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History

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Wilson Sail Loft’s sail plan of the schooner-yacht Wanderer. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“Roots,” a new version and a new vision.

This past week the cable channels History, A&E and Lifetime presented a new look at Alex Haley’s 1976 novel, which tells the story of his Mandinka ancestor Kunta Kinte and his descendants. Born in the village of Juffure, West Africa, in 1750, Kunta Kinte and other Mandinka men and women were captured, transported to America and there suffered brutal enslavement. In 1977 “Roots” became an ABC network miniseries watched by millions of viewers. It was a slavery story that many Americans were learning for the first time. Now a new generation of Americans, sadly less informed about our history, can benefit from this new adaptation of Haley’s historical novel.

“Roots,” 2016, benefits from new scholarship giving viewers a broader understanding of the Mandinka culture in which Kunta Kinte grew to manhood, factors that led to a culture of enslavement by the Africans themselves, and the brutal conditions on the British and Americans ships that transported Africans to the Americas. The story continues in America with a more detailed story of the enslaved Africans and less about the white slavers and plantation owners than in the 1977 ABC miniseries.

If you missed the original production last week, you will be able to see it repeated on the cable channels or on the web at http://roots.history.com/. The Web site also includes more details on the show and on the featured characters and actors.

On a more local level, the book, “The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory,” by Anne Farrow uses a log book of three voyages, over 20 months in the first half of the 18th century, recorded by a young Connecticut man who went on to captain slave ships and privateers, to tell a much wider and disturbing story.

Farrow’s book connects Dudley Saltonstall, the Connecticut man who kept the log books, to the slaves transported from Africa, then to the African men who enslaved them, to the ships that transported them across the Atlantic, and finally to the men who purchased them to work to death in the Caribbean sugar plantations and rice plantations of America’s southern colonies.

Farrow, a former Connecticut newspaper reporter, feels the early story of African people in America must be told over and over, from the beginning. She believes that it has not yet been absorbed into the family of stories told and retold about America, that the story of injustice and suffering still has not made its way into the national narrative.

Unknown to most Americans is the fact that colonial Connecticut was a major provisioner of British West Indies plantations where slaves were growing and processing sugar and yielding huge profits. In addition, Rhode Island men were at the helm of 90 percent of ships that brought captives to the American south, an estimated 900 ships.

The story of the Connecticut and Long Island Sound men who took part in the slave trade is disturbingly real. It brings into focus the way many of our own prosperous and influential Long Island families made their fortunes. It doesn’t change who they were or who we are, but it provides us with a clearer understanding of the pain and suffering caused by their actions.

In spite of the federal law (1807) prohibiting the importation of slaves from Africa, slaves were still being transported from Africa until the beginning of the American Civil War. On an even more local level is the story of our own East Setauket slave ship, Wanderer.

East Setauket’s Joseph Rowland built the schooner-yacht Wanderer in 1857 for Colonel John D. Johnson, a New York Yacht Club member and a wealthy New Orleans sugar planter. The sails for the Wanderer were made in Port Jefferson in the Wilson Sail Loft.

Johnson sold the Wanderer in 1858 to William Corey, and she reappeared in Port Jefferson where large water tanks were installed. Despite numerous checks by the U.S. Revenue Service the Wanderer was allowed to sail.

Slavers were rigged to outrun the slave squadrons of Great Britain and America, both of which were trying to stop the now illegal slave trade. Wanderer took aboard some 600 people from the west coast of Africa and sailed for America.

On Nov. 28, 1858, she landed 465 Africans on Jekyll Island, Georgia. The ship was seized by federal authorities; however, the Africans, now on Georgia soil, a slave state, were sold at auction.

A walking tour of the maritime and wooden shipbuilding area along Shore Road in East Setauket will be conducted Saturday, June 18, beginning at 3 p.m. from the Brookhaven Town Dock for a tour of the homes and shipyards that built ships that sailed around the world. The tour includes the home of the Wanderer shipbuilder and his story.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

Above, the Stony Brook Village Center in the 1940s. Photo from the WMHO

By Ellen Barcel

It’s been 75 years since the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (originally the Stony Brook Community Fund), under the direction of philanthropist Ward Melville, constructed the Stony Brook Village Center. It was planned as a “living Williamsburg” recognizing the historic importance of the village “where culture would blend with natural beauty as a part of everyday life — the first planned business center in the U.S.”

