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Setauket Village Green

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Local officials and veterans gathered at Port Jefferson Memorial Park for an unveiling ceremony of three new monuments to honor those who served in the nation’s most recent conflicts Nov. 10. 

The ceremony and unveiling completes renovations for three of four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook identified last year for upgrades. The new memorials honor those who served during the Cold War, Lebanon peacekeeping, the Grenada and Panama invasions, the two Gulf wars, the Afghanistan War and the War on Terror.

The work was spearheaded by a war memorial fund committee formed last fall through a partnership between Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, and the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

“Today is the unveiling of three new monuments that have been long overdue here — the previous three monuments only went up to the Vietnam War,” said Bill Wolf Sr., commander of the Port Jefferson Station American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432. “We are dedicating three new monuments from the Cold War to our present-day wars we are fighting today.”

Hahn thanked the veterans present for the sacrifices they’ve made. 

“I want to thank the veterans here today for their services — this great nation is only free because of all the things they have done,” she said. “We’ve been working for a year and half to update these memorials … so when veterans come home, they can have the conflicts they participated in reflected here.” 

Dedication of the updated memorial in Port Jefferson was accompanied by the replacement of the site’s damaged existing stonework. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) secured funding from her district parks budget to make these updates and other related work in advance of the installation of the new monuments. The Town of Brookhaven owns and maintains the memorial site in Port Jefferson across the road from Village Hall.

Phase 1 of the project has already been completed by expanding the memorials in Stony Brook Village and on Setauket Village Green. The final phase will comprise an update at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park near Se-Port Deli.

The approximate $35,000 cost for the memorials project is being paid largely through donations. Contributions are still being accepted for the phase 2 costs. As of Nov. 10, the project members have raised $29,000 since 2018.

Members of the committee will look to complete phase 3 of their project in time for next year’s Memorial Day. Wolf said the committee should have the funds by then to get the work done. 

Checks can be made payable and mailed to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY, 11776, or can be hand delivered to the attention of Ed Kiernan at American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432, 1450 Hallock Ave., Port Jefferson Station.

More information is available at the website americanlegionwilsonritchpost432.org.

 

Both the East Setauket and Stony Brook Village Memorial Day parades May 27 featured something special this year.

At the end of the Stony Brook parade at Veterans Memorial Park and before the start of the East Setauket parade at Village Green, at the traditional memorial ceremonies, updated monuments were revealed with plaques to recognize the sacrifices made by the latest generations of American service members who served in the Cold War, Gulf wars and War on Terror. The Stony Brook plaque was funded by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Stony Brook University.

In 2018, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) along with American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts located in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson Station and the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University announced a two-phased effort to expand both memorials as well as the monuments at the East Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and along the Port Jefferson Harbor.

The Stony Brook and Setauket Village Green memorial stones were part of Phase I of the project. While the Village Green monument was ready in time for the ceremonies, a replica was installed at the Stony Brook site, according to Hahn, who said the completed plaque will arrive soon.

Phase II of the project will include renovating the East Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and the Port Jefferson Harbor sites. This phase is expected to be completed in time for Veterans Day, according to Hahn.

To prepare for the Memorial Day ceremony in Stony Brook, StoneGate Landscape Construction, owned by Chris Graf, cut back trees, cleaned out the underbrush, sprayed poison ivy, brought in two additional rocks to the site and planted trees. The services were provided by the company free of charge.

The Stony Brook parade and ceremony was sponsored by VFW East Setauket Post 3054 and American Legion Irving Hart Post 1766. The East Setauket parade was also organized by VFW Post 3054.

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‘The Rock on the Green,’ 1865, by William Sidney Mount

Archaeologists and historians are scheduled to explore the Setauket Village Green to see what they can unearth about Long Island’s Revolutionary War history.

The Lamar Institute has begun a month-long field research project titled The Struggle for Long Island: Expanding Revolutionary War Studies in New York funded by a $60,000 American Battlefield Protection Program grant from the National Park Service and $5,200 in contributions from Lamar. The Georgia-based nonprofit, which conducts archaeological research to advance public awareness, has organized historians, archaeologists, residents and City University of New York students to explore three military sites occupied by Loyalists on the North Shore during the Revolutionary War — the Setauket Village Green, Fort Slongo (now known as Fort Salonga) and Fort Franklin in Lloyd’s Neck.

A reenactor reads the plaque on Patriots Rock. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Barbara Russell, Town of Brookhaven historian and a Caroline Church of Brookhaven vestry member, said the project was presented to the church’s vestry last year for permission to access the site.

“This is all quite exciting to have respected and qualified researchers from the Lamar Institute in and around our Village Green,” she said. “Historians always welcome further study, and I hope the community will come by and watch the process take place.”

Field research began April 15 in Fort Salonga and will continue April 22 for a week at the Village Green. This will be followed by more studies in Lloyd’s Neck during the week of April 29. While the team has been given permission to research Fort Slongo, which is on private property, property owners have not given permission to study Fort Franklin, which is also on privately owned land. Instead the team will only be able to do work on property that was once the battlefield.

The project will focus on the North Shore areas where the Patriot attacks on the three forts led to their victory at Fort Salonga. Daniel Elliot, president of the Lamar Institute, said the research would include ground penetrating radar survey, systematic controlled metal detection survey, small excavations of key targets, total station laser transit mapping, drone-assisted aerial videography and laboratory analysis. The findings will enable the identification of battlefields and provide data regarding military strategies.

