Tags Posts tagged with "Beverly C. Tyler"

Beverly C. Tyler

by -
0 228

By Beverly C. Tyler

Today it is the custom to send letters or attractive cards to relatives and friends at Christmas. This was not always the case as cards, especially colored cards, were a 19th-century innovation. Colorful 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 colorful cards usually included some verse in addition to the greeting.

This explosion in the availability of commercial cards, along with a change in postal regulations that permitted the penny postcard, started a quickly growing trend to send brief messages to friends and relatives, especially during the Christmas and holiday season.

Combing through old postcards, especially the large number sent over the Christmas holidays, has opened for my wife, Barbara, and me a window into our families’ histories. Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles sent and received cards from both local and distant friends and relatives. My wife’s aunt Muriel West was no exception. As a young girl Muriel, born in 1901, received Christmas cards and kept them in a postcard album. Many of the cards are postmarked between 1907 and 1914 when the postcard craze was still at its height. Looking at the cards we could see the postmarks included both the date it was sent and where the card was mailed. In some cases the postcard was postmarked at both the departure and arrival post offices, giving us an appreciation of the rapid speed of early 20th-century mail.

Many of the names of the people who sent the cards were unfamiliar to us, especially the ones that were from cousin Katie, cousin Emmie and cousin Millie postmarked from Brooklyn.

Barbara’s aunt Muriel and her father Forrest were the children of Clinton and Carolyn West. Carolyn was one of six children of John Henry Hudson and Emeline Hicks Raynor. For reasons we can only surmise, Carolyn was raised in Brooklyn by her mother’s cousin Nancy Mills Raynor, known as Millie, and her husband Benjamin Lyman Cowles. Carolyn lived with the Cowles in Brooklyn from the age of four to 17.

We wanted to find out as much as we about the family who raised Barbara’s grandmother and probably sent these cards. Going to search engines such as Ancestry.com and Findagrave, looking at census reports for 1880 and 1900, as well as family photos, Barbara was able to find that Nancy Raynor was the daughter of Edward Raynor and his first wife Eliza. It appears that Katie and Emma were the daughters of Edward’s second wife Hannah Reeves. So Katie and Emma were step-cousins to Muriel, and Millie would be an actual first cousin twice removed to young Muriel West. In 1920 Muriel married Charles Wesley Hawkins and continued to live in East Setauket until her death in 1995. The search goes on.

Beverly C. Tyler is the 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.

by -
0 333

By Beverly C. Tyler

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day as the end of the season of harvest was and still is an important milestone in people’s lives. Diaries, journals and letters provide some of the earliest records of seasonal activity and how people connected with each other to mark occasions. In America, before the telephone became a standard household item, family members and friends stayed in touch through the U.S. Postal Service.   

In 1873, a new phenomenon began when the United States Postal Service issued the first penny postcards. During the first six months, they sold 60 million. The post office department stated: “The object of the postal card is to facilitate letter correspondence and provide for the transmission through the mails, at a reduced rate of postage, of short communication, either printed or written in pencil or ink.”

With the postcard, brevity was essential due to the small space provided. Long descriptive phrases and lengthy expressions of affection, which then were commonly used in letter-writing, gave way to short greetings.

Soon after the first government postal cards were issued, American greeting card manufacturers began to print Christmas, Easter and other greetings on the back of the cards. By the 1890s, picture postcards were widely sold in many European countries, but in the United States, privately printed cards cost 2 cents to mail.

On May 19, 1898, an act of Congress was passed in the U.S. allowing privately published postcards the same message privileges and rates (1 cent) as the government-issued cards. These were to be inscribed, “Private mailing card – Authorized by Act of Congress May 19, 1898.”

Then in December 1901, new regulations were issued saying that private cards would have the word “Post Card” at the top of the address side and government-issued cards would say “Postal Cards.”

Before the telephone, the postcard was an easy and pleasant way to send a message. A postcard sent from one town in the morning usually would arrive in a nearby town that afternoon. A postcard sent from another state would not take much longer. Edward Griffin took the steamer “Priscilla” from New York to Boston, arriving at 8 a.m. on Aug. 27, 1902. He wrote a brief note on a postcard when he arrived, addressed it to his mother in Brooklyn, and dropped it in the mail. The postcard said: “Arrived ok this morning at 8 o’clock – Eddie.” The postcard was postmarked in Boston at 11:30 am and postmarked again in Brooklyn at 8:30 pm the same day.

