Early Days in Brookhaven

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Days in Brookhaven


Thomas R. Bayles


            Brookhaven Town was settled in Setauket in 1655, and the small community thrived as the years went by.

            Land was cleared and planted, buildings were erected, grist mills constructed, and the town government more clearly developed.  The increase of the population through outsiders coming in was slow, as Brookhaven Town, like her sister towns was an exclusive community.

            The rules regarding the buying of land by anyone not already a freeholder of the town were clearly defined.  On March 16, 1664, the inhabitants of this town passed the following resolution at their town meeting.  “To the end that the town be not spoiled or impoverished it is ordered that no accommodations shall be sold piece meal, but entire, without the consent of the Overseers and Constable, and that no person be admitted to be an inhabitant in this town without the consent of the Constable and Overseers or the major part thereof.”

            Prospective citizens evidently had to appear before the town meeting with their credentials and be thoroughly examined before they could buy land.  So at a town meeting held on April 2, 1672 it was decided that “Mr. Alcock is accepted as a townsman upon condition that he bring a letter of recommendation of his good behavior.”  Even then they were bound by certain restrictions.  John Thomas of Rye was accepted as an inhabitant of the town in 1671 and allowed to buy land provided he promise that “he will not sell, let nor give his accommodations, nor any part of it to any buy whom the major part of the town shall assent to and willing to take in as inhabitants, and if he shall sell, let or give, contrary to the major part of the town, then he shall forfeit all his land to the town.”

            Two important men in the early life of the town were Richard Woodhull and Richard Floyd.

            Mr. Woodhull was a leader among the pioneers of Brookhaven and was born in Thenford, Northamptonshire, England and left the country on account of political trouble shortly before the restoration of Charles II to the throne, and coming to the new colonies in America, settled in Jamaica, Long Island.  He did not remain there long but soon after 1655 joined the young settlement at Brookhaven.  Mr. Woodhull’s ability soon made him a leader in this community.  He was made the representative of the town in a general court which convened in Hartford, Conn, and in 1666 was appointed justice of the Court of Assizes, and seven years later he was commissioned a magistrate of Brookhaven.  His name appears on a great many of the early documents of the town, and he was appointed to numerous offices and acted on many important commissions.  One of his outstanding accomplishments was a masterly stroke of diplomacy by which the title of the town on the northern part was forever freed from the complication of Indian claims.

            The other important figure in the early life of Brookhaven Town was Richard Floyd, whose descendants played such an important part in the life of the South Haven Presbyterian Church.  He was born in Brocknockshire, Wales, about 1620, and because of a strong desire to worship as he pleased without being called a “dissenter”, came to Brookhaven.  He bought up land as fast as he could and was soon recognized as a leader by being made a local magistrate and colonel of the militia. 

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