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Early Midtown Settlements

Footnotes to Long Island History

EARLY MIDTOWN SETTLEMENT

NOV .2,1950

by

Thomas R. Bayles


 

       The first settlers of Brookhaven town at Setauket in 1655 were not content to stay in that locality long, and before many years explored the middle and south side of the Island. A settlement was established at Mastic before 1700, but it was about 1730 before any settlement was started in the middle section.

       Coram was the first central locality to be settled. The town records tell us that in 1730 one John Smith had a house at Coram and the lot on which it stood was on the Country road. In 1731 and 1734, lands were distributed to individual owners on the north and south side of the middle country road and settlement was started through this part of the town.

       The first church in the central portion was the old Baptist "meeting house" at Coram, which was built on the site of the present Methodist church in 1747. This is supposed to have been the first Baptist church in Suffolk County, but its existence is wrapped in much obscurity.

       However, the numerous tombstones marking the graves of the early settlers of Coram in the late 1700's in the old burying ground opposite the church are evidence that the church was active in those years. One of these is the stone marking the grave of the Rev. Noah Hammond, pastor of the Baptist church, who'd died in 1774.

       Coram was the center of the town government for a great many years, as it was a more central place than Setauket after settlements had been established on the South shore. The present homestead of Justice of the Peace Lester H. Davis was the head quarters for many years from about 1790 until 1884.

      Homes were built and farms established eastward to Middle Island. Before 1750 a settlement had sprung up in Middle Island and members of the Brewster family, grandsons of the first minister of the town at Setauket, Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, had established homes here. One of these was the old Hutchinson place that was torn down a few years ago. A tavern in the early days. It was used as town clerk's office for Brookhaven town for many years and as a post office until 1901.

       The first postoffice in Brookhaven town was established in Middle Island in 1796 and Apollos Wetmore was the first postmaster. It was called Brookhaven in those days, and in possession of the writer is a receipt dated 1812 from the Postmaster General to Benjamin Hutchinson, who was then postmaster, for $3, which was the total of the quarterly receipts.

        After the settlers had established their homes here they turned their attention to a church, as it was a long drive to the old "Town" church at Setauket, or the one that had been more recently opened at South Haven. In 1766, the Presbyterian church was built in Middle Island and service have been held there continuously since that time. The present church was built in 1837.

       The building occupied by Pfeiffer's store dates back to the Brewster family in 1739, and was also a tavern and a headquarters for the stage coaches that ran through the middle of the Island. The graves of those old Brewster families lie in a lot on the east side of the farm, but the stones marking them were removed many years ago by the owner of the place at that time and thrown in a hedge, and the lot plowed up. The stones have been removed to the cemetery opposite the church, which is fitting as they are the oldest legible stones hereabouts, dating back to 1748.

       Artist lake used to be called Corwin's pond as the Rev. Jacob Corwin lived nearby. He was one of the first pastor of the Wading River Congregational church which had been organized in 1785 and was the first pastor of the New village (Centereach) Congregational church in 1815. His grave is located in the Middle Island cemetery.

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