Tags Posts tagged with "Beverly C. Tyler"

Beverly C. Tyler

Somber day marked with wreath-laying event

By Heidi Sutton

In Setauket, Memorial Day is usually marked with a parade from Main Street to Route 25A followed by a remembrance ceremony, but these are not usual times.

For the first time in recent years the parade was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Veterans of Foreign War Post 3054, which hosts the Three Village Memorial Day Parade each year, decided to hold a brief wreath-laying ceremony at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park to memorialize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.

The park’s monument honors members of the community who perished in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

 “As long as two comrades survive — so long will the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States render tribute to our heroic dead,” said Post Commander Jay Veronko, who led the 10-minute remembrance event.

“On this day, forever consecrated to our heroic dead, we are assembled once again to express sincere reverence. This monument represents the resting places of many departed comrades who served in all wars. Wherever the body of a comrade lies there the ground is hallowed,” Veronko recited. 

As in years past there was the traditional rifle salute, a prayer, the playing of taps and rousing renditions of our country’s national anthem and “God Bless America” by Arleen Gargiulo of Setauket, albeit with face masks while adhering to strict social distancing measures.

Kellen McDermott of Cub Scout Pack 18, Beverly C. Tyler representing the Three Village Historical Society, and Tim Still and Jack Cassidy from VFW Post 3054 presented wreaths.

“Our presence here is in solemn commemoration of all these men — an expression of our tribute to their devotion to duty, to their courage and patriotism. By their services on land, on sea and in the air, they have made us their debtors, for the flag of our nation still flies over a land of free people,” Veronko said.

The Post also paid their respects to their departed comrades Edward Arndt and Walter Denzler Sr. and “a solemn tribute to all comrades wherever they may rest.” The group also laid wreaths at the Setauket Village Green Memorial and the Stony Brook Village Memorial. 

Veronko thanked the participants for coming. “Hopefully next year we can have a parade,” he said.

Photos by Heidi Sutton

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Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The intersection of Main Street and Old Field Road in Setauket marks the entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Park and Sanctuary. The horseshoe-shaped park, completed in 1937, includes extensive plantings, a simulated grist mill, a magnificent view of Conscience Bay and the cottage of the last Setauket miller Everett Hawkins. From the park, there is an entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation Sanctuary grounds with its extensive nature paths.

Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

Just after dawn, the Setauket Mill Pond shimmers with morning mist and reflects the early morning sky. Walking along the path in the Frank Melville Memorial Park, the only sounds, except for the occasional car going by, are the birds in the trees and the ducks in the pond. They contrast with the greens, browns and grays of early morning. The contemplative surroundings start the day with the beauty of God’s creation and give perspective to the rest of the day.

I walk the park almost every day. I often stop at one or another of the many benches that line the park and face the lower mill pond. From that perspective, I see what I don’t take in while walking.

At first, the pond surface is like glass reflecting the bare brown trees, their branches forming interlacing patterns against the clear blue sky. Then a gentle breeze turns the pond to silver, moving it with patterns of dark and light. I notice walkers strolling along the path, their bright jacket colors contrasting with the brown shades of old gnarled black birch, white birch and evergreens. One variety of the rhododendrons along the path shows a few beginning buds. The forsythia, the park’s first spring color, is already showing yellow blooms. The dark evergreens, planted almost 80 years ago as mature trees, add vertical splendor climbing skyward.

As I walk, I hear the background sounds of water flowing over the mill dam and into the bay. A pair of mallards glides slowly across the pond occasionally dipping their beaks into the water. Suddenly a mallard glides down to the pond, his wings flapping to slow him down and his feet striking the pond and creating a spray of water. The trumpet calls of geese announce flight as they fly over the Old Field Road bridge, then across the mill dam and into Conscience Bay.

Almost every day I watch a swan glide slowly under the bridge and into the lower pond. Within a few minutes, he suddenly rises just above the water and with wings slapping the surface of the pond, creating a staccato of sound, flies to the north end of the pond near the island and then glides around the lower pond exercising his authority over ducks and geese.

