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Indian Land Bought (Part 2)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Indian Land Bought

June 30, 1955

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


          (This is the second in a series of articles on Brookhaven town history being written by Advance historical writer Thomas R. Bayles in conjunction with the Setauket-Brookhaven town tercentenary celebration.)

          Soon after the original purchase of land from the Indians had been made at Setauket in 1655, and this land had been divided into lots or “accommodations” among the settlers, these pioneers began to explore the island beyond their holdings.

          They discovered that on the south shore of the Island were large meadows of salt hay and grass which could be harvested for their cattle.  In 1657, Richard Woodhull, acting for the town, purchased two large tracts of meadow land from the Unkechaug Indians at Mastic.  One of these was at Noccomock, a region on the eastern bank of the Connecticut (Carman’s) river, and one in the southern part of Mastic, along the bay front.

          The deed to these meadows, the second earliest recorded, is dated July 20, 1657.  The price paid was the usual assortment of axes, guns, powder, lead and knives gathered from the settlers who hoped to use the land.

          Evidently the Unkechaug Indians were displeased with the deal for their land, which had been transacted by Wyandanch, sachem of the Montauk tribe, or groups, as they are sometimes called.  A committee was appointed at a town meeting on August 22, 1671, to go to the Indians and settle the dispute, and to carry “som likers with them to the Indians on the Town’s account.”  The committee was apparently successful, whether by reason of the “likers” of otherwise, and the same land was repurchased form Tobaccus, the new sachem of the Unkechaug’s in 1674.  Brookhaven town now owned all the “mowable meadow land, whether higher land or lower that lieth between a river called Connecticut, to another river called Mastic.”  This was called “the new purchase.”

          During these years other tracts of land were purchased from the Indians, and one in the southern part of the town is the “Old Purchase at South,” which included parts of the communities now known as South Haven (west part), Brookhaven and Bellport.  This purchase was made from Tobaccus on June 10, 1664, for four coats and six pounds ten shillings in cash ($16.25.)  The original deed and receipt for payment are still preserved among the old papers in the Brookhaven Town hall at Patchogue.

          The small settlement thrived as the years went by.  Land was cleared and planted, grist mills constructed, and the town government more clearly developed.  The increase in population was slow, as Brookhaven, like her sister towns, was an exclusive community.  The rules regarding the buying of land by anyone not already a freeholder of Brookhaven were clearly defined.

                                      Strict Regulations

          The follow regulation was passed at a town meeting on March 8, 1664.  “To the end that the town be not spoiled or impoverished it is ordered that no accommodations shall be sold piece meal, but entire, without the consent of the Overseers of Constable, and that no person be admitted to be an inhabitant in this town without the consent of the Constable and Overseers, or the major part thereof.”

          The town kept a vigilant eye upon the character of its inhabitants, and individuals who wanted to join the settlement were generally place on probation for a term of three to six months.  At the end of that time, if their character and behavior were approved, they were admitted to the privileges of freemen, and allotted certain portions of land, with the same rights as the other settlers.

          Committees were appointed to investigate the character and reputation of proposed settlers, and if they did not prove satisfactory to the townspeople, they were directed to leave within a specified time. No individual inhabitant was allowed to sell of lease real estate to a stranger not accepted by the town as a proper person to become a member of the settlement.  By enforcing these restrictions, the society of the first settlements was kept measurably free from undesirable persons.

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