History

The McCarrick's family, local politicians and store clerks bid farewell to the longstanding family business. Photo by Rita J. Egan

For 71 years, McCarrick’s Dairy has been a staple for Rocky Point residents. So it was no surprise when owners Hugh McCarrick, Kevin McCarrick and Bridget Idtensohn announced through a social media post they were closing the store and selling the family business, the news spread rapidly, and was met by many with nostalgia and sadness.

On the morning of Friday, April 7, the last day before the sibling owners retired, friends and longtime patrons filled the store to remember old times, while flipping through photo albums.

Neil Maguire urges McCarrick’s Dairy to remain open. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Among those customers was Neil Maguire, who was having a bit of fun dressed in a cow costume while holding a double-sided sign that read: “McCarrick’s don’t close. Cows in protest. Cows in udder confusion” and “Cows in protest. Cows in disbelief. Don’t close.”

Maguire, who grew up in Port Jefferson, said he remembered when the McCarrick family would deliver milk to homes, and coming to the store with his family when the now-owners’ father Tom ran the small grocery.

“Mr. McCarrick would give us lollipops or a fruit juice to drink while my parents were running around shopping,” Maguire said.

He said it was McCarrick’s Dairy that inspired him to go into the milk delivery business, and he could always count on the family for advice.

Janice Bambara was disappointed that it would be her last day walking to the store for her morning coffee, preferring McCarrick’s over large chains like Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.

“It was a very friendly and pleasant place to shop for so many years here,” she said. “They’ll all be missed.”

Kathy DiPierro, a cousin of the McCarricks, looked at the photo albums reminiscing about her grandparents homestead which once stood where McCarrick Medical Park is today. Her husband Nick, a former Grumman employee, remembered when he worked in the stores on Saturdays for a short period in 1969. He said the senior McCarrick was always generous and patient with him.

“I remember the first day he left me all by myself in that store,” DiPierro said. “He said, ‘It’s OK, this is how you work a cash register.’ I never worked a cash register. Boy, was I nervous.”

Tom McCarrick Jr. and Tom McCarrick Sr. look over an order in 1964. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The goodbyes culminated when Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) stopped by to present the family with a proclamation and declare April 7 McCarrick’s Dairy Day in the Town of Brookhaven.

While presenting the McCarricks with the proclamation, Bonner, who lives in the area and has known the family for nearly 30 years, had to hold back the tears. Like many who filled the store, while she was sad to see the store close, she was happy for the owners.

“It’s so great that they are leaving on their own terms to enjoy their retirement, not because they were forced out by a big box store or another chain store or supermarket,” Bonner said.

The owners said nearly 500 community members have worked in the store over the decades, and nearly half-a-dozen employees met their spouses there.

The McCarricks have been an integral part of the community.

The family has been part of the Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade since 1950, after Tom McCarrick and other local businessmen founded the Friends of St. Patrick not-for-profit organization that fundraises for the historic event. Kevin McCarrick, Tom’s son, also served two terms on the Brookhaven Town Board from 2004 to 2007.

Hugh, Kevin’s brother, said his grandparents emigrated from Ireland to Rocky Point in 1911. The couple had a few cows and grew vegetables on their homestead. It was in 1946 when his parents, Tom and Phyllis, decided to start a milk delivery business.

“It’s so great that they are leaving on their own terms to enjoy their retirement.”

— Jane Bonner

The land parcel, where the current McCarrick’s Dairy store was opened in 1984, holds many memories for the family. The house on the west side of the parking lot is where Tom and Phyllis raised nine children; the dry cleaners that sits toward the front was once an office and the original store that opened in 1960; and the thrift store toward the back of the parking lot was once a four-bay garage where the milk trucks were housed.

Hugh McCarrick said all of the children worked in the store at one point or another, and through the years every one of his children, nieces and nephews worked in the store.

“We grew up in the business working side by side with my dad and mom,” he said.

“We met in 1970, and he put me right to work,” his wife Miriam joked.

His older brothers delivered milk to homes, and later he and Kevin delivered to schools and local shops like bakeries. When they were in their early 20s, the two became more involved in the business.

