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A Diary of 1800’s

Footnotes to Long Island History

A Diary of the 1800’s

April 14, 1955

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


          Life in the country went on at a much slower pace 150 years ago, and folks in a small community were neighbors and knew each other.

          Local happenings were of much interest, as there was not much contact with the outside world, except through the stagecoach that went through the island with the mail and some stray passengers.

          According to Skinner’s New York State register for 1830, the mail was dispatched from New York twice a week on Mondays and Fridays at 4 p. m. for the middle of the island, and the mail stage went through Hempstead, Jericho, Smithtown, Coram, Middle Island, and Suffolk Court House (Riverhead).  The stopping place in Middle Island was the old Hutchinson homestead, which was postoffice as well as tavern for travelers.  Incidentally, Middle Island had the first postoffice established in Brookhaven Town back in 1796.

          The following items from a diary of Miss Cynthia Hutchinson in 1808 give some idea of what life was in those days.

          “May 16:  Three men planting corn it is very late.  Mr. Hutchinson is sick.  Uncle Matt came and planted part of the garden.

          “May 29:  I sat in a cool room and took the ague, and had a fit of sickness which lasted until the 29th of August.  Remitting fever and ague.  Papa also had intermitting fever.

          August 29:  Rev. Moses Swezey preached in the meeting house and singing school was held in the afternoon, and was so well attended that those who came late could hardly find seats.

          “Mr. Gilmore and Benjamin Moore, who peddled dry goods and made frequent visits, announced that it was their last trip as they were going upstate to the ‘new country’.”

          Loading sloops with cord wood over the Sound shore if frequently mentioned in the diary.

          “September 28:  Mr. Joseph Gerard called.  He is paying his respects to Miss Chary Swezey.

          “November 3:  Simeon Hulse died after three weeks sickness with lung fever.  At the funeral the house was full of people.

          “November 9:  Papa thrashed clover seed today.  Evening meetings at Coram are very largely attended and frequent, and held very late.

          “Uncle Rufus Tuthill came from Aquebogue with Priest Goldsmith, who was going to preach here.  He preached Mr. Brown’s funeral and held a meeting ‘down the river.’

          “April 7, 1909: Daniel Terry of Oyster Ponds (Orient) called.  He has been at Albany on the Assembly for town months.  He went away in the morning with the ‘Post.’

          “Tuesday, April 18:  In the evening Debby and I went to meeting.  It was a very melancholy meeting, and I believe there were but few who did not shed tears because Mr. John Turner and his cousins, Isaac and Chary, who we can’t ever expect to see again, as they are going to move a great way off to the ‘new country.’  It seemed hard parting with them.  After the meeting we went to Mr. Woodruff’s and stayed until one o’clock, and bid each other farewell.

          “August 8:  In the morning I went to the store and got a gallon of rum.  Mr. Petty and Mr. Hulse are to work here today.

          “August 6:  Mrs. Clarissa Clark who has moved ‘up in the new country’ writes home that she likes it very much and would not come back for anything.  They plan to move 200 miles further west next winter.

          August 18:  Mr. Brown’s beach party took place.  Papa went, also old Mr. Joshua Swezey and Harmony and Mr. and Mrs. Wooster.  Reached home at 11 o’clock at night.

          “September 30:  Jeffrey Randall’s wife died.  At the funeral there were so many in attendance that the services were held in the edge of the woods instead of the meeting house.”

          Social calls were frequent between neighbors, quiltings were common, knitting was a daily occupation, as was spinning.

          “Uncle Jeffrey Hutchinson called on his way to New York with fowls.” (Some trip with a wagon load of fowl for the New York market!)

          “February 2, 1810:  Grandpapa and Mama and Uncle John came here.  Saturday morning after breakfast they set out to go to Smithtown.  They hadn’t been gone more than half an hour when Mr. Brown came running in and told Pa to get his horses at once and go after his father and mother as the horse had run away and they were both thrown out of the chairs in the wagon and hurt.  He went at once and brought them back and then went after the doctor.  He came and bled grandfather and believes there are no bones broken.  Uncle John went after the horse, which ran to Patchogue.

          “April 3:  Vendue (auction) of Joel Swezey attended.  They are going to move to the ‘new country’ shortly.

          “July 28:  Papa and Mama stayed to Mr. Carll’s all night.  Got home next day from the carding machine at the mill down the river.”

 

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