History

Huntington High School students have given a presidential gift to the Town of Huntington that is already being called “timeless.”

Huntington town officials unveiled a new historic marker Sept. 21 in Municipal Lot 49 on New York Avenue commemorating a speech given during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1903 by former President Theodore Roosevelt’s (R).

“In doing so today, we are not only honoring the president who came to address the residents of our town, but the importance of the legacy he left behind,” said Katelyn Sage, a senior at Huntington High School.

Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Sage and Huntington senior Luke Farrell have worked together during the past year to research Roosevelt’s 1903 visit to Huntington with Joseph Levy, Huntington school district’s chairman of humanities. After hours of research, the students learned a committee of local women searched through attics, basements and barns to pull together a collection of artifacts from the town’s Colonial era ahead of the presidential visit, according to Sage. The committee and collection served as the foundation of the current Huntington Historical Society.

“Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

On the Fourth of July in 1903, Roosevelt gave a speech praising civic-minded virtues to a large crowd gathered in an empty field now near the intersection of New York Avenue and Gerard Street in Huntington. It was reenacted by Theodore Roosevelt impersonator Leer Leary at the unveiling ceremony Sept. 21. A short excerpt is also written on the historic marker.

“In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonesty,” the supervisor said, reading the selected Roosevelt quote. “That’s advice to heed for our representative government at all levels, whether it’s the local level, state level or national level.”

In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonest.”

— Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 speech

Roosevelt was only the second sitting president to visit Huntington, according to Lupinacci, after George Washington, who dined at the former Platt’s Tavern in 1790. No sitting president has visited the town since. A traditional blue-and-gold historic marker was erected in 1932 by the New York State Education Department near the intersection of Park Avenue and Route 25A to mark Washington’s visit.

“Luke, Mr. Levy and I have researched and organized this project in order to commemorate an important historic event that not only happened in our town, but has yet to be acknowledged,” Sage said.

The marker commemorating Roosevelt’s visit, funded by Huntington High School’s student government, bears a different design. The students choose to install a plaque that displays a black-and-white photo of the occasion, the quote from Roosevelt’s speech and a short caption describing the historical significance of the event.

“I congratulate them for doing a wonderful job commemorating a period from 115 years ago,” Town historian Robert Hughes said. “The quote they selected reflects modern-day America as well. This is a timeless historic marker.”

A ‘Bill of Health’ certificate stating that the whaling vessel Splendid is free of plague or disease with 28 men on board, including the master, Richard P. Smith, on Oct. 27, 1853. From the Whaling Museum Collection

By Nomi Dayan

Have you ever been asked to please stand by? Ever told someone not to barge in? Have you hung on to the bitter end, or been given a clean bill of health? If so, you have spoken like a sailor. 

Each type of human activity, noted essayist L. Pearsall Smith, has its own vocabulary. Perhaps this is most evident in the speech of mariners. 

The English language is a strong testament to how humans have been seafarers for millennia, with a multitude of words and phrases having filtered from life at sea to life on land. Today, a surprising number of phrases, words and expressions still have nautical origins, notably from sailing terminology in the 18th and 19th centuries. While some adopted phrases have fallen by the wayside, many expressions in our everyday language are derived from seafaring.

Barge in: Referring to flat-bottomed work boats, which were awkward to control

Bitter end: The last part of a rope attached to a vessel

Clean bill of health: A document certifying a vessel had been inspected and was free from infection

Dead in the water: A sailing ship that has stopped moving

Down the hatch: A transport term for lowering cargo into the hatch and below deck

Figurehead: A carved ornamental figure affixed to the front of a ship

Foul up: To entangle the line

Fudge the books: While the origins of this term is unclear, one theory connects it to a deceitful Captain Fudge (17th century)

Give leeway: To allow extra room for sideways drift of a ship to leeward of the desired course

