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Barbara M. Russell

The cover of 'Founders Day'

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

4th grade students from the Three Village School District take a tour of Setauket. Photo from TVHS

The Three Village Historical Society has published an excellent series of short works highlighting the North Shore region. Founders Day: Discovering Setauket, Brookhaven’s Original Settlement is “a walking tour guide for families who love exploring and bringing history to life.” It joins several other excellent offerings from the Society. The slender volumes are colorful and well-researched, with dozens of illustrations and photos. The goal is “to create meaningful experiences for families interested in exploring community.” Previous publications include George Washington’s LI Spy Ring, Down the Ways – The Wooden Ship Era, and Setauket and Brookhaven History (the latter two recently reviewed in TBR News Media). 

Founders Day is written by the Society’s Founders Day Committee: Katherine Downs-Reuter, Barbara M. Russell, Donna Smith, Lindsey Steward-Goldberg, and Beverly C. Tyler. The impetus (Founders Day, created in 2006) was to “enhance [the] Three Village Central School District’s fourth grade students’ understanding of local history […] using the Vance Locke murals displayed in the Setauket Elementary School auditorium.”

The cover of ‘Founders Day’

As in previous guides, there is a well-balanced combination of archival documents, paintings dating back to the eighteenth century, and historical and current photographs. The book gives clear and concise instructions, with the tour beginning in front of the Setauket School, Main Street, Setauket, and concluding at the Emma S. Clark Library. Throughout, there are detailed explanations of building markers (coats of arms, inscriptions, plaques), archaeological points of interest, and architectural details. The writers even point out errors: “The date on the plaque on Patriot’s Rock, August 23, is wrong by two days. Information on historical markers can sometimes be wrong. It is always a good idea to check with a more original source.” This detail presents a valuable and telling lesson in the pursuit of history and historical accuracy. 

Brief family genealogies are provided in appropriate circumstances. Some sites get a thorough background. The Setauket Grist Mill rightfully warrants an entire page, given its importance to the community. A detailed account of Tyler Bros. General Store receives two detailed pages that include quotes from Lucy Hart, born in February 1899. Here, there is a discussion about the lives and fates of African Americans in the Setauket area. The text is clear, concise, and descriptive, ideal for the walking tour and a stimulus for further and deeper investigations of the various locales. 

4th grade students from the Three Village School District take a tour of Setauket. Photo from TVHS

Travel and transportation, farming, fishing, and folklore are all included. In addition, the final page contains a list of vocabulary words and terms used within the book. This inclusion further emphasizes that Founders Day, along with the many works of the Three Village Historical Society, are ideal for classroom use and an opportunity for families to explore the area in which they live.

An important note. All the recent publications carry a version of this message: “We wish to acknowledge that we are sitting on the land of the Setalcott indigenous people in Setauket and we pay respect to the Setalcott people whose land is where we live, work and explore.” This note embraces an important and growing awareness, recognizing the impact of the area’s indigenous people. 

Once again, the Three Village Historical Society has produced a novel and valuable tool for community discovery.

Copies of Founders Day: Discovering Setauket, Brookhaven’s Original Settlement are available at the Three Village Historical Society Gift Shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket and online at www.tvhs.org.

For more information, call 631-751-3730.

By Heidi Sutton

This past Saturday, members of the community gathered at St. George’s Manor Cemetery in Setauket to pay tribute to Judge Selah Strong with the unveiling of a commemorative graveside plaque. Margo Arceri, owner of Tri-Spy Tours, dedicated the bronze marker which honors the judge’s contributions to the local community, 205 years after his death.

“Strong was one of the first patriots in the community. He was best friends with Culper Spy Caleb Brewster … During the  Battle of Long Island, he was arrested by the British for assisting the Continental Army. After the war, he had a long and illustrious career in public service. The Strong family wanted him to be recognized for his efforts during the Revolutionary War and after. It was a great honor to place the marker for them,” said Arceri after the ceremony. “This is an important moment in our community’s history and for the Strong family.”

The event was attended by representatives of the Three Village Historical Society including President Steve Healy, Director of Education Donna Smith and historian Beverly C. Tyler; members of the Anna Smith Strong chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution; and several descendants of Selah Strong. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, and Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara M. Russell were also in attendance.

Selah Strong is buried in a family plot next to his first wife, Anna Smith Strong, the only female member of George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring, known for her famed clothesline.

“It’s always been a bit of a shame that not too many people payed attention to Selah because they were so interested in Anna and her story, but actually he did an awful lot,” said John (Jack) Temple Strong Jr., Selah Strong’s great-great-great grandson, who had the honor of unveiling the plaque.

Supervisor Romaine agreed. “Born on Christmas Day, 1737, died on the Fourth of July, 1815, he packed into his life things … we see of a man who was dedicated to his community, someone that at the tender age of 26 was elected Town Trustee and would wind up spending 35 years in office, most of them, certainly from 1780 on, as President of the Trustees, which is the equivalent of Supervisor,” he said.

Selah Strong also served as Suffolk County Treasurer, judge for the Court of Common Pleas, and was a New York State Senator for four years. “This is a man who served his community … I am here to pay my respects to someone that paved the way because as we look around today, a lot of what we have over the last 200 years would not be here if not for men of this caliber,” added Supervisor Romaine.

“When we think about patriotism we think about Selah Strong, Anna Smith Strong and the personal sacrifice, the amount of risks that they took for their country — true patriots,” said Raymond Brewster Strong III, Selah Strong’s 6th generation grandson who made the trip from Houston, Texas, to attend the ceremony. “[George] Washington’s motto was ‘deeds, not words’ and when you think about Selah Strong’s [accomplishments], those are true deeds, not words.”

“The Strong family continues as tradition bearers, and Tri-Spy Tours and the Three Village Historical Society are also important parts of passing to the next generation a sense of place and a sense of continuum,” said Assemblyman Englebright. “I am just honored to be here to bear witness to this wonderful occasion. This is altogether a respectful moment that should be remembered, as Selah Strong should be remembered.”

*Editors note — St. George’s Manor Cemetery is a private cemetery still owned by the Strong family.

All photos by Heidi Sutton