Ward Melville in front of the Stony Brook Post Office in the 1970s. Photo from WMHO
Ward Melville in front of the Stony Brook Post Office in the 1970s. Photo from WMHO

Interestingly, the selection of Stony Brook as the site for this center came about by accident. The Melville family was on its way to the South Fork when, taking the wrong train, they found themselves in Stony Brook. “[Frank and Jenny] fell in love with the area,” noted Stephanie Ruales, special events coordinator at the WMHO. They vacationed in the area and finally, son Ward Melville planned the Stony Brook Village Center.

The WMHO has mounted a special exhibit, “It Takes A Team To Build A Village,” which will run now through Sept. 7, to display the memorabilia associated with the history of the center.  “We started to look for a couple of pictures and found so much,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO and exhibit curator.

“What’s very interesting to me, what I didn’t know, was that Jenny Melville [Ward Melville’s mother] was Canadian and that she bought up property here in the early 1930s, the Depression. When she died, Ward Melville picked up the gauntlet. She was the one who started the garden club — the tea house (later becoming the Three Village Inn) at the old homestead,” said Rocchio.

Co-curated by Ruales and Rocchio with help from Karen Kennedy, the exhibit consists of dozens of enlargements of historic photos, showing the village before, during and after the construction as well as the original blueprints for the village center and letters documenting the purchase of the land. In addition, there’s the original model of the proposed village center used by Melville to present the proposal to the village back in 1940. The exhibit also includes some items from the 1940s, representative of the time.

Just a year later, July of 1941, the new village center was completed. Over the years, various businesses have come and gone, including a four-lane bowling alley in the basement of one of the buildings. In the early 1940s, the automatic pin setting machine didn’t exist, so pinsetters, usually young men, stayed down by the pins, ready to reset them after each bowler’s turn.

The old Hallock Homestead which is now the Three Village Inn. Photo from WMHO
The old Hallock Homestead which is now the Three Village Inn. Photo from WMHO

When searching out the historic photos and documents, Ruales noted that they found an eight-millimeter film of the grand opening of the center, “something we didn’t know that we had. We had it converted” to a DVD and it is running on a loop at the exhibit.

One of the unique features of the village center is the mechanical eagle on top of the Stony Brook Post Office, which flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Noted Marie Gilberti, communications manager at WMHO, Ward Melville himself, “planned and instituted,” the eagle.

But, the eagle was installed for a few years, with its wings flapping up and down, when Melville decided he didn’t like the way it looked. The eagle was taken down and reconfigured, so that the wings flap back and forth now.

Melville also had the Dogwood Hollow Amphitheater constructed opposite the bank in Stony Brook. Concerts were held there through the 1950s and 60s. “Big name” entertainers performed at the concert, noted Rocchio. They included Liberace, Ferrante and Teicher, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Victor Borge, the Clancy Brothers and Lionel Hampton. “Mr. Melville paid for it himself,” Gilberti added. But, unfortunately, the concerts outgrew the venue and were stopped in 1970.

The mechanical eagle on the Stony Brook Post Office still flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Ellen Barcel
The mechanical eagle on the Stony Brook Post Office still flaps its wings every hour on the hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Today, live concerts are still held, but in front of the post office, sponsored by the WMHO. “We’re going to have a concert from each decade this summer,” said Rocchio. She noted that a history of Dogwood Hollow will be on display at the Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., in a building (originally the fire house) owned by the WMHO.

The Jazz Loft will be a center for music education. It is open through Saturday, May 28, from noon to 5 p.m. Beginning June 2, it will be open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. For details, events and performers, go to www.thejazzloft.org. Beginning in September, Swing Dance Long Island is schedule to hold its dances there.

According to Ruales, the whole idea for the exhibit came from Rocchio. “She was in charge of the exhibit.” It was her idea “to celebrate [the anniversary] and … for people to come and see the history,” of the area.

The name for the exhibit, “It Takes A Team To Build A Village,” came about because “we are honoring a lot of people who were involved in constructing the center. It’s a huge village center,” added Gilberti.

