Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel
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.”
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.
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.