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Throwback

With a new school year around the corner, look back at Port Jefferson alumni through the years

Richard Olson taught U.S. History in the Port Jefferson school district from 1967-2002. He also served as the yearbook advisor from 1988-2014.

During that time, he amassed a collection of photos from events like homecoming, prom and class trips. With a new school year set to begin, take a look back at alumni from eras gone by.

A map from the early 1960s includes proposed lots for a Port Jefferson parking district. Main Street runs down the middle. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Woodard Square. Crystal Lake Square. If Port Jefferson residents hadn’t banded together to oppose their town, those would be the names of parking lots paved through the middle of a few downtown blocks.

In the early 1960s, Brookhaven Town officials had proposed a parking district in lower Port that would have called for several buildings to be demolished to make way for asphalt, according to the village historical archive. But Port Jefferson residents came together as a property owners association to defeat the idea.

A 1961 map depicting the proposed parking district shows a large lot called Loper-McNamara Square in the location where Port Jefferson’s biggest parking lot, referred to as the “Meadow lot,” is now; a Woodard Square lot on the south side of East Main Street, where it meets Main Street and where the post office and a few other businesses currently stand; a Davis Square lot at residential space between South and Spring streets, near High Street; a lot called Round the Block Square, where the village’s Traders Cove parking lot is now; and a Crystal Lake Square lot on the south side of Maple Place.

The plan was abandoned after homeowners, who were then living in an unincorporated village, reacted negatively to it and formed The Property Owners Association of Port Jefferson, according to the village archive.

A drawing depicts the proposed Woodard Square lot on East Main Street, with the old Baptist church pictured back center, as part of an idea for a Port Jefferson parking district. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive
A drawing depicts the proposed Woodard Square lot on East Main Street, with the old Baptist church pictured back center, as part of an idea for a Port Jefferson parking district. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

The town, under the direction of former Supervisor August Stout Jr. and later Supervisor Charles R. Dominy, held public meetings at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, warranting the property owners to publish flyers that were a proverbial call to arms for neighbors.

“Port Jeff will be sold down the river unless you attend the official public hearing on the parking district,” read one flyer, in relation to a March 21, 1962, meeting. “This is it. Everyone concerned with this problem and the future of Port Jeff must be there.”

Another flyer said the homeowners supported improvement, but said about the parking district proposal, “No, no, no.”

The property owners association that helped derail the parking plan also championed the village’s incorporation.

Later in the same year as that meeting, on a snowy Dec. 7, 1962, residents voted 689-361 to incorporate Port Jefferson.

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Before Terryville residents dropped off their mail in Port Jefferson Station, they had the Terryville Post Office. Pictured above, that latter post office during the early 20th century. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Terryville residents now get their mail service from the Port Jefferson Station post office, but they used to go to their own little outpost at the home of the postmaster.

Before Terryville residents dropped off their mail in Port Jefferson Station, they had the Terryville Post Office. Pictured above, that latter post office during the early 20th century. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive
Before Terryville residents dropped off their mail in Port Jefferson Station, they had the Terryville Post Office. Pictured above, that latter post office during the early 20th century. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

The Port Jefferson Village historical archive puts the operation dates of the Terryville Post Office as 1888 to 1918 and from 1924 to 1958. That first stretch of years coincided with a time when the eponymous Terry family was flourishing in the area.

The four Terry brothers moved in from Farmingville to farm around Old Town Road, Jayne Boulevard and the street that would later become Terryville Road, and built homes in what was once a wooded area, according to George Moraitis.

Members of the Terry family are buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery, and the late Moraitis, formerly the cemetery’s historian, included biographical information on them in his written history “Forevermore on Cedar Hill.” Moraitis noted that the third-born brother, Thomas R. Terry, helped start a local school district in 1874 and served as its first board president before offering his home on Terryville Road — by Viceroy Place, near what is now Comsewogue’s Terryville Road Elementary School — to serve as a post office. His cousin’s son, Preston Terry, was the first postmaster.

