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Smith’s Prominent (Part 4)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Smiths Prominent

July 14, 1955

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


         (This is the fourth in a series of articles by Advance historical writer Thomas R. Bayles in connection with the celebration of the Setauket-Brookhaven tercentenary celebration.)

          Richard Woodhull was the surveyor for the primitive colony and was often entrusted with important commissions.  The following is from Munsell’s history of Suffolk written in 1882 by Richard M. Bayles.

          “The records of Brookhaven and the facts of history are the modest but unfaltering witnesses to a character which for principles of honor and justice, unselfish motives, far seeing discretion, kindliness of manners and constant zeal in public service has few superiors among the honored manes that grace the first pages of American history.  He was born in Northamptonshire, England, September 13, 1620, and his first appearance here that we find was at Southampton in 1644, where he manifested the same active interest in affairs of that town, that afterward made him conspicuous in Brookhaven town.

          “He appears to have located in Brookhaven town about 1657, and was appointed a magistrate for the town by the court at Hartford on May 16, 1661, and held the position for many years.  He was appointed to various offices and many important commissions, one of the most important of which was the masterly stroke of diplomacy by which the title of the town to the whole northern territory was forever freed from the complication of Indian claims.”

          Col. William Smith, the patentee of the Manor of St. George, was born in Northamptonshire, England, Feb. 2, 1655, and in 1675 was appointed mayor in Tangiers, Africa, by Charles II.  Because of this, his descendants have been known as the Tangier Smiths, by way of distinction from other families of the same name.  Col. Smith arrived in New York August 6, 1686, and soon after visited Setauket where he purchased a tract of land now known as Strong’s Neck, and established his home there.  He was appointed by Gov. Slaughter in March, 1691 as one of the members of his council, and held the position until his death in 1705.

          He was also the first of the chief justices of the supreme court of the Province of New York.

          Col. Smith was actively interested the people of Brookhaven town in most of the public enterprises of those early years, and jointed with them in worship at the old “town church” in Setauket.  There 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 shilling or more towards the minister’s salary.

          Col. Smith died February 18, 1705, and was buried in the family plot on his estate on Little Neck (Strong’s Neck).  The stone marking his grave is the oldest legible stone in Brookhaven town.

          Col. and Mrs. Smith had 13 children, and one of his sons, Major William Henry Smith, was willed the southern part of his father’s estate at Mastic, and established his home on a point of land at one of the most beautiful of the historic spots in Brookhaven town know as the Manor at St. George on the south bay.  This grand old Manor house overlooks the Great South bay and the mouth  of the Connecticut river.  Built in 1810, this is the third of the manor houses to have occupied this old estate, the first one having been built before 1700.  The present house was the home of the last of the Tangier Smiths, Miss Eugenia A. Tangier Smith, who died recently and left the estate and its priceless furnishings of early years as a museum for the people of Brookhaven town.

          Just to the west of the present house is the site of the old British Fort St. George, which is marked by two cannons of Civil War vintage.  This fort was captured by the American troops under Col. Benjamin Tallmadge in November, 1780.

          William Smith, son of the major, and commonly called Judge William, was born at Mastic in 1720.  He was a man of importance during the Revolutionary period and was county judge for several years.  He was a member of the Provincial Congress of 1776, and among the men who framed the state constitution. 

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