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Suffolk’s Origin Traced

Footnotes to Long Island History

Suffolk’s Origin Traced

April 14, 1955

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


          Suffolk county was formed November 1, 1683.  Its various towns had been under the jurisdiction of Connecticut until 1664, when Charles II of England gave his brother, James, Duke of York, a province in America.  This province included Long Island, and James proceeded to take possession of his American province and to extend his authority and laws over it.

          The Dutch government was driven away from the banks of the Hudson, and the city at this mouth was called New York, as was the whole province.  The duke called upon the towns of Long Island to send delegates to Hempstead early in 1665, and the Duke’s laws, with the consent of these delegates, became the code of Long Island.

          The duke also established a Yorkshire in his province.  Like the original in England, it was divided into three ridings.  The towns in our present Suffolk county formed the East riding.  The greater part of Queens and Westchester counties formed the North Riding, and the smaller part of Queens, Kings and Richmond formed the West riding.  This organization continued until 1683.

          The people were displeased with the duke’s government, and opposition increased until the duke consented to the election of a general assembly.  He feared that otherwise his province would be a loss instead of a profit to him.  He authorized his governor, Colonel Thomas Dongan, to convene properly chosen representatives of the people, which was done through the Court of Assize.

          This body appointed Colonel John Youngs of Southold to write a petition to the duke, asking him for an assembly of the people.  This was done and the duke authorized his governor to direct the freeholders to elect representatives.

          These representatives met in the fort which stood in the lower part of New York city on October 17, 1683.  There seem to be no records of the proceeding of that meeting, but this assembly did much to benefit the people.  It established courts of justice, repealed some of the most undesirable of the Duke’s laws, amended others, and passed such new acts as the condition and welfare of the province demanded.

          On November 1, 1683, it passed an act to divide the province into 10 counties, Albany, Dutchess, Kings, New York, Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.  This act contained the following:  “Suffolk county to contayne the several towns of Huntington, Smithfield, Brookhaven, Southampton, Southold, Easthampton to Montauk, Shelter Island, and the Isle of Wight, Fishers Island and Plum Island; with the several outfarms and plantations.

 

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