History

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At a Labor Day celebration on the Village Green in 1919, above, Setauket’s Ernest West is second from right in the front row; George West is second from right, fourth row; Harvey West is third from left, third row. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

By Beverly C. Tyler

“Victory and Peace,” the headline proclaimed, “War Ends — Fighting Ceased at 6 a.m. Monday.” It was Nov. 11, 1918, and World War I had come to an end for the Americans fighting in Europe. In a railway car in the French Forest of Compiègne, at 5 a.m., the German delegates accepted the strict terms of the armistice and at 11 o’clock that morning the world war came to an end.

Percy, Ernest, George and Harvey West of Setauket all served during World War I. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

President Woodrow Wilson that morning issued a proclamation that said, “My fellow countrymen. The armistice was signed this morning. Everything for which America fought has been accomplished. It will now be our fortunate duty to assist by example, by sober friendly council and by material aid in the establishment of just democracy throughout the world.”

The men and women who served in “the war to end all wars” were coming home. Many of the soldiers were suffering from what they called “shell shock.” Today we know it as post-traumatic stress or simply PTS. Other world war soldiers were gassed. In many of these cases soldiers came home without revealing their need for help. In other cases, soldiers were treated and released back into civilian life with or without continued care. Many soldiers never recovered from their wartime experiences.

The following year, after the soldiers and sailors had returned home, a celebration, parade and memorial service was held Labor Day, Sept. 1, 1919. As reported by the Port Jefferson Times, “All Setauket was there and most of Long Island by the appearance, for long before the time scheduled for the start of the procession, automobiles began to line the road on either side. Promptly at 2:30 p.m. the 42nd Infantry Band from Camp Upton led the parade away from the dock at East Setauket.”

The parade continued along Shore Road from the harbor and then paused while the Rev. A.Y. Holter dedicated the new East Setauket Park in honor of those who served in the war. The parade then re-formed and proceeded up Main Street, turning right at the Methodist Church and continuing to the Village Green.

The parade brought out many local groups and some $5 gold pieces were awarded as prizes. The award for the best decorated carriage went to  Henry Smith of Setauket whose buggy was decorated with pumpkins and other farm products. One of the decorated trucks that didn’t win a prize was in the shape of a submarine chaser, with real guns mounted fore and aft. Among the groups that marched were the mechanics of Setauket and Port Jefferson and 70 or so soldiers and sailors who later posed for a picture on the Village Green. Others in the parade included a car filled with men who had fought in the Civil War, men on horseback, decorated trucks carrying members of various organizations and school children carrying a “Welcome Home” sign.

Muriel Hawkins, of East Setauket, daughter of Clinton West, remembered the parade and how her uncle Ernest West, who was a ship’s carpenter in the Navy, made seven trips across the Atlantic and back during the war. Ernest was one of four brothers who served during the war. The other three, George, Harvey and Percy were in the Army. All four were the sons of Setauket blacksmith Samuel West and all four returned, in some cases with mental and physical scars that would last the rest of their lives. There was, however, a lot of family support as their father, Samuel West raised 10 children, with help from his own extended family, as his wife, Ida Hulse West, died after the delivery of their 10th child.

A young Forest West, born June 19, 1910, wears a child’s World War I uniform with his Uncle Harvey West on Bayview Avenue, East Setauket, looking north. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

Percy Hulse West was born July 18, 1889, and enlisted in the U.S. Army April 13, 1917. The War Department telegram written Oct. 21, 1918, to his father says, “Deeply regret to inform you that it is officially reported that Private Percy H. West, Infantry was severely wounded in action about August twenty-eight [actually July 10]. Department has no further information. Harris, Acting Adjutant General.” Over the next few months, Percy was transferred to a number of different Army hospitals including Army Hospital No. 3, Rahway, New Jersey. 

