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Helen T. Smith Dies; Last of an Old Family

Footnotes to Long Island History

Helen T. Smith, Last of An Old Family

February 10, 1955

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


          Miss Helen Tangier Smith, a direct descendant in the fifth generation of Colonel William Tangier Smith who came to America from Northamptonshire, England, in 1686, died February 2 at her residence, 370 Washington avenue, Brooklyn.  Her death brings to a close a colorful and famous family chain in Brookhaven town.

          The year after his arrival, Col. Smith purchased what is now Strong’s Neck in Setauket and established his homestead there.  He was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1692, and was actively interested in the affairs of Brookhaven town in those early years.  He worshipped at the old “Town Church in Setauket.  His wife was accorded the peculiar privilege of being the only woman allowed to sit at the table in the church with the honored justices and those who paid 40 shillings or more yearly towards the minister’s salary.

          In 1691 Col. Smith purchased from the Indians an immense tract of land extending from the Connecticut, or Carman’s river eastward to the Mastic river, and extending south from the middle of the Island to the ocean.  These lands were confirmed to him in 1693 by a patent from Governor Fletcher as the “Manor of St. George.”

          One of his grandsons, Judge William Smith, was settled on the homestead estate which had been established on the bay at Mastic, and occupied by the branch of the family of which Miss Eugenia Tangier Smith, who died a year or so ago, was the last survivor.

We find the seventh son of Judge William, also named William, establishing his homestead at Longwood.  Yaphank, about 1790, with his wife, who was Hannah P. Smith of Smithtown.  He must have been filled with the pioneer spirit to leave the ancestral home at Mastic to live in such a remote place as Longwood was in those early days.

          A son of this William Smith, William Sidney Smith, was born at Longwood July 8, 1796.  Left an orphan at the age of seven, he acquired an education and later entered business, in New York city.  In 1823 he married Miss Eleanor Jones of Cold Spring, and a year later they moved to the family estate at Longwood.  Here, remote from the conveniences of railroad and village, they reared 10 children to maturity, and for half a century lived in happiness and contentment.

          William Sidney Smith gave his attention to farming and the management of his estate of several thousand acres, as well as to other enterprises.  He was elected supervisor of Brookhaven town in 1829, was county treasurer from 1834 to 1848, and held various other public offices.  He was actively interested in the early management of the Long Island Railroad and the flour mills and woolen factory at Yaphank.  during more than 50 years he was an earnest supporter of religious activities and a constant attendant at the services of the Presbyterian churches at Middle Island and South Haven.  He died in 1879, leaving a  widow, eight son and two daughters.

          Robert Russel Smith, first son of William Sidney, was born December 20, 1829 and, after his schooling, took up the management of Longwood and other business interests.  Associated in the affairs of the community, he was an officer in the Middletown Presbyterian church at Middle Island.  On June 2, 1875 he married Cornelia Thorne, daughter of Henry and Cornelia Thorne.  They had three children, William H. Tangier, who died in infancy, Helen Tangier and William Sidney.  They were educated and brought up at Longwood, and William Sidney, having chosen a medical career, served as a captain in the Medical Corps during World War I.  He was also connected with the Brooklyn City hospital for many years until his death in March, 1944.

          His sister, Miss Helen, was the last of this historic family to occupy the old manor house at Longwood, where she spent her summers and which she maintained the traditional manner.  A visit to this famous old home filled with rich furnishings of years gone by, was like turning back the hands of time to the days of long ago.

          Miss Smith was a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames, the Colonial Lords of the Manor and the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. 

          Interment will be in the family plot at Longwood at a later date.

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