The Terryville Union Hall had been erected just a year before, in 1887.

Though the post office had that brief stint between 1918 and 1924 when it was not in operation, it stayed in the family when it reopened. According to Moraitis, Ruth Terry, the daughter-in-law of Thomas R. Terry through son Harry, was its final postmaster. She was once a teacher in the school system her father-in-law had started decades earlier and had grown up in one of the original homes on Terryville Road’s southern end.

Before Terryville residents dropped off their mail in Port Jefferson Station, they had the Terryville Post Office. Pictured above, that latter post office during the early 20th century. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive
Before Terryville residents dropped off their mail in Port Jefferson Station, they had the Terryville Post Office. Pictured above, that latter post office during the early 20th century. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Harry and Ruth Terry, who also served as Comsewogue School District treasurers, hosted the post office from the early 1950s until 1957, when it merged with the one in Port Jefferson Station.

According to a history of the area included in Brookhaven Town’s 2008 Comsewogue hamlet study, the couple’s residence was on the southeast corner of Terryville Road and Whitman Avenue, which would put it across the street from the post office’s original home, at Thomas R. Terry’s house.

The study history quotes neighbor Audrey Agnew, who describes someone named Mr. Jersey who lived up the street and would “transport Terryville’s mail from [the] Port Jefferson train station to Ms. Terry.”

“When the post office was eliminated, we were promised that we could keep ‘Terryville’ as our address,” Agnew said.

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The house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

“Silent but smiling, Henry hit William again and again, leaving the young man lying senseless on the carpeted floor.”

It’s a story that unfolds like a dark novel. A member of a prominent family in a quiet, seaside village snaps one day and beats his relatives to death at the home they shared, splattering blood everywhere, before hanging himself in the backyard barn. A child who narrowly escapes the massacre grows up to be a successful businessman but will remain forever haunted by his memories.

The 1857 murder-suicide on Beach Street shocked the Port Jefferson community and would likely still shock residents today.

It could have all started with the reportedly turbulent relationship between Henry Walters and his wife of three years, Elizabeth Darling-Walters. Or perhaps it was the feud between Walters and his wife’s son-in-law William Sturtevant that was boiling into legal action despite the two living under the same roof.

According to a narrative written by former Port Jefferson historian Ken Brady and published in the Port Times Record 10 years ago, the gossip around the village was that Walters, 57, and Darling-Walters, 46, fought frequently, with things so bad that they did not share a bed. The husband, a carpenter and a farmer, felt ignored and was “worried that his wife would leave her substantial estate to Martha Jane and Emmet,” her children from her first marriage to the late Matthew Darling, one of the founders of the nearby Darling Shipyard on the west side of the harbor.

The Darling family was originally from Smithtown but built their Port Jefferson shipyard in 1832 and quickly became prolific, building 13 ships during that decade alone.

A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive
A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

If the chatter is true, Walters showed warning signs of a violent outburst. Brady wrote, “In a creepy attempt to win back his wife’s affections, Henry bought a shroud from local coffin maker Ambrose King. Walters often wore the white burial sheet about the homestead, threatening to commit suicide if Elizabeth did not return his love.”

At the same time, the farmer’s feud with Sturtevant and his father, fellow ship carpenter Amasa Sturtevant, who also lived on Beach Street, had reached a climax the day before the son-in-law’s murder — according to Brady, Walters received a letter from William Sturtevant’s attorney, Thomas Strong, warning him to “retract statements he had made about young Sturtevant” by Nov. 21, the day of the bloodshed, “or to expect a slander suit.”

That Saturday morning in the white, one-and-a-half-story home, Darling-Walters was eating breakfast with the young Sturtevant couple when Walters, finished feeding the horses, grabbed an iron bar and rushed into the dining room. According to Brady, the son-in-law was bludgeoned to death first with blows to the head, “splattering brain matter on the walls and furniture.” Then Walters went after his wife and 20-year-old stepdaughter, who both fled outside.

“Elizabeth tried to shield herself from the savage blows, but soon fell to the ground mortally wounded, her skull fractured and dress soaked with blood.”