Last month, my wife and I spent an early spring afternoon in the park and sanctuary. We walked into the park past the Setauket Post Office with its Greek Revival columns topped by corn cob capitals. Spring colors were just beginning to emerge along the one-third mile path around the lower mill pond. Together we turned off the horseshoe path and walked past the red barn and the new fencing that marks the entrance to the park sanctuary. We chose one of the middle paths that led into the woods and we were suddenly surprised by a grove of conifers between the path and the Bates House parking lot. There is almost no undergrowth at this time of year and with several trees and bushes removed or cut back the evergreens look spectacular. We continued along the wood chip paths and were delighted by the looks of the bare trees, shrubs and evergreens surrounding us and with the smell of red cedar as we walked.

This is a wonderful time of year to be in the park and especially to wander along the sanctuary pathways. It is impossible to get lost here as all the pathways are circular and you end up at either the red barn at the park or the Bates House at the end of Bates Road. It is also easy to stay a safe distance from other walkers, especially in the sanctuary.

The area around the Setauket Millpond was a center of commerce for the community from the time it was settled in 1655 until early in the 20th century. It is easy to imagine almost any time in Setauket history while in the park. Looking out over the mill dam, Conscience Bay reflects the 8,000 years the Native Americans lived here before the English settlers came to Setauket. The mill tells the story of the farmer grinding grain in the 1700s. The recently restored red barn was originally made from World War One barracks buildings at Camp Upton in Yaphank. The stable is a reminder of the white horse “Smokey” from the 1950s who would always come to the fence for half an apple. The stone bridge relates how an immigrant’s great-grandson, Ward Melville, came to Setauket and gave us an image of the countryside of rural England and Europe with a park and sanctuary.

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

Beverly C. Tyler, historian for the Three Village Historical Society, at the grave of Culper Spy Abraham Woodhull during filming on April 6.

By Beverly C. Tyler

The Three Village Historical Society’s virtual local history programming is kicking off this week with a series of virtual SPIES! bicycle tours to locations that include spy videos, ciphers, codes and the stories of the five principal Setauket members of the Culper Spy Ring. 

This will be followed by a series of virtual Founders Day tours that will take you to seven locations in the Town of Brookhaven Original Settlement area. Students, teachers and family members of all ages will be able to enjoy these local history explorations initiated every Monday for the next twelve weeks on the Society’s web site. 

For the next five weeks we will be exploring local sites of Setauket’s Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring. At each site you will learn about a spy who played a key role in the ring and you will be able to decode a spy message and send your  decoded messages to the Three Village Historical Society. On Friday of each week the decoded message will be posted on the Society’s web site.

Following the Virtual Spies Tours we will take you to seven Founders Day locations in the original settlement area of Setauket, including the Village Green; Setauket Presbyterian Church and graveyard; Frank Melville Park Sanctuary at Conscience Bay; Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard and Emma S. Clark Library; Frank Melville Memorial Park, mill and historic miller’s home; Setauket Neighborhood House, general store and post office; and Patriot’s Rock. 

At these locations you will discover stories about Setalcott Native Americans, agents for the English settlers, artist William Sidney Mount, Setauket’s war heroes, Three Village immigrants, philanthropists, millers, farmers, ship captains and more.

We don’t know when we’ll open our doors to in-person programs again, but please know that we are doing everything we can to prioritize the services and programs that you love and enjoy during this time of social distancing. 

For more information check out our web site at: https://www.tvhs.org/.

To go directly to our virtual spy tours, visit https://www.tvhs.org/virtual-programming.

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The former Tyler Brothers General Store at the intersection of Main Street and Old Field Road in Setauket is an example of a third place. Locals would congregate at the store to talk about the day’s events and to keep in touch with each other Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In the first two hundred years of English settlement in Setauket and Stony Brook, work and home were, for most residents, synonymous. Each family owned enough land to farm, and the land provided them with the necessities of life — food, clothing and shelter. The community provided the formal and informal gathering places. These places, such as the Presbyterian meeting house, the Village Green, the general stores and the mills, were at the center, at the very heart of the Setauket and Stony Brook communities. These “third places” — home and work being first and second — provided the spiritual, social and societal needs of the early settlers.

“Community keeps us accountable and compassionate. It prevents us from thinking too highly of ourselves and taking too much on. It reminds us that we need one another, that we’re not alone.”

— Rachel Held Evans

By the second half of the 20th century, following World War II, all of that changed. The deterioration of the cities combined with the lure of the country caused a new phenomenon, a building boom that created housing developments for returning veterans under the GI Bill as well as for many others. At first, these new “communities” worked. The men went off to work taking the family car with them. The women, without a car to get them out of the development, met, talked, borrowed and swapped for what they needed until the weekend when the family could shop in the new shopping centers that faced outward toward the roads rather than inward toward the community. After school, the children played together in the parks and on the streets of the development. These families, devoid of the traditional third places, created their own.

