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Beverly C. Tyler

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Percy Smith's Market and Butcher Shop circa 1940. Photo provided by Beverly C Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In Stony Brook, before World War II and before the changes made by Ward Melville, there were stores and shops spread out along Main Street, Shore Road and Christian Avenue. Main Street in Stony Brook during the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries was an active commercial area with a variety of shops.

South of Harbor Road and the mill pond there were several small homesteads and farms, a harness-maker’s shop and blacksmith shop, and a schoolhouse. The business area really began at the Grist Mill, and except for Jacinsky’s Saloon and a bakery opposite Harbor Road, all the stores were between the mill pond and the harbor. Shops included an ice cream parlor, drugstore, hardware store, tearoom, second-hand clothing store, Chinese laundry, a tailor shop and harness-maker’s shop that became a butcher shop and grocery store about 1900, a barbershop, livery stable, shoemaker’s shop, post office and at least two general stores.

The butcher in Stony Brook at the turn of the century was Orlando G. Smith. His brother, Charles E. Smith, ran a butcher shop and general store in East Setauket. Percy Smith, in his booklet “A Century of Progress,” noted that in the 1890s Stony Brook farmers began decreasing their livestock, and Orlando Smith had to buy meat from Bridgeport. His order was shipped by boat to Port Jefferson, loaded into a wagon and brought to Stony Brook. “During this time, Orlando bought what meat he could, but this had dwindled mostly to calves, lambs and pigs,” Percy Smith wrote. Born in 1892, he took over in 1913 the butcher business that had been owned for a short while by Capt. Robert F. Wells and then by Percy’s father, W.H. Smith.

In 1922 Percy Smith moved to a new location in the old post office building. A Stony Brook resident his entire life, he remembered in an interview in 1976 how the local families relied on each other for many of their necessities of life. The farmers supplied the food products, and the ship captains supplied transportation for the goods that were sold in New York City and Connecticut. The coastal schooners also brought to Stony Brook many items that were not grown or manufactured here. The merchants then bought and sold from both the farmers and the schooner captains. Smith noted that his grandfather Joseph Smith Hawkins, born 1827, used to make butter and take it to the store and trade it in and get groceries: “Farming used to be a mainstay of the village, plus the boats that used to bring things in and take things out. My grandfather used to cut and ship cordwood to New York City. The dock at Stony Brook used to be covered with hundreds of cords of wood.”

The 19th century brought many changes that affected the close interdependent relationship of the farmers, ship captains and merchants. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the subsequent building of canals brought coal for fuel from Pennsylvania and other states and hastened the decline of the use of cordwood for fuel in New York City. In addition, wheat and other grains from upstate New York and the Midwest were shipped on the Erie Canal and began arriving in New York City in large quantities. Most of the local grist mills found it difficult, if not impossible, to match the low price of Midwest grains and either adapted or went out of business. Percy Smith commented on these changes: “The older people died off and the younger ones didn’t want to bother with farming because they could make more money doing something else … so the farms were sold off.”

Thus, ended most of the small individual farms in the Three Village area. The local farmer was always a hardworking individual who took a great deal of pride in his work. The farms are gone but many of the farmhouses remain as witness to a lifestyle that has passed on.

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.

On Aug. 30, the American Association for State and Local History presented an Award of Excellence to the Three Village Historical Society for the society’s Founders Day program. The program is conducted each spring for Three Village Central School District fourth-grade students.

Donna Smith and Steve Healy (center) receive the AASLH Award of Excellence on behalf of the Three Village Historical Society at the AASLH Awards Dinner in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30 in photo with John Fleming, AASLH Chair on the left, AASLH Predient & CEO John R. Dichtl on the right.

As a direct result of the program, during the 2017-18 school year, Setauket School fourth-grade students produced videos about each of the 12 Vance Locke murals in the Setauket School Auditorium. The students, with the assistance of their teachers and Andy Weik, lead teacher for instructional technology for the district, wrote and produced the videos.

