rock oil or petroleum well in 1859. This cheap source of energy greatly reduced the demand for whale oil but not before this seafaring industry had added its tales and legends to Suffolk's rich heritage.
The death blows to the whaling fleet came at the hands of Confederate raiders during the Civil War and in Arctic ice which caught and crushed thirty three whaling ships. The last whaler sailed from Sag Harbor in 1871.
The Civil War touched far more people than whaling had. Almost every home in Suffolk was affected as a romantic war of 1861 ground on and became a nightmare of death and destruction before it ended in 1865.
Enthusiasm to maintain the Union was high in 1861 after Southern batteries fired on Fort Sumter on April 12. When President Lincoln called for volunteers to crush the rebellion, the response was strong. Towns and villages that had been assigned a quota of troops to be raised had enthusiastic volunteers in abundance. Indeed, the entire war was fought by volunteers except for those few who had to be drafted in1863.
Suffolk men served In every department of the Army and In most every kind of naval and military unit. Large numbers were in the 127th Regiment of the New York Volunteers, while others were in the 5th Regiment, Corcoran's Irish Legion or Duryea's Zoaves (Second Battalion of the 165th N.Y. Volunteers).
When the war ended there were celebrations for the returning hometown boys, memorial services for the thousands who had fallen, and usually a drive to erect a statue in their honor. Civil War statuary now graces many village greens around Suffolk to honor those who paid the supreme price in
defense of the Union.
The pressures of war had affected agriculture and stimulated the growth of local industry. Mills powered by tide, wind, water, or steam were operating in all parts of the County. Riverhead had an iron foundry in the 1860's using large nodules of pure iron that formed in the sediments of the Peconic River. The chunks of metal were located by poking around with long poles and lifted up by long tongs. Workers crushed this iron and placed it in the furnace with crushed
oyster shells and charcoal. The iron that was freed of some impurities was then formed into ingots to be shaped later at the forge.
Paper mills, woolen processing plants, ice cutting plants, shipment of cordwood, brick yards, potteries, and shipyards gave Suffolk a diversity of industry in its towns.
Agriculture during the latter part of the 19th Century tended toward the crops for which Long Island would be famous: potatoes, cauliflower, and ducks. The latter were brought in from China in 1873; seven Peking Ducks becoming over the years to a $25,000,000 a year industry.
This period also saw the establishment of cranberry bogs and tremendous growth in commercial fishing and shell fishing as well as the catching of menhaden or mossbunkers for oil and fertilizer.
By the mid-19th century another phenomenon, emigration was beginning to have its impact on Suffolk and the United States. For example, between 1791 and 1841 1,750,000 Irish left the 'old sod' for America. Loss of land, repeated potato crop failures, and political strife sent many of the more
imaginative, adventurous, or desperate Irish people toward these shores.
The ships bearing immigrants landed in three ports primarily: New York, Boston or Sag Harbor Some who entered at Sag Harbor were soon taken into the whaling trade which was then sending many ships from that port. Others moved to the Calverton Riverhead area, where they were absorbed
as farm workers.
Following the Irish to the East End farms were Germans in the 1880's and Polish immigrants. While these workers got only about $12.00 a month and board, a thrifty, hard working farm laborer could hope to buy his own farm from his earnings. Indeed, by 1900 some of the North Fork land was owned
and being worked by these new immigrants of the 1800’s.
Other groups, Southern blacks and Puerto Ricans, would come later, but the 19th Century saw a considerable change in the ethnic makeup of this region.
But if the mid-1800's were boom times for population, industry and agriculture, Suffolk also began to show signs of life in the cultural and educational realms as well. New libraries, schools, and academics could be found in Smithtown, Huntington, Miller Place, East Hampton, and a host of other places.
It was in this time period that Walt Whitman was born In West Hills. Perhaps Suffolk's most important son, he showed few distinguishing qualities in his early years on Long Island and New York City.
