Three centuries have scarcely elapsed since this fair isle, now so far advanced in population, business, and wealth, was possessed by a race of men, little more intelligent than the beasts of the forest. Consequently it must be a matter of very considerable importance to trace the progress of Its strange eventful history, mark the revolutions which time has produced, and transmit the details thereof to posterity. A Long Islander by birth and descended from an ancestry coeval with its first settlement by Europeans, the author has been desirous of presenting to his fellow citizens a series of interesting facts and incidents of olden time, of much intrinsic value and highly worthy of preservation.
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History of Long Island
BENJAMIN F. THOMPSON
History of Long Island, B. F. Thompson
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Extract From The Preface To The First Edition. 1
Extract From The Preface To The Second Edition. 3
Preface To The Third Edition. 5
General Description. 6
Discovery Of Long Island. 54
The Long Island Indians59
Of Indian Money, Tribute, &C.68
Of The Different Indian Tribes Of Long Island. 75
Of The Dutch Government80
Claims Of The English To Long Island. 97
Of The English Colonial Government108
New York Recaptured By The Dutch. 125
Restoration Of The Duke's Government132
Historical Reminiscences Of Interesting Circumstances And Events,160
Some Further Matters Of Curiosity And Interest185
Additional Revolutionary Incidents.195
Battle Of Brooklyn Or Long Island.201
History Of The Prison-Ships. 218
A Brief Account Of The Circumstances Attending The Destruction Of The Ships " Bristol " And " Mexico".230
Of The Awful Conflagration Of The Steamer "Lexington".235
Of Bills Of Credit, And Colonial And Continental Money.241
The Persecutions Of The Quakers. 248
Long Island Canal258
The Long Island Railroad. 261
In collecting materials for the History of Long Island, the compiler has availed himself of every source of authentic information to render the work both useful and interesting; with what success must be left to the consideration of the reader. He has avoided, no reasonable labor or expense to make his publication worthy of approbation, although he has failed to satisfy himself in accomplishing all that he anticipated on first setting out. Beauty of style and elegance of description were not among the primary objects of the compiler, his principal aim being to present a correct and full account of Long Island, constituting a valuable repository of historical and statistical information. Had he anticipated the labor and responsibility he was about to assume, with the obstacles to be encountered in his progress, he would most likely have abandoned the undertaking, even after a large mass of material had been accumulated.
Two centuries have scarcely elapsed since this fair isle, now so far advanced in population, business, and wealth, was possessed by a race of men, little more intelligent than the beasts of the forest. Consequently it must be a matter of very considerable importance to trace the progress of Its strange eventful history, mark the revolutions which time has produced, and transmit the details thereof to posterity.
A Long Islander by birth and descended from an ancestry coeval with its first settlement by Europeans, the compiler has been desirous of presenting to his fellow citizens a series of interesting facts and incidents of olden time, of much intrinsic value and highly worthy of preservation. For much valuable information derived from the kindness of several respectable individuals, he begs to express his sincere acknowledgments for the many favors thus gratuitously afforded him.
To the Sketch of the First Settlement of the Several Towns Upon Long Island, by the Hon. Silas Wood, the compiler is largely indebted, as well to Notes, Geographical and Historical, Relating to the Town of Brooklyn, by the Hon. Gabriel Furman. In relation to the geology of the island, he has availed himself of the labors and researches of William W. Mather, Esq., and others his associates, in the late geological survey of the state of New York.
In this compilation, it is presumed something will be found interesting to every class of readers; and that it may hereafter be referred to as an authentic record of facts connected with the settlement of the country, and with its colonial and revolutionary history. The author is aware that by delaying his publication many additional matters may have been obtained, but this desideratum is incident to the very nature of history, and if one should resolve not to publish till everything should be collected, his labor would never end, and what he had already procured would in the meantime be useless to others. Works of this character will always appear premature, for the reason that there is no limit to the accumulating of materials. History is progressive and new facts are constantly occurring, which can only be included in subsequent editions of a work like this. When it is considered that a single town will often afford sufficient matter for a good-sized volume, the difficulty of comprising anything like a complete history of twenty-one towns in the present publication will not only be apparent to all, but it is hoped will constitute some apology for any imperfections discoverable herein.
Hempstead, L. I., January 1, 1839.
As History has been allowed to hold an elevated rank among the more important branches of human learning, so the knowledge which it affords must be highly useful and interesting. As a distinct species of literature, history not only teaches important lessons, but by a method also the most striking and durable, that of example. It collects the evidences and perpetuates the recollection of events long past, which would otherwise be buried in oblivion.
Local history must necessarily be more minute in its details than that which is more general, requiring equal patience and labor of inquiry, with a circumstantial delineation of facts, which would necessarily be passed over in works of larger grasp.
Many generations have come and passed away since the towns of Long Island began to be settled by our Dutch and English ancestors, and doubtless a thousand events have perished which, if known, would dissipate much of the doubt and uncertainty that now impede the progress of inquiry.
The first edition of this work having been most favorably received by the public, has imposed upon the compiler an obligation of increased exertion to render the present, in all respects, more worthy of its patronage. In addition to a thorough re-examination of town and country records, he has inspected with care and attention numerous volumes of manuscript records in the office of the Secretary of State, and the historical collections of most of the New England States. The map accompanying this work has been compiled with care, and is more accurate than any other heretofore published. By it the topography of the island will be better understood, and what has been hitherto a sort of terra incognita will be better known, and as it is hoped more favorably appreciated.
It will be perceived that the arrangement in the former volume has been altered in this edition, the better to harmonize with the chronological order of events, and to allow of the insertion of much new matter. The names of the first planters, and prominent individuals of olden time, have been inserted, from which it may be learned that most of those names are still found amongst us. A more complete series of ancient patents, and other documents affecting the titles to real estate, have been introduced, which are of importance to the towns and to their inhabitants.