Ward Melville, left, with Governor W. Averell Harriman and his wife enjoy a Dogwood Hollow concert. Photo from the WMHO
Ward Melville, left, with Governor W. Averell Harriman and his wife enjoy a Dogwood Hollow concert. Photo from the WMHO

Future events connected with the 75th anniversary include a ceremony on July 9 recreating the 25th anniversary celebration. “We’re going to have antique cars from each decade in the village,” said Rocchio. A talk by her is also planned for the future. “There are so many things I’ve been taught by Mrs. Melville [Dorothy Melville, Ward’s wife] that no one knows. I worked for her for 10 years. She was the president” of the WMHO. “I was the Administrator at that time.” Rocchio added that putting together the exhibit and various events connected with it “has been a labor of love.”

The exhibit is currently on display at WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook through June 19 (Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and June 20 through Sept. 7 (daily, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.) — closed Memorial Day and July 4. There is no admission charge, but donations are suggested. For further information, call 631-689-5888 or visit www.wmho.org.

A photo captures construction underway at the Stony Brook Village Center in 1940. Photo from the WMHO
A photo captures construction underway at the Stony Brook Village Center in 1940. Photo from the WMHO

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Dedication service in memory of Sergeant Harry Golden and Private Raymond Wishart on the Setauket Village Green, Sept. 1,1919. Rev. T. J. Elms, pastor of Setauket Presbyterian Church, delivered the address. Photo from Beverly 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 General 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.”

The large rock on the Setauket Village Green was added in 1919 to honor the men who died in the First World War. A plaque to honor the men who died in World War II was added in 1946. A new plaque honors the young man, Chris Brunn, who died in Vietnam in 1969. The soldiers honored here were from families who immigrated to Setauket from England, Scotland, Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Ireland, Germany, France and Italy.

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 DeLeftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capital in Albany.

Private Raymond Wishart, son of Postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born September 10, 1893, and he died in France on August 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.”

The graves of these soldiers, who served during the two World Wars, are marked by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3054. The grave of Francis S. Hawkins, Tech. Sgt., 853 AAF Bomb Squadron, is also in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard, 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 in Setauket on June 18, 1911. He volunteered in the U.S. Army Air Force Sept. 24, 1942.

On Nov. 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. There are thirty Patriot graves in the Three Village area that have been identified and marked with flags, including Anna Smith Nancy Strong, her husband Selah Strong and Culper Spy chief Abraham Woodhull. The graves are in eight separate graveyards, some of which are family burial grounds.

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 served, and especially those who died in the service of their country, is an experience that should be observed and renewed each year.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

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Bank of Suffolk County, built 1911, photo 1915. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

When Ward Melville began his plan to construct, in Stony Brook, a compact Federal-style shopping center, there were stores and shops spread out along Main Street, Shore Road, now Dock Road, and Christian Avenue. Main Street in Stony Brook during the 19th and early part of the 20th century was an active commercial area with a variety of shops. South of Grist Mill Road and the mill pond there were a number of small homesteads and farms, a harness maker’s shop and a blacksmith shop, and a schoolhouse. The business area really began at the Grist Mill and pond, and except for Jacinsky’s Saloon and a bakery opposite Grist Mill Road, all the stores were on the west side of the road between the pond and the harbor. Shops included an ice cream parlor, drug store, hardware store, tea room, secondhand clothing store, Chinese laundry, a tailor shop and harness maker’s shop that became a butcher shop and grocery store about 1900, a barber shop, 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. Orlando took over the butcher business from Bennie Wells who died in 1875. In 1898, Orlando built a new shop on the site of an earlier butcher shop run by George Hawkins. According to Percy Smith, in his booklet A Century of Progress, “In the mid-90s — 1890s — farmers around Stony Brook began decreasing the sales of their livestock, and Orlando Smith was forced to find another source of supply. The closest place was Bridgeport, about 15 miles across sound, but Smith encountered many difficulties obtaining meat from even so short a distance. His order had to go to Bridgeport by mail. The meat was then hauled to the Bridgeport docks and shipped by boat to Port Jefferson. There it was 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.

Orlando Smith’s butcher shop was located south of where the Reboli Center, formerly the Bank of Suffolk County, Extebank and others, is now. In 1913, Percy Smith took over the butcher business after it had been owned for less than a year by Captain Robert F. Wells and then by Percy’s father, W.H. Smith. In 1922, Percy moved to a new location in the old post office building, which was located a few lots north of the present Reboli Center, on the site of Gould’s General Store.

