When the Settlers Arrived Across the Blue Water: Two Towns Get Ready to Turn 375

The view from Founders Landing in Southold.
The view from Founders Landing in Southold.

With just a little over a month left before the 375th birthday year begins for Southampton and Southold towns, both towns are firming up plans for a year-long series of events to celebrate their foundings.

There’s much confusion among the public over which town was settled first, but historians place the date Southampton founders landed at Conscience Point in North Sea as June 12, 1640, while Southold’s founders landed at the Peconic Bay beach now known as Founders Landing on October 21st of that same year.

But Southold historians had long claimed their town to be the first town settled on Long Island, and the town’s official flag says Southold is the “first English colony in New York State.”

Southampton historians first laid the claim to being the first settlement in 1878, according to Southold Town Histoiran Antonia Booth’s discussion of the town’s history on the official Southold website.

Southampton was founded by English settlers from Lynn, Mass., when the original party, consisting of eight men, one woman and a boy, landed at Conscience Point that June day. The men present included Edward Howell, Edmond Farrington, Edmund Needham, Thomas Sayre, Josiah Stanborough, George Welbe, Henry Walton and Job Sayre, who later brought their families to live in Southampton, where they were welcomed and taught the best local ways of farming and fishing by the Shinnecock Indians.

But according to Ms. Booth’s history, Rev. John Youngs and his party that arrived in October from the New Haven Colony may have sent some men ahead to prepare for their families, who arrived in October.

“Established patterns of seventeenth century migration dictated that men would come first from England in order to assess the dangers and possibilities of the New World and to prepare the way for women and children,” she wrote. “Those who went ahead usually possessed special skills like the carpenter, Richard Jackson, who built a house in Arshamomoque early in 1640. By the time the Reverend John Youngs, “organized his church anew” and left New Haven with his followers in October of 1640, it is highly probable that the men of the group had been in Southold for some time, preparing shelter and planting crops for the hard winter ahead.”

Irregardless of the details of their founding, both towns are racing to have the biggest celebration, and Southampton has invited the media to a press junket this weekend to show off their town’s high points.

Southampton is beginning activities with an opening celebration at the First Presbyterian Church in February, and will also hold a ceremony at the monument at Conscience Point and a ball at the Southampton Center next summer, as well as events to coincide with harvest festivals in Southampton next fall.

Southold is also planning an ambitious schedule of events, beginning with a cocktail party launch at Brecknock Hall in Greenport Jan. 17, a historical lecture series and concerts throughout the year. On May 16, they plan to spend a day celebrating the mile markers placed by Benjamin Franklin up and down the North Fork, and a parade is planned for Aug. 1. They’re also expecting a visit from dignitaries from the town of Southwold, England, where Rev. Youngs was born. The Southold Historical Society is putting together a book to celebrate the anniversary.

While both towns are promising a fun romp through history, life for the early settlers was far from fun, especially in Southold, where Ms. Booth said the Mosaic Code (The Ten Commandments) was adopted as town law.

In 1657, she wrote, “when Quaker Humphrey Norton criticized Rev. Youngs in church, he was fined ten pounds, severely whipped, branded with the letter “H” (for heretic) on one hand and banished from Southold.”

Southold also had the distinction of having a “dungeon” under its original meeting house, which was used as a jail for the entire county from 1684 to 1725.

Ms. Booth said that many of the original settlers of Southold moved on to other parts of Long Island. But, for some reason, others stayed.

 

Editor’s Note: The writer of this story is a direct descendant of the Rev. Youngs, is appalled at this heretic nonsense, and wonders why anyone bothered to stay under such conditions.

 

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

6 thoughts on “When the Settlers Arrived Across the Blue Water: Two Towns Get Ready to Turn 375

  • November 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm
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    Indeed, it seems quite hypocritical, especially nowadays, when you consider that the main reason for Rev. Youngs leaving England was to escape religious intolerance! Still, it must be kept in mind that 1640 was a VERY different time. Those who followed Youngs here from Southwold to Southold were of like mind, and one of the things those early communities needed for cohesive living (especially in a scary new world) was some form of legal/religious grounding to maintain order and control. For those early settlers, a theocracy seemed the only option, and any challenge to that would constitute a threat (real or imagined) to the survival of the community.
    However, it obviously did not take long for other people of other persuasions to arrive in the “New World” and begin to influence and change what would become, nearly 150 years later, the America wherein freedom of religion would be a constitutional right and guarantee.
    All that said, you might still want to check Ms. Booth’s story, which appears to be an inaccurate account. By most accounts, Humphrey Norton was a troublemaker (actually hypocritical for a Quaker!) with a persecution complex, who had freshly come from England in 1657 (after being arrested on several occasions there), and proceeded to lay curses on Puritan ministers from Massachusetts all the way to Long Island. Actually, for his disruption in Southold, he was arrested and shipped to New Haven, CT. It was THERE where John Davenport, the Puritan minister, decided to prosecute him as described by Ms. Booth:
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Norton,_Humphrey_%28DNB00%29
    Meanwhile, persecution of Quakers was apparently widespread throughout the colonies. It may be interesting to note that Shelter Island became a haven for persecuted Quakers (hence the name Shelter).
    Still, it is remarkable that religious, racial, and social intolerance is, sadly, still visible and very much with us today – something I find very little excuse for, but something we should and must fight every time it rears its ugly head. We should have no tolerance for intolerance!

    Reply
  • November 16, 2014 at 8:46 am
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    I am also a direct descendant of Rev Young(s) and I agree that the heretic story is probably folklore, unsubstantiated and exaggerated at best. If that were actually happening, there would have been more than one incidence reported. According to my grandmother, the Southold colony was begun in 1638. I love your work and always enjoy reading it. Can I just say that “irregardless” is an incorrect double negative?

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  • November 17, 2014 at 10:17 am
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    Very interesting! Thank you both. I’ll mention this to the town historian…

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  • November 19, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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    Just discovered this site and find story very interesting. Since moving back to NY and settling in Mattituck full time, I have discovered and affirmed that my wife is a direct decedent of one of the Rev. Youngs bunch. Thomas Brush who married Rebecca Conklin. Thomas Brush supposedly helped to layout the original town boundary and owned the land that the Feather Hill shopping center sits. She is also decended to South Fork settler Abraham Van Schaick ( VanScoy). I am still pursuing this history and would love to know who to contact to add to or correct the data we have collected. The Van Schaicks (VanScoys) and Brushes (not all) left and settled Huntington and the Putnam County area upstate. Would love to hear from anyone related or with more knowledge.

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  • January 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm
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    Im a decedent of the Sayres I have actually seen the bill of sale for the schooner they bought in England and sailed on

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  • February 1, 2015 at 11:54 pm
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    i am a decedent of the ‘Terry’s’ , one of the families that came over with the Rev. Young and just over the last couple of years have come to know the history……very fascinating….my paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Terry

    Reply

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