Early Life and Times in Brookhaven Town

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Life and Times in Brookhaven Town
December 1967


Thomas R. Bayles

         Besides farming an important industry of early Brookhaven Town was milling and this was due to a plentiful supply of  flowing water from the Connecticut or Carman's river as it is now known This river had its source in Pfeiffer's Pond in Middle Island and flowed through Yaphank and South Haven on its way to the Great South Bay. This river was important to the life of the early settlers as it was the principal source of power for this area.

        A carding mill for combing wool for spinning and a fuling mill for shrinking home spun textiles was located on this river north of Yaphank. Two saw and grist mills were in Yaphank and one in South Haven. Yaphank was first called Millville because of the many mills located on the river .It was changed to Yaphank an Indian name for a near by creek, when the post office was established in 1846.

       The farmers for miles around brought their grain to be ground at the grist mills and logs from their forest to be sawed into timber and the women sent their wool to the carding mills.

         The following entries appear in the diary of  Minerva Hutchinson of Middle Island in 1808. "July 26 at night our rolls were brought home from the carding mill down the river. I began to spin them. Very good rolls." "August 14; we got up very early in the morning. I got to spinning about sunrise having had breakfast by candle light.. Carding mixed wool for stocking yarn."

       The country store of Edward Pfeiffer in Middle Island was in operation for over a hundred years and supplied the wants of the people for miles around before it was closed in 1957. In the back end of the store were men's and women's shoes felt and rubber boots around the sides of the store were the sugar, and cracker barrels, boxes of tea, coffee, oatmeal, prunes, raisins etc. as years ago groceries were sold in bulk and had to be weighted out. In the back room hung hams, and bacon and there were barrels of salt pork in brine, also the big "store cheese" from which pieces were cut as wanted The kerosene barrel , vinegar  barrel, and molasses barrel were there, and "New Orleans molasses" was an important item and sold for 50 cents a gallon, on the other side of the store were men's and women's clothing, calico dresses, men's shirts and pants and sundries of all kinds. Hardware was sold as well as harness, whips, horse blankets, paint, fertilizer, seeds and farm supplies in fact almost every thing needed by those living in the country.

The farmers brought in their butter and eggs and swapped them for groceries and supplies and came nearly every day to get their mail, as this was the post office also. Around the old pot bellied stove in the rear of the store the news of the day was discussed and the fate of the nation argued. The checker board was always in use in this social center of the town and it was a picturesque scene in years gone by with the hanging oil lamps and the benches around the old stove. The country store has passed from the scene and now we have the super markets and specialty stores of all kinds.

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