This worked for the first generation of residents in developments such as Levittown, but as different people moved in who didn’t share work and family, the developments became sterile places where neighbors no longer knew each other. They became places without soul, without the informal gathering places that define community — without third places.

“Community keeps us accountable and compassionate. It prevents us from thinking too highly of ourselves and taking too much on. It reminds us that we need one another, that we’re not alone” (blog entry by religious author Rachel Held Evans, March 1, 2017).

We have, in the Three Village area, the building blocks of community. We also have a fine school district and a university campus that can help to draw us closer together. How we care for all of these parts of our community and in turn how we care for each other determine how much of a community we are.

“The process of seeking common ground is also the process of composing good narratives in which all can find themselves represented. Only through this process can the civic enterprise proceed and communities flourish” (Robert A. Archibald, “A Place to Remember: Using History to Build Community,” 1999).

A good definition of community is offered by Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie in their book “Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl,” 1997: “As habitats for community have eroded, so too has the true meaning of the word. Today ‘community’ more commonly describes any rootless collection of interests rather than people rooted in a place — people tied by fellowship or even kinship to one another, to a shared past, and to a common interest in the future.”

The last part may be the real key. If we really do want what is best for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, then we do need to spend less time being concerned with our differences and more time studying and applying what we have in common, our shared past and common interest in the future. Regardless of how long we have lived here, we share in our history and are concerned about our future.

The exact opposite of community is represented most distinctly today by television shows that tout the importance and effectiveness of individual action. In these venues, community exists only as a means to demonstrate the superiority of the individual. Working together to achieve a common goal is devalued and the object, by whatever means possible, is to win everything for oneself.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen, in a “Book TV” interview about her book “Ice Bound” (2001) and her struggles with breast cancer in the Antarctic community in which she lived for many months, commented that the most special and lasting effect of her time in Antarctica was the close personal bonds that formed there and how disconnected and alone she felt after she was taken out of that community. She noted that they virtually depended on each other for their survival and became closer in a few months to vastly different people than she had been to family or lifelong friends.

“Without formal and informal gathering places where we share experiences and make common memories, and thus establish a common identity buttressed with familiarity, community is devalued and only individualism remains.”

— Robert A. Archibald

Nielsen also said that she later met senator and astronaut John Glenn for the second time in her life, and he noted the importance of unit cohesiveness (community) in the military. Glenn reportedly told her that, in the service, “We don’t throw people out, we carry them out.”

“Without formal and informal gathering places where we share experiences and make common memories, and thus establish a common identity buttressed with familiarity, community is devalued and only individualism remains” (Archibald, 1999).

The hectic pace of life has us traveling from place to place in and around our community in our closed boxes with wheels, which provides a sort of community isolation that simply did not exist on Long Island in past centuries. The automobile has become the vehicle for both separation and connection in modern society. Now, in addition, we can shop and travel on the Internet, the computer providing a wide range of products and services and adding to our community isolation.

Yet, in Setauket and Stony Brook, we value our local history and the homes, barns, farms, ponds, woods, open spaces, public buildings and businesses that are the tangible and visible representations of that history. Many are also the touchstones of our historic memory. Whether we are eight years old or 80, they define our existence at a certain time in our lives, and they help to bring into focus the relationships that we value — our family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers.

“Sandy, sandy roads and trees … just paths like Indians had … you know, through the woods … that’s the truth. Everybody walked. Didn’t matter what you owned or how much you had … you wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone on foot … that was part of daily life.” (Hazel Lewis, The Three Village Historian, “Eel Catching at Setauket,” May 1988).

Over the past century our community has grown and changed from a rural area of farms and vernacular architecture into a suburban environment of historic areas, housing developments, commercial strip developments and university complexes. What we have lost is a part of our connection to each other in the community. In the past, our local stores, schools, libraries, community gathering places and places of worship were usually within walking distance of our homes. These life-sustaining places were often an integral part of our streets or neighborhoods. In fact, in most communities a 30-minute walk would take us from one end of town to the other, and while we were walking, we would see our friends and neighbors and they would see us. We knew each other and to some extent we knew each other’s habits and relationships, likes and dislikes.

