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Beverly C. Tyler

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Continental Army officer Benjamin Tallmadge, from a pencil sketch by Col. John Trumbull, assistant to Gen. George Washington. From the Three Village Historical Society collection

By Beverly C. Tyler

Benjamin Tallmadge was the organizer and leader of the Revolutionary War Setauket Culper Spy Ring. Tallmadge, the son of a minister of the Setauket Presbyterian Church, was born in Setauket Feb. 25, 1754.

Tallmadge grew up in Setauket, attended school here with his close friend Abraham Woodhull and, like many residents of Suffolk County, he grew to have a healthy distrust for British authorities in New York. Tallmadge, a college classmate of the Hale brothers, Enoch and Nathan, graduated from Yale in 1773 and, like Nathan Hale, taught school for a time in Connecticut.

A statue of Benjamin Tallmadge at Setauket Elementary School. File photo

Following the skirmishes at Concord and Lexington in Massachusetts, on May 9, 1775, Tallmadge wrote to Hale. “Brother Nathan … America, my friend, at the present period sees such times as She never saw before … everything bids fair for a change … How soon a great, flourishing, and powerful state may arise from that now stigmatized by the Name of Rebels, God only knows. The prospect however for the same seems to be great.”

Tallmadge’s commission as a Continental Army lieutenant was dated June 20, 1776, and he was assigned to Col. John Chester’s Connecticut regiment. He became a regimental adjutant July 22, 1776. His regiment was among those transferred to Brooklyn in time to take part in the Battle of Long Island Aug. 27, 1776. It was the first time Tallmadge took part in any engagement.

Tallmadge wrote a graphic account of the retreat after the battle. “On the evening of the 29th, by 10 o’clock the troops began to retire from the line in such a manner that no chasm was made in the lines … General Washington took his station at the ferry, and superintended the embarkation of the troops. It was one of the most anxious, busy nights that I ever recollect, and being the third in which hardly any of us had closed our eyes in sleep, we were all greatly fatigued … When I stepped into one of the last boats … I left my horse tied to a post at the ferry …The troops having now all safely reached New York, and the fog continuing as thick as ever, I began to think of my favorite horse, and requested leave to return and bring him off. Having obtained permission, I called for a crew of volunteers to go with me, and guiding the boat myself, I obtained my horse and got off some distance into the river before the enemy appeared in Brooklyn. As soon as they reached the ferry we were saluted merrily from their musketry, and finally by their field pieces; but we returned in safety.”

By the time Gen. George Washington was driven north from Manhattan Island in 1776, he was already working on creating a spy network that would provide intelligence on British activities in New York City and on Long Island. Deprived of heavily fortified positions to defend, and with depleted numbers of men and supplies, Washington found it necessary to enable his army to become a moving target, to strike his enemy when and where least expected, and to base his decisions on information gathered from reliable undercover sources. One of the first to operate as a spy on Long lsland was Major John Clark.

“How soon a great, flourishing, and powerful state may arise from that now stigmatized by the Name of Rebels, God only knows.”

— Benjamin Tallmadge

As 1776 came to an end and enlistments expired, Tallmadge was offered a captain’s rank in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment commanded by Col. Elisha Sheldon. The new captain accepted his appointment with a feeling of pride, for these commands were subject to Washington’s approval.

By February of 1777, Washington’s first strategic spy network was in place with civilian intelligence expert Nathaniel Sackett conducting covert operations. In addition to his duties as a Dragoon officer, Washington had Tallmadge working with Sackett. Tallmadge, from his position near Fairfield, Connecticut, began receiving intelligence from Major John Clark and Selah Strong on Long Island. The intelligence was most likely brought to him across Long Island Sound by Caleb Brewster, a Continental Army officer, expert seaman and boyhood friend from Setauket.

In a letter to Sackett dated Feb. 25, 1777, Tallmadge wrote that he had “received Intelligence from Long Island by one John Clark that there were no troops at Setauket, but part of two Companies at Huntington and one Company at Oyster Bay . . . That the Militia of Suffolk County was ordered to Meet on the 16th Febry. In order to be drafted for the Ministerial Service but that they were determined not to serve . . . That there are but few who are not friendly to the Cause — that they had beat up four deserters in the western part of the County but that only three had enlisted.”

Clark and Strong stopped spying for Washington on Long Island about September or October 1777 when their work was discovered by Loyalist Lt. Col Richard Hewlett. So, by the time Tallmadge was ready to take over as Washington’s intelligence chief in 1778, he already had a part of the Culper Spy route established with Brewster feeding him information he was gathering from his friends, relatives and other contacts on Long Island. All that needed to be added was a connection from Manhattan to Setauket.

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.

This dragoon coat, worn by actor Seth Numrich in AMC’s ‘TURN’ series, will be one of the items auctioned off on May 19. Photo courtesy of AMC

UPDATE:

I-Spy TURN Auction & Spy Themed Event for May 19 has been canceled
Due to the excessive rain and water on the property this week and with the prediction of additional rain over the weekend, the Three Village Historical Society feels it is in the best interest of guests and volunteers to postpone the event.  “We will reschedule I-Spy for a date in the future when we can provide the best experience for all. Cancelling this event was a hard decision to make and we apologize for any inconvenience,” said the Society.