Because of the work of the students, the  auditorium was opened to the public for the first time on the 2018 Culper Spy Day. To make the videos available to anyone visiting the auditorium, a QR code was added below each mural. The follow-up to the Founders Day program by Setauket School fourth-grade students gave an added impetus for the decision to present the Three Village Historical Society with the AASLH Award of Excellence.

On Sept. 10, members of the Founders Day Committee Donna Smith, TVHS education director; Beverly Tyler, TVHS historian; Karen Mizell, Setauket School principal; Lindsey Steward-Goldberg, TVHS committee member; along with Steve Healy, TVHS president  met with the 110, now sixth-grade, Setauket School students and teachers to congratulate them on their part in the Founders Day Award.

Smith and Tyler thanked the Setauket School, Principal Karen Mizell and the Three Village Central School District for their partnership with the Three Village Historical Society and the Founders Day Committee over the 14-year (2006-2019) existence of the Founders Day program. The event was also attended by Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Leg. Kara Hahn.

Supervisor Ed Romaine thanks the students.

Supervisor Romaine spoke briefly to the students before presenting the Three Village Historical Society with a proclamation officially announcing Sept. 10 as Three Village Historical Society Day for its efforts in promoting local history. “Two years ago when you were in fourth grade you were able to take videos photos of the Grist Mill and other historic sites around town … and members of the Three Village Historical Society took your work to the AMA and they won an award which says one thing — you’re all great historians,” Romaine told the students.

“Our history is so important to us as a community in establishing our sense of place and understanding where we came from and how the people who founded this community helped to make it the great place that it is today,” said Leg. Hahn. “And so I hope you are learning a lot about our local community thanks to the wonderful volunteers at the historical society and all of your teachers … to help you understand how important Setauket was to the founding of this nation.”

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Artifacts gathered at the Fischetti Site along West Meadow Creek. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Long Island, Brookhaven Town and the Three Village area have a rich history, with a population dating back thousands of years before the first white settlers. The first humans to set foot on Long Island were of the Paleo-Indian and Archaic cultures. These hunter-gatherers came to Long Island between 12,500 and 3,000 years ago. The first cultural group, the Paleo-Indians (12,500 to 8,000 BP, before present, defined as 1950) hunted the mammoths and mastodons with spear points called Clovis points. Several Clovis points have been found on Long Island.

Artifact gathered at the Fischetti Site along West Meadow Creek. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

Long Island Native Americans of the Algonquian culture settled in Brookhaven and used the land and the sea to provide all of their needs. These early settlers (3,000 to 1,000 BP, the Woodland culture period) used the rich coastal resources to support their native family groups.

There were basically two family groups of Native Americans in Brookhaven during the Woodland period. The Setalcotts, a name meaning “land on the mouth of the creek,” on the north near Long Island Sound, and the Unkechauges on the south shore near the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. They were described as tall and muscular with straight hair and a reddish complexion. They lived in simple lodge dwellings. They hunted in the plentiful forests, fished in the well-stocked bays and streams and grew corn and a few vegetables in small farming plots.

In the 1500s, the first European traders and trappers traveled up and down the east coast of North America. They bought food and furs from the Native Americans in exchange for iron goods, cloth goods and trinkets. Gradually the Native American way of life began to change. At the same time, with no resistance to European diseases, the Native Americans were devastated by smallpox and other diseases. The native population decreased by more than 50 percent, leaving fertile lands open to settlement by people of English descent from New England, eastern Long Island and England. In 1609, Henry Hudson landed on Long Island, before beginning his exploration of the Hudson River. He described the Indians as “seeming very glad of our coming and brought greene tobacco and gave us of it for knives and beads.”

From the time of Native American hunter-gatherers through Colonial times, West Meadow Beach, West Meadow Creek and the adjacent tidal wetlands have been a valuable resource. Archaeological excavations have given us most of the details of how people lived in this area as early as 5,000 years ago. One of the most famous sites in New York State was a nearby shell midden named the Stony Brook Site, excavated by the state archaeologist William Richie in 1955.

