S. Haven Daughter Church

Footnotes to Long Island History


APRIL 28,1966


Thomas R. Bayles

      The fund raising campaign now being conducted by the South Haven Brookhaven Presbyterian church for the re-development program adopted by the church calls for moving the historic old church at South Haven to a new location at Brookhaven. This church was built in 1828, and the first church in 1740, which was an offspring of the mother church at Setauket.

       The first settlement in Brookhaven town was made at Setauket in 1655 by six men who were sent out by the New England colonists to locate a suitable spot on the north shore of Long Island to make a settlement. They made their purchase of lands from the Setalcott Indians, then returned to the mainland, and soon the settlers began to arrive and make their homes in this area.

       The first settlement was called Ashford, after the tow in England by the name and the adjoining  bay, Cromwell Bay, in honor of the puritan leader. The name Ashford was later changed to Brookhaven, a name which Gov. Nicolls gave to the whole town in 1666.It was later changed to Setauket, to distinguish it from the town name.

       The first settled minister in this settlement was the Rev .Nathaniel Brewster, who came over from New England in 1665. His salary of 40 pounds a year was raised by a tax upon the people, and in 1671 William Satterly was appointed to make the rounds to collect the money. A church building was built on the "Green" at Setauket in 1671, which was also used to hold town meetings in, and as a schoolhouse. Only church members in good standing were allowed to vote at these meetings, which governed the early settlement.

       No denominational title was given to the church at that time and it was simply called the "meeting house in Brookhaven," Here were decided such questions as to where the people were to sit in church, the amount of the minister's salary and how it was to be raised. Since religious matters were handled by the whole congregation assembled in a town meeting, the early church could hardly be called Presbyterian.

       The Rev. Epher Whittaker, pastor of the Southold Presbyterian church, explained the matter in later years when he said, "All these early churches were neither Presbyterian nor congregational in the general meeting of the words. They were 'town churches,' or civil government churches. The bond of union of these churches was the civil government of the colony over all the towns."

        At any rate, the settlers of Brookhaven town and eastern Long Island in general were deeply religious and their church was  the first building to be erected and around it were the homes of these people to whom this was the center of life. There could be no clearer example of the unity of church and state from which these Puritans had fled, than here at Setauket but it was the kind of a state church which they liked. They were in a position to call all who did not worship as they did "dissenters.'

       In October 1665, Mathew Prior sold his house and lot with glass windows (A luxury in those days) doors and partitions, all fencing young apple trees and other fruit trees to the constable and overseers of the town, for the Rev. Mr. Brewster.

       In those days there were no church bells, so to take their place the drum was used, which was beaten in the church door on Sabbath mornings to call the worshippers together. In 1668 the town record states that "Obed Seward is to beat the drum twice on Sabbath day on the meeting house hill." In 1723 the town trustees engaged Nathaniel Tooker to perform the office of Beating the drum on ye Lord's Day and for sweeping ye meeting house for ye year above written for 30 shillings.

       As the years went on and settlement were made on the south side in the South Haven area it was decided to build a church there as it was a long trip across the Island to the town church in Setauket so in 1740 the first church was built at the going over where the road crossed the river at South Haven.

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