By Michael Tessler

The Three Villages is home to a remarkable Revolutionary history that for over a century remained elusive to the American people … all except in Setauket where local lore and legend preserved a tale of spies, lies, petticoats and the exceptional bravery of everyday citizens who risked everything to liberate their homes and loved ones from tyranny.

General George Washington established the Culper Spy Ring in 1778 by recruiting Benjamin Tallmadge, a would-be lieutenant colonel and future congressman who called the quaint village of Setauket home. He recruited friends and schoolmates to establish a secret network, eluding the mighty British Empire that had been occupying Long Island since August 1776. Their efforts turned the tides of war in favor of the Continental Army and forever altered the course of history.

It wasn’t until 1939, when amateur historian Morton Pennypacker began to decipher secret aliases and uncover the true identities of the Culper spies. In 2014, the legend of the Culper Spy Ring finally entered the public zeitgeist with the premiere of AMC’s television drama series “TURN: Washington’s Spies,” a historical fiction piece that chronicled the Culper Spy Ring. 

“If it weren’t for Setauket, we would have lost the war,” declared Three Village Historical Society President Steve Healy. “If Washington had been caught, he would have been hanged. They stopped that, they saved the [American] Revolution.” And just as the Culper spies saved the fledgling United States, the Three Village Historical Society has made it its mission to keep the Culper Spy Ring and the local history of this community alive.

When “TURN” ended last August, the Three Village Historical Society reached out to the show and received a very special donation: props, costumes and other memorabilia actually featured on the show during the series’ four-season run. On Saturday, May 19, the public will have the opportunity to own these pieces of history during a silent auction fundraiser on the society’s front lawn starting at noon. Bidding closes at 4:15 p.m.

According to TVHS board members Cathy White and Janet McCauley, the most sought after item of the day will be a dragoon (18th century cavalry) coat worn by the actor who played Benjamin Tallmadge, Seth Numrich. “It’ll be fun to see where it ends up,” said McCauley. “Either way, it is a wonderful tool to educate our community about the area that they live in.” 

Other items in the auction include a reproduction of a 1730 Dublin Castle Long Land (1st Model) Brown Bess musket; autographed sheet music; a portrait of King George II, c. 1730, reproduction on canvas; as well as maps, letters and artifacts such as an astrolab, horn bowls, British army drumsticks, pewter pitchers, posters, an uncut sheet of Continental currency and more.

In addition to the silent auction, there is a flurry of activities scheduled throughout the day. From noon to 4 p.m. community educator Donna Smith, portraying Anna Smith Strong, will hold invisible ink demonstrations while noted children’s author Selene Castrovilla will be selling and signing copies of her books. Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet Benjamin Tallmadge, portrayed by TVHS past president and trustee Art Billadello. The historical society’s two exhibits, SPIES: How a Group of Long Island Patriots Helped George Washington Win the Revolution and Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time, and gift shop will be open as well. 

At noon, historian Margo Arceri will lead a Tri-Spy Walking Tour, which starts at the post office next to Frank Melville Memorial Park, 101 Main St. in Setauket. Historian Beverly C. Tyler will give a Walk Through History with Farmer and Spy, Abraham Woodhull, guided tour at 2 p.m. starting at the front parking lot of the Caroline Church of Brookhaven, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket. 

From 3 to 5 p.m., “Wine and cheese will be served while we have Colonial music performed by Natalie Kress and Kevin Devine of the Three Village Chamber Players,” said Sandy White, TVHS office manager, adding, “We want to create a dialogue about our community’s history. ‘TURN’ helped start that conversation. We’d like to continue it.” 

The Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket will host an I-Spy “Turn” Auction fundraiser on May 19 from noon to 5 p.m. (rain date May 20). Tickets, which are $25 adults, $5 for children age 14 and younger, cover participation in all of the day’s events, including both walking tours. To order, please visit www.TVHS.org or call 631-751-3730.

A parade of tall ships into Galveston, Texas, includes the Picton Castle, left, and the Oosterschelde, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In “Two Years Before the Mast,” R.H. Dana Jr. wrote in 1840, “However much I was affected by the beauty of the sea, the bright stars, and the clouds driven swiftly over them, I could not but remember that I was separating myself from all the social and intellectual enjoyments of life.”

Sail handling aloft the Picton Castle is accomplished by its experienced sailors. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

I spent a week this April as a crew member on the training barque Picton Castle. This square-rigged sailing ship is similar in size and function to the Mary and Louisa that my great-grand-aunt Mary Swift Jones sailed on to China and Japan in 1858.

I wanted to experience, in a small way, what my Aunt Mary experienced and observed as the wife of Captain Benjamin Jones on their three-year voyage. I know, of course, that a week on the Picton Castle is not really comparable to an almost round-the-world voyage, but I also knew that it would have to do. I came away from the experience with a new understanding of life aboard one of the many tall ships that travel the world today with crews learning sail handling and working together to achieve the goal of maintaining a historic ship under sail.

Having visited the Picton Castle in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia; Auckland, New Zealand; and Greenport, Long Island, between 2011 and 2015, I felt the romance of the old sailing ship and hoped I would have a chance to sail on her. I thought that seeing and feeling her with full sails moving almost silently through the water would be the part I would enjoy the most.