From archaeological digs by Richie and others, we know that, between 5,000 and 3,000 years ago, the native people were hunters and gatherers, dependent upon hunting local animals and gathering plants, stones and clay for food, shelter, tools, clothes and medicines.

Aunt Amy’s Creek at West Meadow Creek, site of an early Native American village and an archaeological exploration by New York State Archaeologist William Richie. Vance Locke Mural

The Fischetti Site, a prehistoric Indian site for manufacturing tools and spear points, was discovered during a cultural resource investigation of a proposed residential development in November of 1980. Salvage excavations continued through October of 1981.

The site, on the east side of West Meadow Creek opposite the horse show grounds and the new walking trail, was occupied by Algonquin Indians about 3,000 years ago. We know they used this location then because of the type of arrow and spear points and blades recovered. The primary activity here, on the edge of Stony Brook Creek, was making stone tools. We know this by the vast quantities of stone flakes and roughed-out stones.

The almost total absence of food remains at the site shows that this was not the location of a village. However, a village site, the Stony Brook Site, did exist about 800 yards to the south, along what is now known as Aunt Amy’s Creek, during the same time period.

For thousands of years, the Indians used natural resources, wood, stone and animals to make their housing, tools and clothing. About 3,000 years ago, their way of life changed with the introduction of three things: pottery, the bow and arrow and horticulture (farming). Like the earlier Indians, the Woodland Indians continued to rely on natural resources.

The artifacts taken from the Fischetti Site are part of the collection of the Three Village Historical Society. Artifacts from the Richie site are a part of the collection of the New York State Museum.

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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Gravestone and marker for Zophar Hawkins and veteran replacement gravestone for Arthur Smith are located in Setauket family graveyards. Photos by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In a Setauket family graveyard set on a hill above an ancient colonial home is buried a young man, Arthur Smith, a patriot who was killed by British soldiers probably in the fall of 1776 simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In a South Setauket graveyard along Pond Path is the grave of Zophar Hawkins, a Revolutionary War patriot and friend of Smith whose adventures included a number of brushes with death.

Smith, born about 1740, was the grandson of Benjamin Smith who is thought to be the builder of the circa 1685 home along Main Street in Setauket where Arthur Smith was born. The home just to the north of the Smith homestead was the Tyler Tavern, where Smith was killed.

Hawkins grew up in and eventually inherited his father’s home near the intersection of Pond Path and Lower Sheep Pasture Road in Nassakeag (South Setauket). Earlier in his life, during the Revolutionary War, Hawkins at about the age of 20 was involved in an incident at the Tyler Tavern. This piece of family folklore was recorded by Kate Strong in her “True Tales from the Early Days of Long Island”:

“It was after the beginning of the Revolutionary War and after the Battle of Setauket that word was brought to South Setauket that there were exciting doings down by Setauket Pond. Zophar Hawkins (who perhaps found life a bit quiet after his earlier adventures) and his friend Arthur Smith decided to go down and see what was going on. They found a small party of British soldiers, after having landed from a small whaleboat, had marched to Tyler’s Tavern in search of deserters. This inn … used to stand near the road [at the intersection of Main Street and Christian Ave.] It was later moved [back up the hill] and still shows the bullet holes.

“As the soldiers entered the building, Redfern, a school teacher, rushed upstairs and called to two girls sleeping there that they were safer in bed. He had only returned four steps downstairs when a stray bullet from the British muskets struck and killed him. Two other men were killed and a third escaped by climbing up the great chimney.

“Zophar and Arthur were hanging around outside; the British catching sight of them fired and killed Arthur, and as they thought, Zophar. But Zophar had dropped as they fired and lay as though he were dead, an Indian trick. It is said that when the soldiers had gone, Zophar jumped to his feet and ran so fast for home you couldn’t see his heels for dust.”