On Nov. 5, 1918, Clinton West, Town of Brookhaven justice of the peace and Percy’s brother, wrote to Maj. Fayermather at the hospital requesting information “regarding the revoking of the furlough of my brother Private Percy H. West. Father was quite upset as this was Percy’s only furlough since his enlistment in May, 1917. He being the first of our local boys to return from active front line service and crippled, we had planned to give him a good time and a chance to visit his relatives and friends …” On Nov.18, 1918, Samuel West, Percy’s father wrote to Capt. Sellers to request “that Percy might be allowed a little time to see his people [in East Setauket] after the service he has rendered his country.” Additional letters from Selah Strong and H.G. Rogers were received at the hospital with the same requests.

Percy did return after he was discharged March 3, 1919, as he is pictured in the photo of the celebration on the Setauket Village Green Sept. 1, 1919, as well as a family photo taken the same day with his father and his other three brothers who served in the war.

The following year, the 1920 census lists Percy as living at “Mattawan State Hospital, Beacon, Dutchess County, NY.” In the 1930 census report, Percy was living as a boarder with Fred and Lydia Bartoo (or Barton) in Oxford, Chenango, New York, where he was working at a golf course. Percy died July 6, 1957. Percy’s brother Ernest West returned to East Setauket and continued working there as a carpenter until his death in 1966. Percy’s brother Harvey West, in 1930, was a patient in the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital in Orange County. He later went to live with his brother George and Elsie West in Stratford, Connecticut. He died in 1967. George West, following World War I and his return home, lived the rest of his life in Connecticut, in 1920 with his sister Hazel West Jayne and her husband Robert Jayne. George married Elsie in 1922 and made his home in Stratford, Connecticut. He died in 1975.   

“World War I was the first ‘modern’ war. Industry enabled weapons and explosives to be manufactured in vast quantities that brought death and destruction on a scale never previously experienced by mankind and that affected all combatants. On Sept. 18, 1918, American Sgt. Charles S. Stevenson wrote: “This is the seventh day of the St. Mihiel drive and I find myself sitting in a thick, muddy forest, with my knees and a gas mask as a table, writing to you. It was some drive. Small, in comparison to many operations, to we rookies it was a real battle. Machine guns, rifles, shells, aeroplanes and tanks — everything you read about — I saw ’em all. We followed the first line (the attacking party) for twelve hours and ours was a sort
of ‘after the battle’ review. I saw all kinds of German trenches, barbed wire entanglements, busted houses, burning trees, deep shell holes, torn-up railroad tracks, peaceful gardens, dynamited bridges.All kinds of German prisoners passed me on the way back.” (Exhibition: Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace: The Doughboys 1917-1918 — National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri). This exhibit has been touring the world and is now at the Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois until Nov. 18.

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.

Editor’s note: Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, third from right, is joined Nov. 5 by members of the Long Island Women’s Suffragist Association and Huntington Historical Society in calling for a postal stamp to commemorate the 19th Amendment on the steps of Ida Bunce Sammis’ former home. Photo from Suozzi's office

The image of Huntington suffragist Ida Bunce Sammis may soon be traveling across the nation as the face of a postage stamp.

U.S. Representative Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) backed by members of the Long Island Women’s Suffrage Association called for the United State Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to consider putting out a commemorative stamp honoring the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in federal elections.

“It’s really important we recognize women voting, as it’s something we all take for granted,” Suozzi said. “This year, more women than ever are running for political office in the United States of America for Congress. It’s really remarkable.”

It’s really important we recognize women voting, as it’s something we all take for granted.”

— Tom Suozzi

New York was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement as it granted women the right to vote in local and state elections Nov. 6, 1917, three years prior to national passage of the 19th Amendment, according to Suozzi.

Huntington resident Sammis was a well-known suffragist who hosted meetings and rallies promoting women’s right to vote outside her home at 70 Main Street, according to Toby Kissam, treasurer of the Huntington Historical Society. Sammis became one of the first two women to be elected to the New York State Assembly in a “landslide victory” the following year, Nov. 5, 1918, alongside Mary Lilly, of New York City.