High and dry: A beached ship 

Jury rig: Makeshift or temporary repairs using available material

Keel over: To capsize, exposing the ship’s keel   

Show the ropes: Train a newcomer in the use of ropes on sailing vessel

Letting the cat out of the bag: One explanation links this phrase to one form of naval punishment where the offender was whipped with a “cat o’ nine tails,” normally kept in a bag  

Passed with flying colors/Show one’s true colors: Refers to identifying flags and pennants of sailing ships

Pipe down: Using the boatswain’s pipe signaling the crew to retire below deck

A new slant: A sailor will put a new slant on things by reducing sails to achieve an optimum angle of heel to avoid the boat from being pulled over

Slush fund: The ship’s cook created a private money reserve by hoarding bits of grease into a slush fund sold to candle makers

Steer clear: Avoid obstacles at sea

Taken aback: Sails pressed back into the mast from a sudden change of wind, stopping forward motion 

The author is the executive director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor.

Photo by Anthony White

The fourth annual Culper Spy Day was held Saturday, Sept. 15 offering participants self-guided tours of 24 locations in the Three Village area and Port Jefferson including eight more spots than previous years.

Margo Arceri, founder of the event and owner of Tri-Spy Tours, was pleased with this year’s turnout of more than 800 visitors.

Margo Arceri speaks to visitors about Culper Spy Abraham Woodhull at his gravesite in the Setauket Presbyterian Church Cemetery during the event. Photo by Michael Rosengard

“Culper Spy Day has grown beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “From Manhattan to Montauk, attendees get to learn and understand just how the Culper Spy Ring helped change the course of the Revolution. These were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Without the hard work and efforts of each individual
organization and their volunteers, it would not be what it is today.”

Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum hosted the  day with more than 40 organizations participating. Ticketholders experienced Revolutionary War encampments; docent-led tours of historic homes, churches and cemeteries; blacksmith demonstrations; Colonial cooking; children’s activities; invisible ink demonstrations, a TURN memorabilia auction and more.

OVER THE RAINBOW

Helen Badoyannis of Setauket captured this radiant photo in her hometown. She writes, “ I took this photo on July 22 following a downpour resulting in an exquisite rainbow with brilliant colors and demarcations. I happened to be passing by the historic Thompson House and took this just before the rainbow disappeared.”

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

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A Smithsonian postcard shows the interior of the Headsville, West Virginia, country store and post office installed in the National Museum of History and Technology, Washington, D.C., which includes many of the items found in the old Jonas Hawkins Store and Ordinary.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Part two of two.

Following the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, 31-year-old Major Jonas Hawkins, Stony Brook general store owner and former courier for the Culper Spy Ring, continued operating Jonas Hawkins Store and Ordinary from his home in Stony Brook.

Students check out a general store display in the Setauket Elementary School auditorium during a 2012 Founders Day program. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By the beginning of the 19th century, the general store came into its own as an institution. It was an outgrowth of independence, and an example of Yankee know-how and frontier enterprise at its best.

The seemingly inexhaustible supply of American lumber and timbers plus a few manufactured items such as barrels went from U.S. ports to the West Indies where they were traded for rum, molasses and sugar. This island produce was, before the Revolutionary War, shipped in turn to England to be traded for manufactured goods — clothing, glass, china and tea — to name just a few. After the Revolutionary War, the trade continued, but the so-called triangle trade was extended to other European countries and to China as American ships began to bring their own tea, spices and other commodities back to the United States from all corners of the world.

In large part, no money changed hands between the country general store owner and the importer or between the merchant and the local seller of eggs and bacon. Bills of credit were commonly given by the importers and continued to be the general practice until late in the 19th century. The country merchant’s major asset was the produce that he collected by barter. The general store owner was in contact with the large general stores in New York City which sold both wholesale and retail as well as with the coastwise schooner captains, freight shippers, money brokers and various jobbing houses.