Among other matters of curiosity and interest now published, may be mentioned the Mortgage of Long Island to Fenwick and Others in 1641, and the subsequent release of it. The grant of the island, with other territory, by Charles II., in 1664, to James, Duke of York; the Flushing remonstrance of 1657; the account of Captains Underbill and Scott, and the piratical career of the notorious Kidd. To these are added a full account of the terrible disasters connected with the wrecks of the " Bristol " and " Mexico," on the south shore of the island and the burning of the steamer " Lexington " In Long Island Sound.
More extended lists have been prepared of the persons who composed the different colonial and state conventions, congresses and legislative assemblies: — the signers of the charter of independence; the framers of the national and state constitutions; judges, representatives in congress; members of assembly, surrogates, clerks, sheriffs, and district attorneys, since the organization of the government.
The compiler dismisses his work, believing that he has thereby rendered a valuable service to his country, one which the inhabitants of Long Island will appreciate when he shall be numbered with the dead, and the hand that pens these lines be crumbled into dust.
Hempstead, L. I., July 4, 1843.
It is not a little gratifying to the compiler to be assured in a very substantial manner of the due appreciation of his historical labors, and that two editions of four thousand volumes 8vo (of more than five hundred pages each) have been disposed of in a period of ten years. A result, as regards a publication so entirely local in its character, probably without example in this country. A third being now called for, previous success demands that no reasonable endeavors should be wanting to render it in all respects more correct and valuable than it was possible for the preceding editions to be, because the means to improve them were not then known to be in existence. In pursuance of "An act to appoint an agent to procure and transcribe documents in Europe relative to the colonial History of this State," passed May 2, 1839, John Romeyn Brodhead, Esq., a talented, learned, and enterprising gentleman, was appointed to that service, who, by indefatigable labor and diligence, has enriched our stores of colonial literature with at least eighty manuscript volumes of the most valuable historical materials. These immense treasures have been carefully examined, and the compiler has thereby been enabled to enhance the value of the present edition and make it, what he is anxious it should be, a full and complete account of his native island. No inconsiderable amount of new matter of intrinsic value has been gathered by diligent research from various other sources, which, being incorporated with the former text, much contributes to its improvement. Numerous errors, which escaped timely detection in the former edition, have been carefully corrected in this, and most of its pages having been almost entirely re-written, it is hoped that greater satisfaction will be experienced by readers of the work. The history of the different churches and of the ministers who have been settled therein will be found more full; and the biographical and genealogical department more complete and satisfactory, although in very many instances where information has been respectfully solicited from individuals it has been unceremoniously denied, or very scantily afforded.
Long Island may be described as the south-easterly portion of the state of New York, situated between 71° 47' and 73° 57' west longitude from Greenwich, and extending from about 40° 34' to 41° 10' north latitude, and from 2° 58' to 5° 3' east longitude from Washington City; being in length, from Fort Hamilton at the Narrows to Montauk Point, nearly one hundred and forty miles, with a mean range north 69° 44' east. Its breadth from the Narrows, as far east as the Peconic Bay, varies from twelve to twenty miles in a distance of ninety, widening in a space of forty miles from Brooklyn, and then gradually lessening in width to the head of Peconic Bay. This bay is an irregular sheet of water, into which the Peconic River discharges itself, expanding in width as it proceeds eastwardly from Riverhead, and separating this part of Long Island into two distinct branches, — the northerly branch terminating at Oyster Pond Point, and the southerly branch at the extremity of Montauk; the latter branch being the longer of the two by about twenty miles.
The area of the island, including the great South Bay, may be estimated at more than two thousand square miles, or twelve hundred and eighty thousand acres. Although the island is narrow and its southern shore tolerably straight, yet Inclining considerably from an east and west line, it occupies in its whole extent about 36' of latitude. A line due south from the City Hall, New York, would pass about one and a half miles east of Fort Hamilton, and cut off the west end of Coney Island. A line drawn due east from the City Hall, enters the Island near the foot of South Fifth Street, in Williamsburgh, passes three-quarters of a mile north of Jamaica Village, leaving a greater part of Queens County on the north; it approaches the south bay, going about a mile and a half north of Babylon, and enters said bay at a distance of fifty miles from New York. Thus the whole of Suffolk County, with the exception of about thirty square miles, lies north of the City Hall.
Long Island is bounded on the west partly by the Narrows, partly by New York Bay and the East River, and partly by Long Island Sound; on the north by the Sound; on the east by the Sound and Gardiner's Bay; and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, including the islands called the North and South Brother, and Riker's Island in the East River; Plumb Island, Great and Little Gull Island, Fisher's Island, and Gardiner's Island in the Sound; and Shelter Island, and Robin's Island in Peconic Bay.