“Ida Bunce Sammis is one of the most influential women on Long island,” said Antonia Petrash, president and founder of the LI Women’s Suffrage Association. “We’re very proud of her.”

Sammis managed to get 10 of the 14 pieces of legislation she proposed passed during her single term in the state Assembly, according to Suozzi. During his research, the congressman said he also discovered a little-known story that alleges when the female legislator was given a brass spittoon when entering office, as was issued to each member of the state Assembly at the time, she polished it and turned it into a flower vase.

Ida Bunce Sammis is one of the most influential women on Long Island.  We’re very proud of her. ” 

— Antonia Petrash

In honor of Sammis and famous suffragists, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Suozzi requested a postage stamp recognizing the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s passage be issued in 2020.

“A commemorative stamp honoring the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment would honor all of the pioneers of the women’s suffrage movement and inspire us to rededicate ourselves to equality,” reads the Nov. 5 letter sent to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee.

The federal committee meets quarterly throughout the year to accept and recommend ideas for postage stamps “that celebrate the American experience,” according to its website. All suggestions are weighed based on 11 criteria that include whether the subject had a significant and positive impact on American history, culture, or life and events of historical significance are eligible to be considered on anniversaries in multiples of 100 years.

On a local level, Kissam said there will be a blue-and-yellow historical marker erected in the upcoming weeks outside Sammis’ former home to mark the location and serve as a reminder to future generations.

The Northport Historical Society will present a day of evaluation and intrigue as expert appraiser Lark Mason comes to Northport’s Village Hall, 224 Main St., Northport, on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A celebrity appraiser who has provided appraisals for the PBS traveling antiques show and iGavelAuctions.com, Mason and his team of experts will offer professional appraisals of antique furniture, collectibles, textiles, paintings, silver, jewelry, art and more.

Lark Mason

Last held in 2016, the historical society’s version of the PBS antiques show created quite a stir when a West Hempstead man found a simple pot he had inherited from his great aunt was actually an imperial Chinese brush pot valued at $30,000. As Mason said, “appraising is like trying to unravel a mystery … the thing that’s really joyful about what we do is to find things that have value and that someone is unaware of. … To share that with them sometimes dramatically changes the person’s life.”

A fee of $40 per item will be charged, $30 members, with a maximum of two items allowed per attendee. Along with Mason who will be appraising paintings and American and European works of art, are Lark Mason III who will be appraising Asian art and Niki Tiliakos who will handle jewelry and silver. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Northport Historical Society. Tickets for each item are available on the day of the event or may be reserved at www.northporthistorical.org/events.

In addition to the actual Appraisal Day, a Meet the Appraisers kick-off reception will be held the evening before the event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the society’s museum, 215 Main St. in Northport village. Tickets are $60/$50 for members and include beverages and hors d’oeuvres. To reserve, please call 631-757-9869 or visit the website listed above.

On Saturday, Oct. 27 from 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur, an all-day symposium exploring this early American silversmith’s life and work, as well as the Long Island Colonial and Revolutionary War-era in which he lived. Scholars and historians will examine Pelletreau’s fine craftsmanship and his essential role in the complex trade and social worlds in conjunction with the museum’s current Pelletreau exhibit.

Topics of discussion include Pelletreau’s Life and Legacy, Pelletreau’s Larger World, American Craftsmen of the 18th Century and Pelletreau’s work in general from an artist’s point of view. There will be a Q&A session after the program, giving audience members the opportunity to ask specific questions of the presenters.

Presenters for the symposium include Joshua Ruff, director of Collections & Interpretation at The Long Island Museum; Deborah Dependahl Waters, independent historian and decorative arts specialist, and guest curator, Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur; Jennifer Anderson, associate professor of history, Stony Brook University; David Barquist, curator of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Eric Messin, silversmith and jeweler, Pelletreau Silver Shop, Southampton.