The itinerary for Setauket includes searches of the Patriots Rock tract across from Frank Melville Memorial Park, Setauket Presbyterian Church property and the Village Green and the green and front parking area of Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

Elliot said even though similar studies have been conducted in Georgia and South Carolina, this is the first one in New York and north of the Mason-Dixon Line. While not all the forts have a visible footprint like Fort Slongo, written accounts from those who fought and a map from the Culper spies will help guide them to their exact locations.

“We’re trying to bring them back to life a little bit and increase public awareness of what’s out here,” Elliot said.

“It’s really an American story.”

—David Griffin

The Battle of Fort Slongo, led by Benjamin Tallmadge, he said was a victory for the Patriots where an injured Elijah Churchill became the recipient of the first Badge of Military Merit, which became the Purple Heart.

“It’s one of the few success stories on the Island for the Americans during the war,” Elliot said.

David Griffin, a local historian, has been collaborating on the project. An architect by trade, he’s the author of the book “Lost British Forts of Long Island.” He said there are plenty of lost stories and various interpretations of what happened on the Island when it comes to the Revolutionary War.

The historian said with the use of underground radar and metal detectors, field researchers will be able to find artifacts such as iron musket balls and jacket buttons that will tell a lot more about who was shooting at whom and in what direction. The research will also help to see how many people were engaged, and the size of a musket ball can determine to which side it belonged.

He said many times in cases like these, relics aren’t found too deep in the ground, with most being around 4 to 6 inches deep. As for the Setauket battleground, Griffin said no one knows for sure where the fort walls were, and with ground radar, they may be able to determine its exact location.

Griffin said he is looking forward to learning more about the sites and the forts, and he pointed out that the Loyalists who built them were Americans.

“It’s really an American story,” he said. “Even though we think it was the British that were here, it’s really the Loyalist Americans who built these and tended to them, and the Patriots, who were also Americans, were the people who were attacking the posts, so it really is a very local story of Americans.”

The project will be discussed at a future Three Village Community Trust Join the Conversation presentation with Elliott, Griffin and Sheldon Skaggs, assistant professor at City University of New York. Resulting interpretation also will be documented in a report available to the public on the Lamar Institute’s website, www.thelamarinstitute.org by September 2020.

A boulder on the Setauket Village Green, above, features two plaques. On one side local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I are recognized. On the other, area soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

In a proclamation made May 24, 2017, President Donald Trump (R) shared his sentiments about Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is our Nation’s solemn reminder that freedom is never free,” the proclamation reads. “It is a moment of collective reflection on the noble sacrifices of those who gave the last measure of devotion in service of our ideals and in the defense of our Nation. On this ceremonious day, we remember the fallen, we pray for a lasting peace among nations, and we honor these guardians of our inalienable rights.”

Veterans march in the 2017 Memorial Day Parade in Setauket. File photo by Rita J. Egan

This year Memorial Day is celebrated Monday, May 28, a day to honor the men and women who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. On the Setauket Village Green is a boulder with plaques honoring two Setauket men who did not return from World War I. The boulder was placed there in 1919 to honor them. On Sept. 1, 1919, a celebration, parade and memorial services were conducted at the new East Setauket memorial and then, at the conclusion of the parade, on the Setauket Village Green.

The two who did not return were memorialized at the ceremony on the Village Green at the end of the parade as reported by the Port Jefferson Times. “With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’ … The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated the rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden … Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy.”

The massive boulder erected on the Setauket Village Green was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William de Leftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capitol in Albany.

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’”

— Port Jefferson Times, Sept. 1, 1919

Private Raymond Wishart, son of postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July 1921.

Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew Sam Golden. “He was a sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked, and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died, and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941–1945 — In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer [and] William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.” A new plaque was later added to honor Chris Brunn who died in Vietnam in 1969.

This year the Memorial Day ceremony will take place on the Setauket Village Green at 10:30 a.m. May 28 with the amassed flags of the Three Village veterans and community organizations as well as village and town officials and dignitaries. This will be followed by the parade from the Setauket Village Green to the East Setauket Veterans Memorial on Route 25A and Shore Road, followed by the Memorial Day ceremony in East Setauket.

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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The Setauket Presbyterian Church, pictured above after the turn of the 20th century. Photo from Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The two churches at the Setauket Village Green are joining forces to present a joint country fair on the green June 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For many years the Setauket Presbyterian Church and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven, who own the Setauket Village Green jointly, have coordinated their efforts to present individual fairs on separate weekends. This year the two churches have planned and worked together to bring a larger fair filling the entire village green with food, games, appropriate vendors and other activities designed to interest families, adults and children of all ages.

For more than a century there have been fairs on the Setauket Village Green. Just west of the village green, where Main Street turns south, was the general store belonging to Charles B. Tyler. In 1899, the store provided the Caroline Episcopal Church fair with two loaves of bread, four pounds of butter, ten pounds of sugar, 100 lemons, paper bags and one bunch of bananas at a total cost of $4.57. As the fair was in the heat of the summer, most likely Saturday, August 12, the lemonade was probably very popular. We can only guess what delicious treats they made with the bread, butter and bananas. So far we have not discovered what other food or activities were going on at the August fair.

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