The Forests of Brookhaven Town in the Early Days

Footnotes to Long Island History

The Forests of Brookhaven Town in Early Days


Thomas R. Bayles

   At the time of its first settlement by white people, the lands of Brookhaven town were probably covered for the most part with a growth of heavy timber, and pine was probably the predominating wood. The cutting of cordwood was begun at an early period and the wood growing was freely appropriated by the individual owners and others. There was danger of abuse in this practice and to prevent it the town trustees passed a resolution forbidding anyone cutting cordwood or selling it in the common lands without first obtaining a license from the trustees or from a majority of the proprietors.

  The claims on trees in the common lands were regulated by the trustees in 1782 when they passes a resolution that anyone cutting down a tree and neglecting to trim it for twelve days should forfeit the same and any tenant in common was free to trim out and take possession of such tree.

  Some timber was used at an early date in the manufacture of pipe staves. The manufacture of tar was carried on to some extent and reference is made to it as early as 1678, which suggests that previous to that date a house occupied by men engaged in that business stood upon a certain piece of land on Dayton's Neck, (Brookhaven). From this the locality gained some reputation as Tarmen's Neck. The industry must have made some progress for in 1716 it was looked upon of sufficient importance for the trustees to impose a tax upon it and they enacted that every barrel of tar made in town should pay a tax of nine pence, and every man having no rights in the town patent or common should pay one shilling six pence for every barrel that he made.

  Officers were appointed to collect this tax, Col. Floyd on the south side and Selah Strong on the north side.

   The greatest use of these timber lands was for cord wood. This industry grew up in the early days and the business flourished until the introduction of coal supplied the market with more convenient article of fuel. Long before the railroad was built there were frequent landings on the shores of the town from which the wood was shipped to market.

   On the south side where the water was shallow near the shore, piers were built far out into the bay and small boats were used to carry the wood from shore to the piers and from them vessels of greater draft were loaded. A grant for such a pier was given by the trustees to Smith Mott in 1813. This pier was to stand a little west of Connecticut river, twenty five rods from the shore of his land and to be 16 by 45 feet in size. 

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