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Elias Pelletreau, Silversmith

Footnotes to Long Island History

Elias Pelletreau, Silversmith

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 



Elias Pelletreau, Silversmith shop at Southampton.

       Elias Pelletreau of Southampton, great-great grandfather of the late judge Robert S Pelletreau of Patchogue was one of the foremost silversmiths on Long Island during the colonial period. He was born on may 31, 1726 and his father was Francis Pelletreau who settled in Southampton in 1717, and who died when Elias was 10 years old. At the age of 13 he was sent to the boarding school of John Proctor in New York and was then apprenticed to Simeon Soumain for the term of seven years. "To be taught the art and mystery of a goldsmith". In 1748 he married Sarah Gelston, returned to Southampton and established the business of a silversmith in a small building on his farm, which had been left to him by his father. By his superior workmanship and honest dealings he soon attracted the best families from all parts of Long Island and more distant places as well.

      An old account book of Mr. Pelletreau was so careful kept that it is possible to trace the date of the purchase of any family heirloom and the commodity exchanged in payment . Richard Smith was probably his largest customer. One of his bills amounted to 126 pounds. Another customer was Ebenezer Prime of Huntington who made his six tablespoons and six teaspoons for which he paid 7 pounds, 15 shillings. On May 24, 1765. When forced to flee from the British during the early days of the Revolution, Mr. Prime entrusted his silver to Mary, the wife of his only son, Benjamin. She put it in a canvas sack and secretly dropped it into a well, where it remained during the seven years of the war. When the war was over and the family returned to their homes the sack and its contents were drawn up from the well with not a piece missing or damaged.

     Nathaniel Woodhull of Mastic who lost his life during the early days of the Revolution was a liberal customer. One page of the Pelletreau journal fairly dazzled with everything from thimbles to tankards, fit articles to grace the home of his bride the sister of William Floyd signer of the Declaration of Independence.

       Solomon Townsend of Oyster Bay paid his bill in advance on the day he placed his order July 3, 1764. He was a Quaker but the handwork of Elias Pelletreau  was irresistible. His order included a tankard with capacity of three pints. It weighed 34 ounces and cost when engraved, 20 pounds. When the British came to Oyster Bay a few years later it was his home they demanded for their headquarters. The tankard then got hard usage. Major Andre, the spy upon one occasion filled it to the brim before passing it to Sarah, Solomon's lovely daughter. Later Sarah discovered it was being use to secrete the messages Arnold was sending from  West Point by the hand of an unnamed traitor who although having access to the Townsend home did not dare communicate directly with the British. With ferocious loyalty she got to the ear of Major Tallmadge the facts that made him suspicious when Andre was captured and perhaps saved Washington and his army.

       Selah Strong was a customer for an unusual number of teaspoons and tablespoons. Benjamin Blydenburgh's bill included an assortment among which was a pair of buckles for his wife, made over from the old to the new way. She entertained President Washington when he passed through Smithtown in 1790.

      Aaron Isaacs, grandfather of John Howard Payne was a good customer. His wife was Mary Hedges. They purchased in 1764 of Pelletreau "a necklace of Gold Beads", perhaps for their daughter Sarah who in 1780 became the wife of William Payne, and in 1791 the mother of John Howard Payne author of "Home Sweet Home."

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