But as times changed, the business changed.

“In the ’70s supermarkets started coming out, and families were having two cars,” Hugh McCarrick said. “So now the wife who stayed home, she had her newfound freedom, so she would go out and buy her own milk and stuff.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, on left, and Councilwoman Jane Bonner, on right, present McCarrick’s Dairy owners and siblings Bridget Idtensohn, Hugh McCarrick and Kevin McCarrick with a proclamation upon the family store’s closing. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One of Hugh’s earlier memories was when milk bottles would come back and still have milk left in them. They couldn’t be returned to the processing plant like that, so the children would clean them out. He said if there was sour milk in there, and you pushed down on the lid, it would shoot out.

“To this day I can’t eat cottage cheese,” he joked.

Despite the sour milk, the years working with his family have been positive ones. His brother agreed.

“We were very fortunate in that all of our family worked in this business from my older brothers right down to my younger sister, Bridget,” Kevin McCarrick said. “It was nice to have a family business that everyone participated in.”

Their sister, who started working at the store 35 years ago, said the outpouring of good wishes touched her.

“You go to work and you don’t think much about it,” she said. “To have everyone come here like this … this is such a wonderful, wonderful community.”

During the last week, she said she heard a number of heartwarming stories about her father.

“Your father delivered milk, eggs and butter to my house every day, and never charged us until my father got back on his feet,” she said one man told her. “I’m an adult now, and I realize how important that was.”

Local patrons visit McCarrick’s Dairy one last time, April 7, on the day the family business closed its doors for the final time. Photo by Rita J. Egan

According to the McCarricks, the business will be leased to another food store and completely renovated. While they may be retiring from the store business, the owners will still manage the property.

As the store closed at 6 p.m. on its final day, former employees were invited to join the McCarricks for dinner. Family from near and far also gathered to bid farewell.

Hugh McCarrick’s daughter Kimmie Wheeler flew up from South Carolina the night before to be part of the store closing. She said she knew she needed to send off the store with her family. 

“This is my whole life,” she said. “I started working here when I was a teenager and worked here with my cousins and my whole family. It was such a great way to be part of the family and the community.”

Her sister Kendra Beavis said the younger family members’ careers have taken different directions than their parents, becoming teachers, graphic designers, getting involved in law enforcement and various other things, but said she couldn’t picture anyone else taking the place of her father and the rest of the family.

“Even if someone were to take this over … they did such an amazing job,” she said. “I don’t know if anyone could ever fill their shoes.”

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Three Village Historical Society president Stephen Healy, Kristin Moller, Brookhaven Town historian Barbara Russell and Katherine Johnson at the society’s annual awards dinner. Photo by Beverly Tyler

By Beverly Tyler

The Three Village Historical Society’s R. Sherman Mills Young Historian Award was presented to Kristin Moller and Katherine Johnson, at the society’s annual awards dinner at the Old Field Club March 22. Moller and Johnson, both Ward Melville High School seniors, have been volunteers at the Three Village Historical Society for the past couple of years.

Both of these young women have made a positive impression on society staff members as well as the general public. Moller and Johnson work as docents at the history center’s SPIES! Exhibit, where they take visitors of all ages through the exhibit and answer questions about it and the men and women who were a part of the Culper Spy Ring.

Johnson and Moller pose with their awards. Photo by Beverly Tyler

Moeller has also volunteered for the society’s Spirits of the Three Village Cemetery Tour and the Candlelight House Tour. Johnson participated in Cupler Day, a daylong event about the Revolutionary War spies with organizations from Stony Brook and Port Jefferson.

In addition to volunteer efforts at the society, this year Moller participated in a walk on the Greenway Trail to support the Open Door Exchange, and also in a Martin Luther King festival.

“Kristin is a wonderful, cheerful and knowledgeable young lady,” Mary Folz Doherty, society volunteer, said. “She enjoys learning about our local history and she loves sharing what she learns with the community.”

“Krissy is a delightful young lady who has shown an interest in the community where she has grown up,” Karin Lynch, the society’s former treasurer, said.