Born in 1819 to a Quaker carpenter's family, young Walt moved with the family to Brooklyn and grew up there. By 1855 he had already been a teacher, printer and newspaperman, founding The Long Islander, a weekly newspaper that still serves Huntington and Western Suffolk. Whitman traveled throughout the country, read a great deal, and wrote some lack lustre prose and poetry. In 1855 he publIshed Leaves of Grass, a collection of twelve rambling free verse poems which celebrated the individual in a rough and ready world. Whitman's unorthodox style and views did not make the volume a success. Indeed it went almost without much notice save that of some critics who hailed, RaIph Waldo Emerson, among them.
Emerson called Leaves of Grass, "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet produced." This attitude from one of America's most respected minds was of enormous importance to the poet. Whitman brought out nine revisions of Leaves of Grass in his lifetime.
In 1873 he was stricken with paralysis and went to live in Camden, New Jersey, where he died in 1892, bearded patriarch. His poems "Oh Captain, My Captain" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" gained him some popularity. He also received increasing recognition for his contribution to poetic style and thinking from scholars and imitators.
Of less fame nationally, but an artist of importance here, was another son of Suffolk of this time period, William Sidney Mount of Setauket. Mount painted the world he knew picturing working farmers and people of his village, both black people and white. Indeed, Mount was one of the first artists to use black people as subjects for his work.
Nor was man's spirit Ignored. In 1852 Stephen Andrews and Josiah Warren purchased 750 acres near what Is now called Brentwood. Their Intention was to build a utopian community to be ca!led "Modern Times." It was to have wide streets, trees, no competition, gardens, a communal factory, a hall for cultural events, a library, and a quality school system. In less than two years 100 idealistic people were living in Modern Times, trying to fashion a utopian way of life for themselves and their families. Work was organized according to a system of values and priorities. Women wore what they wished, some taking to the popular "bloomer" costumes of the day which permitted greater freedom of
But the good things couldn't last without some trouble.The community acquired an undeserved reputation as favoring "free love.' Hoodlums from outside the community took advantage of this unfair press notoriety and caused trouble for the inhabitants.
The financial panic of the late 1850's and the coming of the Civil War led to the end for this group of idealists as many leaders left. By 1862 without enough industry or agriculture, Modern Times ceased to be a community. With the name changed to Brentwood, all that remains of this idealistic dream are tall pines that the founders planted.
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Turn of the Century is a phrase that has many meanings
but generaIy it is agreed that it covered those years just be- fore and
after 1900 when America moved from rural, small town life to the complexity
and interdependence of modern urban existence.
People may argue about the "real dates" for beginning and ending this transitional era but no one will argue about the tremendous changes that took place. Ideas and achievements that would significantly mold the present century were almost all on stage by 1900.
Locally, people of Long Island were thrilled with the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1883. It seemed a miracle at the time. Imagine a roadway crossing the East River! And local folks were also caught up in the new Bartholdi statue rising above New York Harbor. The shining torch of the Statue of Liberty seemed to reflect the mood of optimism that people felt.
But any talk about the "good old days" must start with the most famous event of all, the Blizzard of '88. Sunday, March 11, 1888 was not unusual for early Spring. It had rained hard much of the day. During the night it had switched to snow. But a little snow often occurs in March; it's such an unpredictable month!
Unpredictable was a good word because without warning it kept right on snowing for three days. Finally, on Wednesday at noon the sun broke through. And on the ground was over three feet of snow with drifts going as high as the roof tops in some places.
John Tooker of Islip was a 14 year old boy at the time. He described the great storm in
'Some small buildings were completely covered by drifts. The windswept the ground bare in front of our kitchen door, and piled up the snow in a drift that reached so high it closed off the view from two of our front room windows. Father was able to get to the barns to feed and water the stock, do the milking and other necessary things. He carried a scoop shovel to avoid being stuck in drifts. On Thursday, March IS father and a hired hand hitched a team of mules to a farm sled and taking me with them they broke a road out through the woods back of our house and got on the road to Islip.