Martha Jane Sturtevant was spared when Matthew Darling’s younger brother, Beach Street resident John E. Darling, heard his seriously injured niece’s screams. Brady said when Walters caught sight of the man, he went back inside and looked for 11-year-old Emmet Brewster Darling. But the boy was hiding under a bed in the attic and, while his stepfather was in another room, ran down the stairs and escaped Walters’ pursuit.

“Her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

That’s when Walters went into the barn, put a white handkerchief over his face and hanged himself. According to Brady, the murderer had neatly folded his coat and vest and placed them on a bench.

Despite his traumatic experience, Emmet Darling, who also went by E.B. Darling and whose first name has sometimes been misspelled as “Emmett,” grew into a productive adult. According to former Cedar Hill Cemetery historian George Moraitis, Darling took over his family’s shipyard and married twice before his death almost 30 years after the murders.

His elder sister moved on to a degree — in his written history “Forevermore on Cedar Hill,” Moraitis noted that Martha Jane later remarried, to Capt. Oliver Davis. But Brady said the woman lived in the same house where her mother and first husband were murdered until her own death in 1906, “despite claims from some villagers that her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

No one else will live in the murder house, however — both the home and the shipyard property have been torn down and rebuilt. The Port Jefferson Village historical photo archive notes that the Port Jefferson Fire Department burned down the home during a drill 60 years ago, on Jan. 22, 1956, and a Suffolk County sewer facility took its place. The Darling shipyard, on the other hand, eventually became a power plant.

Darling-Walters is buried at Cedar Hill with her first husband and daughter, and William Sturtevant at his own family’s grave site there. Emmet Darling rests at Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook with his second wife, Julia A. Oakes.

According to Moraitis, the killer’s burial place is unknown.

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Photo by Al Semm/Port Jefferson Village digital archive

It was 44 years ago this week that a tank barge split in half in Port Jefferson Harbor, prompting a U.S. Coast Guard investigation.

The barge I.O.S. 3301 — which was connected to the towing vessel Martha R. Ingram and functioning as one with that vessel — had just finished off-loading more than 100,000 barrels of gasoline and almost 50,000 barrels of furnace oil in the incident on Monday, Jan. 10, 1972, according to a Coast Guard report. It went to turn around in the “shallow harbor” that morning but “as the last mooring line was being released, the vessel suddenly broke almost completely in half, and the two ends sank to the bottom. The barge was less than 1 year old.”

Photo by Al Semm/Port Jefferson Village digital archive
Photo by Al Semm/Port Jefferson Village digital archive

That crack in the middle of the ship went all the way across the main deck, down both the barge’s starboard and port sides and across almost half of its bottom. The forward and aft sections of the ship formed a 21-degree angle with the sea, the Coast Guard reported.

The vessel had arrived at the Consolidated Fuel Oil Company terminal in Port Jefferson Harbor the day before the sinking, after taking off from the Houston area on New Year’s Day and making a stop in Bridgeport, Conn. The Coast Guard reported that no one was injured in the sinking, but the barge was significantly damaged and the Martha R. Ingram, the adjacent pier and a tug on the scene sustained some damage.

In addition, “Residue of the ruptured tanks on the barge and piping on the pier caused some minor petroleum pollution to the harbor.”

Photo by Al Semm/Port Jefferson Village digital archive
Photo by Al Semm/Port Jefferson Village digital archive

The Coast Guard cited deficiencies in the barge’s steel as factors in the damage to the ship, but also said its primary cause was “uneven distribution of cargo and ballast at the extremities of the vessel.”

The crew members were able to get off the ship safely despite crew at the bow being cut off from lifesaving equipment, which was located at the stern.

Although the sea was calm that day, water temperatures were close to freezing — according to the Coast Guard, the air temperature was 46 degrees Fahrenheit but it was 40 degrees in the water.

The 584-foot barge “split in a manner which has occurred many times at ambient temperatures in structures fabricated from mild- and low-alloy steels.”