Johnson has been a volunteer at Stony Brook Hospital for the past two years, one year in pediatric oncology and one year
in radiology.

“There is nothing better for a museum than to have excited young people greeting you with their youthful enthusiasm.”

— Donna Smith

“One cold, cloudy day when no one came to the exhibit, Katherine created an artistic expression of the Culper Spy Ring story on the white board, which was enthusiastically viewed by staff and visitors for many weeks,” Donna Smith, society education director, said.

“These two girls,” Smith said, “learned how to engage people. I’ve seen them grow in confidence. When they first started as docents, they were a bit shy. It’s exciting to see how confident they have become — engaging people and answering questions. We are especially pleased to have them as they worked with so many children who come to the exhibit, working with them on spy codes and invisible ink and helping children understand the importance of spies during the Revolutionary War. There is nothing better for a museum than to have excited young people greeting you with their youthful enthusiasm.”

At the society’s awards dinner, award presenter Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town historian, noted how important it is for our youth to volunteer, especially to volunteer to help promote local history and how these two high school seniors have excelled as advocates for our area’s extensive local history and culture.

For more information about the society’s youth volunteer and other programs, contact the Three Village Historical Society.

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Society, 93 North Country Road. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

A copy of the plaque that Shoreham Town Hall and homeowners of suffrage movement homes will receive to serve as markers along the Suffrage Trail. Photo by Kevin Redding

Long Island women who cast their votes this past election have a nearby town to thank.

Shoreham, an epicenter of women’s rights activism in the years leading up to the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920, will be the first stop on a planned trail that will trace the rich history of the women’s suffrage movement on Long Island.

In recognition of this, an enthusiastic group of local leaders, community members and dignitaries packed into the Shoreham Village Hall April 1 to witness the official establishment of the Long Island Suffrage Trail.

Coline Jenkins, the great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton — a leading figure whose “Declaration of Sentiments” in 1848 served as the foundation on which all women’s rights movements ever since were built — speaks during the ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding

The ambitious project will allow residents to visit different sites across the region that have a history with the women’s suffrage movement.

The plan is that, in a few years’ time, a map of these marked sites will be available at public libraries and rest stops so people can embark on a history tour in their own backyard.

At home base is Elizabeth Cady Stanton — a leading figure whose “Declaration of Sentiments” in 1848 served as the foundation on which all women’s rights movements ever since were built — and several generations of her family.

“We wanted to start a trail in the most auspicious place we could and, we decided, there’s no better place than Shoreham,” said Nancy Mion, vice president of the Islip branch of the American Association of University Women, the organization behind the trail.

“We’re so fortunate that on Long Island, in Shoreham, we are a hotbed of people involved in the movement,” she said. “If we’re going to start, we might as well start at the top … and after years of dreaming and hoping, it’s real. We’re going to educate individuals and continue the history of women. We’re very proud.”

It was in 2012 that Mion and fellow AAUW members, including its president Susan Furfaro, first got the ball rolling on the project.

At the organization’s New York State convention, Coline Jenkins, the great-great-granddaughter of Stanton and a municipal legislator, proposed a challenge to the branch to investigate historical events of the movement and set up a local trail.

Jenkins herself gave a testimony in 2009 before the U.S. Senate that contributed to the creation of a suffrage trail at the national level.

Members of the Islip branch soon delved into back issues of Suffolk County newspapers as well as old publications and documents, and wound up setting their sights on Shoreham, with the help of the town’s historian Mimi Oberdorf.

The group got a surprise recently when it received a metro grant from its organization, the money from which will fund plaques and markers to be installed at the trail’s historic sites.

“We’ll be applying for the grants each year, so if we can average two to three sites a year, in six years, we’ll have enough to make a map and that’ll be when we’ll finally have a complete trail,” Furfaro said.

Event attendees listen to speakers discuss the importance of Shoreham during the suffrage movement. Photo by Kevin Redding

The first four plaques made were presented at the ceremony, one to be hung inside village hall and the other three to be hung outside nearby homes that were occupied at one time by Stanton and her relatives.