With all the changes that communities have gone through, however, we still have places where community relationships are initiated, nurtured and developed, places where we can share our experiences and explore our collective memories. These are the places that Ray Oldenburg, in his book “The Great Good Places: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts and How They Get You Through the Day” (1991), refers to as third places to distinguish them from work and home. We simply don’t always recognize them. They can be any place we come together to share our thoughts and ideas where there is, as expressed in the hit musical “Come from Away: Welcome to the Rock,” “a spirit of compassion, resourcefulness and generosity.”

In the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador in Gander, where 38 commercial aircraft landed Sept. 11, 2001, and deposited more than 6,500 people into a town of about 10,000 residents, is written, “Contact is one of the most powerful agents of cultural change.” This quote defines what welcoming “Come-from-Away’s” (visitors) means to local residents. For five days these sudden visitors were accepted without reservation, without hesitation, by Newfoundlanders who fed their bodies as well as their souls. This is the definition of a third place.

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

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By Beverly C. Tyler

The first Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley for Henry Cole of England, later Sir Henry Cole. Cole was the organizer and first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London The card was printed in London by a method called lithography and was hand colored by a professional “colourer” named Mason. It was sent in 1843.

It was the custom at the time to send letters to relatives and friends at Christmas. Cole’s cards were to take the place of the letters that he would have to write to his large number of friends and family. A total of about 1,000 of these cards were printed.

Christmas cards were becoming popular in the United States by the 1870s, and by the 1880s they were being printed in the millions, and were no longer being hand colored. Christmas cards during the late 1800s came in all shapes and sizes and were made with silk, satin, brocade and plush, as well as with lace and embroidery surrounding the printed card. These cards were just as varied as those we have today and included religious themes, landscapes from every season, animals, the traditional Father Christmas, children and humor. The cards were very colorful and usually included some verse in addition to the greeting. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, humor was a favorite theme for postcards and Christmas postcards were no exception.

A modern take on a Christmas card poem:

GOD’S PROCLAIMING STAR

Three wise men from the east came following

God’s proclaiming star

It led unerring to the presence of our Lord

God’s proclaiming star

It brought God’s message of peace on earth

God’s proclaiming star

and showed the world God’s promise

God’s proclaiming star

that through God’s son our sins are forgiven

God’s proclaiming star

and introduced us to God’s first GPS

God’s proclaiming star

Poem by Beverly Tyler

Christmas cards were eventually sent through the mail as postcards. The lower price of postage — one cent for a postcard — was one of the reasons for the popularity of the postcard-greeting card. The postcard was most popular during the years between 1895 and 1914, when the craze for collecting cards was at its height. The beginning of the use of postcards probably goes back to the influence of the trade card, used to promote business and trade in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the visiting card, which included the sender’s name prominently added to the card, and was used to send a greeting.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the collecting of picture postcards was the most popular hobby in the world. In the United States there were more than a half a million postcards mailed each year leading up to World War I. Many of these cards were postmarked at both the senders and the recipients post office. One postcard was postmarked Dec. 23, 1907, at 6 p.m. in Putnam, New York, and in East Setauket Dec. 24 (no time listed).

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

 

 

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The old steeple is taken down Nov. 15 and replaced with a new one. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Setauket United Methodist Church at the corner of Main Street and Route 25A sits as a beacon and a guide to the historic community around it known as Chicken Hill. This is a place that had its roots in mid-19th century industrial America with first the Nunns & Clark piano factory and its primarily German workforce, followed in the same five-story brick factory by the Long Island Rubber Company which initially hired Irish and African American workers. Later Russian Jews and Eastern European Catholic immigrants flooding into New York City were hired for a workforce that, at its peak, totaled more than 500.

Setauket United Methodist Church steeple being painted in 1925 by Clinton West, left, Herman Aldrich, right, and Ray Tyler, at top. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

Three Village Historical Society president, Steve Healy, said he was approached by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Steven Kim, who knew about the society’s exhibit, Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time. Kim asked if the society would be interested in the church’s steeple as it was to be taken down and replaced by a new one.

“I thought it would be nice to include a portion of the steeple, with the cross on top, in the exhibit, to show that this church was a focal point of Chicken Hill, right in the middle of these working-class immigrants,” Healy said.