The country general store was a natural gathering place for residents of the community, especially in the cold winter months when many farmers, farmhands and seamen had nothing better to do. There was often a bench in the store, placed outside in the warmer months, called the liars bench. In the colder weather, the men who came to the store would find places close by the stove which often sat in the open near the middle of the room. It was here that stories were told, tall tales were spun, and the latest information on the state of the nation and the world was discussed. It was often the store owner who had the latest newspaper from New York City, or there was a ship captain who had just arrived with fresh news from one of the major ports.

Benjamin Franklin Thompson — his father called him Franklin — was just 16 years old in 1801. He was a hard, if not willing, worker on his father’s farm in Setauket, and he was often sent to Jonas Hawkins Store and Ordinary for a variety of items.

“November 18, 1800 — Tuesday … Franklin rides to Major Hawkins to carry 36 yards of cloth, gets half a pound paper of tobacco at 0/9 (0 shillings, 9 pence) carries 2 bushels of wheat to mill [Stony Brook Grist Mill] and fetches it home.”

About half the entries in Samuel Thompson’s diary which detailed trips to the general stores in Setauket and Stony Brook indicate that Samuel went himself.

“July 23, 1800 — Wednesday … Ride to Major Hawkins yesterday fetch 2 gall Rum pay 17/. Buye six yards of callonnick for my wife a pettecoat pay 24/ for it.”

It was usual for Thompson to visit the home and store of Hawkins since he was one of the few doctors in the community, and the general store was a vital source of news about local residents as well as being the source of many of Thompson’s medicines.

The inside of a wooden cigarillos box with a typical general store scene. Image from Beverly C. Tyler

“October 9, 1800 — Thursday … I ride to see Betsey Kelly then to Major Hawkins in the afternoon pay 10/ for a gallon of rum get 10 oz common Peruvian Bark pay 3/11.”

Thompson also listed senna and white vitriol as medicines that he purchased during the year 1800 from Hawkins’ store.

Thompson recorded in his diary an average of one trip a month to the general store of Hawkins. His purchases for 10 months included 12 gallons of rum. Thompson had a 200-acre farm and at least five farmhands. His purchases also included small quantities of sherry, gin and brandy. He also records the purchase of earthen cups, pipes, a pitcher and pins.

The country general-store owners were usually a fairly easygoing lot, and they put up with a great deal of tomfoolery from the bench warmers. They were also a no-nonsense breed who recognized a good product or a good worker.

As the 19th century began, the country general store began to change and grow. In 1805, Artemas Kennedy of Arlington, Massachusetts, near Boston, started the Kennedy Biscuit Company. The first “sea biscuits” were supplied to clipper ships as a staple for sailors on the long voyages around Cape Horn to California. The sea biscuit or cracker soon became popular on land as well as at sea, and the cracker barrel soon became a standard item in the country stores.

For those would like to experience an authentic country store, there is the St. James General Store located at 516 Moriches Roads. This “old-fashioned” general store is run for the benefit of residents and visitors through the Suffolk County Parks Department, Division of Historic Services. There are two floors of 19th- and 20th-century goods, and lots of homemade goodies. They have an extensive collection of old-style candies, with many brands that date back to the 19th century. On the second floor are books on Long Island covering many local communities, as well as lots of wonderful children’s books. The back room has an extensive collection of ornaments, some of which are reproductions of antique decorations. Back on the first floor there is a large selection of toys, dolls and games for children that also harken back to the 19th century.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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William K. Vanderbilt’s superyacht, the Alva, before World War II. File photo

William K. Vanderbilt II (1878–1944) spent years dreaming of and designing his 264-foot yacht Alva. The luxurious ship, named after his mother, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, was custom built at the Krupp-Germaniawerft shipyard in Kiel, Germany, on a design by Cox & Stephens. It was powered by two diesel engines with an auxiliary electric motor. Top speed was 16 knots. 

 On Aug. 5, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum marked the 75th anniversary of the yacht’s wartime service and recalled its tragic sinking on Aug. 5, 1943.