Hawkins served as a soldier in the Patriot cause during the Revolution and returned home after the war uninjured. Like his father Samuel, Hawkins was a farmer. However, he did not get married and start a family of his own until he was 43 years old. As recorded by Samuel Thompson in his diary for April 16, 1800, “Zophar Hawkins married to Julianner Bayles last night.” When they were married Julianner was 25 years old. They had six children between 1804 and 1816. Their first child Moses died at the age of two. Their third and fourth children Sarah and Ruth were twins. Sarah died the day of her birth and Ruth died unmarried at the age of 24. The other three children Mary, Elizabeth and Samuel had long lives.

In 1851, Hawkins’ estate was listed on the Town of Brookhaven assessment rolls as 70 acres, with a total worth of $2,200. The estate paid a tax for the year of $5.06. The same year Hawkins’ son Samuel, who inherited his father’s home and farm, was assessed for 300 acres.

Julianner Hawkins died on October 8, 1842 at the age of 67. Zophar Hawkins died on October 26, 1847 at the age of 90. They are both buried in the Hawkins cemetery along Pond Path. On Hawkins’ tombstone is written, “He served his country faithfully in the Revolution, and was a captive among the Indians 3 years. He lived a quiet and peaceful life, Was happy and resign’d in death.”

Hawkins’ son Samuel Hawkins did not marry. He died on May 6, 1879 and the farm passed out of the Hawkins family. It was later known as the Nassakeag Farm.

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.

NATURE’S WONDER

Bev Tyler of East Setauket submitted this sweet photo taken on May 22. He writes, ‘A  robin’s nest discovered in a boxwood at home gave me the opportunity to take pictures of the babies as they progressed from just born and sleeping, above, to wide awake and hungry. The nest is now empty as of May 27.’

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

Donna Smith, director of education at the TVHS, welcomes every fourth-grade class in the Three Village school district to the Setauket Elementary School’s auditorium, surrounded by murals painted by Vance Locke that portray a time line of Setauket’s history, on Founders Day in April. Photo courtesy of TVHS
Tara Ebrahimian, education coordinator for the Three Village Historical Society, in front of artist William Sidney Mount’s gravesite at the Setauket Presbyterian Church with students from Setauket Elementary School during a recent Founder’s Day event. Ebrahimian is holding up an image of one of Mount’s most famous paintings, ‘Eel Speering at Setauket,’ 1845. Photo courtesy of TVHS

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) recently announced that the Three Village Historical Society is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for Founders Day.

TVHS historian Beverly C. Tyler fields questions from the fourth graders on Founder’s Day. Photo from TVHS

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 74th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Founders Day, an annual event for fourth-grade classes of the Three Village school district, is an exploration of the depth and diversity of Brookhaven’s original settlement in Setauket.

The program is designed to complement the New York State curriculum and enhance students understanding of their local history. It includes a comprehensive presentation about the founding and development of the settlement, as well as guided walking tours of historically significant landmarks.

“This honor was made possible through the efforts of TVHS Historian Beverly Tyler, TVHS Education Director Donna Smith, volunteer Katherine Downs-Reuter, Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell and the entire education team,” said Steve Healy, president of the TVHS.

Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2019 AASLH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30.

The Setauket Neighborhood House when it was known as the Lakeside House

By Beverly C. Tyler

While the wooden shipbuilding era was ending on Long Island and in the Three Village area in the 1870s, the Long Island Railroad was completing the North Shore line. The coming of the railroad made it possible for people and products to travel quickly overland.

Until the railroad came, most travel and commerce to and from Long Island ports was conducted by ship. As the railroad became more efficient and reliable, tourism began to increase, especially during the summer months. Hotels, tourist homes and summer cottages opened in Stony Brook and Setauket, as they did throughout Long Island, to accommodate the influx of visitors.

Beverly Swift and Edith Griffin Tyler at West Meadow Beach around 1912

By 1902, there were six hotels or tourist homes in Stony Brook and ten in Setauket-East Setauket that offered weekly rates. In Stony Brook, the Pine View House run by Israel Hawkins was advertised as a family recreation summer boarding house with accommodations for 25 guests. Guests at the Pine View had the use of a beach house at West Meadow Beach.