The Bank of Suffolk County began its operation in 1907 in a building at the south corner of the old business triangle, which is now part of the village green. The building, featuring a shingled, mansard roof, was owned by the Odd Fellows and contained a drug store and soda fountain, a library, lodge and dance hall. The bank moved to its present location in 1912 and its original building was torn down as part of the rehabilitation of the Stony Brook Shopping Center in 1941.

When the bank moved, it occupied a location, which was formerly owned by Dan Sherry, who ran a livery stable before the turn of the century. Just north of Sherry’s was the home and general store of J.N. Gould. Gould’s home later became the home of Doctor Squires. North of Gould’s home was the general store and the home of Edward Oaks. Oaks, in 1873, was a “dealer in dry goods, groceries and other supplies.” According to Percy Smith, Oaks’ general store (later Topping’s general store) was the “better” general store in town.

“It had everything,” commented Percy, “bales of hay, kerosene, hardware, patent medicine, food and clothing.”

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

Despite the threat of rain, the Farmingville Historical Society hosted a Civil War Encampment at the site of the 1823 Terry House and 1850 Bald Hill School House on Horseblock Road in Farmingville on Saturday.

The community was able to travel back in time to the 1860s to experience the daily lives of Civil War soldiers with members of the 88th New York State Volunteers and The 9th Virginia Infantry Company C. The Union and Confederate soldiers conducted military drills, fired muskets, demonstrated how soldier’s meals were prepared on an open fire and conducted a mock battle at Farmingville Hills County Park.

In addition, the one-room school house was in session, led by schoolmarm Susan Gill, who regaled the children with stories from the days of Laura Ingalls and life in the 1800s and answered questions.

If you would like more information on the Farmingville Historical Society and its programs, visit www.farmingvillehistoricalsociety.org.

‘Rescue Dory’ by Leo Revi is one of 18 paintings in the exhibit.

By Ellen Barcel

A new exhibit has opened at the Long Island Museum based on the idea that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The exhibit, The Brush Is My Pen: Art That Tells Stories, explores the themes of work, satire, drama and hope. Paintings, prints and photographs are represented.

The exhibit spans much of American history beginning with a number of paintings from Setauket’s own 19th century genre artist William Sydney Mount. “The exhibition is pulled primarily from the museum’s collection and helps to show the breadth of art the museum owns,” noted Julie Diamond, director of communications for the museum, adding “Each piece demonstrates how the artist sought to tell a story with a picture, just as a writer would with words.”

“We consider it to be a fine range of figurative and genre works from our collection over the past two centuries,” said Joshua Ruff, director of collections. “People often know our collection for its strengths in landscape painting, but this gives a window into some of our other holdings, with works from William Sidney Mount, Frank Myers Boggs, Winslow Homer, and contemporary artists such as Margery Caggiano, Leo Revi and Joseph Reboli.”

‘Fall Pool’ by Joseph Reboli will be on view at the LIM through July 30.
‘Fall Pool’ by Joseph Reboli will be on view at the LIM through July 30.

Chronologically, Mount’s paintings are the first. Five are on view including “School Boys Quarrel.” This painting also raises questions as well as tells a story. Why were the boys fighting? for example. Other Mount paintings include “California News, 1850,” the reaction to the news of gold being discovered, and “Loss and Gain, 1847.”

Edward Lamson Henry was born in South Carolina, moved to New York City and studied painting in Paris, returning to the U.S. during the American Civil War. His “Home Again,” painted in 1908, expresses longing for an America that was rapidly fading. Interestingly, this theme could easily express feelings in America after World War II or even now, with the rapid development of technology.

Twentieth century painter Joseph Reboli’s work is represented by “Fall Pool, 1998.” Reboli was born in Port Jefferson and worked much of his life in Stony Brook. A local artist, he is known for his interpretation of everyday scenes, much in the way that Mount did.

Margery Caggiano, who passed away this past December, noted in her artist’s statement that “I’ve sometimes regretted the lack of a formal art education … But, I like to think that I’ve been primarily influenced by paintings I’ve seen in galleries, museums and books rather than a teacher and other students.” Caggiano, with over 300 works in private and public collections, is represented in the LIM’s exhibit with “Michael as Don Manuel Osorio de Zuniga,” a 1978 work.