After a week on board, handling lines under close supervision and doing all the necessary chores that keep this tall ship functioning, I came away with an appreciation of the crew members with whom I worked. This is a hard-working and dedicated group from the officers and lead seamen to the advanced trainees who together instructed the new trainees in the basics of safety, line and sail handling and the myriad of jobs that have to be done every day. One I became fairly good at — whipping the bitter ends of lines to finish them off and prevent unraveling.

John the sailmaker works every day to maintain Picton Castle’s inventory of sail and teaches sailmaking to some crew members. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

My first days on duty I shadowed one of the trainees who had been on the Picton Castle for a year, including a winter trip through the North Atlantic when ice covered much of the running rigging, making it very difficult to move the lines through the blocks that control the sails. There were no beginning trainees on this leg of the voyages to and from Lunenburg, the home and training port for most of the regular crew, as they had to function quickly and decisively under severe conditions.

I asked my instructor why he chose this type of work. He told me that he had been boating along the Atlantic coast with his grandfather since he was a child and growing up had done all the things that were expected of him — an education, a degree and a resulting steady job. By the time he was 30, he realized he needed a change and the sea was calling him back. He said he has found what he wants to do with his life — he loves to be at sea and he knows he is good at it. He has picked up the routine and the skills quickly and is proud of the work he is doing on Picton Castle, working the deck and teaching new trainees.

On watch we worked lookout and helm together as well as working lines from the complicated array of gear — lines and equipment — that controls the spars and sails. We were fortunate to have our watch group of 11 assigned to the 4 to 8 watch, both a.m. and p.m., on the trip from Galveston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida. My instructor noted that this was the best watch this time of year since we are on duty for both sunrise and sunset. On the first 4 to 8 a.m. watch after two days of rain, wind and 4- to 6-foot seas, we were in the Gulf of Mexico 60 miles from the nearest land.

During his trip learning how to be a ship crew member, historian Beverly Tyler experienced two days of rough seas. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

The sky was clear, and the stars were brighter than any sky I had seen since crossing the Atlantic in the U.S. Navy in the late 1950s. The Milky Way shone brightly, and there were so many stars it would be difficult to add more stars between the ones I could see. It made me realize how important the sky was to the ancient civilizations who observed it every night that was not overcast. All the various constellations were easily identified along with the planets.

After a week on the Picton Castle, I had to reevaluate what I had gained from the experience. The most important to me was the people I met, especially the officers and crew who spend countless hours instructing and reinstructing us no matter how long it took and how many times they had to go over the same information. My fellow new trainees, many of whom became friends for a week, were dedicated to learning and the hard work that went with it. Next in lasting importance and wonder was the night sky and the changeover from dusk to dawn in the morning as the crescent moon rose followed by the sun. Next was this beautiful sailing ship itself that inspired all of us with its abilities, functionality and beauty.

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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The gravestones of William and Martha Smith in St. George’s Manor cemetery, Strong’s Neck. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Part two of a two-part series

William “Tangier” Smith and his wife Martha who lived in St. George’s Manor in Strong’s Neck became known locally as the lord and lady of the manor in the late 1600s.

As detailed by historian Kate Strong in her Long Island Forum columns, “In 1675 [in Tangier, Morocco], Colonel William Smith … bought a great book, sometimes called ‘The Tangier Book’ and sometimes ‘The First Pigskin Book.’ The first entry was a statement of his marriage. After that he recorded the baptism [including minister and godparents], and some deaths, of his numerous children. As he only wrote on one side of the page, his wife, Martha, turned the book upside down and wrote in her recipes — in some cases telling the name of the person giving her the recipe.”

Local historian Kate Strong wrote extensively about William and Martha Smith in her Long Island Forum columns. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

The recipes and notes Martha Smith made in the pigskin book were most likely all entered during her years on Long Island.

“She sometimes added a few bits of news,” Strong wrote. “As when she told that she felt that Colonel Williams’ sickness came from a strain he had incurred in lifting her off the horse … later she recorded that her dear Billy was better.”

Strong listed just a few of the recipes from the pigskin book, including “To make pancakes — take the yokes of six eggs, add ye one white and one pint of cream and half a pint of sacke & nutmeg and a little salt and some sugar. Make the batter of a reasonable thickness, work in some flower (sic) & fry them. Mrs. Osborn.”

Martha also included recipes for medicinal purposes, including one from her daughter. “For a sore throat or Quinsey — take Rue & pound it pretty fine & make a poultice & plaster, must be an inch thick & lay it on ye side of ye throat. It is a sure cure. You may sprinkle it with brandy. Mrs. Strod.”

“She was not too busy to enjoy riding with her husband,” Strong wrote. “I imagine they had fine horses. I know their saddles were covered with velvet. (Hers a side saddle of course). They went to the South Shore not only to enjoy the ocean breezes in the summer but on business.”

When Martha’s husband died in 1705, the Smith children included Henry, later second lord of the manor, age 26; Mrs. Martha Heathcote, age 23; Jeane, age 17; William Henry, later to inherit the South Shore manor house and estate, age 15; Gloryana, later to marry the Rev. George Muirson, age 14; and Charles Jeffery, who would die of smallpox in 1715, age 11. Martha was now faced with raising her young family and running her late husband’s vast holdings and business interest.