Aboard the Alva, steaming out of Kiel on March 5, 1931, William and Rosamond Vanderbilt began the ship’s inaugural voyage from Europe to Miami and then New York. The trip was preparation for their epic seven-month circumnavigation of the globe that began in July of that year. During the voyage, Vanderbilt collected marine life, invertebrates and cultural artifacts for his Centerport museum.

Ten years, later, just before the United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked yacht owners to donate their boats to the U.S. Navy. Vanderbilt answered the call.

The Alva after being converted to a Navy ship.
Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

On Nov. 4, 1941, a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor, he gave the Alva to the Navy, which converted it to a patrol gunboat. The ship was renamed the USS Plymouth (PG 57).

The Vanderbilt family had served in every major conflict since the War of 1812. In 1917, William Vanderbilt was commissioned as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. From May 9 to Oct. 1, 1917, he patrolled U.S. coastal waters in his ship Tarantula II.

The following details of the Alva’s life as the USS Plymouth are from the Vanderbilt Museum archives and from Uboat.net, a history website based in Iceland with contributing writers from Germany, the United States, Canada and Europe:

On April 20, 1942, the Plymouth was commissioned and based in Norfolk, Virginia. Assigned to the Inshore Patrol Squadron in the 5th Naval District, she made several convoy escort voyages between New York, Key West and Guantanamo, Cuba, during 1942-43.

On the evening of Aug. 5, 1943, the Plymouth was escorting a ship convoy 120 miles southeast of Cape Henry, Virginia. The ship’s sonar gear alerted the captain and crew of underwater movement in the vicinity. Moments later, the Plymouth was spotted in the periscope of U-566, a German submarine. The sub launched a torpedo at 9:37 p.m.

“The gunboat had made an underwater sound contact while escorting a coastal convoy,” the Uboat.net entry reported. “Just as the ship swung left to bear on the target, she was struck just abaft the bridge. The ship rolled first to starboard, then took a heavy list to port with the entire port side forward of amidships in flames and sank within two minutes.”

 Of the Plymouth’s 179 officers and men, only 84 survived. They were picked up in heavy seas by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Calypso and arrived in Norfolk on Aug. 6.

 The commander, Lt. Ormsby M. Mitchel Jr., was thrown violently against a bulkhead by the explosion. He sustained serious injuries, which later required amputation of his left leg. Despite his own condition, he directed abandon-ship operations and remained at his post until the ship went down. Mitchel was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism.

Learn more about the Alva and William K. Vanderbilt’s other yachts by visiting the mansion’s Ship Model Room at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Fall hours through Nov. 4 are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

Rocky Point firefighters remember those lost on 9/11 at a ceremony last year. Photo by Kevin Redding

Dear Readers, 

Seventeen years ago, the United States changed forever when four hijacked jetliners were intentionally crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The following ceremonies will be held on the North Shore to honor the thousands of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, a day that will live forever in our hearts.

 

Commack

The Commack School District will present A Night of Reflection in remembrance of 9/11 at the Heroes Memorial Track at the Commack High School football field, 1 Scholar Lane, Commack on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. Call 631-912-2000.

East Northport

The East Northport Fire Department, 1 Ninth Ave., East Northport will host two 9/11 memorial services on Sept. 11  — a morning ceremony at 9:45 a.m. and an evening candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Call 631-261-0360.

Huntington

The public is invited to join Town of Huntington officials for a ceremony on Sept. 9 at noon at the Heckscher Park 9/11 memorial, 147 Main St., Huntington. Call 631-351-3012.

Port Jefferson

The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Vigiano Brothers Lodge 3436 invite the community to join them for a candlelight remembrance of 9/11 at Harborfront Park, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. Candles and refreshments will be provided. Call 631-928-7489.

Rocky Point

Remembering those lost on 9/11 at a ceremony in Rocky Point last year. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point Fire Department will host a ceremony at the 9/11 Community Memorial, at the corner of Route 25A and Tesla Street in Shoreham, on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Call 631-744-4102.

