Port Jeff spies on history
By Joseph Wolkin
Students of history will have the opportunity to participate in TURN ACADEMY, a program highlighting the significance of the Roe brothers’ involvement in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring.
The North Shore has been more interested in the Revolutionary War-era spies since AMC began airing the TURN television series about Gen. Washington’s turncoats a few years ago, and now a six-week lecture series will break down the role of Port Jefferson’s Phillips and Nathaniel Roe, who were among those who helped supply Setauket’s Caleb Brewster with information for the patriots and Washington. The academy is held at the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum in Port Jefferson Village, at Barnum Avenue and West Broadway.
The program will include a letter from Loyalist soldier Nehemiah Marks from Dec. 21, 1780, which informed his comrades about the Roe brothers. The lecture series will also feature multiple maps and other documents.
Historical consultant Georgette Grier-Key, a Long Island resident, detailed the academy in an interview.
“It’s important because it is all about our local history,” she said. “There has been this new way of how history is being told. The importance of it has to do with the Culper Spy Ring. The program will mainly be about showing the reality versus fiction. We’re going to have a bunch of local historians that have specialized in fact and fiction. It’s entertainment and education conjoining.”
Grier-Key created an exhibit at the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum based on Marks’ letter. The letter, according to Grier-Key, proves Port Jefferson’s involvement in the Culper Spy Ring.
“The importance for the Port Jefferson Village is the fact that we have this newly discovered letter,” Grier-Key explained. “It’s rediscovered because the letter was originally found in the early 19th century. The letter resurfaced, and that’s a really important part of [the] history of Port Jefferson.”
The program began on June 24 and runs weekly through July 29, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at the Port Jefferson Village Center.
Mark Rothenberg, Mark Sternberg and Jim “Zak” Szakmary will lead the discussions. Each speaker will lead two lectures, with a cost of $120 to attend the series.
Rothenberg is a senior reference specialist, along with being a history liaison for Suffolk cooperative library system and Patchogue-Medford Library, while Sternberg is an entertainment attorney who represents independent film, television and news media producers; creative talent; production companies and distributors. Szakmary is a former president of Narrow Bay Historical Society and a current Suffolk County Historical Society researcher.
Grier-Key said the program is open to any age group, and is still accepting participants.
“The goal is to provide a learning opportunity for history within the local region,” Grier-Key said. “More importantly, the fictional series that people know is fiction is something we can use as education, and compare it to what really happened. This is our history of how early America started and how the local community evolved with patriotism.”