A ridge, or chain of hills, more or less elevated, commences at New Utrecht in Kings County, and extends, with occasional interruptions and depressions, to near Oyster Pond Point in the County of Suffolk. In some parts this ridge or spine (as it is sometimes called) is covered by forest, and in others entirely naked, having stones, and frequently rocks of considerable size, upon their very summits, presenting to the geologist and philosopher a curious subject of Inquiry and speculation. The surface of the Island north of the ridgeis in general rough and broken, excepting some of the necks and points that stretch into the Sound, which are, for the most part, level; while the surface south of the ridge is almost a perfect plain, destitute not only of rocks, but even of stones exceeding in weight a few ounces. On both sides of the island are numerous streams, discharging their contents into bays and harbors, affording convenient sites for various manufacturing establishments; while the bays themselves are navigable for vessels of considerable size, where they are well protected from storms and heavy winds. On the south side of the island is that remarkable feature in the geography of the country, the great South Bay, extending from Hempstead in Queens County, to the eastern boundary of Brookhaven — a distance of more than seventy miles of uninterrupted Inland navigation. Itis in width from two to five miles, and communicating with the sea by a few openings in the beach, the principal of which is opposite the town of Islip, called Fire Island Inlet, and through which most of the vessels enter the bay. In this bay are very extensive tracts of salt marsh, and Islands of meadow, furnishing an Immense quantity of grass annually to the Inhabitants; and its waters are equally prolific of almost every variety of shell and scale fish, which can never be exhausted. Wild fowl of many kinds, and in countless numbers, are found here, affording a pleasant recreation to the sportsman, and a source of profitable employment to many hundreds of individuals, who pursue it as matter of emolument. Indeed, the country generally, as well as the markets of New York and Brooklyn, are mostly supplied by the produce of this bay, and it is a mine of inexhaustible wealth. The bony fish that abound here are used extensively for fertilizing the soil, and are unsurpassed by any other manure. The beach which separates this bay from the ocean, is composed entirely of sand, which in many places is drifted by the winds into hills of the most fantastic forms, and in other parts is low and flat, scarcely rising a few feet above the level of the ocean. This beach is in some places nearly half a mile in width, and has upon many parts, a considerable growth of forest, and some tillable land, although less of the latter than formerly. Very great and extraordinary changes are constantly taking place on this beach, composed of drift sand and exposed, as it is to the continual action of the winds and the heavy waves of the wide and boisterous Atlantic. While in some parts much of the beach has been washed away, in others large accretions of alluvial matter have been made; and at the same time the sand is carried onward, so that the guts or inlets are constantly progressing to the westward. In some instances these changes have been so rapid, that persons now living can remember when some of these inlets were miles farther to the eastward than they now are. Some persons have accounted for this progressive alteration from what they suppose to be the indirect effects of the Gulf Stream, which, moving in immense volume with a velocity of five miles the hour without diminution or interruption, in an eastwardly direction, sweeping past the American coast from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland, causes a current or eddy upon the shore in an opposite direction; and its materials being composed of loose sand, are carried onward by the force of the current, and deposited in places to the westward. The existence of such a current upon the southern shore of Long Island is demonstrated by a fact of ordinary occurrence, that goods cast into the sea near the coast will soon be found floating to the west, without the agency of the wind, or other cause than the motion of the water in that direction.
The existence of this current, not being known generally to mariners, may account for some shipwrecks upon this coast. This may be presumed, as some of them would seem to be otherwise unaccountable, except from a wilful exposure of property and life, by intentional casting of vessels upon the coast. The southern shore of the island is everywhere inaccessible to vessels of a large class, in consequence of the flats and sand bars which stretch parallel with, and at a short distance from, the beach. This is usually denominated the bar, and in some places there are two, called the outer and the inner bar.
The north, or Sound shore of Long Island is very irregular, being influenced in shape and form by the numerous bays and headlands, and is fortified against the wasting effects of the waves by masses of stones and rocks, projecting in some places beyond the edge of the cliffs; and where these are not found, the coast has evidently been worn away to a considerable extent by the sea in the course of centuries. The ridge or spine of the island has some considerably high hills, and are seen at a great distance at sea, serving as landmarks to the sailor nearing the coast. One of these, called Harbor Hill in the town of North Hempstead, has been ascertained to be 319 feet above tide water; and another in the West Hills, town of Huntington, is 339 feet above the sea. There is, however, reason to believe that both are much higher than has heretofore been supposed. Long Island Sound, a Mediterranean Sea, separating the island from the main land of Connecticut, is connected with the ocean at each end of the island, and affords a sheltered line of navigation of about 120 miles in extent. The Sound proper may be said to commence near Throg's Point, where the tides by Sandy Hook and Montauk meet each other. This point upon which the general government has erected Fort Schuyler at great expense, received its name from John Throckmorton an early settler of Westchester, to whom and his associates, a patent was granted, including the land now called Throg's Neck, by Governor Kieft in 1642. Instead of Throckmorton Neck or Point, it has been corrupted to Throg's and sometimes even Frog's Point. The course of the Sound is about north-east for eighteen miles, between Stamford atid Lloyd's Neck, in which distance, the shores are rugged, the channel rocky, and interrupted by small islands and projecting points. Beyond Lloyd's Neck, the Sound opens into a noble elliptical expanse, from ten to twenty miles wide; presenting a fine view of gently rising hills and sloping valleys, forests, -and cultivated fields, beautifully intermixed. The water of the Sound is generally of sufficient depth for vessels of the largest draught, and is free from obstructions to navigation. Its length is about 150 miles, reckoning from Sandy Hook to Montauk; and its breadth in some places more than twenty; average breadth about twelve miles. The fdtce of the current between Oyster Pond Point and Plumb Island is very great, yet it is exceeded by that called the Race in the vicinity of the Gull Islands, which, when increased by a north-east storm, is tremendous.
The Bay of New York being about nine miles in length and five in breadth, has a communication with the Atlantic through a strait of about a mile broad between Long and Staten Islands. This is called the Narrows, and on each side, as well as in the channel, are forts for protecting the harbor. This magnificent bay is completely sheltered from the stormy Atlantic by Long Island, forming a noble basin, and offering a spacious and safe anchorage for shipping to almost any extent; while the quays which encompass the town, afford facilities for loading and discharging cargoes. The shipping in the harbor of New York, therefore, without the erection of breakwaters or covering-piers, is, in all states of the wind, protected from the roll of the Atlantic. Without the aid of docks, or even dredging, vessels of the largest class lie afloat during low water of springtides, moored to the quays which bound the seaward sides of the city; and, by the erection of wooden jetties, the inhabitants are enabled, at a small expenditure, to enlarge the accommodations of theirport, and adapt it to their increasing trade.