Shoreham Mayor Edward Weiss, who accepted the plaque on behalf of the village — which deemed Shoreham “the summer capital of the suffrage movement” — said he was honored by the recognition. The plaque will hang at the entrance of the building. The specific spot where it’s to be installed had been decorated by a paper version for the time being.

“Our thinking is that if you’re going to honor us with the unveiling of this plaque today, we should at the same time honor you by unveiling what will be its — or should I say, her — permanent location,” he said to Mion and Furfaro, who were dressed in Victorian clothing and wore large “Votes For Women” ribbons.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) took to the podium to congratulate the town and thank Stanton and all those involved in the suffrage movement.

“Were it not for Susan B. Anthony [and Stanton] I would not be able to have my role as council representative today,” Bonner said. “How fortunate and blessed are women in the United States to have the right to vote and hold office today? I do believe, one day, in our lifetime, we will have a female president.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) echoed Bonner’s sentiments, adding women still have a lot for which to fight.

“When I was young, we were taught to be quiet, to listen, to do what we were told, and not go and conquer our dreams,” Anker said. “We need to change that, and I see here today that we are changing that. We need to continue to support our girls.”

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Harry Roseland’s ‘Pea Pickers,’ Long Island, 1888, is on view at the exhibit. Photo from LIM

Through July 30, The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook will showcase Long Island’s rich, bountiful resoursces in an exhibit titled Edible Eden: The Art of Long Island’s Forests, Fields and Waters in the Art Museum.

Celebrating the rich agricultural and maritime history of this region, the exhibition includes approximately 20 works by artists who depicted Long Island in the nineteenth century, continually focusing on the island as an edible Eden: its carefully tended fields, its bountiful orchards, its healthy livestock and its diverse wildlife both in the forest and nearby coastal waters. Each was attainable in great quantity — seemingly limited only by how hard one was willing to work.

The Mount family, Charles Yardely Turner, Harry Roseland, Frederick William Kost, Gaines Ruger Donoho and other artists serve as guides to the cornucopia of foods that Long Islanders grew, raised, hunted and gathered. Collectively, these works of art are also a testament to rural Americans’ resourcefulness and success at working the land and water.

Edible Eden is sponsored by Astoria Bank, Bank of America, New York Community Bank Foundation, Robert W. Baird Incorporated/Baird Foundation Inc., and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Susan Evans McClure, director of food history programs at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, will discuss how and why food can be used as a tool for connecting people with the complexities of American history on Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. The program is free with regular museum admission.

The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. For further information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066.

Each of the six items arranged on the traditional Passover Seder plate has a special significance to the retelling of the story of Passover.

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

Rabbi Aaron Benson

Weeks of preparation will pay off in the homes of many Jews when they begin to celebrate the holiday of Passover, which begins the night of April 10 this year and lasts for eight days after that.

Passover is reportedly the most observed Jewish holiday for American Jews. This means that most Jews in the United States will attend a Seder meal (the festive meals held on the first two nights of Passover), refrain from eating leavened products (called chametz in Hebrew) and will eat matzah, the special unleavened flat bread associated with the holiday. All of these observances commemorate the Jews’ release from slavery in ancient Egypt. This theme, freedom from slavery in Egypt, shapes the Passover holiday and still has a lot to tell all of us today.

At the Seder meal, some Jews sing a song that contains the line, “once we were slaves and now we are free people.” Catchy as the tune may be, the message does not accurately convey the spirit of Passover in the Jewish tradition. For Jews, freedom from slavery in Egypt is not freedom to do anything and everything one wishes to do. It is, as our religious laws teach us, so that we may serve the values and principles of our tradition, so that we may take up the obligations of leading just and thoughtful lives without the excuse that anyone else’s will might constrain us from doing what is proper.

As said, this is a concept that has universal application today. How often do we confuse “freedom” with having no responsibilities, no cares, no obligations but satisfying ourselves? When we let this become our philosophy of life, we are not freeing ourselves; we are in fact enslaving ourselves to our appetites and our desires. This is not true freedom or anything close to it.