Setauket

The Setauket Fire Department will conduct a 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Hook and Ladder Company 1, Station 3, Nicolls Road, Setauket on Sept. 11 at 7:45 p.m. followed by refreshments in the firehouse. Call 631-941-4900, ext. 1043.

9/11 Labyrinth Walk

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket, will host an indoor candelit Labyrinth Walk for Rememberance on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. Come to remember and honor a loved one and bring a small memento of that person. Facilitated by Linda Mikell, the walk will be accompanied by the music of cellist Stephanie Iovine, right, and will be preceded by an explanation of the history and the use of the labyrinth. All are welcome. Free will donation. For more information, call 631-751-0297.

Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann in a scene from ‘Operation Finale’. Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures

By Jeffrey Sanzel

“Operation Finale” depicts the Israeli secret agents who extracted notorious S.S. Lt. Col. Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires. Directed by Chris Weitz, with a screenplay by Matthew Orton, this is a taut historical thriller using Mossad agent Peter Malkin’s book, “Eichmann in My Hands,” for its source.

Eichmann was considered the architect of the Final Solution. It was he who masterminded the transportation logistics that brought millions of innocent Jews to their deaths in concentration camps across Europe. In writing of Eichmann, Hannah Arendt referred to “the banality of evil” — an “ordinary” man who expressed neither remorse nor responsibility for his hideous actions, the epitome of “just following orders.” He has been represented in books, plays and films throughout the latter half of the twentieth and well into the twenty-first century.

Mossad agent Isser Harel’s The House on Girabaldi Street(1975) was turned into a television movie in 1979.  The Man Who Captured Eichmann(also using Eichmann in My Hands) explores much of the same territory.  Robert Shaw’s playThe Man in the Glass Booth(and subsequent film) were inspired by Eichmann’s trial.  Eichmann has been portrayed by Robert Duvall, Stanley Tucci, Donald Pleasance, Maximillian Schell, Werner Klemperer, and Alfred Burke.

Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann in a scene from ‘Operation Finale’. Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures

In “Operation Finale” the year is 1960 and the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, is given information that points to Eichmann having escaped to Buenos Aires where he now lives under the alias Ricardo Klement. The film follows the covert mission of a small band of agents as they confirm, capture and finally transport Eichmann to Jerusalem to stand trial.

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (in a strong cameo by Simon Russel Beale) imparts the importance of the mission: “Our memory reaches back through recorded history. The book of memory still lies open. And you here now are the hand that holds the pen. If you succeed, for the first time in our history, we will judge our executioner. And we will warn off any who wishes to follow his example. If you fail, he escapes justice, perhaps forever. I beg you. Do not fail.”

It is a delicate balance to blend a Holocaust drama with a thriller. It is a fine and often dangerous line when representing anything that touches on this topic. While the movie does not take place during the Holocaust, it is clearly part of its aftermath and therefore must be approached as carefully and as honestly as possible. For the most part, the film succeeds, working best when the two leads engage.

Oscar Isaac plays Mossad agent Peter Malkin, while Ben Kingsley is Eichmann, his emotionally manipulative arch-nemesis. These are two masterful actors delivering powerful, understated performances. It is their scenes that resonate most strongly.

Isaac displays the conflict of the character’s desire for revenge (his sister and her children, murdered in Lublin, are represented in visions that haunt him throughout) weighed against the need to bring Eichmann to justice on the world stage. His struggle is both painful and vivid.  Kingsley — who has portrayed Holocaust survivors Itzhak Stern in “Schindler’s List” and Otto Frank in “Anne Frank: The Whole Story” — delivers a disturbingly subtle and emotionally complicated Eichmann in an unnervingly nuanced performance.

There are moments that are chilling in their simplicity: watching Eichmann counting train cars with his very young son as the agents spy on them; Malkin shaving Eichmann with a straight razor; Eichmann’s casual question, “Who did we take from you, Peter? Who did you lose?”; a sleeve revealing a blue tattoo.  