The perpendicular rise of tide is only five feet. The tidal wave, however, increases in its progress northward along the coast, till at length in the Bay of Fundy, it attains the maximum of ninety feet. Toward the south, on the contrary, its rise is very much decreased, and in the Gulf of Mexico, "is reduced to eighteen inches, while on the shores of some of the West India Islands, it is quite imperceptible; A bar extends from Sandy Hook to the shore of Long Island, across the entrance to the harbor, over whith is a depth of twenty-one feet at low water, which is sufficient to float the largest class of merchant vessels. Proceeding easterly from the city of New York, the river has a tortuous course for a distance of sixteen miles. From the battery to the mouth of Harlaem River, eight miles, the course is north-northeast, and from thence to Throg's Point, east, nearly eight more. At the bend, situated opposite Harlaem River, is the noted pass or strait called Hell Gate, which is crooked; and from the numerous rocks, islands, eddies, and currents, is somewhat difficult and dangerous, particularly for vessels of large size; and many serious accidents have occurred at this place. The danger, however, is not so great as used to be supposed, or as much so as appears from the agitation of its waters at half tide, to a stranger on his visit to the spot. At such times the water forms, by its course among the rocks, noisy whirlpools of terrific aspect, and capable of swallowing up or dashing in pieces the largest ships exposed to their influence. Besides the streams which empty into the Sound from the shore of Long Island, there are several considerable rivers of Connecticut that pour their contents into it from the north; among these may be mentioned the Saugatuc, the Housatonic, the Thames, and the Connecticut. The opinion has sometimes been advanced that the bed of the Sound was at some remote period covered by the waters of a lake; and there are many geological facts in corroboration of the opinion also entertained, that the shores of Long Island and the Island of Manhattan were once contiguous. A tradition is said to have prevailed among the Indians in that quarter, that their ancestors could once cross from one side to the other upon the rocks. These strongly resemble each other in their character and structure; and the probability of their former union, may be considered as well established as the nature of the case admits. By what extraordinary convulsion of the elements the disruption was occasioned, or how effected by natural causes, is a matter for speculation and inquiry.
SOIL AND CLIMATE
The soil of the Island is so various, that itis hardly possible to give a general description applicable to any considerable portion of it. Like the surface it has a great diversity, for while no part can be called mountainous, yet much is hilly and rough, particularly near the Sound. The largest portion is either quite level or only moderately undulating. The necks and headlands have generally a rolling surface and a deep loamy soil, slightly mixed with sand; on the south side is a flat surface, and sandy soil, occasionally modified by loam or clay, covered by a thin stratum of vegetable mould. The more elevated grounds are of a superior quality to the plains, and better adapted to most kinds of grain usually raised in this climate. Hempstead Plain is composed, in good degree of a coarse black sand or fine gravel, yet possessing, with the aid of a scanty soil, sufficient fertility to yield a rich pasture for thousands of cattle and sheep, for seven months in the year. With lime or ashes, it is rendered quite productive. Along the north side of this immense heath, in the region of Queens County Court House, and the settlement of Westbury, are some of the best farms in the county, and if the whole of this open waste was disposed of and inclosed in separate fields, the agricultural products of this portion of the island would be nearly doubled. A stupid policy, consequent upon old prejudices, has hitherto prevented any other disposition of it, than as a common pasturage. It is hoped the time is not far distant, when this extensive tract shall abound in waving fields of grain, yielding not only support, but profit, to thousands of hardy and industrious citizens. It appears that a course far more rational was contemplated by the inhabitants about a century ago and which it is greatly to be regretted, had not then been fully accomplished.
Page 198 of the town records shows, that it was voted and agreed at a town meeting in Hempstead, March 30, 1752, that the plains should be divided to every person that had any right therein, and that Jacob Smith, Richard Ellison, John Williams, John Dorian, John Birdsall, and John Foster were appointed and empowered to make such division, each person having land so laid out to him, paying the costs of laying out the same. A protest was however entered against the measure, and it is probable that it became in the end so unpopular, as to have been finally abandoned.
It was afterwards, April 1, 1755, resolved to fence said plains, for which purpose an appropriation was made, but such was the opposition, that in April 1763 the town voted to dispose of the materials which had been provided for the purpose.
Eastward of this plain and extending nearly to the head of Peconic Bay, is a vast tract of land sparsely covered with small pines and shrub oaks, portions of which only are enclosed. Although the soil of a great part of this waste is sandy and probably unsusceptible of profitable cultivation by any process heretofore known, yet many portions of it, particularly on and adjacent to the line of the Long Island Railroad, is quite loamy, and with the facilities now afforded for the transportation of manure, will become highly valuable for agricultural purposes.
Accordingly attempts are now making by enterprising individuals to redeem occasional parts of this hitherto useless territory, and it is hoped their very laudable exertions will be followed by merited success, thereby stimulating others to imitate so worthy an example.
When it is considered that this region, being allowed to remain covered with wood and other wild growth, combustible in its nature, is liable to be overrun by fires, by which great damage has heretofore been sustained, it is matter of importance that it should be used in a manner more profitable to the owners, and far more creditable to the character of the people, for intelligence and industry.
The soil of Kings County is in the aggregate possessed of a greater natural fertility than most other parts of Long Island: yet the lands about Newtown and Flushing, as well as those upon Little Neck, Great Neck, Cow Neck, and portions of Oyster Bay, are wonderfully prolific.
The numerous and extensive tracts of salt meadows and marshes, in various places, and upon the south side of the island particularly, produce an almost inexhaustible quantity of food for cattle and horses, of a nutritious quality.
The immense shell banks which heretofore existed on the sites of ancient Indian villages, have in many instances been removed, and their contents applied for fertilizing the soil with eminent advantage. Upon the southerly side of the island, as well as in the towns of Riverhead and Southold, the bony fish have been principally used for manure, and with great success. The profusion of this species of fish and the consequent cheapness of the article, will probably always insure its use in those parts of the island where they abound. It is probable that at least 100,000,000 are annually taken for this purpose.
There is reason to believe that the farmers of Long Island furnish yearly for market a surplus of beef, pork, hay, and grain, amounting to more than $150,000 in value; and in all probability the produce of the south bay is little short of the like sum. The fire-wood sent annually from the bays and harbors of this island, has amounted to at least $60,000 for the last fifty years. The value of a good part of which has been returned in ashes and other kinds of manure.
Long Island is, as has been intimated, abundantly supplied with springs, and of the purest water, many of them being made to form ponds for driving mills, which are almost indispensable to the inhabitants. The localities of these groups of copious springs, says Mr. Mather, are either at the heads of the bays, and re-enterings of the coast, or in the valleys prolonged beyond the heads of the bays, or at the heads of the small bays and marshes, branching from the main bays.
