Town’s Founders Cited (Part 1)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Town’s Founders Cited

June 16, 1953


Thomas R. Bayles


          (Editor’s Note:  This is the first in a series of articles being written by Advance historical writer Thomas R. Bayles in conjunction with the Setauket-Brookhaven Town Tercentenary celebration.)

          In connection with the 300th celebration this year of the founding of Brookhaven town it may be well to review something about those early days.

          It was in the early part of the year 1655 that a party of six men from the English colonies of New England and from Southold first arranged an interview with the chief men of the Setalcott tribe of Indians.  these Indians were located on the shores of those beautiful bays and coves which cluster around the present villages of Setauket and Port Jefferson.

          Those first white men, whose names were John Scudder, John Sweasie, Jonathon Porter, Thomas Mabbs, Robert Cheston and Thomas Charles, purchased from the Indians a tract of land, the limits of which were vaguely described as “next adjoining to the bounds of Nesequagg, and from thence being bounded by a river, or great napock, nerly nemaukak, eastward, and bounded next unto Nesequakee bounds, as by trees being marked doth appear.” (Stony Brook to Port Jefferson)

          The settlers were also given liberty to let their cattle run beyond the bounds of their purchase, and to cut timber as far east as they pleased.  The bounds were to be renewed every two years, and the Indians and the proposed settlers agreed to live on peaceable terms with each other.  The Indians also agreed not to entertain unfriendly Indians near the white settlers.

          The deed to this tract of land was dated April 14, 1655, and contained the signature marks of the Setalcott Sachem Warawasen or Warawakmy, and 14 of his tribesmen.  The consideration given for this purchase was 10 coats, 12 hoes, 12 hatchets, 50 muxes, 100 needles, 6 kettles, 10 fahtoms of wampum, 7 pepx (pipe bowls) of powder, 1 pair child’s stockings, 10 pounds of lead and one dozen knives.

          Now that these advance agents had secured a location for their settlement, and had the assurance of Indian friendship, they returned to the mainland, and plans were made for an early settlement there.  The exact number of the first settlers does not appear, but at the end of five years the number of men comprising the colony, most of them probably heads of families was less than 30 and it was several years before the number increased to the 54 mentioned in the early records.

                                      First Settlement

          This first settlement was laid out around the meeting house green in Setauket, and was for many years the seat of government, which was of true New England style, with the town meeting used to settle all matters of common interest.

          The judicial and executive functions of each town were exercised by three magistrates, a clerk, a constable and overseers. The chosen clerk was generally known as the recorder.  These officers were elected by the people at their annual town meetings, which were held for the election of officers, enactment of such laws and regulations as the times required, and the hearing of criminal cases.

          When the little band of Puritan forefathers whose names are preserved as the first settlers of this town located their settlement at Setauket, one of the first things they did was to provide for religious services.  It was voted at a town meeting in August, 1657, that when the town should have 30 families, sixty pounds yearly should be paid for a minister.

          The first minister in the town back in 1642 was the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a graduate of Harvard.  He commenced his work as the town’s minister in 1665, and tradition has it that he preached his first sermon standing on a large boulder on the green at Setauket.  Mr. Brewster continued as minister for the town until his death in 1690.

          A house of worship, which was also used as a town hall and schoolhouse, was built in 1671.  This was a building 28 feet square, located on a site adjoining the green.  This church stood until a new one was built on an adjoining site in 1715.

          On October 24, 1665, Mathew Prior sold his house lot and house, with glass windows (exceptional in those days), doors and partitions, and all fencing, young apple and other fruit trees to the constable and overseers of the town for the use of the minister, the Rev. Mr. Brewster.



          In last week’s “Tercentenary Topic” by Thomas R. Bayles, it was inadvertently stated through a typographical error that “the first minister in the town back in 1642 was the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a graduate of Harvard.  He commenced his work as the town’s minister in 1665.”  Actually, the Rev. Brewster was a 1642 graduate of Harvard, who commenced his work in the town in 1665.

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