In East Setauket, Shore Acres was a large boarding house overlooking Setauket Harbor. Shore Acres was run by Mr. and Mrs. William D. Oaks and had 30 rooms and one bathroom with a washbasin in each room. “In the large dining room on Sundays, the meal was usually chicken, slaughtered on Saturday evening, fresh garden vegetables and homemade ice cream.” (Long Island Museum 1981 exhibit Summer at the Shore). Boating and bathing were popular activities during these summers, and Shore Acres had docks and boats for the use of guests.

In Setauket, the Lakeside House, now the Setauket Neighborhood House, had accommodations for 25 guests at $6 to $8 per week. The Lakeside House was run by my grandfather Captain Beverly Swift Tyler. In 1879, he was master and 3/8 owner of the Willow Harp. She was a coastal schooner and carried coal from New Jersey to East Setauket. Beginning about the turn of the century Captain Tyler, who then spent much of his time running the Lakeside House and general store, would take guests on sailing outings on his catboat Madeline, which was anchored in Setauket Harbor.

The catboat Setauket rigged with a canopy and engine to take Lakeside House guests on excursions.

After he married my grandmother Edith Griffin in 1912, who first came to Setauket to stay a week at the Lakeside House with her sister Carolyn, she became the Lakeside hostess and manager of the kitchen and boarding house staff. Lucy Hart Keyes, born 1900, commented that she worked at the Lakeside house as a young girl and that Mrs. Tyler was “an easy person to work for.”

In 1906, my grandfather built the catboat Setauket in an area behind the Lakeside House. The Setauket was the second boat he built — the first being the Madeline — which, according to Roger Tyler, Captain Tyler’s nephew, “was built with the comments and help of friends and neighbors whose advice he took and later regretted. When the Setauket was being built and comments were again offered, Captain Tyler this time pointed out that the Madeline was their community boat and that he was building the Setauket by himself.”

Sailboats and the harbors and inlets of the Three Village area were part of the attractiveness of the community at the turn of the century. Captain Tyler used the Setauket to take guests on excursions on the Sound and around Setauket and Port Jefferson harbors. The Setauket was also built to race in local competitions in Port Jefferson Harbor. When the Setauket was built, Captain Tyler sold the Madeline, which was a fairly good racing catboat. Roger Tyler said that the Setauket was raced in Port Jefferson and was a consistent winner against all competition including the Madeline. Tyler commented that, “it got to be so that they wouldn’t tell Bev when a race was to be run and a few times he found out about them only just an hour or so before the race, but raced and won anyway.”

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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New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), above, addresses attendees of the 2018 Memorial Day Parade at East Setauket Veterans Memorial Park with Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) to his left. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The celebration of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was first called, began when the first proclamation for a day to decorate the graves of Union soldiers killed in the Civil War was made on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

He declared, “It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept from year to year.” May 30 was chosen as the day, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country during the late rebellion.”

In 1873 New York State recognized Memorial Day as an official holiday and many other states followed during the next few decades.

In the Three Villages, Memorial Day is observed with ceremonies, first in Stony Brook and then in Setauket. In Stony Brook a plaque first dedicated on July 6, 1946, states, “This tablet is erected and dedicated, as an abiding memorial and as a token of the affectionate esteem of grateful citizens, to those gallant young men and women of the Stony Brook community who, in obedience to their country’s call, courageously offered their lives in World War I and World War II to maintain the American principles of liberty and justice.”

Two men from the local area gave their lives in World War I, Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden. The massive boulder and south-facing bronze tablet were erected on the Setauket Village Green in their memory. The boulder was brought from Strong’s Neck, and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William de Leftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capitol in Albany.

Private Raymond Wishart, son of postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July 1921. Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew, Sam Golden. “He was a sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked, and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died, and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941–1945 — In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer [and] William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.” A new plaque was later added to honor Chris Brunn who died in Vietnam in 1969.