The steeple, weighing about 700 pounds, consisted of the aluminum skin and the interior framing. The exterior skin was separated from the inside structure and moved by trailer to the historical society’s headquarters on North Country Road.

“We decided to take all 32 feet and later decide what will be used in the exhibit,” Healy said. “It’s a historical artifact that people can touch and a fascinating addition to our exhibit in the history center.”

One of the goals of the historical society is to bring the history of the local community to life and to excite and engage people. The society also wants visitors to its exhibits to discover what they want to remember and what they need to remember. The artifacts and documents in the Chicken Hill exhibit illustrate the cooperative community that existed at Chicken Hill as well as the societal problems that existed in and around that area. Bringing people of diverse ethnicity, race and religion here to live and work together provides a wealth of stories.

The Chicken Hill exhibit tells the stories of harmony and conflict together with individual stories of pride, compassion and humor. The addition of the church steeple will help to bring the storytelling full circle.

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

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Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly C. Tyler on the Picton Castle.

By Beverly C. Tyler

The 19th century was the era of the romance of sail. Full-rigged ships, such as the Flying Cloud, set sail-powered speed records for ships of commerce voyaging to and from ports around the world that would never be eclipsed. These beautiful and awe-inspiring ships were just a fraction of the sailing vessels that transported goods locally, regionally and around the world.

Sailing on board the Stephen Taber in Penobscot Bay, Maine.

On Long Island Sound and up and down the East Coast of America smaller cargo vessels, sloops, schooners, brigs and barks kept residents supplied with many of the products they needed to sustain life. However, today as reported in the Oct. 23 edition of The Guardian, “[Modern vessels] fan out across the seas like a giant maritime dance, a ballet of tens of thousands of vessels delivering the physical stuff that has become indispensable to our way of life: commodities and cars, white goods and gas and grains, timber and technology.

“But shipping — a vast industry that moves trillions of pounds-worth of goods each year — is facing an environmental reckoning. Ships burn the dirtiest oil, known as bunker fuel; a waste product from the refinery process, literally scraping the bottom of the barrel, the crud in crude. It’s so thick that you could walk on it at room temperature. As a result, shipping is a major polluter — responsible for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions.”

A good friend from Auckland, New Zealand, Joan Druett, is an award-winning maritime author, who has written many books about the sea including “Hen Frigates,” the stories of women in the 19th century who went to sea with their ship captain husbands. The book includes a number of Long Island women including two from Setauket. Druett also has a blog “World of the Written World.” It was through her blog that I learned of the article “Winds of change: the sailing ships cleaning up sea transport” by Nicola Cutcher in The Guardian.

There are now a number of sailing ships and maritime companies working to ship products, especially those that cannot be grown locally, to other countries in sailing vessels that have a very low carbon footprint and are environmentally responsible; in other words shipping that does not contribute to the pollution of the oceans and the air.

Companies around the world like Shipped by Sail, Timbercoast, Fairtransport, New Dawn Traders and TransOceanic Wind Transport are working to provide clean, ethical and sustainable transportation of goods.

In April of 2018, I spent a week as a crewman on the Picton Castle, a 150-foot, three-masted bark, a square-rigged sail training ship that has, as of July 2019, made seven circumnavigations of the globe. I first boarded the ship as a visitor in October 2013 in Auckland and found out that Picton Castle was then based in the Cook Islands in the Pacific. Picton Castle crew member Kate “Bob” Addison wrote these observations July 12, 2013.

“Barque Picton Castle is just twenty miles off Atiu, a raised atoll in the southern Cook Islands, the first island call of this cargo and passenger run to the outer Cook Islands. We departed from Avatiu Harbour, Rarotonga yesterday morning to start this second inter-island voyage; this time we’re heading up north to Penrhyn, Manihiki and Rakahanga after a short call at Atiu in the Southern Group. And then back to Rarotonga in August for the start of our next long South Pacific Voyage.

“These cargo and passenger operations are a fascinating chapter in the history of our ship. Running a cargo operation under sail is definitely complementary to our core mission of sail training and adventure travel, it adds depth and purpose to our experiences and provides a true hands on training opportunity on board. The ship has always been about being part of something greater than yourself, of doing things that need doing whether you feel like it or not, simply because it needs doing. And now we have pressed our barque into a service that is bigger than the ship.