The main features, says he, of the topography of Long Island, are a range of hills from one end to the other, and occupying most of the northern half; and a nearly level plain, slightly undulating, with a very small declivity, extending from the southern base of the hills to the south shore. There are valleys through the hills, from the heads of nearly all the bays, which extend across the plain to the south shore. They have the appearance of channels, through which the water has flowed in tidal currents, before the emergence of the land from the ocean, and have either been excavated since the deposition of the strata, or else the currents setting through these channels, prevented the deposition of as much earthy matter, as in other adjacent parts. The evidence preponderates in favor of the latter supposition, and that the same general cause has acted during the deposition of the various strata, from the lowest of the depositions that have come under observation through the drift and quaternary periods, until the island emerged from the waters of the ocean, so that currents no longer flow across it. This suggests an obvious reason why such quantities of spring waters flow from particular localities.
On the south shore of the island, the same cause does not act. There the quaternary strata are all pervious sands and gravels, and the springs flow from about tidewater level, or a few feet above, and are very uniformly distributed along the coast. The sides of these valleys are almost all gravelly and pebbly, and the bottoms the same, except that in the hilly ranges, they are frequently loam and clay, covered by superficial beds of sand and gravel.
The climate of Long Island depends as much upon its Insular situation as upon the latitude in which it is situated. The influence of the sea renders it more temperate than many other places in the same latitude in the Interior. The humidity of our atmosphere and its variableness of temperature, render it perhaps less conducive to health and longevity than If it were either colder or warmer, and less liable, at the same time, to great and sudden alteration. In the summer, and generally in the afternoon, the island is almost regularly fanned by a breeze from the ocean, which renders it a desirable place of residence at that enervating season of the year. The same cause melts the snow in winter, and often before it reaches the ground. The west and south-west winds predominate in more than half the months of the year; the thermometer seldom falling below zero in winter, or rising above ninety degrees in summer; the mean temperature being about fifty-one degrees, which is the ordinary temperature of springs and deep wells.
It is well known that the temperature of places in the same latitude is modified by the elevation of the land, the state of cultivation, proximity to the sea, or large bodies of water that do not freeze, and by the course of the prevailing winds. The temperature of the air is supposed to decrease in the same latitude one degree for every 590 feet of elevation above the level of the sea. The elevation of Mexico being 7,217 feet above the sea, in latitude 19° 18', reduces the temperature to that of places on a level of the sea in latitude 33° 30'.
The United States are less elevated above the sea than Europe, and the differenceis in favor of a milder climate with us. The climate of this country has been estimated to be from ten to fifteen degrees colder than the corresponding latitudes in Europe. From the description of the climate of France and Italy by the Roman writers a few years before the Christian era, the temperature of those countries could not have been materially different from that of the United States at present. Their rivers were frozen solid, and the earth covered with snow more or less of the winter. Experience shows that rivers do not congeal with any degree of solidity until the thermometer is as low as twenty, and in the United States in the latitude of Italy. The thermometer at present is seldom below twenty more than a few days during the winter. To produce the effects described, must have required quite as severe frost as now prevails in the same latitude in the United States, if not more so; and the same causes which have produced the change in the climate there, will have the same effect here, so far as they are common to both countries. The clearing up and cultivating the country is the most powerful cause that has contributed to this effect, and will have a great influence in meliorating the climate of the country. The trees which cover an uncultivated country, shield it from the rays of the sun, and deprive the earth of the heat derived usually from that source. It is proved by experiment that the temperature of improved land is ten degrees greater than wood land.
Evaporation and rain are sources of cold, and are more abundant in a country covered with timber; more moisture is supposed to evaporate from the leaves of a given quantity of green timber than from the same extent of water. The influence of these causes is lessened by cultivation; the earth becomes warmer and drier, and the temperature of the air is increased. The air from the sea has also a powerful effect on the climate; the sea being eight or ten degrees warmer in winter and colder in summer than the earth, and in proportion as the country is cleared, the air from the sea penetrates further into the country, moderates the heat in summer and the cold in winter; and operates to render the temperature of the seasons more mild and uniform. The climate is also affected by the course of the winds. Formerly upon Long Island the north-west was the predominant wind in the winter months, and the north-east wind generally prevailed in the spring and sometimes in the fall; but at present, as before observed, the west and south-west are predominant in more than half the months in the year. These winds either come from the sea, or blow over a country less cold than that traversed by the north-west and north-east winds, and of course more mild and temperate.
The climate here is evidently undergoing a change, and becoming more uniform than heretofore; the winters are less severely cold, and the summers not so scorching hot. The extreme cold, and its long continuance in some seasons at intervals of eight or ten years, is probably attributable to the effect of large bodies of floating ice which is formed at the Pole, and being detached from the great mass, is brought by the prevailing currents towards our coast, thereby disturbing the ordinary course of the seasons, and making the air, while passing our latitude, much colder and of longer continuance than it would otherwise be.
Thus in the year 1816 there was frost upon Long Island in every month of the year, and the corn was killed almost universally by the fifth of September. The same cause occasioned the cold summers of 1836 and 1837, but not to the same extent, the floating ice being less extensive, or was carried by the winds further from the shores.
Long Island does not present as much variety to the observation of the philosopher and geologist as some other parts of the state; yet there is probably enough to warrant the belief of its gradual formation by natural causes, and that a greater part of the island, if not the whole, has been reclaimed from the ocean. The discoveries made by deep excavations of the earth in various places, seem to have left this point no longer a matter of uncertainty or doubt with those who carefully consider the subject. The reasonings and conclusions which these surprising developments have given rise to, are, to the scientific inquirer, most curious and interesting. Dr. Ebenezer Emmons says that Long Island, the Atlantic district of the state, is a gift from ocean's waves, or from Neptune's hand, sands washed from the deep by waves from the broad sea breaking upon the skirts of land, and casting up the debris of a wasted continent. It stretches far away in a south-east direction, in the form of an immense ridge of sand and drift, or in more common language, is an alluvial formation of a very porous character. It rises 300 feet above the sea. It is the grand rendezvous for birds of passage. Here they resort from the arctic regions, and find a retreat from the pinching frost of a northern winter; and from the tropics, to escape a burning sun, and find protection from the heats of summer. Fruit trees bloom at Easthampton a week later than in the interior of the state and a fortnight later than at the west end of the island. The harvest is also later, but the frosts are later by a month than the average of the state, and three weeks later in the western parts of the island.
