Tales of Middle Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

JULY 21 1949


Thomas R. Bayles

The leek house, which was on East Bartlett road until it was moved in the 1970s.

        The old homestead of one of the first Swezey families who settled in Middle Island occupied a site on the west side of the body of water known variously as Half Mile Pond, Davis Pond, and Pine Lake.

       The following incident has been handed down about the family of Daniel Swezey, who lived here during the Revolutionary War.

       "During the winter of 1777, the British soldiers who were quartered on Long Island were frequently roaming over the Island in foraging parties looking for anything they could use. This Swezey family had a fine flock of geese and wanted to keep them from falling into the hands of the British foragers. The winter was hard and a deep snow lay on the ground. There were many drifts and the top of the banks formed a hard crust. The active boys dug out the soft snow leaving the crust to form a roof over a good sized room into which they drove their flock of geese. Then they sealed up the opening and with a rake handle punched holes through the snow crust roof to let air into the birds. the British soldiers came around and looked through the barn and other buildings but were unable to find the honking geese."

       The original will of James Swezey made in 1777, which is in the possession of the writer is interesting. In those days a long preamble formed the first part of the will.

       "In the name of God Amen on the twelveth day of May in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy Seven, I, James Swezey of Brookhaven, the county of Suffolk and the collony of New York; Being weak in body but of good and perfect memory, thanks be to Almighty God, and calling to remembrance the uncertain State of this transitory life. Do make, constitute, ordain and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following. That is to say I give and commit my soul unto God who gave it and my body being dead, to the earth from whence it was taken, to be decently buried, and as for settling my temporal estate, and such goods, chattels and debts as it hath pleased God to bestow on me, I do order, give and dispose the same as followeth."

       Then followed the usual disposition of real estate and personal property to members of the family. In those early days beds, pillows, feathers beds, and irons, tongs etc. were articles of great value and were carefully distributed in wills.

       One interesting item in Mr.. Swezey's will is here quoted. "I will that my sons Isaac and James provide and keep a good milch cow for my wife during her life if she remains my widow so long."

       Another pre- Revolutionary house in Middle Island is the old Ashton homestead on the Bartlett road which is owned and occupied by Miss Minnie Ashton This was the home of Major Leek and his family during the Revolution It was the custom in those war years for the British soldiers who were riding through the Island to stop and demand dinner from any known sympathizer to the American cause, and one day a party of soldiers stopped and Mrs.. Leek prepared dinner for them. While waiting, one of the British officers went around the dining room hitting the sides of the room with his sword to see if there were any hollow panels behind which might be concealed valuables Mrs.. Leek held her breath because there was a small opening on one side of the fire place covered by a curtain, and behind this was a box built into the chimney where they had placed all their silver and other valuables. The officer passed this by and did not find the hiding place.

      The original part of this house had a chimney 12 feet square with three fireplaces upstairs and two downstairs.

       Another revolutionary incident took place at Coram at the home of Goldsmith Davis now the home of Justice of the Peace Lester H. Davis. A company of the British troops came to his home and demanded some information of him, which he refuse to give and in punishment they tied his feet to the windlass of the well and left him hanging there head down. After the soldiers left one of the women members of his family who had watching from a hiding place, ran for a neighbor who helped her release him from this certain death. 

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