Entries in the pigskin book had been started by Smith in 1697 as an estate account book of farm transactions and also referred to the Native American whaling crews, as detailed by historian John Strong in “The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island: A History.” “From 1696 until 1721, the Smiths used the book to keep the accounts of Native Americans working for their whaling company,” Strong wrote. … “Lady Martha Smith, for the 1706-07 whaling season made a net profit of 120 barrels of whale oil out of 180 barrels, a sizable profit.”

“She sometimes added a few bits of news. As when she told that she felt that Colonel Williams’ sickness came from a strain he had incurred in lifting her off the horse.”

— Kate Strong

“Offshore whaling was a fine business in those days, and Madam Martha had her own whaleboat,” Strong added. “The crew was mostly Indians. She kept her records in a second pigskin book, which was almost lost in the San Francisco fire. A member of the family had taken it West. During the fire, a gentleman saw a trunk which had fallen from a truck and examined the contents. Finding the pigskin book he restored it to its owner.”

As detailed in “Bellport and Brookhaven: A Saga of the Sibling Hamlets at Old Purchase South” by Stephanie Bigelow, published in 1968, “The Lady Martha was a remarkable woman … managing not only the vast estate, but carrying on the whaling business successfully.”

Also as noted by Kate Strong, “Fifteen Indians, the whaling crew, are listed by name; their wages, and the charges made against them, for shot, powder, rum, ‘cotes,’ ‘britches,’ etc. … She must have had trouble controlling them, for there are quite a few complaints. ‘He [Will Bene] got nothing this season, stayed away 10 days at a time, when he went to see his Shua. Was a great loss to me.’ But there were more cheerful entries too. ‘I thanks God, my company killed a yearling whale. Maid 27 barrels ogle.’ Listed was the weight in pounds of whalebone from each whale, as well as the number of barrels of oil.”

In addition to being successful, Martha Smith was well respected in the area.

“As to what the early settlers thought of Martha in their plans for the meeting house church, they wrote that at the table was to sit no woman of any kind except Madam Martha Smith,” wrote Kate Strong. “She died five years after her husband on September 1, 1709, and was buried beside him on the spot he had chosen overlooking the little bay on the neck, now called Strong’s Neck, but we old-timers think of it by its real name: St. George’s Manor, part of the Manor of St. George.”

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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Artwork of St. George’s Manor, published in the October 1792 issue of New York Magazine. Drawing from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities

By Beverly C. Tyler

Martha Tunstall was baptized July 2, 1652, the daughter of Henry Tunstall of Putney, County of Surrey, England. She moved with her family to Morocco, where she married Col. William “Tangier” Smith. From her marriage Nov. 26, 1675, until her death in Setauket in 1709 at the age of 57, Martha led a life dedicated to her husband, family, business interests and community.

She gave birth to 13 children and buried seven of them. The mother journeyed in a time of discomfiting and perilous travel from the city of Tangier, back to England, to Ireland for the birth of a child and finally to America. She raised her family and assisted her husband in his businesses which often involved his traveling from home over long periods of time. Martha became well respected and loved in her lifetime as “lady of the manor.”

Martha became well respected and loved in her lifetime as “lady of the manor.”

Madam Martha Smith, as historian Kate Strong referred to her, or Lady Martha Smith, as she is referred to in many documents is not listed in “The Encyclopedia of Women’s History in America,” nor in “Long Island Women: Activists and Innovators.” But Martha was a woman of wealth and stature on Long Island and especially in the communities of Setauket and Mastic where she and her husband maintained their residences.

Tangier Smith was born in February of 1654 in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England, to a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte of Braganza at the court of her husband, King Charles II. According to family folklore, Smith was a son of Charles II, however, there is no indication that the king had any natural children.

The city of Tangier, which had been ceded to England as part of Queen Charlotte’s dowry, was an important port, or so it was thought, until evacuated and burned by England in 1683, after both Spain and Portugal refused to take it off the English. As detailed by Chester Osborne, Smith went to the crown city of Tangier when he was 20 years old. A year later he married Martha, and was elected to the post of mayor Nov. 11, 1682. The young couple returned to England in 1683 after the city was abandoned and, in 1686, sailed from Ireland for America.

The Smiths arrived in New York in the fall of 1686 with their children, 7-year-old Henry and 5-year-old Martha. A third child, Hibernia, had been born in Cork, Ireland, in June before they left for America on the ship Thomas, but she died at sea at the end of August. Hibernia was the couple’s eighth child and the fifth to die. Three of their children, Elizabeth, John and William Jr. died in Tangier. Their second son also named William Jr., just a month old, died in London in February 1684, and Mary passed in the same year.

“During these early years in Setauket, the Smiths moved from their first house near the Woodhull homestead to Little Neck, now known as Strong’s Neck, where they built a larger house that became known as St. George’s Manor.”