The graves of these soldiers who served during the two world wars are often decorated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054. The grave of Francis S. Hawkins, tech sergeant, 853 AAF Bomb Squadron, is also in the Caroline Episcopal Churchyard and Cemetery, near the stone of Raymond Wishart, and it details his service. “The son of Everett Hawkins [the last miller in Setauket] and Celia Swezey was born at Setauket, L.I., June 18, 1911. He volunteered in the U.S. Army Air Force September 24, 1942. On November 25, 1944 he gave his life to his country while on his 28th bombing mission over enemy lines, when his plane ‘The Moose’ was shot down over Hanover and crashed near Gehrden, Germany.”

The graves of patriots who served in the Revolutionary War are not forgotten either. In the Three Village area the graves of 30 patriots, including Nancy Strong, will be decorated before Memorial Day. The graves are in eight separate graveyards some of which are small family burying grounds. The list is a permanent part of the Three Village Historical Society’s Local History Collection.

After ceremonies on the Setauket Village Green, units of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, fire departments and other community organizations parade each year to the Memorial Park in East Setauket for the final services of the day. The brief tribute honoring those who died in the service of their country is an experience that may be observed and renewed each year.

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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Cormorant and snapping turtles relax on lower mill pond at Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The intersection of Main Street and Old Field Road in Setauket marks the entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Park. The horseshoe-shaped park, completed in 1937, includes extensive plantings, a simulated grist mill, a magnificent view of Conscience Bay and the cottage of the last Setauket miller Everett Hawkins. From the park, there is an entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation sanctuary grounds with its extensive nature paths.

The Setauket Millpond was a center of commerce for the community from the time it was settled in 1655 until early in the 20th century. It is easy to imagine almost any time in Setauket history while in the park.

Looking out over the mill dam, Conscience Bay reflects the 8,000 years the Native Americans lived here before the English settlers came to Setauket. The mill tells the story of the farmer grinding grain in the 1700s. The recently restored red barn was originally made from World War I barracks buildings at Camp Upton in Yaphank. The stable remembers the horse Smokey and speaks of a 19th-century horse and carriage. The stone bridge relates how an immigrant great-grandson came to Setauket and gave it an image of the countryside of rural England and Europe with a park.

Just after dawn the Setauket Millpond shimmers with morning mist and reflects the early morning sky and the trees that partly surround it. Walking along the path in Frank Melville Memorial Park, the only sounds, except for the occasional car going by, are the birds in the trees and the ducks in the pond. They contrast with the greens, browns and grays of early morning. The contemplative surroundings start the day with the beauty of God’s creation and gives perspective to the rest of the day.

Birdsong by Beverly C. Tyler

Spring, the park at morning.

Woodpeckers rat-a-tat, the whoosh of wings — Canadian geese, a soft grouse call is heard.

Bird song, first near and then far, across
the pond.

Bird song left and right.

A gentle breeze turns the pond to silver, moving patterns of dark and light.

The background sounds of water flowing over the mill dam and into the bay.

Pairs of mallards gliding slowly across
the pond.

The trumpet calls of geese announcing flight as they rise from the pond and fly across the mill dam, across the marsh and into the bay.

Trees surrounding the pond make patterns of greens of every shade.

Dark evergreens and climbing vines add vertical splendor climbing skyward.

Bright green beech and silver-green sycamore trees stand stately and strong.

Patches of white dogwood add depth
and contrast.

A heron glides effortlessly across the surface of the pond, rises and disappears into the cover of a black birch tree.

I am overwhelmed by gentle sounds and contrasting scenery, by muted colors in every shade and texture.

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 home of Capt. Joseph Swift and Capt. Charles B. Tyler families, circa 1900. Tyler died in 1899; his wife, Eliza, died in 1924. The house and property now belong to the Three Village Community Trust. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The date was Saturday, Feb. 19, 1848. The day began cold and clear but pleasant with no wind and a frost on the ground early. The weather had been about the same for the week before. (From the diary of Henry Hudson, 1791-1877.)

