Early Land Purchases on L.I.

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Land Purchases On L.I


Thomas R. Bayles


Gardiner's Island Deed Recorded in 1639 - Second Grant Covered all East Hampton Town except Montauk and Gardiner's.

By Thomas R. Bayles

       The earliest recorded purchase of land on eastern Long Island from the Native American proprietors was that of the island called by the aborigines Manchomacke (the land or place of the dead.) This was known to English settlers as the Isle of Wright, and afterwards named Gardiner's Island. This was purchased by Lion Gardiner, the first white English settler within the boundaries of New York State. The first record of the town of East Hampton relates to this purchase and is dated March 10th, 1639.

       The deed known as the Town Purchase of 1648 is the second entry in East Hampton town records and relates to the purchase from the Indian Sachems, Poggatacut, Wyandanch, Momowetow, and Nowedona by Theophilus Eaton, Governor of the Colony of New Haven and Edward Hopkins, Governor of the colony of Connecticut. This covered all the land from Southampton to the east side of Napeak, with the whole breadth from sea to sea.

       This grant from the Indians was assigned by Edward Hopkins to in inhabitants of East Hampton April 16th, 1651 in consideration of 30 pounds four shillings, eight pence. This covered all the land of East Hampton town except Montauk and Gardiner's Island.

       In 1658 an agreement with the Indians was made to secure the pasturage on Montauk for seven years, with the privilege of purchasing the land if the Indians cared to sell. Title was acquired to the portion known as Hither Woods, lying west of Fort Pond,  in 1660 and 1661, after the overthrow of the Montauk Indians by their foes, the Narragansett’s, from across the sound. The remainder of the Montauk tribe fled to east Hampton, where they were sheltered and protected by the settlers. In 1670 title was acquired to the tract of land lying between Fort Pond and Great Pond, and in 1686 the remainder was acquired, subject to certain reservations and Indian rights. It was agreed that the Indians should “have leave to plant what corn so ever they have occasion for to plant from time to time, themselves and their heirs forever upon the land as purchased of them by us.” They also had the right to pasture 50 head of cattle, and to take wood for fuel and fencing.

       From the first agreements with the Indians in 1658 concerning the privilege of pasturage, until the sale at auction in 1879 to Arthur W. Benson, the 10,000 acres which comprise the peninsula of Montauk East of Napeague beach remained undivided and used as a common pasturage ground by the farmers of East Hampton town, who help proportional shares in the land.

       The Montauks were probably the most powerful tribe on Long Island, east of the Canarsee territory, and held all the other tribes or groups as some historians call them, under tribute. Wyandanch, the chief of the Montauks at the time of the first settlement by the English, was recognized as the Grand Sachem to whom all the other chiefs owed allegiance. No deed of any other tribes or groups was considered valid without his signature. The Montauks in turn paid tribute to the fierce, warlike Pequot’s across the sound around New London, and continued to do so until the white settlers subdued the Pequot’s.

       During one of the invasions of the Montauks by the Narragansett's, they surprised the wedding ceremony of the daughter of Wyandanch, and seized the bride captive and carried her across the Sound, where she was afterward rescued by Lion Gardiner. In gratitude for the return of his daughter Wyandanch gave Gardiner a tract of land which now compromises most of the town of Smithtown. In 1658 a disease swept through the Indians and it is said that two-thirds died before it was brought under control.

       As late as 1895 there were two or more families of Indian descent living in East Hampton. One family were the children of David Pharaoh and his wife Maria, who were known as the king and queen of the Montauks. A brother, Stephen Pharaoh was famous as a walker and frequently walked from Montauk to east Hampton in the morning, cradled three acres of wheat, and walked back to Montauk in the evening. Another brother, Elisha Pharaoh was a famous basket maker and was a familiar figure in East Hampton as he went around with his huge pile of baskets, made of rushes, covering completely like a haystack. 

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