As technology has changed in the world overall, so has it changed in the art world, with photographs playing a larger and larger role in art. Photographer N. Jay Jaffee’s “Coney Island Polar Bears, 1951” is part of the current exhibit.

‘Bleaching Laundry,” c. 1875, oil on canvas, by William Moore Davis.
‘Bleaching Laundry,” c. 1875, oil on canvas, by William Moore Davis.

Other artists on display include, Mort Künstler, Robert Gwathmey, Craig Robins, Luigi Lucioni, Samuel Rothbort and William Moore Davis.

Noted Diamond, “The exhibition was chosen as a companion exhibit for the Mort Künstler show. In fact, there is a Künstler piece in the exhibit.” The Künstler show, which runs through May 30, features approximately 100 paintings and ephemera of the Oyster Bay artist.

Ruff noted, “We decided to put this exhibition together to pair with the Mort Künstler exhibition, which is largely an illustrative narrative art exhibition.  The thought was that an exhibit which looked at story-telling in art from our collection would provide the perfect complement to the larger exhibition.”

The Brush Is My Pen, was curated by Joshua Ruff and Lauren Cesiro (assistant director of education) and will be on display through July 30. Two special events related to the exhibit are scheduled.

On May 10 from 10 a.m. to noon the museum will hold its Senior Tuesday program. Seniors 62 and older are invited for a free, self-guided tour of The Brush Is My Pen. No reservations are required and groups are welcome. On May 15 from 2 to 3:30 pm, Cesiro will lead a guided tour of the exhibit. The program is free with regular museum admission.

In addition, mothers and grandmothers are invited to tour the museum for free on Mother’s Day, May 8. Other exhibits on display include, Mort Künstler: The Art of Adventure and Hooked@the LIM.

The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook.  The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For further information, call 631-751-0066 or go to www.longislandmuseum.org.

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Students from different classes pass each other as they arrive, leave, and pass by the Setauket Post Office during a visit earlier this month. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“I don’t like history, but I like this,” was what a Three Village fourth-grade student said during the Original Settlement Tour.

This past Wednesday and Thursday, all 450 Three Village fourth grade students came to the Setauket School auditorium in celebration of Brookhaven Town Founder’s Day and learned about the history of the Town of Brookhaven through the murals of Vance Locke. Then, for the next two hours, each class, led by guides from the Three Village Historical Society, explored the Original Settlement area of Setauket/Brookhaven. Students were introduced to William Sidney Mount and Abraham Woodhull at the Setauket Presbyterian Churchyard and to Emma S. Clark, Thomas Hodgkins and Ward Melville at the Caroline Church Cemetery. At the Village Green, students learned about the Setalcott Native Americans, Brookhaven’s original English settlers, and the diversity of immigrants who lived and worked here, as well as the varied ancestry of the Three Village-area soldiers whose wartime deaths are memorialized here.

In Frank Melville Memorial Park, the fourth grade students learned about gristmills, millers, blacksmiths, post offices, general stores and one of the original settlement’s 17th century homes. At the Setauket Neighborhood House, students heard about the structure of the building and how it progressed from a hotel, with stagecoach service from the Lakeland Railroad Station, to a tourist home with station wagon service from the Long Island Railroad’s Stony Brook station, and finally to its use as a meeting place for the entire community.

At the Amos Smith House (circa 1740) students learned about the eight generations that lived in the home and how it grew to accommodate the two generations that included seven and nine children. Each fourth grade class discussed the differences shown in the images of the house in 1740, 1900 and today. Donna Smith, Three Village Historical Society director of education and Founder’s Day Committee member heard from one of her tour group students, “ My favorite part was seeing the house Mr. Tyler grew up in and how it is so different. We got to wave to his mother who lives there and she’s 101!”

The stop at Patriot’s Rock, a remnant of the last glacier and a Native American meeting place, provided an opportunity to learn about the Revolutionary War Battle of Setauket and Caleb Brewster, who, as an artillery officer directed the cannon fire and who was an important member of the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring.

“Founders Day is more than learning about our local history, it is an historical experience for our Three Village fourth grade students. … Learning that the Emma S. Clark Library is not just the place to find books or attend a program, but an architecturally interesting structure that was built by a local resident [Thomas Hodgkins] as a gift to the community, and there really was a person named Emma S. Clark, is enlightening to a fourth grader. Then they walk toward the Caroline Church and see the Hodgkins and Clark headstones — it all comes together in this fascinating look on a student’s face that they have just put it all together,” said Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town historian and Founder’s Day Committee member.