Whenever we found drifts too deep for the team we would get out and shovel off the tops of the drifts. We reached Islip, got our mail and a few things that we needed and got back to the farm with little difficulty. The first train to get through from the city after the storm, arrived on Thursday the 15th, bringing mail, newspapers and passengers and If such a storm would have come in later years I believe that there would have been plenty of trouble on the highways, for horses or mules hitched to sleds can still get through snow drifts easier than automobiles."
On the north side of the Island, Margie Crossman, an eleven year old girl in Huntington, wrote about the storm in a letter dated March 19:
"Main Street in Huntington was filled up for tenor fifteen feet. It was so piled up that all the principal stores on the north side of Main Street moved all their goods to the second floor at the least sign of rain. When Main Street was dug out only narrow roads just wide enough for one way were dug. All the roads had to be dug out before they could be used. In some places they had to turn into the lots and make the road run through them for a ways . . .When the storm's damage was finally put right, people went back to the business at hand, which was mostly farming. Suffolk was still a place of family farms at the turn of the century but the shift to towns had begun. More and more people were leaving the land to build homes and lives around the businesses growing up at every crossroads of Importance here.
The trains are all blocked up. The one that started for New York from here last Monday has not got there yet and the one that left New York for here is a little more than half way here. The telegraph wires were all broken so that since one week ago yesterday only thirteen teen telegrams have been received in Huntington.
The Sound is of use now for one boat went to New York from here last week. When it came back, Saturday, it brought some of the mail and other things that were needed. It also took and brought passengers. This has been our only way of communication with New York for a week . . . "
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"Three hundred years ago the stream that fed the pond, wider and deeper
than it is today, rippled through timberland of Hick’s Neck down to a mud-walled
channel among the cattails and reeds of the marshes. Ever widening as it
progressed, it emptied into Baldwin Bay, a cove off Middle Bay. Thence
by Garret Lead or East Channel the water sought East Rockaway Inlet, beyond
which tossed the Atlantic. A few Indians roamed the Neck seeking deer,
bear, partridges, or quail, fishing in the creeks, digging in the bay for
clams that served a two-fold purpose: the meat for food and the shells
as a medium of exchange. By 1650 there were perhaps a dozen white families
in this little wilderness…
Early highways were not planned, but evolved from footpaths and forest trails. Hick’s Neck Road, now Milburn Avenue, was one of the earliest; another was the highway known as Grand Avenue, the route to Hempstead…
Life on Hick’s Neck must have been much the same as in other American colonies. Economically, it was a farming-pastoral, home-industry community; politically a part of Hempstead, it was governed by the Town Meeting wit the blessings of the Crown; socially, life centered in the church and the taverns.
Course clothing was made on the old spinning wheel and shoes were cut from crudely tanned hides of the farm cattle. Food was grown in the garden patch, hooked from the waters of Parsonage or Milburn Creek, dug from the shallows of the Bay, hunted against the fall skies above the marshes or along the woodland trails. Wood was the tableware of the common folk, supplemented by copper or iron cooking pots and pans. Evenings were short. Eight o’clock found everyone in bed – in winter, in the company of the warming pan!
Most farmers raised stock, the cattle being herded together in a common pasture. The keeper, appointed each year at Town Meeting, went from house to house in the morning to collect his charges, his horn sounding warning of his approach. Detailed ordinances were enacted for the care of cattle, construction of fences, earmarks, penalties for straying. It was the duty of the "hay-warden," and later of the "fence-viewer," to "keep y’e Jadges or Cattle or other Cretors from destroying any Corne…in the filed."
Politically, the town meetings were the life of the community. Neither Dutch or English rule interfered greatly with these local councils. They had the power to grant and lease land, grant mill rights, provide for the poor, make changes in the common land. Serious crimes were uncommon. Wrangles were usually over land boundaries; in one of these, the Smiths brought charges against the Pine family for cutting up and crippling some of their hogs.
Politics, education and religion were closely entwined in the colonial Long Island structure. Church attendance was compulsory; absence was punished by fine, or by banishment for the habitual offender...