The tension and conflict among the captors themselves, who each bring varied points of view, highlights their humanity, and lends further texture to the film. In addition, this is a dangerous Argentina, with a harrowing scene depicting a gathering of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. There is a clear sense that the government is more than complicit in its protection of these murderers. These elements enrich the world in which it is set.

The film is brisk and focused and the performances are uniformly strong. In supporting roles, Nick Kroll, Michael Aronov and Mélanie Laurent (all part of the Mossad team) are particularly noteworthy. While occasionally exchanging depth for dramatic tension, overall, “Operation Finale” is an engaging and often disquieting account of a very important historical event.

From left, Major Benjamin Tallmadge (Art Billadello) and Abraham Woodhull (Beverly C. Tyler) read a copy of The Royal Gazette dated July 21, 1780 on the grounds of the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket as Big Bill the Tory, aka William Jayne II (David Burt), looks on. Billadello is wearing a dragoon coat from the AMC television series ‘TURN’ that will be auctioned off at Gallery North’s Studio during Culper Spy Day. Photo by Heidi Sutton

 ‘Lucky is the child who listens to a story from an elder and treasures it for years.’

Barbara Russell, Town of Brookhaven Historian 

By Heidi Sutton

Margo Arceri first heard about George Washington’s Setauket spies from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong, in the early 1970s. Arceri lights up when talking about her favorite spy, Anna Smith Strong. 

“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-granddaughter, originally told me about the Culper Spy Ring when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong III. One of her stories was about Nancy (Anna Smith Strong’s nickname) and her magic clothesline. My love of history grew from there,” she said.

Five years ago Arceri approached the Three Village Historical Society’s President Steve Hintze and the board about conducting walking, biking and kayaking tours while sharing her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution.

Today, Arceri runs Tri-Spy Tours in the Three Village area, which follows in the actual footsteps of the Culper Spy Ring. “I wanted to target that 20- to 60-year-old active person,” she said.  “I have to thank AMC’s miniseries “TURN” because 80 percent of the people who sign up for the tour do so because of that show,” she laughs. 

It was during one of those tours that Arceri came up with the idea of having a Culper Spy Day, a day to honor the members of Long Island’s brave Patriot spy ring who helped change the course of history and helped Washington win the Revolutionary War.

The Brewster House, considered to be the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven, will be open for tours on Culper Spy Day.

“Visiting places like the Brewster House, which is owned by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the grave site of genre artist William Sidney Mount at the Setauket Presbyterian Church cemetery (whose paintings are at The Long Island Museum) and the Country House, which every one of the spies visited,” Arceri thought “there has to be a day designated to celebrating all these organizations in the Three Village and surrounding areas; where each of us can give our little piece of the story and that’s how Culper Spy Day developed.”

After a successful three-year run, the fourth annual Culper Spy Day will be held on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. offering self-guided tours of 24 locations including eight new spots for the ultimate Culper Spy Day experience. “The more the merrier,” laughs Arceri.

One new event you won’t want to miss is an interactive tour at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket where you’ll experience a different spin on George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring. Maintained by Preservation Long Island, the property boasts a 1700s saltbox home, apple orchard, barn, an ice house, corn crib, a pasture and nature trail.

According to Darren St. George, education and public programs director at Preservation Long Island, the farm was originally owned by the Jayne family.

“The property was purchased by Mathias Jayne in 1730 [who built a lean-to saltbox dwelling] which is eventually passed down to William Jayne II in 1768 who expands the house after his second marriage,” he said, continuing, “[William] was involved with local government, he was a constable, so he had some stature and clout in the community and it was nice to have a more substantial home.”

However, when the Revolutionary War broke out, Jayne chose to remain a Loyalist and a steadfast supporter of the crown.