Fee is $12 adults, $10 students, seniors and museum members which includes symposium and admission to the museum. Optional $10 additional for lunch. Lunch also available off-site at area restaurants. To register for this event, call 631-751-0066, ext. 212 or email bchiarelli@longislandmuseum.org.

Historic Setauket cemeteries will host an evening of mystery and suspense

Donna Smith portrays Maria Smith Williamson during the 2016 Spirits Tour

By Heidi Sutton

The shorter days, falling leaves and cooler weather signal the arrival of the Three Village Historical Society’s annual Spirits Tour. The popular event, now in its 24th year, will be held at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven and the Setauket Presbyterian Church cemeteries on Saturday, Oct. 20. Guided tours will begin at 5 p.m. with the last tour of the evening heading out into the dark at 7:45 p.m. 

This year’s tour, titled Fickle Finger of Fate, will feature “Spirits” of the past, costumed actors who will portray unfortunate souls of the Three Village area that knocked on death’s door too soon. 

One of the stops during last year’s tour. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Frank Turano, co-chair of the committee and historical society trustee returned to write the script for the 15-member cast, a massive undertaking that took months of research. When asked how he came up with this year’s theme, Turano said, “Fate takes different turns in people’s lives and that’s what we’re highlighting. These are local people that made a decision in their lives that sometimes turned out good and sometimes not so good.”

All the people that the actors will be portraying lived in Setauket and Stony Brook. “The earliest one lived in the 18th century and the latest one is middle 20th,” said Turano. Those who currently live in the area will recognize the familiar last names like Bates, Parsons, Satterly, Davis and Jones. 

“Until [William] Levitt arrived in this community, this was very much a provincial area with the same people [living here] year after year and generation after generation,” explained Turano who will be portraying Henry Hackett Satterly who enlisted in the army and was shipped out to the Mexican War in the early 1840s. He wound up dying in a hospital in Mexico and was buried in an unmarked grave. His family erected a monument to him behind the Presbyterian Church.

Visitors will also meet the spirit of Captain George Child who perished along with 154 others when the Lexington Steamer caught fire and sank off Eaton’s Neck in 1840. Child was filling in for Captain Jake Vanderbilt, who had called in sick, which sealed his fate.

Artist William Sidney Mount, who is buried at the Presbyterian Church, will have his story told also, but in a different context. “In the late 1840s there was a national popularity with the occult with the Ouija board and cult activities and Mount was fascinated by it and one of the places he went for these séances  was [Thomas Haddaway’s house in Stony Brook] which is now the Country House Restaurant,” said Turano.

Stephanie Carsten will reprise her role of Maria Smith Williamson, whose son Jedidiah died after being run over by a wagon in the mid-1800s, and  Edward Pfeifer’s specter will tell how he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in the 1930s as a ground crewman and was stationed at Clark Field in the Phillipines, “which was considered a plum of an assignment because he was right near Manila” said Turano. 

“Unfortunately, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Pfeifer was transferred to the Infantry Division and was part of the defense of Corregidor.” Pfeifer wound up on the infamous Bataan Death March and died in the prison camp. Added Turano, “He had lots of things that twisted his fate.”

TVHS President Stephen Healy is proud to be able to offer this event to the community, which, along with the society’s annual Candlelight Tour, is one of the society’s biggest fundraisers of the year. “The churches are fantastic — they just are that perfect backdrop to having an event like this and to actually walk through an active graveyard is kind of neat and a little bit spooky as it is,” he said. 

One of the new additions to the tour this year will be roaming characters who will interact with visitors in both cemeteries. Healy will play the part of a turn-of-the-century detective investigating a disappearance, a role he is looking forward to playing at one of his favorite historical events.

“As a local historian group, we try to get the word on locally what happened here, pre and post Culper Spy. People live in this community because aesthetically it looks beautiful, but they don’t know a lot about the rich history and that’s where we come in.”