At the end of the tour, each student received a copy of the walking tour guide prepared by the Three Village Historical Society, courtesy of Three Village Central School District.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

The Hallock house was built in 1721 and it has remained largely unchanged through the centuries. It is open for tours from April to December, on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

The oldest house in Rocky Point has once again opened its doors to visitors, offering a peek at the history of the town spanning almost 300 years, during Saturday tours of the home, which acts as a museum run by the Rocky Point Historical Society. It’s the third season in a row that tours are being offered, according to society president Natalie Aurucci Stiefel.

Built in 1721 by Noah Hallock, a descendant of English settlers, the house has sat at the end of Hallock Landing Road mostly unchanged. It still has the original wood shingles and a red tin roof on the exterior. Inside, original wide-planked wooden floors creak underfoot, and a trap door in an upstairs hallway reveals a staircase that leads to rooms once used by slaves. Eight generations of Hallocks lived in the house over the centuries, including Noah Jr., William and Josiah Hallock, who all served in the Revolutionary War. The last Hallock to live there was Sylvester, who sold it in 1964 to the Via Cava family who owned it until 2011.

The Historical Society took ownership of the home in 2013 and turned it into a museum, showcasing a variety of household artifacts native to the home, including furniture, kitchen items and even toys once played with by Hallock children. Each room in the house is dedicated to a particular aspect of either the life of the Hallocks or the history of Rocky Point and the surrounding areas, including a room dedicated to farming, complete with antique tools and photos of the farms that once grew rye and raised dairy cattle nearby. The schoolhouse room offers a glimpse into what school was like for Hallock children and their contemporaries. Visitors can even walk around the block to the Hallock family cemetery where at least 40 Hallocks are buried, including Bethia, Noah’s wife, who died in 1766. Another room is dedicated to Rocky Point’s ties with radio history, including artifacts from RCA, which operated out of a transmitting station just down the road from the house off of Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Tours are conducted by trained docents such as Nancy Pav of Rocky Point, who was leading the tours on Saturday. Pav stressed the importance of preservation.

“If we don’t preserve old houses like this one, people will tear them down and build monstrous vinyl palaces,” Pav said. “We are preserving the history of a house that was in the same family from 1721 to the 1960s. It’s extremely unusual.”

Stiefel said that new artifacts on display this season include the wedding album of Sylvester Hallock and his second wife Josephine and photos of the now-abandoned Rocky Point drive-in movie theater.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) praised the society for offering another season of tours, especially because of the awareness they promote.

“Rocky Point is a mecca of history and if it wasn’t for the volunteers, this history would not be preserved,” she said. “The tours help to pass down interest and advocacy. If there’s no one to take care of it, they will be lost forever.”

Stiefel refers to the Hallock house as a “precious gem” and added she is proud of the work the society’s volunteers do with the house tours. “They are very dedicated to Rocky Point’s history, which is fascinating,” she said. “We are so happy to share it with the community.”

The Noah Hallock house, located at 172 Hallock Landing Road, is opened for tours April through December, on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. For group tours or more information, call 631-744-1778.

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Above, the Playbill cover features the musical, “Hamilton.” Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“A tailor spyin’ on the British government! I take their measurements, information and then I smuggle it!” (Hercules Mulligan, “Hamilton,” Act I)

We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we groaned, and we left the theater emotionally drained, but also intellectually invigorated. We had just been a part of a new, fast-paced, almost non-stop hip-hop musical that chronicles Alexander Hamilton’s life. Hamilton is portrayed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also wrote the script, music and lyrics. The historically accurate musical, adapted from the book of the same name by Ron Chernow, takes us from Hamilton’s rise from poverty to a position of power during the Revolutionary War, close to his commanding General, George Washington. It then moves to the forming of a new nation with Hamilton, the other founding fathers, and the people closest to him. The musical also includes his Royal Majesty King George III, portrayed magnificently by Jonathan Groff. “You say the price of my love’s not a price that you’re willing to pay. . . When you’re gone I’ll go mad, so don’t throw away this thing we had. ‘Cuz when push comes to shove, I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”