During their time in New York, Martha gave birth to a daughter Jeane Dec. 8, 1687. After her birth, Tangier Smith quickly purchased land in Setauket, “Ye Little Neck,” and on the South Shore as well. By 1689, the family had moved permanently to the young settlement of Setauket. In March, Martha gave birth to William. The following year, in June of 1690, their daughter Gloryana was born. Eighteen months later another daughter, Theodocia, was born Dec. 14 and died Dec. 29. Two years later, Dec. 20, 1693, Martha gave birth to the couple’s last child, Charles Jeffery.

During these early years in Setauket, the Smiths moved from their first house near the Woodhull homestead to Little Neck, now known as Strong’s Neck, where they built a larger house that became known as St. George’s Manor. While Martha kept busy at home, her husband increased the land holdings. On Oct. 9, 1693, he received a patent from Gov. Benjamin Fletcher that included all the land bounded roughly by Carmans and Forge rivers — then called Connecticut and Mastic rivers respectively — between today’s Middle Country Road and the Atlantic Ocean. This combined with his previous purchase created the Manor of St. George. In 1697, Smith added another portion of land, running to the western boundaries of the towns of Southampton and Southold. He then built a second manor house on Smith’s Point. Here the family spent summers, returning to the manor house in Setauket for the rest of the year.

With the acquisition of the patent land in 1693, William and Martha became the lord and lady of the manor. Much of the couple’s Long Island property was given to them in recompense after the crown’s short-lived experiment with its North African colony was discarded in 1683.

Widowed at the age of 52, Martha successfully continued her husband’s business interests, including offshore whaling, and was an acknowledged community leader. Learn more about Martha in an upcoming edition of The Village Times Herald.

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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‘The Slave’s Grave,’ oil on panel, by Shepard Alonzo Mount. Image from The Long Island Museum

By Beverly C. Tyler

William Sidney Mount, Setauket and Stony Brook’s famous genre artist, was a keen observer of nature and human nature, and he enjoyed traveling around Long Island, especially his native villages of Stony Brook and Setauket. In 1853, Mount wrote to his friend Chauncey Marvin Cady  about walking through a former slave burial ground on the family farm and noticing a beautifully carved gravestone. It is believed the graveyard is located behind the Hawkins-Mount house at Stony Brook Road and Route 25A.

“(I) was so much struck with the sublimity and originality of one of the monuments to a distinguished fiddler, and as my late Uncle Micah Hawkins wrote the epitaph and placed the stone to the old Negro’s memory, and as you are an advocate for musical genius, I felt it my duty to send you a copy. I have sat by Anthony when I was a child, to hear him play his jigs and hornpipes. He was a master in that way, and acted well his part. Yours, very truly Wm. S. Mount.”

The gravestone of Anthony Clapp, now preserved in the collection of The Long Island Museum. Image from The Long Island Museum

William Sidney was not the only Mount who appreciated the gravestones in the “former slave burial ground.” In The Long Island Museum collection is an unsigned painting attributed to his brother Shepard Alonzo Mount that features two gravestones standing as silent sentinels in an otherwise bucolic scene — one the gravestone of Anthony Hannibal Clapp.

Kate Strong, a Long Island historian, and great-great-granddaughter of Anna Smith Strong, wrote in the May 1954 issue of the Long Island Forum, “Though William S. Mount … was a little boy when Tony died, he never forgot the Negro and kept the fiddle (engraved on his gravestone) fresh painted as long as he lived. … There it stood until a few years ago when it was removed for safekeeping.”

The epitaph on the tombstone for Clapp was composed by Micah Hawkins, uncle of William Sidney and composer of “The Saw-Mill, or a Yankee Trick,” America’s first performed operetta. The stone was carved by Phineas Hill, a stone carver from Huntington. The edited copy from The Long Island Museum Art Collection reads: “Entirely tone less; honor and shame from no condition rise — Act well thy part, there all the honor lies. Anthony Hannibal Clapp.

Born at Horseneck, Connecticut, 14 July 1749 — Came to Setauket in 1779 — Here sojourning until he died 12, Oct. 1816. … Upon the violin, few play’d as Toney play’d, his artless music was a language universal, and its effect most irresistible! Ay, and was he not of Setauket’s Dancing-steps-a physiognomist, indeed he was. Nor old nor young, of either sex, stood on the floor to jig it, but he knew the gait. Peculiar to their hobby, and unasked, plac’d best foot foremost for them, by his fiddle. This emblamatic lachrymatory, and cenotaph’s the grateful tribute of a few who know his worth.”

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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In Washington state, the Department of Transportation SR 28-5th Street Intersection Improvements project includes roundabouts, a solution that may relieve traffic on Route 25A. From Photo from Washington State Department of Transportation

By Beverly C. Tyler

Getting around on Long Island is frustrating, aggravating and often scary. Cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles and pedestrians share the roadways. Trains, crowded at peak times, move us mostly east and west, and our airplanes sometimes take us where we don’t want to go to get us where we want to be.

There are, of course, no easy answers to approaching gridlock but it’s coming. We can observe it every day as we see more and more stop signs and traffic lights; crowded trains and antiquated bus systems; airport delays and cancellations. Yet, as I have traveled around the world to diverse places such as San Francisco and Hilton Head; London, Derby and Matlock, England; Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand; and Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; I have seen wonderfully imaginative ideas that have changed the way I think about transportation.