If we except the drift upon its northern slope, or that which faces the Sound, Long Island has been reclaimed from the ocean; it is based undoubtedly upon a reef of rocks, which first formed a bed whereon the waves washed up the sand, and this has continued to accumulate to the present time. The Hempstead plains, whose soil when washed is merely a white beach sand, is destitute of the elements essential to fertility. It bears light crops, and produces moderately well for a season, yet soon fails even with special nursing.
It is abundantly demonstrated that very extensive alterations have taken place, and are still in progress upon the shores, and within bays and harbors, by the inroads which the sea is incessantly making in some places, and the large accretions to the land in other locations.
Land slides, or the slipping or the tumbling down of banks and high cliffs, are common on the island, of which there are many examples on the north coast. In consequence of the sea washing away the base of the cliffs, large masses slip off and sometimes slide into the sea.
The washing away the base of the cliffs, conjointly with land springs, which in some localities convert the beach of sand into quicksand, cause the mass of superimposed materials to flow off from the slippery clay beds, oftentimes carrying with them the trees and shrubs, and sometimes without changing their relative position. Many years since, a pond, skirted with marsh containing trees, was situated near the edge of the cliff, near Sweezey's landing. Mr. Skidmore stated, that one of his brothers, when young was playing with another lad in this pond, when the water in it was higher than usual. The water burst its barrier, and flowed with the sand of the cliff so suddenly into the Sound, as to uproot and bear away the trees, even in the marsh around it. The two boys were hurled also down the cliff with the descending torrent, trees, mud, and sand, into the sea, and the brother of Mr. Skidmore was so much bruised thereby that he died in consequence thereof.
The more extensive and extraordinary marine encroachments of the kind have been and are now in continual operation upon the south shore of the island, the materials of which it is generally constructed, being incapable of opposing any considerable barrier to the violence of winds and waves, especially during the existence of heavy storms, driving with inconceivable force and augmented energy, against the soft and yielding substance of the headlands and beaches.
Its effects and ravages are perceptible to the most common observation from one end of the island to the other; yet probably in no one place so palpable as about Gravesend, and particularly in the neighborhood of Coney Island. John Van Dyck, Esq., recollects when the beach at Coney Island was composed of high and extensive sand-hills, where it is now a flat and level beach, sometimes covered by the tides; and he has cut grass upon a part of the beach which is now at a considerable distance in the sea. At other places where the water was of sufficient depth to float vessels of fifty tons, it is now solid ground. Mr. Court Lake, of the same place, aged seventy-nine, states that his grandfather, about no years ago, cut a quantity of cedar posts upon a part of Coney Island which is now two miles in the ocean; and that he has himself cut fire-wood at a place now a mile and a half from the shore. There was also a house upon Pine Island, owned by one Brown, the site of which is now a great way at sea; and that Plumb Island was once covered by fine timber, where there is none now, the greatest part of the land having washed away.
The coast of Long Island on the south side, from Montauk Point to Napeague Beach, a distance of about ten miles, is constantly washing away by the action of the heavy surf against the base of the cliffs, protected only by narrow shingle beaches of a few yards or rods in width. The pebbles and boulders of these beaches serve as a partial protection to the cliffs during ordinary tides in calm weather, but even then, by the bouldering action of the surf as it tumbles upon the shore, they are continually grinding into sand and finer materials, and swept far away by the tidal currents. During storms and high tides the surf breaks directly against the base of the cliffs, and as they are formed only of loose materials, as sand and clay with a substratum of boulders, pebbles, gravel, and loam, we can easily appreciate the destructive agency of the heavy waves, rolling in, unbroken from the broad Atlantic. The destruction of land from this cause is less than one would be led to suppose, but still it is considerable. The road from Napeague Beach to Montauk Point, which was originally at some distance from the shore, has disappeared in several places by the falling of the cliffs. There are no data by which to estimate the inroads of the sea on this coast, as this part of the island is held in common by many associated individuals, who use it for pasturage, and it is inhabited by three herdsmen only, who are frequently changed, and who live several miles distant from each other.
From Napeague Beach to two miles west of Southampton, the south coast of Long Island is protected by a broad and slightly inclined sand beach, which breaks the force of the surf as it rolls in from the ocean. From Southampton, westward, the coast of the island is protected by long narrow islands, from one mile to five or six distant from the main island.
Some parts of the north shore of the south branch of the island, from Montauk Point towards Sag Harbor, are washing away, but not so rapidly as on the south side of this branch of the island.
The eastern parts of Gardiner's and Plum Islands, which are composed of loose materials, are washing away in consequence of the very strong tidal currents, and the heavy sea rolling in upon their shores from the open ocean. The action upon these coasts is so rapid as to attract the attention of the inhabitants, and calculations even have been made, as to the time that will probably elapse before they will have disappeared. Rocks (boulders) that have formed a part of Plum Island, may now be observed at low water a mile or more from the present shore.
Little Gull Island, on which a light-house is located, was disappearing so rapidly a few years since, that it became necessary to protect it from the farther inroads of the ocean by encircling it with a strong sea wall.
Napeague Beach is mostly drifting sand, piled up into little hills or ridges, with marshy places and wet sand between them. Much of the surface between Sag Harbor and Easthampton, and toward Southampton, is in its natural state, a loose and drifting sand. One place was observed near Wainscott, where there were deep and broad wheel tracks on the loam, where the sand had recently drifted off. An old man present remembered that, when he was a boy, a whale had been dragged across that place, partly supported by wheels.
Between Canoe-place and Riverhead, the countryis a deep drifting sand, except where the wind cannot act upon it. The same is true of the region from Canoe-place, west, through the central parts of Southampton, Brookhaven, the northern part of Islip, and across Huntington, where it communicates with the great southern plain of Long Island. The country is almost entirely in its wild native state and no house or hut is to be seen for many miles.
On the north branch of the island, the same character of drifting sands may be seen in patches, more or less extensive, between the villages of Riverhead and Mattituck, and westward toward Middle Island.
