‘Bull’ Smith and Smithtown

Footnotes to Long Island History

JULY 28, 1949


Thomas R. Bayles


       According to an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1904, the sale of the Squire Caleb T Smith farm in Commack to former Assemblyman Carl S Burr was the first transfer of it made since the original patent was granted to Richard (Bull) Smith back in 1663. Richard Smith was a warm friend of Lyon Gardiner of Gardiner's Island and Gardiner often visited Smith at his home in Setauket

       The Narragansett tribe of Indians from Rhode Island made one of their frequent raids into the territory of the Montauketts on eastern Long Island in 1663 when the Montauk chief Wyandanch was celebrating the marriage of his daughter. the Narragansett's killed the bridegroom and captured the bride, the only daughter of Wyandanch. Lyon Gardiner afterward rescued the bride from her captors, restored her to her father and won his undying gratitude. Wyandanch, who was the Grand Sachem of all the island tribes, deeded to Gardiner a tract of land in the town of Smithtown as evidence of his gratitude and Gardiner turned this tract over to his friend, Richard Smith. This remained in the Smith family for nearly 250 years until was sold to Burr.

       The old deed given by Wyandanch was discovered years ago by Judge Caleb Smith among some old papers in the attic of his home in Commack and was presented by him to the Long Island Historical society in Brooklyn. A memorandum on the back of the deed written by David Gardiner, son and successor of Lyon  Gardiner seems to imply a consideration.  "That I David Gardiner do acknowledge to have received satisfaction of Richard Smith of Nissequake for what concerns me in the within written deed. In witness whereof I have here unto set my hand this 15th day of October, 1664."

       According to tradition Richard Smith acquired the name "Bull" Smith because he was promised by the Indians all the land he could ride around on a bull from sunrise to sunset. He had a trained bull which he used as a horse, and on the scheduled day he was mounted on him and ready to go by sunrise together with his luncheon and a supply of firewater in his saddlebags. At noon he rested and ate his lunch and the spot is still known as "Bread and Cheese Hollow" by nightfall he had completed the circuit of what is now the Town of Smithtown, to the amazement of the Indians.

       Richard Smith great great grandson Caleb II, born in 1762, became a noted man under the colonial and state governments. He was a magistrate judge of the court of common pleas, and member of the state legislature. Judge Caleb Smith's grandson Robert Smith sold the farm to Mr. Burr.

       It was Judge Caleb Smith who moved to Commack, cleared 250 acres of his large holdings and built the substantial old colonial homestead that was the scene of social gayety and cordial hospitality for many years.

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