Early Days in Brookhaven

Footnotes to Long Island History

AUGUST 25 1949


Thomas R. Bayles

       As soon as the original purchase of land from the Indians had been made at Setauket in 1655, and this had been divided into lots or "accommodations" among the settlers, and rights assigned to each to the lands held in common, these pioneers began to explore the neighborhood.

       They discovered that on the south shore of the island were large meadows of salt hay and grass which could be harvested for their cattle. So in 1657 two large tracts of meadow land were purchased from the Unkechaug Indians by Richard Woodhull, acting for the town. One of these was at Noccomack, a region on the eastern bank of the Connecticut river, and one in the southern part of Mastic, along the bay front.

       The deed to these meadows, the second earliest recorded, is dated July 20 1657. The price paid was the usual assortment of coats, axes, guns, powder, lead and knives, gathered from the settlers who hoped to use the land.

       Evidently the Unkechaug's were displeased with the deal for their land, which been transacted by Wyandanch sachem of the Montauk tribe, who was also the grand sachem of all the Long Island tribes, or groups, as they are sometimes called. At a town meeting on August 22, 1671, a committee was appointed to go to the Indians and settle the dispute, and was instructed to carry "som likers with them to the Indians upon the Towns account." The committee was successful, and in 1674 the same land was repurchased from Tobaccus, the new sachem of the Unkechaugs, and now the Town of Brookhaven owned "all the mowable meadow land, that lieth between a river called Connecticut to another river called Mastic." This was called the "New Purchase."

       During these years other tracts of land were purchased from the Indians and one that is interesting in this part of the town is the "Old Purchase at South," which included parts of the communities now known as South Haven, Brookhaven, and Bellport. This purchased was made from Tobaccus on June 10, 1664. The consideration given was four coats and 6 pounds 10 shillings in cash ($16.25).The original deed and the receipt for payment are still preserved among the old papers in the Brookhaven Town hall at Patchogue.

       The small settlers thrived as the years went by. Land was cleared and planted, buildings were erected, grist mills constructed, and the town government more clearly developed. The increase in the population of the town from outside was slow, as Brookhaven, like her sister towns was an exclusive community. The rules regarding the buying of land by anyone not already a freeholder of Brookhaven were clearly defined. The following regulation was passed at a town meeting on March 18, 1664. "To the end that the town be not spoiled or impoverished it is ordered that no accommodations shall be sold piece meal, but entire, without the consent of the Overseers and Constable, and that no person be admitted to be an inhabitant in this town without the consent of the Constable and Overseers, or the major part thereof."

       "Prospective settlers evidently had to appear before the town meeting with their credentials and be examined before they could buy land. On April 2, 1672, at a town meeting it was decided that Mr. Alcock is accepted as a townsman upon condition he bring a letter of recommendation or certificate of his good behavior." John Thomas of Rye was accepted as an inhabitant in 1671, and allowed to buy land provided he promised that "he will not sell, let, nor give his accommodations, nor any part of it to any one but whom the major part of the town shall assent to and willing to take in as inhabitants." If he disobeyed this order he was forfeit all his land to the town.

       Those early settlers made every effort to see that no undesirable person came into the town and took up the land here.

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