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.