Passover teaches us that freedom is the freedom to take on responsibility, to stand up for what one believes in, to not leave it to others to tell us what is right and not to leave it to others to do what is right either, but to do it ourselves. Perhaps that is why so much work goes into preparing for Passover — to be truly free isn’t easy, in fact it is hard work, but the rewards, like those that come from having a house ready for the holiday, are well worth the effort.

Happy Passover and best wishes.

Rabbi Aaron Benson is the rabbi at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

James Clinch Smith poses for a portrait with his sisters.

By Kevin Redding

For the Smithtown Historical Society’s upcoming fundraising event, residents are encouraged to dress to the nines, party like it’s 1912 and shout at the top of their lungs, “I’m the king of the world!”

The organization’s Titanic Gala will “set sail” Saturday, April 8, at 7 p.m. at the Smithtown Elks Lodge, where those in attendance will dine and dance in Edwardian-era costumes, provided by Port Jefferson’s Nan Guzzetta, as if they’re first-class passengers on the infamous ship that more than 100 years ago collided with an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.

James Clinch Smith

Upon entering the lodge’s expansive ballroom, residents will be able to pose for a photo with an actor portraying the Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith and survey reproductions of artifacts once seen in the massive ship, including china and jewelry. The event’s $85 entrance fee will go toward the historical society’s educational programs as well as the maintenance of its buildings.

Although the night will act as a celebration of the more joyous aspects of the Titanic — and give attendees an excuse to quote Jack and Rose — members of the historical society organized the event because the ship’s tragic end hits close to home in Smithtown.

James Clinch Smith, a descendant of the legendary Richard “Bull Rider” Smith, founder of Smithtown and one of town’s wealthiest and most prominent residents at the turn of the 20th century, was among the 1,517 passengers aboard the Titanic who died during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in the early morning of April 15, 1912.

But before he ultimately drowned, the 56-year-old Long Islander saved as many lives as he could as the ship went down. “He was really a hero on that day,” Maureen Smilow, a board member on the historical society, said. “We want to remember the heroism and participation of [someone] from Smithtown at that time and remember him. And there were other people besides Smith on the Titanic who lived in this area. In addition to having a good time, we should remember the people who gave their lives.”

Brad Harris, the historical society’s president, said the group has long been in awe of Smith’s legacy and the idea of honoring him has been in the back of their minds for years. “As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s great to make people aware that we had in our midst an individual who got caught in this horrible tragedy and did his best to save others,” Harris said. “It’s a way to highlight the story of his life and commemorate his memory.”

Smith, alongside his friend Archibald Gracie, who survived the sinking, lifted women, children and babies into lifeboats as the water rose higher and higher on the ship’s deck. His heroics were documented in Gracie’s book “The Truth about the Titanic.” In it, Gracie wrote: “There could not be a braver man than James Clinch Smith … He was the embodiment of coolness and courage during the whole period of the disaster.”

Gracie added that words failed to express his feelings of admiration for Smith’s conduct amid such chaos. “The highest tribute I could pay him is this plain recital of what he did in the way of self-sacrifice,” he wrote, “knowing no such word as fear in saving the lives of others.” Born and raised in Smithtown Branch, Smith grew up to practice law with his father, the prominent Judge John Lawrence Smith. After both his parents died in the late 1800s he inherited 250 acres of land and millions of dollars, further fueling his passion for high-society living, which included horse racing and polo.

He wound up on the Titanic, heading back to Smithtown, following a visit with his sick wife in Cherbourg, France. Although his body was never recovered following the disaster, a memorial service for him was held at the St. James Episcopal Church in Smithtown on May 11, 1912. Photos of Smith and his family will be on display at the gala.

While not completely accurate, the gala’s dinner menu echoes what was served to first-class passengers on the Titanic, with dishes that include hors d’oeuvres, chicken marsala, sliced pork loin, steak with merlot reduction and a butter cream cake dessert. For further authenticity, the Kings Park High School orchestra will play live music that was performed on the ship during its maiden voyage.

The historical society’s executive director, Marianne Howard, said she’s thrilled that so many people so far have been enthusiastic about the event. “Everyone is getting excited and wanting to learn more about history,” she said. “People are doing a lot of research on the social and cultural aspects of history at that time [1912] in order to find out what people wore, what people would’ve eaten. I’m looking forward to seeing people enjoy themselves while celebrating and honoring our history.”

