By Rita J. Egan
Saturday’s heat and humidity couldn’t spoil the enthusiasm of local history lovers as they embarked on a journey back in time.
Three Village Historical Society, Tri-Spy Tours and several area historical and cultural organizations hosted the 9th Culper Spy Day on Saturday, Sept. 9. The annual event celebrates regional history, especially the Culper Spy Ring that operated during the Revolutionary War.
According to Kimberly Phyfe, TVHS development coordinator, more than 1,000 people stopped by the historical society’s property. Other locations were sprinkled throughout Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson.
Phyfe said more than 1,000 samples of curry soup and colonial waffles were handed out at the table for Stirring up History with Diane Schwindt from Ketcham Inn, while historian Beverly Tyler, dressed as Abraham Woodhull, wax sealed 125 “spy” letters. According to Phyfe, the Huntington Militia’s cannon firing and musket drills were the most popular feature.
“They drew a huge crowd for all three demonstrations, and everyone walked away wowed by the experience,” she said. “The 23rd Regiment of Foot caused a fantastic scene, rounding up a rebel colonist and tying him to a tree for having the treasonous Declaration of Independence in his pocket and speaking out against the king. Not to worry, a brave band of musket-trained children ran to his rescue with the aid of General Washington.”
Guests were also able to tour the Spies exhibit inside TVHS headquarters, and visit George and Martha Washington along with their squire at their tented field office. For the first time this year, the event was kicked off with a ceremonial raising of the Betsy Ross flag.
Participants could also take docent-led tours of the Setauket Neighborhood House; visit Patriots Rock, where the Battle of Setauket took place Aug. 22, 1777; and tour the Caroline Episcopal Church and Setauket Presbyterian Church as well as view the gravestones of famous residents and Patriot soldiers.
At Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, history lovers listened to live music while children played outdoor games, and those entering the library’s lobby viewed 18th-century items on display.
Herb Mones, Three Village Community Trust president, said TVCT members and Boy Scout Troop 427, Setauket, greeted hundreds of visitors at Patriots Rock Saturday to discuss the importance of the glacial erratic boulder and its role in history.
“There was a real enthusiasm and interest in this trust property,” Mones said. “We’re always thrilled to participate in Culper Spy Day — a celebration of our community’s colonial heritage.”
Over in East Setauket, “Big Bill the Tory” (aka William Jayne III), gave tours and told stories at the Sherwood-Jayne House. Visitors to Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum viewed the newly discovered Culper Spy Ring letter by Benjamin Tallmadge to Robert Townsend. In Port Jefferson, the Drowned Meadow Cottage Museum presented the new exhibit, Privateers: Pirates with Permission.