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Local Leaders in Revolution

Footnotes to Long Island History

 LOCAL LEADERS IN REVOLUTION

AUGUST 4,1960

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       On October 30, 1765 the Rev. David Rose was given a call and came as pastor of the South Haven Church. He remained at South Haven all through the difficult years of the American Revolution, until his death in 1799. In 1767 he organized a church at Middle Island ,and the two churches gave him an immense territory to cover. He must have been an interesting figure as he rode over his parishes combining the three most prized functions of that day, preacher, doctor and teacher. In addition to these three professions, he was active as a farmer on land furnished him by the South Haven church and in 1767, the ear mark of his cattle was entered on the town records.

       The leadership of "Priest Rose" as he was affectionately called by the members of his congregation, was outstanding. He no doubt was responsible for a large part of the enthusiasm for the American cause shown by the members of his churches, which he asserted by his sermons and influence. He was also actively engaged in the war and fought under Colonel Josiah Smith.

       After the disastrous battle of Long Island at Brooklyn in August 1776,the British occupied Long Island for the seven long years of the war. For safety Priest Rose took his family to his former home in Branford, Conn., where his wife died form the hard ship of exile.

       The influence of this small country church was remarkable and it sent into the political world of that day several men who have been remembered as leaders in the early life of our nation. Among these were General William Floyd, who was a representative from the Province of New York at all the sessions of the Continental Congress and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

       General Floyd's beautiful estate of 4,000 acres at Mastic was ruined by the British soldiers during their occupation of Long Island and his family was forced to fire to Connecticut for safety, where Mrs. Floyd died in 1781.

       General Nathaniel Woodhull was one of the first notable martyrs to the American cause. He had been the first president of the Provincial Congress of New York and after the famous Battle of Long Island he waited outside Jamaica with a company of men, for orders from the Continental Congress; while waiting he was captured by a party of British soldiers. One of them commanded him to say, "God save the King," and he replied," God save us all." The cowardly soldier struck General Woodhull with his sword and wounded him so severely  that  he died from the wounds September 20 and was buried near his home in Mastic.

       Judge William Smith was active in the struggle for freedom, as were his neighbors. He took the place of General Floyd in the Provincial Congress when the latter became a delegate to the Continental Congress and was also a member of the group that framed the state constitution in 1777. For his activity he and his family had to flee into exile and the British took over his large estate at the Manor of St. George in Mastic and made his home into the British Fort St. George.

       In November 1780,Major Benjamin Tallmadge crossed the sound with 80 men in whaleboats and landed near cedar Beach at Mount Sinai. He then marched across the Island to Mastic where they made a surprise attack on the British fort and captured it, together with a number  of prisoners. Marching back to Mount Sinai, Major Tallmadge and some of his men went by way of Coram, where they set fire to a large stack of hay that had been collected by the British and then continued on to Mount Sinai. Then they all crossed the sound again without the loss of a single man .General Washington sent him a letter of commendation for his brave action.

       Colonel Josiah Smith of Moriches, a South Haven church member saw active service in the war and led a regiment in the Battle of Long Island. Fighting with him were other members of the South Haven church and its pastor Rev. David Rose.

       The South Haven church did not fare well during these years and its pastor and most of its members were either away fighting the British or exile. The meeting house was used by the British as a stable for their horses and possibly as a barracks for the men.

       After the war, Priest Rose returned with his family and began the difficult task of restoring the two churches of his parish, He continued in this work until his death on January 1, 1799. The Middle Island church records make no mention of what happened to the church there during the war.

      An incident during the war has been handed down about Goldsmith Davis of Coram, who lived in what is now the home of Lester H. Davis. It seems that one day a party of British soldiers came to his home and demanded some information from him which he refused to give them. They then took him and tied him head down to the windlass of the well. After they left one of the women of the family, who had been watching from  window ran for help to a neighbor, who came and cut him down and saved him from certain death.

       Colonel Josiah Smith's family returned from exile in New London, Conn., to their ruined estate at Moriches and General William Floyd came back with his children to his ruined estate at Mastic. He later remarried but in 1804 left his estate to his son Nicoll, and with his family and 12 slave families moved to Westernville where at the age of 69 he began life again, still active in national politics. Here he died in 1821 at the age of 87. Judge William Smith was another exile who returned to a ruined estate, after staying during the war at the home of an old friend, Judge Platt at Kingston. Upon his return he dug up the patent to the Manor which he had hastily buried when he had fled from his home a few years before.

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