Tours will leave from the Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave., Setauket every 15 minutes starting at 5 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 1½ to 2 hours. The last tour departs at 7:45 p.m. It is advised to dress warmly, wear comfortable shoes and bring a flashlight. 

In addition, a 1920s remastered silent film, “The Daughter of Dawn,” will be screened at the Setauket Presbyterian Church during the event.  Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” it features an all-Native American cast. Complimentary hot cider and donuts will be served in the Presbyterian Church during the event. 

Tickets in advance at www.tvhs.org are $18 adults, $15 members; $10 children under 12, $8 members. Tickets on the night of the event, if available, are $25 adults, $20 members; $12 children under 12, $10 members. Rain date is Oct. 27. For more information, call 631-751-3730.

Photo courtesy of Preservation Long Island

Looking for something to do this Saturday? Why not take a step back in time and visit the historic Sherwood-Jayne House, 55 Old Post Road, East Setauket on Saturday, Oct. 6? 

Preservation Long Island will offer docent-led tours between noon and 3 p.m. Originally built around 1730 as a lean-to salt box dwelling, the house and agricultural setting were maintained as an operational farmstead for over 150 years by members of the Jayne family. In 1908, Preservation Long Island’s founder, Howard C. Sherwood, acquired the property to showcase his lifetime interest in collecting, studying and living with antiques. The house contains period furnishings and features original late-eighteenth-century hand-painted floral wall frescoes. 

Admission is $5 adults, $3 children ages 7 to 14. Tours are also offered by appointment. For more information, call 631-692-4664.

Mount Sinai Scout Michael Muroff stands with his completed Eagle Scout project Sept. 29, the front door of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Photo by Alex Petroski

A Mount Sinai Boy Scout literally restored an entryway to local history to complete his Eagle Scout project.

The front door to the William Miller House on North Country Road, a centuries-old building that has long served as the headquarters for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, was in a state of disrepair for longer than historian Edna Giffen could remember. Now, thanks to 17-year-old Scout Michael Muroff from Troop 1776, a brand new door constructed with a nod to history in mind hangs from the hinges, serving as a refurbished entry to local history.

Boy Scouts hoping to achieve Eagle status, the highest rank attainable by a male Scout, are tasked with completing a project that demonstrates leadership and benefits the community. Repairing the front door of the historical society met the criteria for Muroff, who said he and his family had been attending events — like the annual Country Fair that took place Sept. 29 during Muroff’s project unveiling — at the house since he was a kid.

Eagle Scout Michael Muroff, center, receives a proclamation from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, third from right, after unveiling is project Sept. 29. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’ve always had an interest in local history, and it was always a subject I excelled at in class, and I thought by doing this project it would be a good way of giving back to the community and something that I really enjoy,” he said.

The work started with four to five weekends dedicated to just stripping the old paint off of the door frame using a heat gun and metal stripper, according to the Scout. With help from a local woodworker and others, a new, yet true to the original batten door was constructed. Batten doors traditionally have between six and eight wooden planks bound together. Muroff’s door features seven planks and includes the door’s original hinges, restored and repainted as well as part of the project. He also found authentic galvanized nails to match the original and maintain the new door’s historic integrity. The door’s original handle was left as is though, according to Muroff.

“The old door was falling apart and dilapidated, so we had to just completely make a new one,” Muroff said.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the event and joked she had never seen the front door of the building hang so straight and close so tightly.

“We always like to take time out of our day to recognize and honor our Scouts,” she said. “So much attention is focused on the bad things our kids are doing and not on the good things they’re doing. It makes me feel good to know that we’re surrounded by some really great kids.”

In August, Muroff’s sister Rebecca completed her Gold Award project, the equivalent to the Eagle project but for Girl Scouts, which entailed cataloging the historical society’s vast collection of historic photos. The Scouts’ dad Greg Muroff served as Michael’s Scoutmaster throughout his time working through the program.