Meet Big Bill the Tory at the Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket on Culper Spy Day and learn the TRUTH about George Washington’s pesky band of renegade spies! Photo by Darren St. George, Preservation Long Island

“William Jayne II was a known Tory in the neighborhood,” said St. George. “Long Island was occupied by many Tories, many people still supported the king and didn’t want to upset the status quo, but as the war concluded, most Torys moved to Canada or Connecticut or they turned their back on the king entirely, but Jayne doesn’t. He still stays a Tory, he has his reputation and still thrives in the community,” eventually acquiring the nickname Big Bill the Tory.

When Jayne passed away, the home remained in the family until it was sold in 1908 to Preservation Long Island’s founder, Howard C. Sherwood, who used the home to showcase his many antiques. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

During Culper Spy Day, ticketholders will be able to take part in a 20-minute guided tour of the first floor of the home, specifically the Jayne Parlor (which was added after the Revolutionary War), the Sherwood Living Room (which was the original 1730 home) and the Tap Room (kitchen/dining room).

One of the more interesting features of the home are the original late-18th-century hand-painted floral wall frescoes on the walls of the Jayne Parlor. Commissioned by William Jayne II, they were rediscovered underneath wallpaper by Sherwood in 1916 who had them restored by well-known artist Emil Gruppé. “One small panel was left untouched so that you can see how it’s weathered through the years,” St. George pointed out during a recent tour.

The home contains artifacts that specifically relate to the American Revolution, including paneling on the fireplace wall and shutters on a bar in the Tap Room that came from the Tallmadge House of Setauket, believed to be the birthplace of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, a founding member of the spy ring who would become George Washington’s chief intelligence officer.

As a special treat, Big Bill the Tory, portrayed by David Burt, will make a guest  appearance during each tour and share his views on the Culper Spy Ring and the noble intentions of King George III. “He’ll explain what life has been like for him as a Loyalist — the other side of the story that we’re really not hearing too much of,” explained St. George.

Parking will be in the field next to the property and visitors are asked to line up at the back door for the tour, which will be ongoing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Apple cider and donuts will be available for purchase.

Arceri’s favorite part of the day is “seeing all these different organizations coming together as a whole. It really is our Revolutionary story,” she said. “Everywhere you turn in the Three Villages you are looking at an artifact, and as the historical society believes, the community is our museum and that I would really love to put on the forefront of people’s minds.”

Admission is $25 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 12 and may be purchased in advance at the Three Village Historical Society (TVHS), 93 North Country Road, Setauket, by calling 631-751-3730 or by visiting www.tvhs.org. Veterans and children under the age of 6 are free. 

Tickets may be picked up at the TVHS from Sept. 11 to 15. At that time, participants will receive a bracelet and a copy of the Culper Spy Day map with all event listings and include access to 24 Culper Spy Ring locations. If available, tickets on the day of the event may be purchased at the historical society.

Participating organizations: 

The fourth annual Culper Spy Day is presented by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, the Long Island Museum and The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in collaboration with the Benjamin Tallmadge District of the Boy Scouts; Campus Bicycle; Caroline Church of Brookhaven; Country House Restaurant; Custom House; Discover Long Island; Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum; East Hampton Library, Long Island Collection; Emma S. Clark Memorial Library; Fairfield Historical Society, Fairfield Museum & History Center; Frank Melville Memorial Park; Fraunces Tavern® Museum; Gallery North; History Close at Hand; Huntington Historical Society; Huntington Militia; Joseph Lloyd Manor House; Ketcham Inn Foundation; Northport Historical Society; Old Methodist Church; Paumanok Tours; Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce; Port Jefferson Free Library; Preservation Long Island; Raynham Hall Museum; Rock Hall Museum; Setauket Elementary School; Setauket Harbor Task Force; Setauket Neighborhood House; Setauket Presbyterian Church; Sherwood-Jayne Farm; Stirring Up History; Stony Brook University Libraries, Special Collections; Stony Brookside Bed and Bike Inn; Three Village Community Trust; The Three Village Inn; Times Beacon Record News Media; and the Underhill Society of America Inc. 

