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Kate Strong

Historian Kate Strong drawing by Carol Petty. Photo courtesy Three Village Historical society

By Beverly C. Tyler

As detailed by Kate Strong, “In 1675 [in Tangier] Colonel William Smith…bought a great book, sometimes called ‘The Tangier Book’ and  sometimes ‘The First Pigskin Book.’ The first entry was a statement of his marriage. After that he recorded the baptisms [including minister and godparents], and some deaths, of his numerous children. As he wrote on only one side of the page, his wife, Martha, turned the book upside down and wrote her recipes — in some cases telling the name of the person giving her the recipe.”

The recipes and notes Martha made in the first pigskin book were most likely entered during the years on Long Island. “She sometimes added a few bits of news,” Kate Strong wrote, “as when she told that Colonel William’s sickness came from a strain he had incurred in lifting her off the horse…later she recorded that her dear Billy was better.”

Kate Strong listed just a few of the recipes including: “To make pancakes –  take the yokes of six eggs, add ye one white and one pint of cream and half a pint of sacke & nutmeg and a little salt and some sugar. Make the batter of a reasonable thickness, work in some flower [sic] and fry them…” Martha also included recipes for medicinal purposes, including one from her daughter. “For a sore throat or Quinsey — take Rue and pound it pretty fine and make a poultice and plaster, must be an inch thick & lay it on ye side of ye throat. It is a sure cure. You may sprinkle it with brandy…”

“This prescription is said to work like a charm for sore throat; Roast some apples very soft, smash them with as much butter as an English walnut, with a spoonful of molasses, mix well together. Take it hot and go to bed – given by daughter Heathcott.” 

Martha also wrote down some of the “old wives tales” of the period as well as recipes for household items that were not always easy to come by on rural Long Island. “When you gather apples or pears, to keep them you must gather them when the moon is at the full…. A recipe to make good ink. Take two quarts of strong vinegar, half a pound of galles or hard oak appels, Two spoonfuls of Coperas, putt all these ingredients into a glass bottle with a wide mouth, let it stand in ye sun or some hot closett & you have a very good ink, there must be 2 spoonfuls of Gunpowder!”

As related by Kate Strong “She was not too busy to enjoy riding with her husband,..I imagine they had fine horses. I know their saddles were covered with velvet. They went to the South Shore not only to enjoy the ocean breezes in the summer but on business.”

When William “Tangier” died in 1705, the Smith children included Henry, later second Lord of the Manor, age 26; Mrs. Martha Heathcote, age 23; Jeane, age 17; William Henry, later to inherit the south shore manor house and estate, age 15; Gloryana, later to marry the Rev. George Muirson, age 14; and Charles Jeffery, who would die of smallpox in 1715, age 11. Lady Martha was now faced with raising her young family and running her late husband’s vast holdings and business interests.

Entries in the Pigskin Book had been started by William Smith as an estate account book of farm transactions, the Indian whaling crews and the amount of whale “Ogle” and “Bane…” The entries began in 1697, as detailed by Dr. John Strong, “From 1696 until 1721, the Smiths used the book to keep the accounts of Native Americans working for their whaling company… Lady Martha Smith, for the 1706-07 whaling season made  a net profit of 120 barrels of whale oil out of 180 barrels, a sizable profit.”

“Off shore whaling was a fine business in those days and Madam Martha had her own whaleboat,” Kate Strong wrote. “The crew was mostly Indians. She kept her records in a second pigskin book, which was almost lost in the San Francisco fire. A member of the family had taken it west. During the fire, a gentleman saw a trunk which had fallen from a truck and examined the contents. Finding the pigskin book he restored it to its owner. I once held the book in my hands. It was after a small luncheon at Miss Ruth W. Smith’s at Mastic. After the luncheon she handed me the book and said I could go in the other room and make what notes I wanted. Alas, a member of the party followed me in there and, while we had a nice talk on mutual ancestors, I never had a chance to open the book.” 

As detailed in “Bellport and Brookhaven,” published in 1968, “The Lady Martha, was a remarkable woman…managing not only the vast estate, but carrying on the whaling business successfully.”

Also noted by Kate Strong, “Fifteen Indians, the whaling crew, are listed by name; their wages, and the charges made against them, for shot, powder, rum, ‘cotes,’ ‘britches,’ etc… She must have had trouble controlling them, for there are quite a few complaints. ‘He [Will Bene] got nothing this season, stayed away ten days at a time, when he went to see his Shua. Was a great loss to me.’ But there were more cheerful entries too.  ‘I thanks God, my company killed a yearling whale. Maid 27 barrels ogle.’ Listed was the weight in pounds of whalebone from each whale, as well as the number of barrels of oil.”