“At the moment the ship’s hold is about two thirds full of cargo, about fifteen tons of which is building materials that will soon become new water tanks in Atiu. We are carrying a mother, and daughter and their dog back home to Atiu and a commercial diver up to work on the pearl farms of Manihiki. In a small way we are contributing to the workings of the Cook Islands, our home in the South Pacific.”

My week on the Picton Castle in the Gulf of Mexico, as she prepared for her last round-the-world voyage, helped me understand how dedicated the ship and crew are to teaching us, not only how to work on a sailing ship but how to be environmentally aware of our surroundings and how important it is to respect the seas and harbors where we work and live.

In 2008 my wife and I spent a few days on the Stephen Taber, an 1872 Long Island-built schooner in Penobscot Bay in Maine. During the week we had a lobster and clam bake on one of the uninhabited off-shore Islands. We were told not to collect any driftwood. We brought everything we needed to the beach including the wood for the fire and when we left everything we brought was removed as if we had never been there. I am thankful for what these experiences have taught me.

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

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Benjamin Tallmadge's home in Litchfield, Connecticut. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler 

The end of the Revolutionary War brought dramatic change for Patriots and for Continental Army officers. Benjamin Tallmadge was at the center of events as Gen. George Washington met with his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York prior to resigning his commission as commander in chief. Tallmadge also resigned his commission and began a new life as a citizen of Litchfield, Connecticut.

Just prior to the British withdrawal from New York City Nov. 25, 1783, Tallmadge, head of Washington’s Secret Service, received permission to go into the city to protect his spies following the Treaty of Paris on Sept. 3, 1783. A little earlier he wrote to Washington:

“Should I not have the opportunity to pay my personal respects to your Excellency before you retire from the Army, give me leave at this time, with the warmest gratitude, to assure your Excellency that I shall ever entertain the liveliest sense of the many marks of attention which I have rec’d from your Excellency’s hands. Whatever may have been the result, it gives me great pleasure to reflect, that during my service in the Army, it has ever been my highest ambition to promote the Welfare of my Country & thereby merit your Excellency’s approbation.

“In the calm retirements of domestic life, may you continue to enjoy health, & find increasing satisfaction from the reflection of having conducted the arms of America thro’ a War so peculiarly distressing to the obtainment of an honorable peace, & of having been the Instrument, under God, in obtaining the freedom & Independence of this country. … Adieu, my dear General, & in every situation of life I pray you to believe that my best wishes will attend you, & that I shall continue to be, as I am at this time,

“With every sentiment of respect & esteem, Your Excellency’s most Obed’t & very H’ble Serv’t, Benj Tallmadge.”

Tallmadge’s farewell to Washington was written from his home at 47 North St., Litchfield, Connecticut, Aug. 16, 1783.

3V historical society tour

I will lead a bus tour, sponsored by the Three Village Historical Society, to Litchfield, Connecticut, Saturday, Nov. 9. Participants will tour the Litchfield Historical Society museum, including the exhibit Litchfield at 300 which closes Nov. 24. The party will visit the Tallmadge archival collection, walk through the town where the Tallmadge family lived and finally see the East Cemetery where he and his family are buried. Along the way attendees will learn more about the Setauket-based Culper Spy Ring and about Tallmadge, one of the genuine heroes of the Revolutionary War. For tickets and information, visit www.tvhs.org or call 631-751-3730.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. 

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Percy Smith's Market and Butcher Shop circa 1940. Photo provided by Beverly C Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In Stony Brook, before World War II and before the changes made by Ward Melville, there were stores and shops spread out along Main Street, Shore Road and Christian Avenue. Main Street in Stony Brook during the 19th and the early part of the 20th centuries was an active commercial area with a variety of shops.

South of Harbor Road and the mill pond there were several small homesteads and farms, a harness-maker’s shop and blacksmith shop, and a schoolhouse. The business area really began at the Grist Mill, and except for Jacinsky’s Saloon and a bakery opposite Harbor Road, all the stores were between the mill pond and the harbor. Shops included an ice cream parlor, drugstore, hardware store, tearoom, second-hand clothing store, Chinese laundry, a tailor shop and harness-maker’s shop that became a butcher shop and grocery store about 1900, a barbershop, 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. Percy Smith, in his booklet “A Century of Progress,” noted that in the 1890s Stony Brook farmers began decreasing their livestock, and Orlando Smith had to buy meat from Bridgeport. His order was shipped by boat to Port Jefferson, 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,” Percy Smith wrote. Born in 1892, he took over in 1913 the butcher business that had been owned for a short while by Capt. Robert F. Wells and then by Percy’s father, W.H. Smith.

