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350th Anniversary

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Smithtown was swarming with history on Saturday in honor of the town’s 350th anniversary.

The Sesquarcentennial Parade marched down Main Street, starting at 11:30 a.m. and continuing into the afternoon. Residents new and old came together in tribute of the town’s founding 350 years ago and groups from throughout Smithtown marched down the parade route. Town officials and community leaders also participated in the festivities by donning colonial garb more commonly found 350 years ago.

The Smithtown Bull is an integral piece of the town’s history. File photo

Smithtown has been celebrating its 350th anniversary through many celebrations and events this year, and there are still several more to come.

Bradley Harris, town historian, formed the Smithtown 350 Foundation committee almost two years ago. “I wrote a letter to Supervisor [Pat] Vecchio that the town should plan significant events to inform the residents of the history of Smithtown on its 350th anniversary,” Harris said in a phone interview.

Harris said Vecchio (R) then decided to have Harris form a committee specific to planning events for the anniversary.

“My objective is to try and make an exciting year to remember, that will make people more familiar with the town they live in,” Harris said in a phone interview.

The first event the 350 committee held was The People of Smithtown, where author and historian Noel Gish presented a program on the cultural heritage ethnic peopling of Smithtown, pulling from history, personal photographs and recollections.

In March a special town board meeting was held where board members, while wearing colonial garb, read the original patent for Smithtown in old English. Harris said it was “very funny.” At the meeting, a time capsule that was buried 50 years ago was opened up. The time capsule itself was an old milk can, and Harris said the smell “bowled everyone over.”

Inside were items such as an old telephone book and pennies from the 1950s and ’60s. The committee plans to bury a new time capsule sometime in November. Inside the new one will be a video of this year’s parade, as well as a video of the parade in 1965 to show contrast.

This past summer there have been concert series, heritage festivals, theatrical productions and more. The dedication of the statue of Richard Smythe will be held this Saturday, Sept. 19, at 10:30 a.m., which will be followed by a fireworks celebration later that night at 6:30 p.m. at Sunken Meadow State Park. The 350th parade is still to come in later September.

The Smithtown Historical Society has also been hosting many events to celebrate Smithtown’s anniversary.

The Heritage Country Fair is the society’s next big celebration.

This Sunday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the society will host an old-fashioned fall festival, which will include an 1860s baseball team, antique cars and trucks, Civil War reenactors, pony rides and hayrides, according to Marianne Howard, SHS executive director. “It should be a great time,” she said.

There will also be a series of four fall harvest lectures, from late October to early November.

The first will focus on historic haunts and ghost legends, the second on Long Island’s involvement in the Civil War, the third on tales from a general store and the final on songs from 18th-century America.

The last event to celebrate Smithtown’s 350th anniversary, the Heritage Country Christmas, will be hosted by the historical society. It will feature a bonfire, caroling, a puppet show, colonial and contemporary Christmas music, children’s crafts and a visit from Santa. The event will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“I hope by the end of this year that the residents of Smithtown will have a greater appreciation and greater knowledge of their town,” Harris said.

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Smithtown’s Landing Methodist Church. File photo

Nine churches will take part in the Smithtown Church History Day to honor and celebrate the town’s 350th anniversary.

Sunday, May 17, has been the designated day for residents to learn about other religions and discover the similarities between faiths. The churches will open their doors to interested parties for tours and historic activities.

The Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church on Edgewater Avenue is welcoming visitors to its regularly scheduled Sunday Divine Liturgy at 11:15 a.m. followed by an open house and guided tours between 1 and 5 p.m.

The Smithtown United Methodist Church on Middle Country Road will open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for tours and additional activities. Members will also be serving light refreshments.

St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church on Brooksite Drive will also open its doors to the public for its 8 and 10 a.m. services with coffee following each one.

Between noon and 2 p.m. volunteers will be there to hand out brochures and give tours of the church and garden. There will also be a demonstration of how to use the Meditation Labyrinth.

