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Wading River’s Story

Footnotes to Long Island History

The Wading River Story
December 3, 1953

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       The Brookhaven Town trustees passed a resolution November 17, 1671 which provided for a "settlement of eight families or eight men at the Wading River." This name taken from the Indian name Pauquacunski means " the brook or river where we wade for thick round shelled clams."

     The early settlers lost no time in establishing a community and the town records say that a mill was provided for the same year. It was built and operated by Henry Perring, and stood across the driveway the driveway from the old Woodhull homestead. The John Roe mill at the Hill Pond was built in 1708 and was in continuous operation until  the close of the past century.

     As in the other settlements of Long Island, the church played an important part in life of community, and in order to have a voice in town affairs, a man must be in "communion" with the church. The settlers held meetings in their homes between the visits of traveling preachers who came through.

      The first church organized in Wading River was one of the oldest in this part of Long Island. A "meeting house," 26 by 28 feet in size was erected in 1740, and was of Presbyterian order for several years.

      In 1785 a Congregational church was organized by the Rev. Daniel Young's with the title of "Second Strict Congregational Church of Riverhead." The church is situated just across the line in Riverhead town.

       Among the early pastors was the Rev. Jacob Corwin in 1787, who was active in the early life of the New Village Congregational church several years later. The Rev. David Wells was pastor in 1802, and after his death in 1821, the church was supplied by visiting ministers for several years.

       One of the many ministers to occupy the pulpit was Paul Cuffee, noted Indian preacher, who was born at Wading River and lived until maturity as abound servant to Major Fredrick Hudson, father of Oliver Hudson, for whom was named Oliver's Hill.

      The present church was built in 1837, across the green from the original one, on a piece of land given for that purpose by Zophar Miller. The old church was sold and moved away to become part of a barn on the Alonzo Hulse property.

      The building committee was composed of Deacons Luther Brown, Benjamin Glover, James Tuthill, Miller Woodhull and Hiram Tuthill, and it was agreed by them that the building should be built with a gallery, and should have a steeple on it. The present church remains about the same as when built in 1837, except that the pews no longer have doors and a low pulpit has replaced the original high one.

       Wading River was the seat of a thriving cordwood and produce shipping business until the opening of the railroad late in the past century. Cordwood and produce were shipped by sloop to New York city and other ports, and besides its mills , there were two shipyards one at the "west landing" near the creek and another at the "east landing" near the present public beach. the village was one of the most industrious in the county and boasted a tannery, candy factory, a cider mill, wheelwright shop, black smith shop, cutlery shop and several stores, and was used as a shopping  center for outlying sections.

          The village now is a residential and resort community and retains much of its original quaint charm.
  

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