“It’s just wonderful that many years coming down to the Country Fair and to see Postman Pete, just to have my children Rebecca and Michael give back to the historical society and the community is just a wonderful thing,” he said. “Mike has a tremendous love of history and this was an ideal project for him.”

He said it will be special for both him and his son to drive past the house on North Country Road for years to come and see his hard work front and center.

“I have to say, as his dad and Scoutmaster I’m especially proud,” the Scoutmaster said. “The Eagle Scout award is more than just a project, it’s a culmination of their Boy Scout career. It means a lot of leadership, service to the community and self-discipline.”

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The Obadiah Smith House. File photo

Two organizations in the Town of Smithtown have been selected to receive more than $13,000 in grants to plan for future preservation of two local landmarks.

The Preservation League of New York State, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve historic structures across the state, announced Oct. 3 it has awarded funds to both Commack Union Free School District and the Smithtown Historical Society.

Commack school district received a $7,620 grant to hire a consultant to perform a full building report on the Marion Carll farmhouse, which was given to the district in 1969 for historic and educational purposes.

“It’s really quite extraordinary,” said Erin Tobin, vice president for policy and preservation at the Preservation League.

This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

— Erin Tobin

The Marion Carll Farm is a historic location of potential statewide significance, according to  Tobin, as the nine-acre property located on Jericho Turnpike consists of an 1860s farmhouse and several outlying buildings and retains many of the objects and possessions of its original owners, the Carll family of Commack.

“It’s a very intact site,” she said. “So many historic buildings on Long Island have been over restored and lost their original material and integrity of the historic building, the plaster, the wall paper and such. This is such an incredible time capsule that has tremendous educational potential.”

Huntington-based Steward Preservation Services, run by architect Joel Snodgrass, has been hired to evaluate the farmhouse and create a plan for the building’s preservation tasked with compiling a list of recommended steps. Tobin said she is aware of some issues in the farmhouse’s kitchen as well as some necessary roof repairs, but the report may uncover additional problems. The report will be done in compliance with standards set by the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there for partnerships,” Tobin said. “It will be interesting to see what the school district moves ahead with. This report might help inform what they want to do next.”

The Smithtown Historical Society also received a $5,800 grant in order to conduct a building report on the Obadiah Smith House on St. Johnland Road in Smithtown. Priya Kapoor, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society, said she’s thrilled to have been selected to receive the funds.

“[The Obadiah Smith House is] a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care.”

— Priya Kapoor

“It’s a treasure we want to preserve and, at this point, it needs a lot of attention and a lot of care,” Kapoor said.

The Obadiah Smith House is the first historic home the Smithtown Historical Society ever occupied, according to the executive director, but now finds itself in need of some tender loving care. The building dates back to approximately 1700 and was owned by the grandson of the town’s founder Richard Smith.

“The Obadiah Smith House is one of the earliest houses on Long Island,” Tobin said. “It’s a great example of early English and Dutch building traditions.”

Kapoor said the historical society will also have Steward Preservation Services do a full report on the building’s condition to ensure it is up to code and safe. Once the report is complete, the organization will apply for additional grants and funding to make the repairs. The long-term goal is to be able to open up the Obadiah Smith House to be toured by area students learning about local history, according to Kapoor.

The Smithtown Historical Society is in the process of fixing up and reopening the Franklin O. Arthur Farmhouse’s animal barn to the public in the spring of 2019. Kapoor said she hopes to have space to add more programs and allow people to see firsthand the historic farming techniques used.

“I’m really excited about where the society is going right now with this new direction,” she said. “We’re also excited for each member of the community who is helping us.”

Setauket United Methodist Church circa. 1909. Mechanics Hall, which was once used as a parsonage, is to the right. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

Members of a Three Village church are recalling its history with a significant milestone around the corner.

The Setauket United Methodist Church, located on the northeast corner of Route 25A and Main Street and known locally as the “light on the hill,” will be celebrating its 175th anniversary Oct. 14 with a special service.