For residents who would like to see Smithtown’s oldest church, they can visit Smithtown First Presbyterian founded by Richard Smythe in 1675, located at the corner of Middle Country Road and North Country Road.

Starting at 1 p.m. DVDs on the church and its history will be shown in the Narthex along with light refreshments available in the Parish Hall. Family activities will take place on the church lawn throughout the afternoon. Several other events will take place throughout the day.

Both St. James United Methodist located on Moriches Road and Trinity AME Church located on New York Avenue are inviting the community to come and learn about their respective history.

St. James United Methodist is inviting people to come see the interior of the church that was rebuilt in 1899 after being destroyed by a fire. Members are also inviting people to take a look at the popular stained glass windows. Trinity AME Church will serve refreshments and invites the community to join them for a meet and greet.

The Smithtown Landing Methodist Church on Landing Avenue is offering open tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Members of the Ladies Auxiliary will be on hand to present the history and background of the church. There will also be information on the founding members of the church who are buried in the little cemetery on the grounds.

The Hauppauge United Methodist Church on Townline Road will also be participating in the big day. The church will open for services at 9 a.m. when all are welcome. Between 2 and 3 p.m. there will be church tours followed by a tour of the old Hauppauge burial grounds behind the church with graves dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The last church that will participate in the festivities is St. James Episcopal Church on North Country Road. Worship services will be held at 8 and 9:30 a.m. followed by an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Guided tours to see the church will be available throughout the day as well as guided tours of the cemetery.  A picnic lunch featuring hot dogs, apple pie and other goodies will be available as well.

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The iconic Smithtown statue, “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the township and is a symbol of the community’s long and storied past. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Jenni Culkin

There is cause for celebration among Smithtown residents this year. The town was founded 350 years ago, and the Smithtown Historical Society is preparing to get its residents involved in festivities and immersion in the town’s proud history.

“This town has been inhabited for 350 years,” said Kiernan Lannon, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. “It’s self-evident that this is a milestone!”

Lannon said the Smithtown Historical Society’s mission is to “preserve and present the town’s history,” and in order to develop an itinerary for the 350th annual celebration, the town’s historical society developed the 350 Foundation — a group of volunteers comprised of representatives from various organizations in the town.

On March 3rd, 1665, Richard Smythe, the town’s founder, was granted the Nicholls Patent. The patent gave him the right to the territory that encompasses present-day Smithtown. Originally, it was believed that Smythe was told that he could have all of the territory that he could circumnavigate on the back of a bull.

The bull story is so important that it has become the icon that represents Smithtown. The bull statue, affectionately named “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the town boundaries.

The story proved to be only a legend, but it still has a place in this year’s celebration of the town’s history.

The Bull Smythe Relay is proof that the bull story is still sentimental to the people of Smithtown. The relay is the first of the 350th anniversary events that the 350 Foundation is planning, scheduled for March 1, which will mimic the torch relays that are performed during the Olympics.

The relay will cover approximately 36 miles within the town, each mile sponsored by a different person, organization or family. The public is welcome to come and watch the Bull Smythe Relay and support the participants.

Town historian Bradley Harris helped spearhead the planning of this year’s 350th celebration after Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio penned a letter to him asking him to help plan the events.

Only two days after the relay, on March 3, there will be a special town board meeting. A time capsule opening will follow the meeting. The capsule was buried in 1965, during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration.

Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick says that she can remember attending the 300th anniversary and said the events were historically a great historical celebration for the Town of Smithtown.

“The 350 committee is doing a fabulous job,” she said.

The dedicated 350 Foundation has a tentative calendar of events stretching from late February to December of this year. Not all of these events are held by the historical society.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center is also hosting a musical performance called “The Spirit of Smithtown,” which will be playing in late May and early June. The Smithtown Library is also formulating a schedule of events that is to be announced within the last few weeks of February. Even the public schools in Smithtown’s school districts are planning an art show and contest.