For nearly a century after 1683 the Neck enjoyed rural peacefulness and prosperity; to our age of crowded living, the lifer seems to have idyllic. But imperceptibly Hicks Neck found itself involved in America's first mass upheaval as rebellion became a reality. Men gathered together in homes, in taverns, and in meeting houses to discuss the news. Imports from England were tabooed by an extra-legal Continental Congress; persons of "no family" and no business or public experience were assuming unwonted powers; news came of tar-and-featherings and riots and bloodshed. When the smoldering sparks burst into flames, the Neck population was hopelessly divided...."
Hick's Neck, the Story of Baldwin, Long Island
The Revolutionary War on Long Island was an extremely turbulent time, probably more than any other place in the Colonies because of the great number of Loyalists there. Boston was lost to the British early in the War and their attention was now turned to New York and it's harbor and resources. Even Loyalists from Connecticut and Massachusetts were fleeing to Long Island. The Continetal Congress knew this and measures were taken to identify and confiscate the guns of loyalists, exports were not permitted from Long Island except as approved by the Continental Congress, forced military service,or even "deportation" from Long Island and jail in neighboring Colonies and confiscation of personal property and estate. After the disasterous "Battle of Long Island" the American troops were forced into retreat from the Island for the remainder of the War and many Long Island units simply ceased to be - and now retribution was on the "Whigs" by the British and Loyalists for their earlier indignties and perscecutions. New York City became the British headquarters and it was Long Island's fate to house, feed and maintain the army for the remainder of the war. To the Carman family, as all the families of the Island, it meant families would devide against themselves, much as it would happen 85 years later in the American Civil War.
The British did not depart Long Island until 1783, marking seven years of occupation. Long Island began a period of change it would never recover from. Not only families but entire communities were split. During the British occupation of Long Island virtually all churches, except the 'official' Church of England, were closed by the British order. Several cemeteries found their grave markers being pulled up and used cooking fire hearths for the British troops.n"> Many families of Long Island were effected by the Revolutionary War. It seems there were few fence sitters in those days.
"When smoldering sparks broke out into flame, the Neck population was hopelessly divided: even families split into opposing camps; The Smith, Townsends...Kissams and Cornwells...were all well represented on both sides. The Dodge, Onderdonck, Schenck and Sands families were overwhelmingly or entirely Whig, while the Hewletts, Motts, Pearsalls, Ludlows, Clowes and Dentons were largely Tory." - Hick's Neck, the Story of Baldwin, Long Island.
"To the Hempstead Loyalists the Continental Congress was a bunch of "lawless upstarts", and they refused to participate in the Provincial Congress called by that body. For this they paid dearly; they were in effect outlawed by the Congress and their thereafter harassed by economic sanctions. Their boats were seized by committees of Minute Men, their arms were taken from them to prevent their assisting the British; shore and ship patrols were established along the coast; many Loyalists were arrested, and others sought the woods, the cornfields, and the South Side swamps to hide from the Patriots, who pursued them relentlessly... After the defeat of the Americans in the Battle of Long Island, the tables were completely turned; the Rebel sympathizers were on the run. Among those who fled were John Smith Rock and William Tredwell.
The entrance of the British into Hempstead was greeted with huzzahs by the Tory population, but it was not long before resentment toward the King's men was as strong as the hate of the Rebels. Tories and Whigs alike were subject to compulsory billeting and levies of grain, cattle, and other farm products; their homes became the scenes of brawls; even winter fuel was stolen from their sheds. They suffered in common hardships of a military occupation... Perhaps the ravages of the Revolution were far less on the scattered farms and among the baymen of Hick's Neck than in the streets of Hempstead Village. But certainly the southside must have thrilled to the excitement of smuggling raids under cover of the night; the house-tops providing ring side seats for many a skirmish off the beach, and more than once a fleeing Tory or Whig must have been found hidden in a farmer's haystack." - Hicks Neck, the Story of Baldwin, Long Island.
