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Middle Island Post office Town's First

Footnotes to Long Island History

Middle Island Post office Town's First

by
Thomas R. Bayles

Navy

 


This year makes 150 years that two families, Hutchinson and Pfeiffer, have been postmastersof the Middle Island post office, except for two years.

 Benjamin Hutchinson was appointed postmaster in 1811, and it continued in the Hutchinson family until 1901. Edward Pfeiffer was appointed postmaster March 5, 1901 and moved the office up the hill to his general store, where it is still located. Mr. Pfeiffer retired as postmaster in 1939, and his son, Everett, was appointed and now conducts the office in the west end of the Pfeiffer homestead.

 The whole end of the building is now used for post office work, as a lot of room is needed. Modern fixtures of all kinds have been installed and the operation of the office is up to date in every way.

The Middle Island post office was the first one established in Brookhaven town, and was opened in 1796, with Apollus Wetmore as postmaster. This locality was called Middletown then, and a few years later the name of the post office was changed to Brookhaven, and about 1820 changed to Middle Island.

 Benjamin Hutchinson kept the post office in his home in 1811, which was located on the site of the present home of Leo Lentin. His son, Benjamin T. Hutchinson, was appointed postmaster in 1834 and moved the office down the hill to the old Brewster homestead on the farm he purchased in that year. This house was built about 1750 and was torn down several years ago, and Kogel's sand and cement plant is located there now. Mr. Hutchinson's daughter, Miss Cynthia, was appointe in 1877 and kept the office inthe old home until her death in 1901, after which Edward Pfeiffer was appointed.

 Skinner's New York State Register for 1830 shows mail being dispatched from New York on Monday and Friday for Coram, Middle Island and Suffolk Court House (Riverhead). The mail was very light in those days and only a handful of letters were received or sent out in one mail. Rates on letters were 6 cents up to 30 miles, 10 cents up to 80 miles, sheet of paper cost 25 cents, and two sheets of paper was double that rate, so present rates look cheap in comparison. The report of the post office for 1811 shows receipts for that year of         $17.92. In 1943 this had increased to $757 and in 1959 it was $9374, which shows the tremendous growth of the postal business in this area. A post office was opened at Ridge in 1949, which had been served by the Middle Island office before that time. There are about 600 boxes onthe rural free delivery route, which covers 47 miles with George Wilgeroth as carrier. This was established in 1953 with 148 boxes. The office was raised to a second class rating July 1, 1960.

 The old Hutchinson homestead was in public service for many years, and in addition to being the post office, was a stage coach stop in the years before the railroad was opened to Greenport in 1844. It was here the passengers on the mail stages stopped for meals and sometimes to stay over night. The town clerk's office for Brookhaven Town was located here for over 30 years, and Benjamim T. Hutchinson was elected town clerk in 1848 and kept the office most of the time until his death in 1877. His son Henry P. Hutchinson was then elected to the office and kept it until 1890.

 In those years it was the custom for the elected town clerk to keep the office in his home. For many years this old house also served as polling place for Middle Island, Ridge, Yaphank, and Coram, and all the Spring and Fall elections were held here. At six o'clock the inspector of elections would step to the front door and call out, "Hear ye; hear ye; I now  declare these polls closed." Election day was a social event in those days and dinner was served by the Hutchinsons for 50 cents.

 Edward Pfeiffer kept the post office in his country general store after his appointment in 1901. This old store has had a long and colorful history. Built about 1735, it was conducted as a country store for over 100 years before the post office was located in it. The country store was an important place in the years gone by and supplied most of the wants of the people living for miles around. It was also a social center for the men and boys of the neighborhood, and around the old pot-bellied stove in the rear of the store was the scene of many a checker gam, and here were discussed the events of the dayand the fate of the nation argued.

After the death of Everett Pfeiffer in 1957 the store was closed, and this ended the long years this store has served the public. The old country store has disappeared from the scene with the march of pogress, and has been taken over by the supermarkets and specialty stores. The good old days when it was the center of neighborhood life have gone forever. 

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