Oyster Pond Point is wearing rapidly away, by the combined action of the waves during heavy north-east storms, and the strong tidal current, which flows with great velocity through Plum Gut. A small redoubt, about one quarter of a mile west of the Point, is nearly washed away; and Mr. Latham, the owner of the farm, says, that several rods in width have disappeared since his remembrance. During the heavy storm of the 12th October 1836, the sea made a clear breach over about one quarter of a mile of the eastern part of the point, washed away all the light materials, and cut a shallow channel, through which the tide now flows. The effects of this storm were very marked at many localities on the north shore. The cliffs were undermined, and crumbled or slid down, exposing the geological structure, and presenting beautiful coast sections of the strata. The time subsequent to the storm until the winter set In, was devoted exclusively to meandering the coast on the north part of Suffolk County, in order to Inspect in detail the geological structure and phenomena of the alluvial and tertiary deposits.
The destroying action of the sea upon the headlands and cliffs, where currents and a heavy surf beat against the coast, has been considered. Another effect of the sea Is, the formation of marine alluvion. It results from the deposition of the materials transported coastwise by tidal and marine currents, and by the action of the waves in the direction of the prevailing winds and storms. The winds which produce the greatest transport of alluvial matter on the coast of Long Island (with the exception of particular parts where there are local exceptions in consequence of the form of the shore, or direction of current), are from the north-east, during the heavy north-east storms. These storms bring in a heavy sea from the ocean, which, rolling obliquely along the shore, aided by the powerful tidal currents, sweeps the alluvia in a westerly direction. The north-west winds, are nearly as powerful as the north-east, and blow for a much longer period in the year; but do not bring an ocean swell, and the waves which they raise fall upon the shore in a line nearly perpendicular to the trend of the coast; so that their effect is to grind the pebbles and gravel to sand by the action of the surf, rather than to transport them coastwise. In this way, outlets of small bays are frequently more or less obstructed by bars, shoals, and spits, formed by the tidal currents sweeping past their mouths, and depositing the materials in the eddy formed by the meeting of the currents. If the strongest currents and prevailing winds be coincident in direction, the outlet of the harbor will of course be found upon the leeward side.
Almost every bay, inlet, and marsh upon the north coast of Long Island, as well as the south, where they are not protected from the sea by the long sandy islands mentioned in the preceding article, have their outlets blocked up entirely by the materials deposited, or so nearly as to leave only narrow entrances. Strong currents set along the shore, and these, aided by the oblique action of the surf, roll the pebbles and sand up on the beach, which, on the retiring of the waves, are swept again into the surf, having described a semi-circular line, and perhaps progressed several feet by the action of a single wave. This mode of transport is seen almost everywhere on these coasts. The cliffs are undermined, and the coarser parts of their wrecks are thus tumbled along from time to time, by each succeeding storm. The particular local effect of such causes can only be fully understood by visiting the localities, or having accurate detailed topographical maps, like those now in progress under the supervision of the superintendent of the National Coast Survey. It is hoped that those maps of Long Island will be published before the geological survey of the state of New York shall have been completed, in order that an accurate, detailed map of this part of the state may be formed, so as to illustrate the numerous important geological details. The transporting action above alluded to, has been the most effective agent in the formation of the marine alluvions of Long Island. This island has been composed of one principal, and several small detached islands, which are now connected with each other and with the main island. The east end of the island from Montauk Point to Napeague Beach, seems to have been at some former time, two separate Islands, which have since been connected with each other and with the main island by the westward currents sweeping along detrital matter, derived from the continual destruction of cliffs of loose materials. Napeague Beach is five miles long, a great part of which is loose, drifting sand, enclosing marshes and salt ponds. This beach is so low in some places that the tides frequently overflow it. The skeleton of a whale is said to be now imbedded in these sands.
The land on both sides of Montauk is gradually wearing away by the action of the water. The road, which was formerly at a distance from the edge of the cliffs, has already disappeared in many places from the undermining action of the sea, and stumps of trees are found on the north side below low water mark. Indications of iron are occasionally seen along the banks and gullies, and an ochre brown oxide of iron occurs in a considerable bed, a mile and a half from Napeague. A small but lively spring, slightly chalybeate, on the north shore near Oyster Pond, discharges into the bay. It was freely used by the Indians as a medicine. The water is very cold, and its temperature appears to be uniform.
At Fort Pond Bay, a few miles east of Napeague Beach, a narrow strip of shingle, frequently overflowed by the tides, separates the Atlantic from this bay, which is separated from Long Island Sound by a beach sometimes open, but often blocked up with sand. Great Hog Neck and Little Hog Neck, near Sag Harbor, were once Islands, which have been united by a sand and shingle beach, and the latter with the main island. Farrington Neck, a few miles west of these, was an island which is now united by the main island by a low beach. That part of the township of Southold, which is situated on the main island, was originally three islands, now connected with each other and with the main island by beaches and marshes of alluvial formation. The effects of alluvial action can be distinctly seen on the map of Oyster Pond Point. It shows where two of the islands, which were once separated from the east end of the north branch of Long Island, have been connected by a beach and sand-spit, enclosing a large pond, with an outlet only wide enough for a mill sluice. A tide mill is constructed at this outlet.
Those long points of alluvion, called sand-spits, projecting from the land in the line of the eddy currents, and formed by them, are very common, and are, in fact, the unfinished beaches which will eventually obstruct the outlet of harbors and bays, and connect islands with each other. An interesting alluvial formation is now in progress on the north and north-west sides of Lloyd's Neck, in Huntington, and formed entirely by the deposit of the coarse detrital matter swept along by the current from the destruction of the high cliffs in the vicinity. This depositis about one quarter of a mile broad, partly marsh and salt pond, protected by a high bank of shingle piled up and continued westward, so that the present outlet of the pond is half a mile further west than it was within a recent period; the shingle having been continually swept westward, while the flux and reflux of the tide through the narrow channel keeps its outlet open.
