Many Migrated After War

Footnotes to Long Island History

Many Migrated After War


Thomas R. Bayles

Footnotes to L.I. History:


By Thomas R. Bayles


            Shortly after the Revolutionary war a good many of the settlers on Eastern Long Island seemed to get restless, and a number of them migrated to the “New Country” along the banks of the Mohawk river in upper New York state.

            The following is from the diary of Miss Cynthia Hutchinson in 1808: “We went to meeting last night but it was very sad.  John Turner and his cousins, Isaac and Cherry, were there, who we will never see again, as they are going to move a great way off to the new country.”

            Among the prominent men from Brookhaven town who moved to “the new country” was William Floyd, of Mastic, who was one of the signers of that immortal document, the Declaration of Independence.  (Every school child should know this fact, but few of them seem to, and apparently local history is not given much attention in our schools.)

            General William Floyd was born in the old homestead at Mastic December 17, 1734, and took over the management of his father's large estate upon his death in 1752.  At an early age he became as officer in the militia, and was advanced until he became major general.  He was elected to a seat in the Continental Congress of 1774, and was one of those who urged the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

            During the seven long, dark years when the British were in possession of Long Island, they took over Gen. Floyd's beautiful 4,000 acre estate at Mastic, and his family was forced to flee to Connecticut for safety.  Mrs. Floyd died in Middletown, Conn. in 1781, and in 1783 Gen. Floyd returned with his children to the slow work of rebuilding his home and estate, which had suffered much damage at the hands of the British soldiers.

            He was a representative in the first Congress that met in New York city March 4, 1789, when George Washington was elected President.

            William Floyd seemed to have been a pioneer spirit, and shortly after his return to Mastic in 1783 began to buy land along the Mohawk river in Westernville.  By 1803 he had build a home there similar to the ancestral one at Mastic, and moved with his family there in the latter part of that year.

            It seems strange that he should have left his life-long home at the age of 69 to start life all over in another part of the state but it may have been that he felt his son, Nicoll, who had seven children, needed all the room in the ancestral home.  So in his new home on the banks of the Mohawk river, he lived until his death 1821.

            Thus came to an end the life of this native Long Islander, whose name will ever hold an honored place as long as the history of the United States is preserved.

            From the records of the New York State Agricultural society for 1850 we find that in 1792 Silas Halsey of Southampton, with two hired men, set sail by sloop to New York, and then to Albany.  At Schenectady he purchased a small boat called a “batteau” and continued his journey through Oneida lake and Seneca river into Seneca lake.  He continued on and at Ovid selected a tract of land, built a log house and cleared the underbrush around it.  He procured a quart of apple seeds from the Indian orchard at Cooley's point, and planted them with care establishing the first nursery in that region.

            He then returned home by the same route, and in 1793 left Southampton with his family, together with his son-in-law and his family, numbering altogether 18 persons, and after a six-week trip they reached their new home.

            Judge Halsey, with an enterprise and public spirit which distinguished him through a long and useful life, erected a grist mall on Lodi creek in the summer of 1794, which ground the grain of the farmers for miles around.  He died at the advanced age of 90 years.  

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