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Longest River on Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

Longest River on Island

by


Thomas R. Bayles

 

 


The Connecticut River (or Carman's River as it is now called) is about the longest river on the Island. It rises in Middle Island and flows down through Yaphank, South Haven, and empties into the bay at Brookhaven. Connecticut River is an Indian name meaning "the long river."

 Two mills operated on this river in Yaphank in the years gone by. One was called Swezey's Mill or the Upper Mill, and was located in the upper part of Yaphank. This mill was built under a grant from the Brookhaven Town Trustees in 1739 to Capt. Robert Robertson.

 Yaphank is an Indian name meaning the bank of a river. In 1762 the town trustees granted the right to John Homan to build a saw mill in lower Yaphank for which he paid 40 shillings. He was also given the right to build a grist mill there also. His fee for grinding grain was three quarts of grain of each bushel ground. This mill was known in more recent years as Gerard's Mill, and was burned down during World War I.

 An old "fuling mill" stood on the river between Yaphank and Middle Island in 1792 under a grant from the town trustees. An old diary of Minerva Hutchinson of Middle Island carries the following entries.

 "July 26, 1808;  At night our rolls were brought home from the carding mill down the river. Very good rolls."

  "August 14, 1808;  We got up very early in the morning. I got to spinning about sunrise, having had breakfast by candlelight. Carded mixed wool for stocking yarn."

 The old grist and saw mill which stood at South Haven on the river just north of the "goin' over" on the Montauk Highway where the road bridge now stands, was built and in operation in 1745. This old mill still stood, though long unused, until the Sunrise Highway was extended and the mill torn down about three years ago. The old mill stones between which the corn and grain of the farmers for miles around was ground were there as was the rusted remains of the old saw mill which sawed out the lumber for the old Presbyterian Church that stood just across the road, which was moved to a new location in Brookhaven last Winter. Water still runs under the Sunrise Highway where the old mill stood but nothing remains to mark the spot of this historic old mill that served the farmers of this area so many years ago.

ton and Brooklyn. Mr. Carman's tavern, besides serving travelers food and lodging and "Spirituous liquors," also enjoyed a certain prestige as a place to hold political meetings and elections. Here it was that some of the predominant people of the day lodged, and here the townspeople gathered to discuss the latest news brought in from the outside world. Letters and packages for people living in nearby settlements were left here, before post offices were established. The first post office established in Brookhaven Town was at Middle Island in 1796, according to the post office records in the National Archives in Washington.

 According to Skinner's New York State Register for 1830, mails were dispatched from New York for Coram, Middle Island and Suffolk Court House, (Riverhead) on Monday and Friday. On the north side the mails left New York for Huntington, Stony Brook, Setauket, Drowned Meadow, (Port Jefferson) and Wading River, and points east on Sunday and Wednesday.

 Sam Carman also conducted a store in connection with his tavern at South Haven, and this with the mill and meeting house across the road was the center of life for the settlements in this part of Brookhaven Town.

 A great variety of articles were sold in his store, as it supplied most of the wants of all the people living in that area. An old account book for 1789 mentions, thimbles, needles, thread, powder, snuff, shot, trousers, coats, shoes, paper, tobacco, molasses, ( very popular, as it was used in making rum) tea, coffee, spices, salt, whips, harness and the general run of merchandise sold in a country store of those days.

 From Mastic came such distinguished customers as William Floyd signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Judge William Smith.

           
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