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The home of Jonas Hawkins is still located at the intersection of Route 25A and Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Beverly C. Tyler

Part one of two

Major Jonas Hawkins, son of Major Eleazer and Ruth (Mills) Hawkins, was born in Stony Brook, April 28, 1752, in what is now known as the Hawkins-Mount House at the intersection of Route 25A and Stony Brook Road. Jonas Hawkins married his first cousin Ruth Mills, Jan. 1, 1775, a little more than three months before the first shots were fired at Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, April 18 and 19, 1775 — dates that marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

Hawkins was one of 73 men who signed the Association to sustain the Continental Congress and The Provincial Conventional in Brookhaven on June 8, 1775. The men who signed pledged themselves to stand against British tyranny. The list also included Selah Strong and Jonathan and Samuel Thompson who supplied intelligence to Gen. Washington in 1777, before becoming refugees in Connecticut after their spying was discovered.

It appears that during the entire Revolutionary War, Hawkins and his wife remained at their home and farm in Stony Brook as six of their children were born there between 1776 and 1783. It is also known that Hawkins made a number of trips into New York City to gather information that he supplied to Washington through the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring between January and June 1779. He also needed to make trips to New York City to purchase dry goods and other items that were necessary for the general store and ordinary that he ran out of his home in Stony Brook.

Hawkins’ home was built in 1757, and the loading door on the third-story gable end still reads, “Jonas Hawkins Store and Ordinary.” We don’t know exactly when the general store was started but by 1780, and probably by the end of 1778, it was in full operation with Hawkins making frequent trips to New York City.

The bill of credit below, part of the Three Village Historical Society’s Local History Collection, is one of a number of handwritten bills that indicate the range of products that rural general store merchants stocked and had available. Bills of credit for Hawkins from 1780 through 1784 indicate that he also made purchases from many wholesalers such as “Elijah & Isaac Cock,” “Woodhull and Dickinson,” “Pearsall Glover” and “Willet Seaman.”

“Bought of Peter Smith & co … Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov 17th 1780

5 Razors at l/9 … 8 .. 9 (8 shillinas, 9 pence)

1 gross sleeve buttons 19..

1 Bladder Snuff 4/6 18..7

6 u(units) pepper @ 3/6. 1. .. 1 (1 pound, 1 shilling)

Mr. Jonas Hawkins”

The range of items Hawkins purchased is quite extensive and indicates that local residents, especially after the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), had a wide range of goods available from the country general store. Hawkins, bought quantities of “Callico” (imported cotton textile), “Linnen,” “Superfine cloth” (finely woven linen), “Durant” (a variety of worsted wool),” “Cambruk” (cambric, linen or fine white cotton glazed on one side), “gause, thread, narrow Blk binding, cordarry” (corduroy) and “calimmink” (calamanco — a
European woolen cloth of satin weave in an imitation of camel’s hair).

Hawkins also purchased tea, nutmegs, clover seed, barrels of sugar, raisins, rum, gin, wine and tobacco. From another supplier he received “twist”(mottled woolens), buttons, bibles, pins, writing paper, shoe bindings and sewing silk as well as other cloths called “blue Tabareen” (Tabbinet — an Irish-made poplin), “Blue Morine” (Moreen — a stout, water-embossed finished fabric of wool or wool and cotton) and “black Tafaty” (taffeta — a rich thin silk).

From yet another supplier he received sickles, scythes, pen knives, tobacco boxes and something listed as “1 doz Tomatum.” From Andrew Van Tuyh he received more than 100 yards of green, brown and “mixt German Sarge” (serge) as well as metal buttons and 1 dozen silver spurs. Locally, “Mr. Hawkins bought of Edward Dayton — 8 paire of shoes at 7s (shillings a) pair.”

After the Revolutionary War, the country general store came into its own as an institution. It was an original American idea, an outgrowth of independence, an example of Yankee know-how and frontier enterprise at its best. The general store became part of the Triangle Trade.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

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