In October of 1907, the United States, following the lead of other countries, changed the rules and began allowing messages to be written on half of the side reserved for the address. This left the whole of the other side for pictures or photographs. Postcards then became a major collecting craze, and for many, a profitable business. They were produced in such quantities that they were often given away with copies of popular magazines.

The feasting aspect of Thanksgiving has continued to be an essential part of the holiday and many of the postcards that were sent reflected that theme. In addition, the postcard helped to tie the family members together with those who were absent during the holiday.

As the telephone became more widely used, the postcard became less and less important as a means of daily communications. However, it provided us with a view of the early years of the twentieth century that became a permanent record of contacts between family members and friends.

Beverly C. Tyler is the 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.

All images from Beverly C. Tyler’s postcard collection

Painting by Vance Locke

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

History Close at Hand has published the noteworthy and informative Setauket and Brookhaven History, a book that relates its story through the murals of Old Field artist Vance Locke (1913-1977). Commissioned by philanthropists Ward and Dorothy Melville as a gift to the community, the murals, completed in 1952, adorn the walls of the Setauket School’s Woodhull Auditorium.

Author Beverly C. Tyler

Beverly C. Tyler’s prose is crisp and his materials are well-chosen, clearly explaining the content of the murals. Throughout, he posits questions to the reader which will prompt further exploration. He often indicates where the reader can see the referenced locations and offers additional resources. He has selected quotes from the late historian William B. Minuse to further develop the narrative. Tyler touches on Locke’s process of conceptualizing and painting as well as his revising to get the correct representations.

One of the first ideas in the book — and a powerful one — is an explanation of Indigenous Culture. Tyler’s recognition bears repeating:

We call the native people who were the first humans to live here Native Americans or American Indians. A more accurate description might be Indigenous People. Everyone else who came, beginning with the English settlers are immigrants. It is important for me (personally) to say, “I wish to acknowledge that I am sitting on the land of the Setalcott Indigenous People in Setauket and I pay respect to the Setalcott people whose land is where I live.”

The murals, along with archaeological studies, have helped piece together the evolution of the changing lives on Long Island. Tyler presents how and when the facts were discovered. The murals progress through time, highlighting farming and millwork, the blacksmith and the shipwright. There is the cutting of ice and the mercantile and the purchase of land. The last is appropriately followed by an explanation that the Setalcotts did not share the same view of land ownership proffered by the English settlers.

The book is about craft and skills, commerce and community. Short anecdotes woven into the chronicle’s fabric augment the comprehensive facts and general text. For example, there is a quick account of the Daisy that sunk from a leak created by beans swelled by seawater, bursting the ship’s hull.

Often, there is the intersection of work and communal gatherings, represented by the uniquely American general store. With each section of the mural, Tyler gives background on the various aspects of day-to-day existence as well its historical relevance. The aspects of general life are enhanced with specific sketches and personal histories that surround a particular topic. Many of the names will be familiar to Long Island denizens. 

The most extended section deals with Setauket’s place in the Revolutionary War — especially George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring which was based in Setauket. In many ways, the first half of the book is building to this, allowing for context of the events.

Tyler uses both primary and secondary sources to enrich his telling of the story, shedding light on the challenges and sacrifices, the humanity and the intrigue. It is appropriately thorough but equally succinct.     

In addition to reprinting the murals in vivid color, there are photos of artifacts as well as the current sites and artifacts, reprints of period maps and documents, and stills of historical recreations. The plethora of illustrations are well-chosen for their interest and variety, and they effectively supplement the text.

Setauket and Brookhaven History is a slender book that is rich in detail and will hold the interest of readers of all ages. The ease of Tyler’s writing belies the hundreds of research hours that undoubtedly went into its creation. This edifying work is ideal to be read aloud and discussed. It will certainly stimulate thought and conversation both in the family and the classroom.

“Murals tell a story, sometimes more than one. Could there be more than one story in this mural?” Tyler gives us a good deal to observe, a great deal to read, and even more to think about it.


Author Beverly C. Tyler is the historian for the Three Village Historical Society and conducts walking tours and field trips as Revolutionary War farmer and spy Abraham Woodhull. He has appeared on the History Channel’s Histories Mysteries production Spies of the Revolutionary War and writes a local history column for TBR News Media’s Village Times Herald.

Pick up a signed copy of Setauket and Brookhaven History and meet the author at the upcoming outdoor Holiday Market at the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, 12 and 19 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The book will also be available at the Three Village Historical Society’s online gift shop at www.TVHS.org in January 2021.