Route 25A between Stony Brook Road and Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket has 10 traffic lights, most of them unnecessary, some of them difficult or dangerous. In addition, there are a number of intersections without traffic lights that require a bit of care when pulling out into traffic. The most dangerous of these is probably the intersection of Route 25A and Stony Brook Road. Traffic coming down the hill from Flowerfield cannot see traffic exiting Stony Brook Road and vice versa. It would be unfortunate to see a traffic light at Stony Brook Road, but what would be a better solution? What we need is a new paradigm; a new way to look at traffic.

Beverly C. Tyler is a Three Village Historical Society historian. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

One of the government organizations that has looked at traffic solutions in a new way is the Washington State Department of Transportation. Their website includes a number of traffic safety improvements and traffic calming measures including speed humps, speed tables, raised intersections, closures, neighborhood traffic circles, chicanes, chokers and center island narrowing. All of these solutions are designed to slow traffic at certain points while making travel safer for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Yet at the same time, these measures increase the flow and decrease the time en route. It sounds too simple, but when implemented, these measures provide a significant reduction in delays along the route.

One of WSDOT’s improvement measures is the roundabout, which has a proven safety record as detailed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Federal Highway Administration. Their studies report “a 37 percent reduction in overall collisions, a 75 percent reduction in injury collisions, a 90 percent reduction in fatality collisions, [and] a 40 percent reduction in pedestrian collisions.”

Significantly, the WSDOT didn’t just talk about roundabouts they put the concept into practice. One of their projects, “SR 28-5th Street Intersection Improvements,” was completed in August. The project, designed by WSDOT Project Engineer Dan Lewis, also considered two other methods of improved traffic control, both requiring some form of traffic signals, before deciding on a roundabout.

Brian Walsh, a traffic engineer with the WSDOT, is very enthusiastic about the work that has been done to implement traffic calming measures, especially roundabouts throughout the state of Washington.

“In Washington 352 roundabouts have been completed, all built since 1997,” Walsh said. “At the turn of the century, there were only three in the state. We have opened at least 15 in this last construction period.”

Walsh noted that the art of creating roundabouts has gotten a lot better. Walsh is also chair of the Transportation Research Board’s Project Panel Guide for Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety at Alternate Intersections and Interchanges.

“We are a group dedicated to roundabouts — the TRB is also comprised of members from many other countries,” he said. “France, Australia, Holland and Belgium have been constructing roundabouts for many years and we are tightening up the geometrics to get car speeds down — you get better safety.”

Is it possible to redesign 25A between Stony Brook Road and Gnarled Hollow Road to eliminate all or most of the traffic signals? Is it possible to redesign pedestrian crossings so they occur in the middle of a block rather than at busy intersections where vehicle traffic is coming from all directions? The answer, in many cases, is yes. We just have to be willing to accept change when and where it is proven to be beneficial. We need to encourage our state, county and village transportation departments to seriously look at these methods of traffic calming and traffic safety that have a proven success record in this country and in many countries and municipalities throughout the world. We then need to tell them we want it here, and that just may be a good resolution for 2018, saying we are willing to accept a new transportation paradigm that improves our quality of life.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian.

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Historian Beverly C. Tyler, third from right, in front of a replica of a Union Pacific engine, takes part in the reenactment of the joining of the rails in Golden Spike National Historic Site. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The changes in transportation that began in the early 1800s were dramatic and far-reaching. They made it possible to lower costs of food and fuel, expand settlements, open western New York and the Midwest, and provide employment for thousands of immigrants. Before steam power, transportation on land was limited to walking, riding horses and going by horse and wagon. Canals and steamboats made long distance transportation viable, but canals were a temporary solution. The railroads became the vehicle that united America with steam power.

Wood was the first fuel used by steam trains, but coal was the fuel that made commerce by rail a reality. The early trains, including the Long Island Rail Road, fueled with wood, were only strong enough to carry passengers. Before 1844 the Norwich & Worcester and Boston & Worcester railroads ran a water-to-rail route from Manhattan to Boston. Steamboats left Manhattan at 5 p.m. Eleven hours later, they arrived at Allyn’s Point in Norwich, Connecticut. There the passengers were escorted to the waiting train. Two hours later they arrived in Boston, a total trip of 13 hours, under the best of conditions.

To compete on the route from Manhattan to Boston the LIRR built a rail line west to east on Long Island from Brooklyn to Greenport. Cornelius Vanderbilt joined with the LIRR to provide steamboats for crossing Long Island Sound, between Greenport and the docks at Stonington and Norwich, Connecticut, where trains then took passengers to Boston. The LIRR felt that as this was the longest rail route and the shortest water crossing it would get passengers to and from Boston more rapidly, and it did, with a time of about 10-and-a-half hours. The first train left Brooklyn Aug. 8, 1844. The route was initially a popular success and even had a contract to carry the U.S. mail. The new LIRR and N&W route offered early morning departures which assured arrival in one’s destination city by evening. Thus, for the first time, travelers passing between the two cities could avoid having to spend a night on the steamboat/train connection.