“As to what the early settlers thought of Martha in their plans for the meeting house church,” wrote Kate Strong, “they wrote that at the table was to sit no woman of any kind except Madam Martha Smith… She died five years after her husband on September 1, 1709 and was buried beside him on the spot he had chosen overlooking the little bay on the neck, now called Strong’s Neck, but we old timers think of it by its real name, St. George’s Manor, part of the Manor of St. George.”

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Rd., Setauket, NY 11733. Tel: 631-751-3730. 

Historian Kate Strong as a young girl with her dog on the steps of her home on Strong’s Neck. Photo courtesy Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

She was baptized Martha Tunstall on July 2, 1652, daughter of Henry Tunstall of Putney, County of Surrey, England. She moved with her family to Tangier, Africa where she married William Smith. From her marriage on Nov. 26, 1675, until her death in Setauket in 1709 at the age of 57, Martha led a life dedicated to her husband, family, business interests and community. 

She gave birth to 13 children and buried seven of them; journeyed — in a time of discomfiting and perilous travel — from Tangier, back to England, to Ireland for the birth of a child, and finally to America. She raised her family in, at first, primitive conditions, and assisted her husband in his businesses which often involved his traveling from home over long periods of time. Throughout all this time she became well respected and loved as Lady of the Manor and was eventually widowed at the age of 52,  successfully continuing her husband’s business interests including off-shore whaling and was an acknowledged community leader.

Madam Martha Smith, as historian Kate Strong referred to her, or Lady Martha Smith, as she is referred to in many documents, is not listed in “The Encyclopedia of Women’s History in America”, nor is she mentioned in “Long Island Women: Activists and Innovators”, both excellent books on history’s neglected gender. However, she was a woman of wealth and stature on Long Island and especially in the communities of Setauket and Mastic where she and her husband maintained their residences.

Col. William “Tangier” Smith was born in February of 1654, in Higham-Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England.

Tangier, which had been ceded to England as part of Queen Charlotte’s dowry, was an important port, or so it was thought, until abandoned and burned by England in 1683, after both Spain and Portugal refused to take it off England’s hands. As detailed by Chester Osborne, William went to the crown city of Tangier, Africa when he was 20-years old. A year later he married Martha Tunstall. He was elected to the post of mayor on Nov. 11, 1682. The young couple returned to England in 1683, and in 1686, sailed from Ireland for America with three children.

William and Martha arrived in New York in the fall of 1686 with two children, 7-year-old Henry and 5-year-old Martha. Another child, Hibernia, had been born in Cork, Ireland in June before they left for America on the ship ‘Thomas’, but she died at the end of August while they were still at sea. Hibernia was the couple’s eighth child and the sixth to die. Three of their children, Elizabeth, John and William, Jr. died in Tangier. Two of their children died in London in 1684.

During their time in New York, Martha gave birth to a daughter Jeane on Dec. 8, 1687. William very quickly purchased land in Setauket, ‘Ye Little Neck’ and on the South Shore as well. By 1689, William and Martha had moved permanently to the young settlement of Setauket. In March, Martha gave birth to William Henry. In June 1690, their daughter Gloryana was born. Eighteen months later another daughter, Theodocia, was born on Dec. 14 and died on Dec. 29. Two years later, on Dec. 20, 1693, Martha gave birth to the couple’s last child Charles Jeffery.

During these early years in Setauket, William and Martha moved from their first house near the Woodhull homestead to the Neck where they built a larger house that became known as St. George’s Manor. While Martha kept busy at home, William worked to increase his land holdings as well as his family. On Oct. 9, 1693, he received a patent from Governor Fletcher that included all the land “bounded roughly By Carmen’s River and Forge River [then called Connecticut River and Mastic River respectively] between Middle Country Road and the Atlantic Ocean.” This, combined with his previous purchase, created the Manor of St. George. In 1697, William added another portion of land, running to the western boundaries of the Towns of Southampton and Southold. He then built a second Manor House on Smith’s Point in Mastic. Here the family spent summers, returning to the Manor house in Setauket for the rest of the year.

With the acquisition of the patent land in 1693, William and Martha became the Lord and Lady of the Manor, Lady Martha and Lord William “Tangier” Smith. 