Tickets for the Titanic Gala are still available. To order, please call 631-265-6768 or visit www.smithtownhistorical.org.

Scientists, like those who work out of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences’ Marine Sciences Center, are constantly asking questions, as the desire grows to find links between correlation and causation. File photo

Researchers often desire more data to help make the distinction between correlation — it rained the last three Tuesdays — and causation — dumping nitrogen into the lake caused the growth of algae that robbed the lake of oxygen.

Scientists don’t like to get ahead of their information, preferring to take the painstaking steps of going that extra mile to control for as many mitigating or confounding variables as they can.

Researchers are often “reluctant to say with certainty that they are correct,” Larry Swanson, the interim dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University said.

This hesitation to indicate a certain conclusion can raise challenges for politicians, who would like to rely on scientific proof in developing plans for their constituents.

“Policy people want to create a law or regulation that is definitive and will have the desired outcome,” Swanson added.

File photo.

Since he began working in and around Long Island waters in 1960, he started his work collecting data at wetlands around New Haven, and has since studied hypoxia — the process through which oxygen levels are depleted in waterways.

Swanson urges a more extensive collection of data around Long Island.

“I believe we need to monitor the physical environment for changes not just for time series data, such as temperature, but in order to understand how ecological processes are being altered as a consequence of warming,” Swanson said.

Henry Bokuniewicz, a distinguished service professor of oceanography at Stony Brook, said there was a coastline monitoring program in place in 1995 after nor’easters and hurricanes in 1992, but that the effort petered out.

“This should be re-established if [New York State is] serious about coastal impact of shoreline changes,” he said.

Bokuniewicz also suggests measuring and recording waves that are close to shore, and water levels at the ocean coast and interior bays.

Stony Brook had an initiative for additional hires in a cluster for coastal engineering and management, but never completed the hires for budgetary reasons, Bokuniewicz said. “We could do much better with a new generation of scientists dedicated to the Long Island shore,” he said.

Scientists acknowledge that the study of climate change rarely involves establishing the kind of linear connection between action and reaction that turning up the thermostat in a house would provide.

Scientists distinguish between the weather — is it raining today, tomorrow or next week — and the climate — how does March in New York compare to March in North Carolina?

File photo

The climate, generally, remains consistent with a long-term outlook, even if Long Island might experience an unseasonably hot July, an unusually cool September and a heavier-than-normal snowfall in December.

With climate change, scientists collect as much data as they can to determine how the climate is shifting. That presents significant challenges: how do researchers pick data to feed into their models and the patterns to explore?

The broader trend in March could be that spring starts earlier, extending the growing season and creating opportunities for insects, plants or animals to affect the habitat. That could be slightly different this year, amid a cold snap that lasts more than a few days, or in the wake of an unexpected blizzard days before spring.

Indeed, until, and even after there is a scientific consensus, researchers debate long into the night about their interpretations, conclusions and simulation models.

More often than not, scientists crave more information to help them interpret evolving conditions.

“While we know in general why hypoxia will be bad, we can’t really predict it,” Swanson said. “When will it start? How long will it last? This is because we do not understand all the processes — things like the role of bacteria, phytoplankton and the blooming processes and water circulation.”

Science, as it turns out, is often more about collecting more information to ask better questions and developing more precise theories.

As researchers often point out, they can be wrong for the right reasons and right for the wrong ones, all of which, they hope, helps them understand more about the inevitable next set of questions. And, as scientists have offered, it’s a never-ending discussion, as the best answers lead to more questions.

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Kate Strong sits on her front porch on Strong’s Neck in December 1899. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Kate Wheeler Strong was born in Setauket March 21, 1879. She was the daughter of Judge Selah Strong and a descendant of Revolutionary War spy Anna Smith Strong, as well as of Setauket settler William “Tangier” Smith. As Dr. Percy Bailey wrote in October, 1977, “As a historian, ‘Miss Kate’ has probably done more than any other in popularizing and humanizing the history of this beautiful Long Island which she loved.”