Three Village Historical Society’s Director of Education Donna Smith and historian Beverly C. Tyler at last year’s event. Photo from TVHS

Margo Arceri first heard about George Washington’s Setauket spies from her Strong’s Neck neighbor and local historian, Kate W. Strong, in the early 1970s. Arceri lights up when talking about her favorite spy, Anna Smith Strong.

“Kate W. Strong, Anna Smith Strong’s great-great-granddaughter, originally told me about the Culper Spy Ring when I used to visit her with my neighbor and Strong descendant Raymond Brewster Strong III. One of her stories was about Nancy (Anna Smith Strong’s nickname) and her magic clothesline. My love of history grew from there,” she said.

Seven years ago Arceri approached the Three Village Historical Society’s President Steve Hintze and the board about conducting walking, biking and kayaking tours while sharing her knowledge of George Washington’s Long Island intelligence during the American Revolution.

Today, Arceri runs Tri-Spy Tours in the Three Village area, which follows in the actual footsteps of the Culper Spy Ring. “I wanted to target that 20- to 60-year-old active person,” she said.  “I have to thank AMC’s miniseries ‘Turn’ because 80 percent of the people who sign up for the tour do so because of that show,” she laughs.

It was during one of those tours that Arceri came up with the idea of having a Culper Spy Day, a day to honor the members of Long Island’s brave Patriot spy ring who helped change the course of history and helped Washington win the Revolutionary War.

“Visiting places like the Brewster House, which is owned by The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, the grave site of genre artist William Sidney Mount at the Setauket Presbyterian Church cemetery (whose paintings are at The Long Island Museum) and the Country House, which was built in the 1700s,” Arceri thought “there has to be a day designated to celebrating all these organizations in the Three Villages and surrounding areas; where each of us can give our little piece of the story and that’s how Culper Spy Day developed.”

After a successful five-year run, plans were underway for the sixth annual Culper Spy Day when the pandemic hit. At first the event was canceled out an abundance of caution but now has been reinvented and will be presented virtually on Facebook Live on Sept. 12 and 13 to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home.

The Three Village area is full of hidden intrigue and stories of how America’s first spy ring came together secretly to provide General George Washington the information he needed to turn the tide of the American Revolution.

Over the course of the weekend, you will have the chance to visit many of the cultural organizations from years past who will share their story, including the Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours, Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University, Preservation Long Island, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Drowned Meadow Cottage, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, Ketcham Inn Foundation and more in a virtual format.

Join Margo Arceri from Tri-Spy Tours live from the Village Green on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Meet Big Bill the Tory live at the Sherwood-Jayne House.

Take a Virtual Spies! exhibit tour with TVHS historian Bev Tyler.

Visit the famous Brewster House with Ward Melville Heritage Organization Education Director Deborah Boudreau.

View a resource guide to everything Culper Spy Day courtesy of Emma Clark Library.

Watch a short film on Long Island’s South Shore from the Ketcham Inn Foundation.

Make your very own periscope with Gallery North.

Read up on the Revolutionary War History from the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

Look back at the festivities from 2016 Culper Spy Day.

Don’t miss the five part virtual spy tour series with historian Bev Tyler.

Listen to the lecture “Spies in the Archive: A history of two George Washington Culper Spy Ring letters presented by Kristen Nyitray Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries.

Learn about SBU’s two Culper Spy Ring letters and access images and transcripts Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries

Dive into George Washington & the Culper Spy Ring A comprehensive research and study guide Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries

Find out who Agent 355 was from historian Bev Tyler.

Listen to the story of Nancy’s Magic Clothesline, written by Kate Wheeler Strong, and told by Margo Arceri.

No registration is necessary. For more information, visit www.tvhs.org/virtualculperday.

by -
0 1173

By Beverly C. Tyler

Stories, anecdotes and tales are the remembrances that add shape and substance to family history. Recording or writing down these bits of folklife can be an enjoyable experience for family members. It is also an excellent way to keep alive the memory of generations past and preserve the interesting details of the lives of ordinary people, who lived in a different time with a different way of life.

I can remember years ago my father told me a story about his father that had been passed down to him by his cousin. My grandfather died when my father was 12, hence the lack of a more personal remembrance.

My grandfather, Beverly Swift Tyler, had been captain of coastal sailing vessels all his working life. After he retired from the sea, he continued to enjoy sailing and being on the water. He built a 31-foot gaff-rigged catboat, named the Madeline, behind the Lake House which he owned and ran as a hotel and summer boarding house, now the Setauket Neighborhood House. The boat was constructed under the critical eye of neighbors and friends, who had no hesitation about making suggestions to improve the work as it progressed. When completed, the Madeline was considered a fast boat and won a number of sailing races against other boats in the area. One individual, who Grandfather beat quite often, was constantly after him to sell the Madeline. Finally, Grandfather agreed, and he sold the catboat to the man.