Stay tuned for part two of Beverly C. Tyler’s History Close at Hand column in the coming weeks.

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Artwork of St. George’s Manor, published in the October 1792 issue of New York Magazine. Drawing from the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities

By Beverly C. Tyler

Martha Tunstall was baptized July 2, 1652, the daughter of Henry Tunstall of Putney, County of Surrey, England. She moved with her family to Morocco, where she married Col. William “Tangier” Smith. From her marriage Nov. 26, 1675, until her death in Setauket in 1709 at the age of 57, Martha led a life dedicated to her husband, family, business interests and community.

She gave birth to 13 children and buried seven of them. The mother journeyed in a time of discomfiting and perilous travel from the city of Tangier, back to England, to Ireland for the birth of a child and finally to America. She raised her family and assisted her husband in his businesses which often involved his traveling from home over long periods of time. Martha became well respected and loved in her lifetime as “lady of the manor.”

Martha became well respected and loved in her lifetime as “lady of the manor.”

Madam Martha Smith, as historian Kate Strong referred to her, or Lady Martha Smith, as she is referred to in many documents is not listed in “The Encyclopedia of Women’s History in America,” nor in “Long Island Women: Activists and Innovators.” But Martha was a woman of wealth and stature on Long Island and especially in the communities of Setauket and Mastic where she and her husband maintained their residences.

Tangier Smith was born in February of 1654 in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, England, to a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte of Braganza at the court of her husband, King Charles II. According to family folklore, Smith was a son of Charles II, however, there is no indication that the king had any natural children.

The city of Tangier, which had been ceded to England as part of Queen Charlotte’s dowry, was an important port, or so it was thought, until evacuated and burned by England in 1683, after both Spain and Portugal refused to take it off the English. As detailed by Chester Osborne, Smith went to the crown city of Tangier when he was 20 years old. A year later he married Martha, and was elected to the post of mayor Nov. 11, 1682. The young couple returned to England in 1683 after the city was abandoned and, in 1686, sailed from Ireland for America.

The Smiths arrived in New York in the fall of 1686 with their children, 7-year-old Henry and 5-year-old Martha. A third child, Hibernia, had been born in Cork, Ireland, in June before they left for America on the ship Thomas, but she died at sea at the end of August. Hibernia was the couple’s eighth child and the fifth to die. Three of their children, Elizabeth, John and William Jr. died in Tangier. Their second son also named William Jr., just a month old, died in London in February 1684, and Mary passed in the same year.

“During these early years in Setauket, the Smiths moved from their first house near the Woodhull homestead to Little Neck, now known as Strong’s Neck, where they built a larger house that became known as St. George’s Manor.”

During their time in New York, Martha gave birth to a daughter Jeane Dec. 8, 1687. After her birth, Tangier Smith quickly purchased land in Setauket, “Ye Little Neck,” and on the South Shore as well. By 1689, the family had moved permanently to the young settlement of Setauket. In March, Martha gave birth to William. The following year, in June of 1690, their daughter Gloryana was born. Eighteen months later another daughter, Theodocia, was born Dec. 14 and died Dec. 29. Two years later, Dec. 20, 1693, Martha gave birth to the couple’s last child, Charles Jeffery.

During these early years in Setauket, the Smiths moved from their first house near the Woodhull homestead to Little Neck, now known as Strong’s Neck, where they built a larger house that became known as St. George’s Manor. While Martha kept busy at home, her husband increased the land holdings. On Oct. 9, 1693, he received a patent from Gov. Benjamin Fletcher that included all the land bounded roughly by Carmans and Forge rivers — then called Connecticut and Mastic rivers respectively — between today’s Middle Country Road and the Atlantic Ocean. This combined with his previous purchase created the Manor of St. George. In 1697, Smith added another portion of land, running to the western boundaries of the towns of Southampton and Southold. He then built a second manor house on Smith’s Point. Here the family spent summers, returning to the manor house in Setauket for the rest of the year.

With the acquisition of the patent land in 1693, William and Martha became the lord and lady of the manor. Much of the couple’s Long Island property was given to them in recompense after the crown’s short-lived experiment with its North African colony was discarded in 1683.

Widowed at the age of 52, Martha successfully continued her husband’s business interests, including offshore whaling, and was an acknowledged community leader. Learn more about Martha in an upcoming edition of The Village Times Herald.

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.