Only the swift tempo of rap speech could transport us through the myriad of historical events, social situations, and love-hate relationships that existed between these men and women, some well known and many deserving to be better known. From the start of the Revolutionary War, to the duel between Aaron Burr and Hamilton that resulted in his death and his elevation to a revered position in American history, we are transported, along with the cast, feeling more like a congregation than an audience, through the triumphs and tragedies of Hamilton’s life. A brief part of the story includes his relationship with Hercules Mulligan, a patriot and Revolutionary War spy who gathered information on British activity in Manhattan and forwarded the intelligence to Hamilton and General Washington through Robert Townsend (alias Samuel Culper Jr.) and the Culper Spy Ring.

“Hamilton” has deservedly been playing to sold-out audiences since it opened last year at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan. If you are looking for advance sale tickets, consider purchasing them now for next spring or summer. I saw the show on Wednesday, April 6, with tickets I purchased at the theatre box office last July.

Now the drama of the Revolutionary War and the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring continues on Monday, April 25, with the start of the ten-episode, third season of “Turn” on AMC (channel 43 in this area). Lacking the historical accuracy and dramatic impact of “Hamilton”, “Turn” still has us watching the drama of ordinary Long Island men and women, working behind enemy lines, to free us from the domination of the British empire. Watch “Turn,” then come and learn the real and equally dramatic story of the actions and the lives of the people connected with the Culper Spy ring as detailed at the Three Village Historical Society exhibit, “SPIES!”

The exhibit and society headquarters are at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. The exhibit is open every Sunday from 1- to 4 p.m. Walking tours that include the spy story are conducted every month. Check the web site: www.tvhs.org for dates, times and locations.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

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Setauket Union Free School District No. 2, the “school on the hill.” Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

My previous article, on March 17, detailed the story of the Setauket Christian Avenue African-American and Native-American settlement and the oral histories collected by Stony Brook University professor Glenda Dickerson and her Theater Arts crew for the 1988 play and exhibit at the fine Art Center. At the time, the Three Village Historical Society produced a journal of the play and the oral histories collected which is now available as a PDF file. In 2014, the society developed and installed a new exhibit that detailed the Setauket/East Setauket area where Native-Americans, African-Americans, German-Americans, Irish-Americans and a new group of Eastern European immigrants lived and worked between 1861 and the first three decades of the 20th century.

This new exhibit, Chicken Hill, a Community Lost to Time, is an exploration of the life of the native and immigrant population in the half-mile surrounding the present 1870 Setauket Methodist Church. In 1861, the Nunns and Clark brick piano factory was erected southwest of the then 1843 Methodist Chapel. Nunns hired mostly German immigrants. It went out of business in 1857. The building became the Long Island Rubber Company in 1876 and soon hired a work force of mostly African- American and Irish workers. By 1888, the majority of workers were Eastern European Jewish workers with a flavoring of Eastern European Catholic workers as well as all the previous ethnic groups.

One of the dozen or more oral histories in the exhibit is by Helen Strelecki Bubka, who grew up on Chicken Hill. “One of my fondest memories was how the boys, Hubbell and his brother Beeb, came to help me. There was a boy living in town and he was pestering me. … I was just a young teenager and I was frightened of him. I found out later that Beeb and Hubbell went and told him to leave me alone. That’s how close the relationships were with our friends on Chicken Hill. … We all got along so well together, black, white, Jewish, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, it didn’t make a difference what nationality or color we were. If you needed help, you could depend on all your neighbors; one way or another, somebody would come through and pitch in and help. If somebody was ill, they would take food to them, they would try to help in so many different ways, it was such a close knit community, and I think that’s my fondest memory.”

Helen Strelecki was one of several children of Samuel and Sophie Strelecki. She was born and raised in Setauket on the family farm on South Jersey Avenue. Her Polish mother and Russian father emigrated from Europe. Helen attended the Setauket School, on the hill, just east of the Setauket fire house and the VFW log cabin building. Helen said, “Lunch times, we all ran home to get our lunch and run back to school quick so that we could, you know, play ball or something during the time.”

The Setauket Union Free School District No. 2 opened in 1911 and brought together students from the three schoolhouses in West Setauket, East Setauket and South Setauket. There are many stories that came from the students who attended the school until it closed in 1951. Many of these stories are detailed in the Chicken Hill exhibit.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

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