In the family room of a large farmhouse, two sisters — Eliza, age 15, and Mary, age 14, the eldest children of Capt. Joseph Swift and his wife, Amelia — were sitting at a table in front of the fireplace. Their five younger siblings — Cynthia, 11, William, 8, Ellen, 6, George, 4, and Harriet, 2 — were sitting closer to the warmth from the fireplace entertaining each other with games and storybooks. Eliza, Mary and their mother had been up just before dawn, as they were every day on their small six-acre farm, tending the animals and preparing breakfast. Their father had been away for a time sailing his cargo schooner along the Atlantic Coast. With the morning chores completed, Eliza and Mary placed their small portable writing desk on the table and prepared to write a letter to their aunt and uncle in New York City.

A recently discovered letter, on light blue paper, written in ink now faded to a light brown, was discovered in Tyler family papers. Both Mary and Eliza wrote the letter. Mary writing to their aunt Mary Bacon Stoney and then Eliza continuing with her own writing to their Uncle Henry Stoney. Mary wrote, “As I have a few moments I will devote it to the pleasure of writing to you although I have some melancholy news to write. The family are all well with the exceptions of Ellen who has been sick with the scarlet rash but is now much recovered. We have nothing from father since Aunt Mary left … ”

Mary continued the letter with details about the valentines the two girls received and how easy it was to figure out who sent them. Then she told her aunt the news. “Setauket is quite sickly. In less than ten days there have been five deaths. Hannah Howell, the young girl who went to school with Eliza died on Saturday with the Typhus fever. Mrs. Archibald Jayne died on Monday with the quincy after an illness of only ten days … Mr. Archibald died on Wednesday after being sick only three days with the pleurisy … Their funerals [at Setauket’s Caroline Church] were very large. Uncle William [Bacon] supposed there were 400 people there and more than 50 carriages and wagons. A great many aged people said they never saw such a sight before in a country place. Isaac Brewster died on Thursday morning with the consumption … Solomon Smith died about a week ago … Eliza will finish this sheet. Please give my love to grandmother [Cynthia Halsey Bacon], Uncle Henry and Ellen Fulton. Your affectionate niece Mary Swift.”

Henry Hudson, in his diary for 1848 also mentioned the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Jayne. “Monday Feb 28th 1848 … I hear yesterday that Archibald Jayne and wife both of them were buried in a day — Isaac Brewster too … I have fifteen scholars …” At the time Hudson, who lived in Setauket, was teaching school in Wading River, having walked there to begin the quarter.

Eliza continued the letter writing to her uncle, telling more about one of the valentines she received and the fact that her Aunt Eliza, possibly her father’s sister, was living with them and had a room upstairs. As there were just three bedrooms upstairs for at least two adults and seven children, it was quite different from sleeping arrangements for most families today. Eliza continued her letter with details on more family members, two weddings and the arrival back home of “Mr. Mills’s son,” who had been with Capt. Swift.

Eliza, my great-grandmother, married Capt. Charles B. Tyler in January 1851, at the age of 18. The couple joined the Swift household, and sometime before Capt. Swift died in 1860 at the age of 48, they purchased the home and farm. By 1870, my widowed great-great-grandmother Amelia Bacon Swift was living in East Setauket with her youngest son Joseph, age 24.

Mary, my great-grandaunt, married Capt. Benjamin Jones before March 19, 1858, and voyaged with him to China and Japan in the bark Mary and Louisa, built by her uncle William Bacon in his shipyard in East Setauket. They left New York’s South Street Seaport in September 1858. Mary’s letters home to her sister Eliza and her sister-in-law Ellen Jones Jayne are a wonderful glimpse into her life at sea and in China and Japan. They arrived back in New York in September 1861. Mary, by then seriously ill with consumption, died in October 1861 at the age of 26. She is buried in the Setauket Presbyterian Cemetery.

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.