The next year Grandfather began work on a new catboat which he completed in 1906 and named the Setauket. While he was building the new boat, the same kibitzers came around to make suggestions. He, very curtly, referred them to the Madeline as being their community boat and that he was building the Setauket by himself.

The Setauket, as related by cousin Roger Tyler, “was oak ribbed with pine planking. The original mast was sixty feet, made of strips of wood bound together making the mast hollow in the center. The mast was (eventually) shortened to forty-five feet. The canvas was very heavy and was cleaned by lying (it) out on the beach and scrubbing with water, scrub brushes and sand.”

The Setauket was raced in Port Jefferson and won consistently against all competition (including the Madeline). It got to be so that they would not tell Bev when a race was to be run and a few times he found out about them only just an hour or so before the race but raced and won anyway.

“The Setauket required two to handle it,” Tyler noted. “The canvas was extremely heavy and difficult to raise and control.”

The Setauket was also used by my grandfather to take summer guests staying at the Lake House on excursions around Port Jefferson Harbor and into Long Island Sound. Grandfather installed a two-cylinder engine in the Setauket, probably after 1913. Then, when the mast was removed a sun cover was added. This arrangement was more comfortable for and still gave guests an enjoyable afternoon on the water.

Grandfather married my grandmother, his third wife, in 1912 at the age of 57. Together they continued to run the Lake House as a hotel and summer resort until 1917, when it was purchased by Eversley Childs and donated to the community.

The Setauket was sold, about 1825, and used to carry coal for a coal company in New Jersey. It was brought back a few years later by Theron and Leon Tyler, cleaned of coal dust and eventually used again as a sailing craft. It finally sunk a number of years later off Horton Point, which is north of Southold on Long Island’s North Fork. My grandfather died Oct. 12, 1926, and is buried in the graveyard of the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket.

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.

by -
0 358
Kate Strong and her dog Fan in 1899. Photo take at her home in Strong's Neck. Photo from Three Village Historical Society archives

By Beverly C. Tyler

Setauket’s barrier-breaking and storytelling 20th Century Long Island historian 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 Oct. 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 posed for a portrait in 1897. Photo from Three Village Historical Society archives

At a time when women were not regarded as serious historians or as community leaders, Kate Strong was able to bring an understanding of local history and storytelling to generations of young people and adults on Long Island. Her influence as a respected writer and local historian for almost four decades cannot be overemphasized, especially this year in light of the 100th anniversary of the ratification and adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Strong broke the barriers that got in her way.

Strong wrote local history articles for the Long Island Forum from 1939 through 1976. Most of these articles she 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. Strong died at her home “The Cedars” on Strong’s Neck July 22, 1977. In 1992, William B. Minuse (1908-2002) wrote about Strong in the 1992 Three Village Historian.

“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 snowshoes 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 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 over 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.

A virtual bench talk with Margo Arceri on Kate Strong is presently featured on the Three Village Historical Society web site www.tvhs.org. Click on the tab Virtual Programming and then on Bench Talks The conversation takes place in the St. George’s Manor Cemetery on Strong’s Neck.

Kate at her family’s weather station, circa 1950. The family had been maintaining a weather station on Strong’s Neck for more than two centuries. Photo from Three Village Historical Society archives

The Three Village area is not only fortunate to have such a long and varied history but to have so many stories that bring the past to life. In this current climate of protest over the treatment of African Americans, both as slaves and as second-class citizens for almost 400 years, it is important to realize that women have also been treated as second-class citizens in America for virtually the same time period. Women received the right to vote in America following the passage of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution which was passed by Congress June 4, 1919; ratified August 18, 1920; and its adoption certified on August 26, 1920. We are now only two weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment.

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania reopened to visitors Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, with free admission through Sept. 5, 2020. Timed tickets for entry are required. They will be welcoming visitors Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Opening Aug. 26, the center’s newest exhibit, “The 19th Amendment: How Women Won The Vote,” will be included with entry.

“The Three Village Historian: Journal of the Three Village Historical Society,” issue of 1992 includes 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 available at the Three Village Historical Society History Center and Gift Shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. However, the gift shop is currently closed. A copy of the 1992 “The Three Village Historian” is in the Long Island Collection of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, along with a complete set of Kate Strong’s “True Tales.”

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.

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

by -
0 727
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.

by -
0 797
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.