"In Nov. 1775, 5 [different] Samuel Carmans, distinguished as "Capt", "Jr", and "3rd" (this designation appears twice) and "O" (Oyster Bay), voted to send no deputies to the Provincial Congress (REV.PAP. 1:183 ff). The 'Capt' in this list must have been No. 73 [this Samuel]. He was probably one of the four who apologized in Jan. 1776 for having worried their fellow- countrymen unduly and swore that they had surrendered all their arms (REV.PAP. 1:215 ff). In Oct. 1776, after the British had secured control again, 3 Samuels declared their loyalty to King George III. One of these was very likely No. 125 [son of Silas-5], the other two are not easily identified. (Onkerdonk, Rev. Inc. in Queens Co., LI). It should be explained in regards to the four Samuels who changed their minds, that shortly before the mass apology, a few hundred Continental "storm troopers" were sent to Hempstead and vicinity. To those of us living in the country today and fearing nothing worse from the Government's ill temper than a visit from the income tax collector, the conduct of the Hempstead Tories does not sound very heroic. But it must be remembered that the opposition was organized, was able to secure further military supplies if necessary, and being far from home was not worried about the fate of the countryside during and after the battles. The Hempsteaders on the other hand were handicapped in these respects. But since they were doubtless aware that they could not count on help from the British for some time (in the usual manner of the British) they should have organized themselves and armed sufficiently and they would not have had to fear for their homes half so much as they had to, after they surrendered without a struggle (possibly some doughty souls resisted at their doorsteps but they were very few in number) and before the arrival of the British later in the year. They did not lack for a leader, for in Richard Hewlett, the Tories possessed a forceful man with military experience. He was instrumental in keeping Hempstead loyal but he evidently did not succeed in putting in condition to fight. In the writer's opinion, The Hempsteaders were forced to sign that humiliating apology in great numbers because of the great reluctance of the conservative mind to resort to force."- John-1 Carman of Hempstead, Long Island and Some of his Descendants Thru His Son John-2, Henry Alanson Tredwell, Jr, August 1946, Collection of the NYGBS, New York City.
"Those who remained on the Island were compelled to swear allegiance to King George. Some did this with good grace, and some of necessity. To none was it so distasteful as we are disposed to imagine. The men of that day had all the inveterate respect and affection for the sovereign that British have today. The revolution began in protest against injustice, but with loyalty to the king unimpaired, and with no thought of ultimate separation. Washington, when he took command of the continental army, desired to right the wrongs of the colonies but "abhorred the idea of independence." Thomas Jefferson was of the same mind. Reasonable concessions and conciliatory spirit on the part of the king would have ended the struggle before it was well begun. Loyal subjects who asked for nothing but redress of grievances were treated as rebels, stern and unjust oppression followed, and eventually the sovereign whom they loved was become the tyrant whom they hated. Before things had gone to such lengths the people of Long Island were forced to make their decision, for the British forces were in absolute possession. Some of the best and most honorable men of the Island were thoroughly loyal to the British Crown and were afterwards despised as Tories, and suffered the confiscation of their estates. Some were on fire with colonial patriotism and could do nothing but flee to parts not occupied by British troops. Most were undecided, as most of the men of that time in any of the colonies would have been under similar circumstances, and let necessity shape their course. Their homes, their lands, their flocks and herds, all their wealth, present and prospective, were on the Island, and the Island was wholly in the hands of the army of King George. To flee was to leave all and go out empty-handed. For the aged, the sick, those encumbered with dependent families, flight was impossible. The few who had ready money might flee with some hope, young men or unattached men might flee, but the majority had no choice but to remain and give up their arms and take the oath of allegiance. Many who had fought in the disastrous Battle of Long Island had nothing for it, when once the invaders were established in the Island, but to return to their homes and families and submit to the inevitable. There were no other people in all the bounds of the colonies so helpless as the Long Islanders, utterly cut off from their fellow Americans. And there were no people of the colonies who suffered more." - "A History of Mattituck, Long Island, N.Y."
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