Vanderbilt in his quest against his competitors kept lowering the cost of the LIRR route, and when the board of directors balked at his aggressive stance, Vanderbilt abandoned the LIRR, making it impossible to compete financially. To get needed funds the railroad sold their steamboats Cleopatra and Worcester to the N&W allowing it to compete with LIRR on its own water routes. As a result, the LIRR abandoned its Brooklyn to Boston route in March 1847.

A reproduction of the Central Pacific engine Jupiter in Utah. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

The LIRR now had tracks running through the center of the Island where few people lived. It would be nearly three decades before the railroad completed lines along the North and South shores to more effectively serve Long Island residents. In the meantime, the LIRR began a campaign to encourage New York City residents to take the rails to the shores of Lake Ronkonkoma as well as connections to stage coaches that would take them to vacation spots on the North and South shores of the Island.

The rise of American railroads coincided with a flood of immigrants. In 1842 more than 100,000 immigrants arrived in American ports, the overwhelming majority in New York City. By 1847, immigrants from just Ireland exceeded 100,000 and over the next decade more than a million Irish came to America. Germans also came to America to escape the wars and revolutions in Europe. As railroads grew and tracks crisscrossed Eastern and Midwest states they needed more and more laborers to lay tracks and do many new jobs associated with this new booming transportation infrastructure. The flood of immigrants had come at just the right time for America.

In Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, railroads connected the waterways of the Great Lakes, and the Ohio, Mississippi and other rivers with port cities, especially New York and New Orleans. During the 1850s Midwest cities grew rapidly as immigrants, cattle, hogs and wheat from the great plains flooded into Chicago and other developing Midwest cities.

By the late 1840s, the telegraph and the railroads were developing together and relying on each other. The possibility of instantaneous information altered the entire logistics of the railroad industry. For the telegraph operators, the benefits were obvious. The telegraph company would hoist its poles along the tracks. The railroad would then provide ongoing maintenance of the telegraph wires.

In the summer of 1862, the federal government, in the absence of Southern elements in Congress due to the Civil War, approved the Pacific Railway Act, with a combination of land grants and bond guarantees, allowed for private interest to begin construction of a railroad to connect across the entire country. It was the California Gold Rush that made the construction work possible and men such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and Joseph Pulitzer made it work.

From the time of the gold rush in 1848 to 1849 the idea of connecting the Pacific Coast to the East via a large railroad had been a dream of both capitalists and politicians. Finally in 1869, the golden spike was driven in the last rail as west met east at Promontory, Utah, where the two trains met, the western train fueled by wood and the eastern train fueled by coal.

In October 2012 my wife Barbara and I dove to the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Corinne, Utah. It is really a desolate area except for the national park. We were there for the last ceremonial reenactment of the year, the joining of the rails across America at Promontory, Utah.

Two reproduction engines, the Central Pacific engine Jupiter and the Union Pacific engine 119 came together as the golden spike was gently driven in and then removed and replaced with an iron spike. Costumed actors and visitors then gathered together for a picture of this monumental event that joined our country together with steel rails and instant communication.

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.

Margo Arceri, right, creator of Culper Spy Day, poses with Diane Schwindt, dressed as an 18th-century cook at the 2017 event. Photo from Mari Irizarry

By Rita J. Egan

With the help of those who appreciate history, events of the past have a chance to live on. Margo Arceri is one of those history lovers, and her passion has inspired others to learn more about their local landscape.

Arceri didn’t need the AMC series “TURN” to discover how instrumental the members of the Culper Spy Ring were in the Colonies winning the American Revolutionary War. While growing up in Strong’s Neck, she learned about the Setauket spies directly from Kate. W. Strong herself. The great-great-granddaughter of Anna Smith Strong would tell stories of the patriot who used her clothesline to send messages to her fellow spies, and through those tales, Arceri developed a deep curiosity for history and the local intelligence group.

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly Tyler said Arceri’s passion is so strong her car features “Culper” license plates.

“She loves the Revolutionary War,” Tyler said. “She loves Anna Smith Strong, and the whole idea of the spy ring.”

A few years ago, Arceri, a former vice president and past secretary of the Three Village Historical Society, created Tri-Spy Tours, where participants follow the footsteps of the spies by walking, biking and/or kayaking through the area.

Steven Hintze was the president of the society when Arceri came to him with the idea of the tours. He said he liked the concept and discussed it with the board members.

Hintze said it was while conducting Tri-Spy Tours that Arceri realized there was more to share about local history, so she developed Culper Spy Day, an annual event that sponsors a self-guided tour where attendees visit various structures and museums in the area to learn how the Setauket spies assisted President George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Hintze said the day, which marked its third year in September, has greatly grown in popularity, attracting history lovers from all over the tristate area. According to historical society records, the event attracted twice as many people in 2017 than it did the year prior.

Hintze said he isn’t surprised how popular it has become through Arceri.

“She’s one of those people who has a great personality, she’s friends with everybody,” Hintze said. “She knows a lot of people, and she knows how to put them together.”

Margo Arceri, standing left, with volunteers Janet McCauley, standing right, and Barbara Lynch at the 2017 Culper Spy Day. Photo from Mari Irizarry

Tyler agrees that Arceri has done a wonderful job, especially in getting various organizations involved in Culper Spy Day. Arceri reached out to local groups such as The Long Island Museum, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Drowned Meadow Cottage in Port Jefferson, which once was owned by the Roe family, members of the ring. The happening has also grown to include organizations outside of the Three Village area, such as Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay and Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches. Tyler said Arceri is working with a historical society in Fairfield, Connecticut, to take part next year.