Kate Strong wrote local history articles for the Long Island Forum from 1939 through 1976. Most of these articles she had published in small booklets which she sold or gave away to friends over the years. These booklets, called “True Tales,” have provided a special look into the past for many generations of Three Village residents. Kate Strong died at her home The Cedars on Strong’s Neck July 22, 1977. In 1992, William B. Minuse (1908-2002) wrote about Kate Strong in the 1992 Three Village Historian:

A photo of Strong taken in May of 1897. Photo from Bev Tyler.

“Miss Kate Wheeler Strong was one of the most remarkable persons I have ever known … Miss Kate loved young people. For many years, she told stories to groups of children at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. When the Stony Brook School opened, she organized a stamp club there.

“Her chief interest over the years was local and family history … She wrote extensively, most of her articles being based on family papers and information gathered from older residents … Even after she lost her sight she persisted. We will always be in her debt for the wonderful anecdotes and the invaluable accounts she left us of our Long Island communities and people.

“From time to time she gave me artifacts for the Three Village Historical Society. Among them were a pair of snow shoes her father had used during the blizzard of ‘88.

“Toward the end of her life her neighbors celebrated each of her birthdays, and I was always invited. I shall always remember her most fondly. She was kind and generous.”

After Kate Strong’s death, her personal papers and her family papers going back to her second-great-grandfather were donated to the Three Village Historical Society. The Strong collection contains more than 3,000 papers of the Strong family of Setauket, dating from 1703 to 1977. Included in the collection are deeds, diaries, 224 handwritten pages of court cases by State Supreme Court Justice Selah Strong, letters about their daily lives, politics, travels, farm matters, business records, school records, payments, receipts, Setauket Presbyterian Church records and weather bureau records. There are approximately 2,250 photographs of families, friends, relatives, places
and scenes.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, I was the editor for yearly publications of The Three Village Historian: Journal of the Three Village Historical Society. The issue of 1992 included nine of Kate Wheeler Strong’s “True Tales,” and a complete listing of the 38 years of “True Tales” booklets she produced between 1940 and 1976. This 24-page publication is still available for $1 at the Three Village Historical Society History Center and Gift Shop.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information on the society’s exhibits and gift shop hours, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Malcolm J. Bowman and R. Lawrence Swanson will receive The Robert Cushman Memorial Award at the TVHS award dinner. Photo by Heidi Sutton

On Wednesday, March 22, the Three Village Historical Society will host its 40th Annual Awards Dinner honoring volunteers and area residents who have made outstanding contributions to the Society and the local community.

Among the honorees will be R. Lawrence Swanson and Malcolm J. Bowman, who will receive The Robert Cushman Memorial Award in recognition of significant contribution to the preservation and conservation of our natural environment. Both are on the faculty of the Marine Science Department at Stony Brook University and are being recognized for their recently published book “Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides —The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay.” This distinguished award has only been given eight times since 1987.

Carlton “Hub” Edwards will receive the  Kate Wheeler Strong Memorial Award  in recognition of significant contribution toward the fostering of interest in local history. Edwards is a lifelong resident of the Three Villages and his knowledge of the area is something to treasure, as are the memories he shares of his 85 years lived here and his work on the Three Village Society’s Chicken Hill, A Community Lost to Time exhibit.

Millie Mastrion a longtime member, past trustee and volunteer will receive The Maggie Gillie Memorial Award for contributions by a member of the society in recognition of overall dedicated service, and for significant contributions furthering the goals of the society.

From left, Katherine Johnson, Kristin Moller and Sean Mullen will be honored at the TVHS awards dinner. Photo courtesy of TVHS

Deep interest in history led Sean Mullen to the Three Village Historical Society.  Mullen has applied his knowledge by volunteering at the society’s archives while pursuing his degree in history at SUNY Stony Brook.  He has been working with the society’s collections, especially those relating to the Revolutionary era and the Culper Spy Ring. For that, Mullen will receive the Gayle Becher Memorial Award in recognition of volunteer efforts to help the society by performing those necessary tasks that facilitate its efficient operation. This award honors volunteers whose work consists of loyal support repeated on a regular basis.

