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Longwood High on Historic Site

Footnotes to Long Island History

 

by
Thomas R. Bayles

Navy

 


The new Longwood High School being built in Middle Island Central School District 12, located on a 51-acre tract of land donated for the purpose by Elbert C. Smith. He is a direct descendant of Col. William Smith, and inherited the historic Longwood estate from Miss Helen Tangier Smith, who died in 1955. Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their family of five children came here from California a few years ago and occupy the ancestral manor house which was built about 1790.
 The new junior-senior high school is located on a part of the Manor of St. George, which was purchased from the Indians in 1691 by Col. William Smith, who in 1693 was granted a patent for it by King William and Queen Mary of England, through their agent, Gov. Fletcher of New York.
 The original tract of land was an enormous one and consisted of several thousands of acres. This was bounded on the north by Middle Country Road  through Middle Island, west by the Conneticut River (now called Carman's River), and east by the Mastic River or Forge River. On the south it went to the ocean and included the south bay and islands in it.
 Col. William was an important man in the early life of this part of Long Island. He was born in 1654 at Newton, England, Tradition states that his mother was a maid-of-honor in attendance upon the English Queen, and as such young William was made a page in the royal household. He made such an impression on King Charles, II, that when he became 20 years of age the king commissioned him Mayor of the Royal City of Tangier, in Africa, with the rank of colonel. After 13 years of service there, Col. Smith with his wife, Martha of Putney, England, and their three children went back to England. Three years later the family left for America, arriving at the colony of New York August 6, 1686. His eye fell on Little Neck, (Strong's Neck) in Setauket, which he purchased, and located his home there.
 It is interesting to note that the patent given by King William and Queen Mary for the Manor of St. George, through Gov. Fletcher, contained in part the following; "It is our Royal Will and pleasure that the said Lordship and Mannour shall be called the Lordshipp and Mannour of St. George's." The King and Queen go on to say; "Know yee that wee give and grant unto the said Coll. William Smith, full power and authority, at all tymes hereafter, in the Lordshipp and Mannour."
 So Col. Smith, the Lord of the Manor had the supposedly extinct feudal right of control over the persons who lived on his property. He dispensed the justice, made the laws, and was in fact as well as name the Lord of the Manor, and was not governed by the laws of of Brookhaven Town. It was not until 1789 that his estate was taken into the town of Brookhaven by an act of the State Legislature.
 Though Col. Smith was busy in those years overseeing his large estate, he was also engaged in the off shore whaling fishery through his native Indian employes. He was active in the government of the colony, and was appointed in 1691 to one of the judgeships of the Supreme Court, and the next year was made chief justice. In Setauket he was looked upon with a great deal of respect and esteem. He was a loyal member of the old Town Church, where "rude actions," had taken place for the seats of honor in the meeting house, and it was ordered that everyone should be seated according to the prescribed plan. The president and clerk of the town trustees were to sit under the high pulpit, and the trustees in front. The justices and all who paid 40 shillings or more to the minister's salary were to sit at the table up front, and here it was that Col. William and his wife sat. It was a great distinction for her, for the rule stated that "noe wimmen are permitted to sit there, except Coll. Smith's Lady nor any wimmen Kinde." "Lady Martha," as she was known was showm great deference, and after the death of her distinguished husband, the congregation remained standing on Sunday mornings as she withdrew from the meeting house, out of respect for her.
       
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