“I think it’s very important to the area,” the historian said. “It’s starting to bring in people.”

Steve Healy, the Three Village Historical Society’s current president, said when it comes to questions he may have about local history, in addition to Tyler and Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell, he considers Arceri one of his go-to people.

“It’s difficult in today’s environment to dedicate time to history, and she seems to have found a good mix with history and with [her] work,” he said.

Arceri has a knack for getting people to think about history, Healy added, saying it’s apparent during both the Tri-Spy Tours and Culper Spy Day. He said the history buff connects with people by allowing them to ask questions and have a dialogue. She’s known for asking participants: “What do you think happened? What do you think are the elements that drove this situation?” because she doesn’t see historical events in black and white.

“Margo likes to engage people, and that’s one of her strong points, too,” Healy said. “She has many, but one of them is to engage people in a situation where they can have an honest, educated discussion.”

Healy believes the future looks bright for Arceri and her Culper spy ventures.

“I think she’s found a great niche where she can introduce local history to people and grow that further, because she’s always looking to grow,” Healy said. “That’s one of the things that I really like about her. She’ll have a conversation with me and say: ‘Steve, I want to expand. I want to get more people involved in this. I want to teach more people to let them know what happened here.’”

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A postcard of a family canal boat on the Erie Canal being pulled by mules. Image from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The changes in transportation that began in the early 1800s were dramatic and far-reaching. They made it possible to lower costs of food and fuel, expand settlements, open western New York and the Midwest and provide employment for thousands of immigrants. Before steam power, transportation on land was limited to walking, riding horses and going by horse and wagon. On the water there were sloops, schooners and larger ships that traveled around the world. All of these were dependent on organic modes of transportation: wind, current, animals and feet.

By the 1850s and 1860s schooners, barks and full-rigged ships were setting speed records on the China trade route and around Cape Horn to the California coast. Sloops and schooners brought goods to and from Long Island, carried cordwood into New York City and eventually carried coal from Jersey City and Newark to communities on Long Island.

Because it was so difficult and time consuming to sail upstream, great American rivers such as the Hudson in New York and the Connecticut River remained underutilized. It was realized that the steam engine applied to a boat would allow for on-demand propulsion for the first time in human history. In the first decade of the 1800s, New York State offered a prize, the exclusive commercial route up the Hudson River, for the first steamboat to travel the route at an average of 4 mph.

May 1895 the schooner Commerce, loaded with 91 tons of eggs and stove coal, left Perth Amboy and sailed with the cargo to New London, Connecticut. Painting by Ron Druett; photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Robert Fulton, an artist in Paris and a self-styled engineer, with financing by Robert R. Livingston, realized that a large paddlewheel, attached to the side of the vessel, rather than a screw propeller at the stern, was the answer to go upstream. In August 1807, Fulton’s North River Steamboat achieved 5 mph from Manhattan to Albany, and he received the prize.

DeWitt Clinton, mayor of New York and former U.S. senator, was elected governor in 1816. He began construction of the Erie Canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson River with state and private funding on July 4, 1817. The canal opened in sections and every section became proof of the canal’s value as a propeller of commerce. Completed in 1825, the canal quickly exceeded all expectations. Goods from Cleveland got to Manhattan within days. Chicago was easily accessible from New York. The Erie Canal was the first large commercial canal in America.

By 1862, the canal had a depth of 7 feet and could handle boats carrying 240 tons. In 1882, the canal was made free. It had earned $42 million above the original cost and the expenses of enlargement, maintenance and operation. The success of the Erie Canal set off canal mania in other states: the Ohio and Erie Canal from Cleveland to the Ohio River 350 miles south and the Miami and Erie Canal from Toledo to Cincinnati. By 1830, the population in the Northwest (now the Midwest) doubled to 1.6 million and by 1840 doubled again to 3.3 million. Canals had opened what is now known as the Midwest. By 1850, the two major American ports were New York and New Orleans.

Now areas near the Great Lakes — from the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh and the Monongahela to the Ohio to the Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico — were commercially more connected to the American south than to the Atlantic coast with its population in the millions. The Wabash and Erie Canal was a shipping canal that linked the Great Lakes to the Ohio River via an artificial waterway. The canal provided traders with access from the Great Lakes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Over 460 miles long, it was the longest canal ever built in North America. Due to canal mania in the north, the railroads were slow in starting, lacking investment and behind the British in the manufacture of iron. By 1837, there were only 1,500 miles of track in America. Track construction accelerated right after the panic of 1837. By 1840, Cornelius Vanderbilt had bought and sold enough steamships and steamship routes to amass a fortune. Running through Long Island Sound, Vanderbilt had the fastest boats from Manhattan to Providence to Boston. Canals and steamboats made long-distance transportation viable, but canals were a temporary solution. The railroads would soon become the vehicle that united America with steam power.

In the next History Close at Hand article, railroads, specifically the Long Island Rail Road, will be explored. 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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