The hilly region of Long Island shows the character of the drift deposits better perhaps than any other portion of our country, except the south-eastern part of Massachusetts. Some of these hills present elevations and depressions of a hundred feet or more, and the highest point of them is 404 feet above the ocean. The ridges which extend through the island, are interrupted in many places, where channels seem subsequently to have been made across them. The country around Montauk Point, or what is called Shawango Neck, once an island, shows this hilly character of the drift to as great advantage as perhaps any other on Long Island.
The hills have a nearly uniform character, round-backed, with deep valleys, without any approximation to regularity, unless their tendency to a bowl-shape be so construed. The valleys have no outlets, and the water that falls or drains into them, either sinks into the soil, or collects so as to form pond holes.
The hills are in form like potato hills, but disposed helter-skelter, and are from twenty to eighty or one hundred feet high. At the Shinnecock hills, west of Southampton village, near Canoe Place and at Dix Hills, the same characters of the drift hills are observed, but on a smaller scale.
The ponds and small bays on the south side of Long Island, in the townships of Southampton and Easthampton, frequently have their outlets closed by beaches formed by the detrital matter swept coastwise by the tidal currents and the waves. The long sandy islands on the south coast of Long Island, which protect it from the heavy waves of the Atlantic, are doubtless formed by the same cause. Long Beach is a sand-spit, extending from Ben's Point, near Oyster Pond Point, westward four and one-fourth miles; and has been formed by the detritus swept coastwise, and deposited in the eddy currents.
This beach gives safety to Oyster Pond Harbor, by serving as a natural breakwater. Two sand-spits were observed in Cold Spring Harbor, resulting from causes similar to those above detailed.
The headlands and cliffs on this part of the island are continually wearing away by the action of the sea; and the materials of which they are composed, consisting principally of clay, sand, gravel, and pebbles, are transported by tidal currents, and deposited in other places. The tidal currents, in sweeping along the headlands and cliffs, undermine them, and, transporting the materials from which they are composed, form shoals, block up the mouths of small inlets and creeks, so as to form freshwater ponds, by preventing the ingress of salt water, throw up sand beaches in front of marshes, form sand-pits across the mouths of harbors, and connect islands with each other and the main land.
Huntington Bay, certainly one of the best on the island, is of alluvial origin. By reference to the map of Long Island it will be seen that this bay is formed by two necks of land, Lloyd's Neck on the west and north-west, and Eaton's Neck on the east and north-east. Lloyd's Neck, which was originally an island, has been connected with the main island by a low sand beach, now overflowed at high water. Eaton's Neck was formerly a cluster of four islands, which have in some way been connected with each other and with the main island. A sand-spit, one and one-fourth mile in length, and from ten to twenty rods in width, makes out into the harbor from the southwest part of Eaton's Neck, and adds much to its safety; as also a similar one from the south-east part of Lloyd's Neck.
There is abundant evidence that this harbor, and the safety of the smaller ones in the vicinity, are the result of alluvial action. The materials composing the sand beaches and spits which I have mentioned, are precisely like those now thrown up by the action of the surf; they consist of pebbles, gravel, and fine siliceous sand, interspersed with water-worn shells belonging to genera and species now living on the coast; and they are destitute of boulders, which characterize all those low places formed by the degradation of the superincumbent materials.
The beach connecting Eaton's Neck with the main island, is three and a half miles in length, and ten to thirty rods in width. Mr. Gardner, who keeps the light on Eaton's Neck, informed me, that some years since, a vessel, during a violent storm, having been driven upon this beach, and an excavation made to get her off, marsh mud was found beneath the sand near tide water level, precisely like that in a small marsh on the opposite side of the beach, clearly indicating the manner of formation at that place.
On the north-west part of Eaton's Neck, a sand-beach, one-half or three-fourths of a mile in length, has been thrown up in front of a marsh containing several acres. It has formed rapidly since the remembrance of Mr. Gardner, who says he has seen sloops, loaded with wood, float in places now some feet above tide-water level.
The long stretch of beach connecting Eaton's Neck with the main island,is continued three-fourths of a mile eastward, and is, a part of the way, formed in front of cliffs which it protects from the farther encroachment of the sea, and for the remaining distance, lies in front of a small pond skirted with marsh, which formerly communicated with the sea by means of a creek now filled with alluvial sand.
An extensive salt marsh is in process of formation in Glen Cove. The salt marshes near the head of Little Neck Bay, occupy several hundred acres, and that at the head of Flushing Bay some thousands.
A sand-beach, one-fourth of a mile in length, has been formed between Long Island Sound and Crab Meadows, through which a creek, entering obliquely from the northwest, passes in a serpentine direction through the marsh. By the action of violent winds, the finer particles of sand are formed into hillocks, which are very slowly moving inland.
At Fresh Pond Creek is a similar sand-beach. The small pond at that place communicates with the sea by means of a small creek, which is often filled by alluvial sands, so as to prevent the ingress of the salt water. The obstruction has sometimes been removed by digging, and at others, the water, rising in the pond, bursts its barrier, and finds its way to the ocean, removing every obstacle, and making the channel deeper even than before.
At Sunken Meadows is a sand-beach one-half mile in length, through which a creek enters obliquely from the north-east. Mr. Abraham Smith says this beach has extended thirty rods in an easterly direction since his remembrance.
On the north part of Crane's Neck is a shingle beach, about a mile in length, between Flax Pond and the Sound. The pond is skirted with marsh, and communicates with the sea by an opening called Flax Pond Gut. The tidal current is so strong on this part of the coast, that the finer materials have been carried onwards; while the coarser, consisting of pebbles, varying in size from a marble to two or three inches in diameter, have been left to form this beach. A large proportion of the finer materials appear to have been swept to the south-west part of the neck, where, having been deposited, they form shoals, and a long sand-beach between the sea and a marsh of several acres in extent. This sand is used in sawing marble.
By the action of water on the headlands, sand-spits have been formed across the mouths of Old Man's, Drown Meadow, Setauket, Stony Brook, and Smithtown harbors. They are rendered safer by these alluvial deposits, but they afford shelter only to vessels of small burthen, on account of sand-bars, which extend from the extreme points of the sand-spits across their entrances, which, I am informed, in some instances, are moving westward.
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