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Setauket Settlers Religious

Footnotes to Long Island History

Setauket Settler Religious

by

Thomas R. Bayles


 

Setauket Settlers Religious    
Caroline church on Setauket Green.    

       The first settlement in Brookhaven town made at Setauket in 1655 by a group of six men who were sent out by New England colonists to locate a good place on the north shore of Long Island. They made their purchase of lands in the Setauket section from the Indians then returned to the mainland, and soon the settlers began to arrive and make their homes and clear land for farming.

       The settlers, through the influence of Captain John Scott, called the colony Ashford after the town in England by the name, and adjoining bay "Cromwell Bay" in honor of the Puritan leader. The name Ashford was later changer to "Brookhaven," a name which in 1666 Governor Nicolls applied to the whole town. The name "Setauket" was later given to the settlement to distinguish it from the town.

       The first settled minister in this community was the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, who came over from New England in 1665. He received 40 pounds a year plus whatever income he might make from certain lands given him by the town. His salary  was raised by a tax upon the people and in 1671 William Satterly was appointed to make the rounds to collect the money.

       In 1672 a church building was built in the "Green" at Setauket by Nathaniel Norton. This was a plain boxlike affair 28 feet square. Town meetings at which all church members in good standing had a right to attend and vote were held in church or "meeting house" as it was in those day.

       No denominational title was applied to the church at that time and it was simply called the "meeting house in Brookhaven." Here were decided such questions as to where the people were to sit in church, the amount of the ministers salary and how it was to be raised.. Since religious matters were handled by the whole congregation assembled in a town meeting it is incorrect to call the Setauket church during the early years, "Presbyterian."

       The Rev. Epher Whitaker pastor of the Southold Presbyterian Church explained the matter when he said "All these early churches were neither Presbyterian nor Congregational in the general meaning of these words. They were Town churches or civil government churches. The bond of union of these churches was civil government of the colony over all the towns.

         No one fact can be accepted with greater certainty than the fact the early colonists of Brookhaven town particular and eastern Long Island in general were deeply religious. Their church was the first public building to be erected, and around it went up the homes of these propel to whom this was the center of all life on earth . Here they held their towns meetings at which only church members were admitted at first to vote. In these meetings were regulated the cultivation of the common lands, the supervision of fences and roads and the education  of children.

       In October, 1665 Mathew Prior sold his house and lot with glass windows, (a luxury in those days) doors and partitions and all fencing, young apple and other fruit trees, to the constable and overseers of the town for the use of the minister, the Rev. Mr. Brewster

       There could be no clearer example of the unity of church and state from which these Puritans and their parents had fled, than here in Setauket. But it was the kind of a state church which they liked for they were in a position to call all who did not worship as they did, "dissenters." Their form of government was a democracy as well as a theocracy.

       In those days a church bells were unknown here and their purpose was answered by the drum, which was beaten in the church door on Sabbath mornings to call the worshipers together. In 1668 we find that "Obed Seward is to beat the drum twice a Sabbath Day on the Meeting House hill." In 1723 the town trustees agreed with Nathaniel Tooker to perform the office of "Beating the Drum on ye lords day and for sweeping ye meeting house for ye year above written," for 30 shillings

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