In 1922 Percy Smith moved to a new location in the old post office building. A Stony Brook resident his entire life, he remembered in an interview in 1976 how the local families relied on each other for many of their necessities of life. The farmers supplied the food products, and the ship captains supplied transportation for the goods that were sold in New York City and Connecticut. The coastal schooners also brought to Stony Brook many items that were not grown or manufactured here. The merchants then bought and sold from both the farmers and the schooner captains. Smith noted that his grandfather Joseph Smith Hawkins, born 1827, used to make butter and take it to the store and trade it in and get groceries: “Farming used to be a mainstay of the village, plus the boats that used to bring things in and take things out. My grandfather used to cut and ship cordwood to New York City. The dock at Stony Brook used to be covered with hundreds of cords of wood.”

The 19th century brought many changes that affected the close interdependent relationship of the farmers, ship captains and merchants. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the subsequent building of canals brought coal for fuel from Pennsylvania and other states and hastened the decline of the use of cordwood for fuel in New York City. In addition, wheat and other grains from upstate New York and the Midwest were shipped on the Erie Canal and began arriving in New York City in large quantities. Most of the local grist mills found it difficult, if not impossible, to match the low price of Midwest grains and either adapted or went out of business. Percy Smith commented on these changes: “The older people died off and the younger ones didn’t want to bother with farming because they could make more money doing something else … so the farms were sold off.”

Thus, ended most of the small individual farms in the Three Village area. The local farmer was always a hardworking individual who took a great deal of pride in his work. The farms are gone but many of the farmhouses remain as witness to a lifestyle that has passed on.

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

On Aug. 30, the American Association for State and Local History presented an Award of Excellence to the Three Village Historical Society for the society’s Founders Day program. The program is conducted each spring for Three Village Central School District fourth-grade students.

Donna Smith and Steve Healy (center) receive the AASLH Award of Excellence on behalf of the Three Village Historical Society at the AASLH Awards Dinner in Philadelphia, PA on Aug. 30 in photo with John Fleming, AASLH Chair on the left, AASLH Predient & CEO John R. Dichtl on the right.

As a direct result of the program, during the 2017-18 school year, Setauket School fourth-grade students produced videos about each of the 12 Vance Locke murals in the Setauket School Auditorium. The students, with the assistance of their teachers and Andy Weik, lead teacher for instructional technology for the district, wrote and produced the videos.

Because of the work of the students, the  auditorium was opened to the public for the first time on the 2018 Culper Spy Day. To make the videos available to anyone visiting the auditorium, a QR code was added below each mural. The follow-up to the Founders Day program by Setauket School fourth-grade students gave an added impetus for the decision to present the Three Village Historical Society with the AASLH Award of Excellence.

On Sept. 10, members of the Founders Day Committee Donna Smith, TVHS education director; Beverly Tyler, TVHS historian; Karen Mizell, Setauket School principal; Lindsey Steward-Goldberg, TVHS committee member; along with Steve Healy, TVHS president  met with the 110, now sixth-grade, Setauket School students and teachers to congratulate them on their part in the Founders Day Award.

Smith and Tyler thanked the Setauket School, Principal Karen Mizell and the Three Village Central School District for their partnership with the Three Village Historical Society and the Founders Day Committee over the 14-year (2006-2019) existence of the Founders Day program. The event was also attended by Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Leg. Kara Hahn.

Supervisor Ed Romaine thanks the students.

Supervisor Romaine spoke briefly to the students before presenting the Three Village Historical Society with a proclamation officially announcing Sept. 10 as Three Village Historical Society Day for its efforts in promoting local history. “Two years ago when you were in fourth grade you were able to take videos photos of the Grist Mill and other historic sites around town … and members of the Three Village Historical Society took your work to the AMA and they won an award which says one thing — you’re all great historians,” Romaine told the students.

“Our history is so important to us as a community in establishing our sense of place and understanding where we came from and how the people who founded this community helped to make it the great place that it is today,” said Leg. Hahn. “And so I hope you are learning a lot about our local community thanks to the wonderful volunteers at the historical society and all of your teachers … to help you understand how important Setauket was to the founding of this nation.”