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Old Smith Homestead Is Historic Landmark

Footnotes to Long Island History

Old Smith Homestead Is Historic Landmark

by
Thomas R. Bayles

 

 


On the east side of Carman's river near where it empties into the bay is the historic old Smith homestead at the Manor of St George, Mastic.

 Here was located the British fort during the Revolution, which Major Tallmadge and his men, captured in November 1780, when they marched across the Island from Mt Sinai harbor, after they had come across the Sound from Fairfield in eight open whale boats.

 This famous old homestead is the third to be built on the same site: the first was built before 1700 by Col. William Smith, who first settled at Strong's Neck in Setauket in 1686.

 It is now a museum left by Miss Eugenia Tangier Smith, for the people of Brookhaven town, and is filled with furnishings of the early days, and well worth a visit.

 It was up this river that Madam Martha Smith, widow of Col. William had the whales that were caught by her Indian crews in the ocean opposite Smith's Point, towed to the landings at Squassocks, Indian Landing and other points along the banks of the river, where they were cut up and tried out for their oil. Whaling was an important industry in those early days, and quantities of oil and whalebone were exported to England.

 At the head of the Connecticut river in Middle stands the old country store of Edward Pfeiffer on the north side of the Middle Country road. This store was operated for nearly a hundred years as a typical general country store which supplied all the needs of people living for miles around in the years gone by.

 The Middle Island post office has been located here since 1901. In 1744 it was a tavern and stage coach stopping place, and an account of Dr. Alexander Hamilton's trip through Long Island in July of that year mentions stopping here over night.

 We quote, "We arrived at one Brewster's (Pfeiffer's store) at eight o'clock an night, where we put up all night, and in this house could get nothing to eat or drink, so were obliged to go to bed fasting and supperless. I was conducted to a large room upstairs. The people in this house seemed to be quite savage and rude."

 The Brewster who conducted a tavern here was a grandson of Rev Nathaniel Brewster, the first minister at the old town church in Setauket.

 In the days gone by the country store occupied an important place in the life of the community, and served the needs of the whole family, including boots and shoes, clothing, yard goods, groceries, hardware, feed and grain and everything else that made up the inventory of a country store in those days.

 The farmers for miles around came nearly every day to get their mail and supplies, brought their eggs and butter to trade for groceries, and to swap the news with their neighbors.

 The store was a favorite gathering place for the men and boys of the community, and on stormy days in winter there was always a crowd around the old pot bellied stove, their horses and wagons tied to the old hitching rail in front of the store.

 Here the news of the day was discussed and the fate of the nation argued. Politics was a favorite topic and many of the issues of the day were settled behind the old store.
 The old checker board was in daily use and some of the men and boys of the neighborhood were champion players. For several years now the old checker board has been laid away on a shelf to dream of the days when it was the center of activities in the old store.

 This social center of the town was a picturesque scene in those days, with the hanging oil lamps and the benches around the stove in the rear of the store.

 In the back end of the store were men's and women's shoes, felt and rubber boots and rubbers. Also men's clothing and women's calico dresses, corsets etc. Around the side were the counters with the craker and sugar barrels, and boxes of tea, coffee, oatmeal, prunes, raisins etc. as most of the groceries were weighed out in those days.

 In the back room hung hams and bacon, barrels of salt pork, big olds fashioned cheeses, and the vinegar and molasses barrels were located there. "New Orleans molasses" was an important item and sold for 50 cents a gallon.

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