Katherine Johnson and Kristin Moller, both students at Ward Melville High School, are this year’s honorees for the Sherman Mills Young Historian Award, a prestigious award presented for contributions to the society by a young person.  Kristen and Katherine have both volunteered many hours to society exhibits and events.

Three community award certificates will be handed out this year. The first, for enhancing or restoring a building used as a commercial structure in a way that contributes to the historic beauty of the area will be awarded to Michael and Anthony Butera of ATM Butera Mason Contractors & Landscaping for the reconstruction of the 1892 chimney on the Emma Clark Library. The second, for house restoration or renovation and ongoing maintenance and preservation in keeping with the original architectural integrity, will be awarded to John and Christine Negus for their home at 34 Old Post Road. The third award, for ornamental plantings or landscaping that enhances the beauty of the Three Village area, will be awarded to John and Randy Prinzivalli of 6 Old Field Road in Setauket.

The Awards Dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Old Field Club located at 86 West Meadow Road in East Setauket. A three-course dinner, which will include cheese/fruit/crudité, North Fork Salad, choice of entree (sliced grilled sirloin steak, herb-crusted salmon or grilled vegetable lasagna) and dessert, will be served. There will be a cash bar and music will be provided by Dylan Maggio, Alex Attard and Hugh Ferguson from Ward Melville High School Jazz Band under the direction of Jason Chapman. Tickets are $65 per person, $55 members. To order, visit www.tvhs.org or call 631-751-3730.

Claire Belllerjeau presents a lecture at the Setauket Neighborhood House. Photo by Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

“Spies” Nest: Major John André’s Activities at Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay, was the featured program for the Three Village Historical Society’s free lecture series at the Setauket Neighborhood House Feb. 27.

Historian Claire Bellerjeau presented her famed lecture on the British Revolutionary War spymaster John André to an eager audience of historians, history buffs, society members and the general public. Bellerjeau began her dramatic presentation by reminding the audience that there has been a great deal of misinformation written and presented as fact about the people and events of the Revolutionary War over the past two-and-a-half centuries. Many of the stories and tales surrounding the activities of British officers and their relationships with the Townsend family in Oyster Bay have grown with the telling and were perpetuated by writer after writer using the same undocumented sources that became the justification around which a dramatic story was created.

Bellerjeau, presently an historian for the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, the ancestral home of General George Washington’s Culper Spy Robert Townsend, traveled to the archives of the New York Historical Society, the William L. Clements Library in Michigan and to Toronto, Canada to research the Revolutionary War era documents that tell a more accurate, and no less dramatic story of the events surrounding the life and death of Major John André, the chief of British intelligence in New York City who worked secretly to assist Continental Army General Benedict Arnold in his effort to turn the American fortress at West Point over to the British.

André visited the British headquarters of British Major John Graves Simcoe at the Townsend home, now Raynham Hall, in Oyster Bay a number of times as the two British officers were friends who corresponded with each other regularly. However, the story of Sally Townsend overhearing a conversation about General Benedict Arnold between the two officers and informing her brother Robert Townsend­­—­alias Samuel Culper Jr. of the Culper Spy Ring­—is just that, a story, as the facts uncovered by Bellerjeau definitely place them in other locations at that critical time.

Bellerjeau’s enthusiastic presentation featured the actual documentary evidence she uncovered which also included material by Long Island historian Benjamin Franklin Thompson of Setauket and other historians, as well as original documentary evidence in the archival collection of the East Hampton Library.

For additional information on the Setauket-based Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring and the role of British spy Major John André, visit the Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay and the SPIES! Exhibit at the Three Village Historical Society History Center on North Country Road in Setauket.

The next Three Village Historical Society lecture series presentation will be a pot luck supper and lecture “The Witchcraft of Goody Garlick” presented by Tata Rider at the Setauket Neighborhood House Monday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. The public is invited to this free program, just bring a covered-dish entree that serves six. A wine and cheese reception at 6:00 p.m. will precede the supper and program. Sponsored jointly by the society and the Setauket Neighborhood House Association.            

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.