Setauket United Methodist Church as it looked today. Photo from Setauket United Methodist Church

Congregants originally gathered in a schoolhouse in 1835 not far from its present location, according to church documents. The Methodist Society of Setauket was formed by Alfred Darling, Peter Darling, Charles Darling, William Cargill and Richard Terrell after attending a revival in Port Jefferson in 1843.

They first purchased what was known as the Baptist Meeting House on the corner, and in 1869 members who were employed in the local shipbuilding industry began building the current church when it was agreed that a bigger building was needed. The congregants sold the old church in 1869 and moved the building across Route 25A. The new building was dedicated Oct. 12, 1870.

Dennis Hutchinson was baptized in the church in 1939 and has been a member all his life. Through the years, he said he has seen the congregation, which currently includes approximately 500 members according to Rev. Steven Kim, grow due to developing surrounding communities and at times shrink.

Hutchinson said he remembers many renovations through the decades, including a new steeple that cost $16,000 in the late ’70s. At a horse show organized by philanthropist Ward Melville, Isaac Lyness, a member of the church, attended the event and was able to meet Melville and tell him about the steeple and the church’s historic significance in Setauket. Melville gave $4,000 to help pay for the new steeple.

“That was quite a generous gift at the time,” Hutchinson said.

Through the decades, church members held various fundraisers including fairs and bake sales, and Hutchinson said local residents always remember how the church would sell clam chowder in the spring. He said one year they made 600 quarts of chowder.

Cecelia Lundquist said during the last 10 years the church members have redecorated the sanctuary and installed a handicapped elevator. Lundquist and her husband, Bob, have been members since 1967 when they moved back to Long Island after her husband was briefly transferred to Virginia. A lawyer they knew from their church in Brooklyn told them about Setauket and suggested they join the church.

“We became members of the Setauket United Methodist Church more than 50 years ago,” Lundquist said. “It has been the center of our lives, both spiritually and socially.”

Barbara Thomas has been a member of the church since she attended as a child, and she remembers when the children would meet under the sanctuary for a brief service in the basement hall named after Samuel Gurney, a missionary with family in the area. The service would be followed by classes.

The original steeple of the 1870 church building is being painted by Ray Tyle, who was a local photographer and artist known for his aerial photographs commonly taken from the tops of flagpoles and other tall structures. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

“I remember long velvet drapes that divided the classrooms,” Thomas said. “The drapes were hung from wire which ran from the walls to the columns that braced the church.”

Thomas said the church bought Mechanics Hall, a building near Main Street that was converted into a parsonage for the pastor, and when the Sunday school and church membership  grew during World War II, to accommodate the growing congregation, an addition was built to connect what then became the former parsonage. It was named after Carl J. Norton, who once produced Christmas pageants for the church. With the addition, the church now had two offices, and the former parsonage was named after early members of the church, the VanBrunt family.

“I am still a part of this wonderful little church and sometimes I witness the return of former members,” Thomas said. “I remember with fondness the men and women who have come to guide us through the years as pastors, and I remember the many sisters and brothers who have graced the church and been a loving family to me.”

There have been approximately 75 pastors through the decades. Rev. Kim has led the congregation since 2016 and said he is looking forward to the anniversary.

“I hope people would rediscover the significance of the great spiritual heritage that has run through Setauket Methodist Church upon our 175th Anniversary,” Kim said.

Hutchinson will speak on the day of the service. He said he let Kim know he has a lot to share.

“In my little talk that I’m going to give on that Sunday, I have so many things [to share] but I should try to get them home by dark,” Hutchinson said.

The anniversary service will be held Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. at the church located at 160 Main St., East Setauket. The service will include sharing memories, guest preachers, a luncheon and a
performance by musicians from The Jazz Loft. For more information about Setauket United Methodist Church and the anniversary service, visit www.setauketumc.org or call 631-941-4167.

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.”

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