Settlement of Suffolk Towns

Footnotes to Long Island History

Settlement of Suffolk Towns


Thomas R. Bayles


       Southold and Southampton towns were settled in 1640, East Hampton in 1648, Shelter Island in 1652, Huntington in 1653, Brookhaven in 1655, Smithtown in 1663, Islip in 1666. Riverhead town was formed from the western part of Southold town in 1702.

            The first white settlement in Suffolk county was made by Lyon Gardiner on Gardiner’s island in 1639, under a purchase made by him of the natives, which was confirmed by James Farret, agent of the Earl of Stirling, in 1640.

            During the early years there was very little money circulated, and most of the trade was among the settlers themselves, business being carried on by barter and exchange, and contract for the sale of land made in produce.

            In 1659 the town of Hempstead allowed six bushels of corn for each wolf killed.

            In 1680, the town of Southampton agreed to give Joseph Taylor, their minister, the use of the parsonage, four acres in their ox pasture, and one fiftieth in the commonage, and 100 acres woods. His yearly salary was 100 pounds, payable in winter wheat at 5 shillings a bushel, Indian corn at 2 shillings 6 pence a bushel, tallow at 6 pence a pound, green hides at 3 pence, dry hides art 6 pence a pound, beef at 40 shillings a barrel, pork at 3 pounds a barrel, whale bone at 8 pence a pound, and oil at 30 shillings a barrel. These were to be collected by the constable and overseers or by men appointed by them.

            In 1654 the magistrates of East Hampton ordered that the town tax rates should be paid in wheat at 4 shillings, 6 pence a bushel, and Indian corn at 3 shillings, 6 pence per bushel.

            In 1664 the town of Jamaica, in an action of trespass, gave judgement in favor of the plaintiff for 12 bushels of wheat for his damages.

            In 1665 the assessors of the various towns were ordered by law to estimate stock at the following prices:

            A four-year old horse, 12 pounds; a four year ox or bull, 6 pounds; a four-year old cow, 5 pounds; a four year-old steer or heifer, 4 pounds; a one-year old goat, 8 shillings, a sheep 6 shillings, 8 pence; a hog at 1 pound.

            Pork was 3 pence a pound; beef 2 pence a pound; wheat 4 shillings a bushel; rye 2 shillings, 6 pence a bushel; Indian corn, 2 shillings, 3 pence a bushel; oil 1 pound, 10 shillings a barrel.

            Board was 5 shillings a week; meals, 6 pence each; lodging, 2 pence a night; beer, 2 pence a mug, and labor, 2 shillings, 6 pence a day.

            The first settlers were companies of individuals who came from New England, and who had come over from England but a short time before. Many of these first settlers were well educated men who had left reputable connections in business and society in England to settle in this new world wilderness.

            The several towns were not under the control of any colonial government, nor had they any political connection with each other. Being too distant from the mother country to receive any aid from her, and without connections here, the whole powers of government fell on the inhabitants of each town. Self-preservation made it absolutely necessary that they should assume the exercise of these powers.

            All questions were determined by the voice of the major part of the people assembled in town meeting in each of the towns. In this manner they formed such-laws as they deemed necessary for the security, peace and prosperity of their infant settlements.

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