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Note Wading River Historic Spots

Footnotes to Long Island History

Note Wading River Historic Spots

by

Thomas R. Bayles


 

            The village of Wading River was settled in 1671 by an order of Brookhaven Town, which provided for “a settlement of eight families, or eight men, at the Wading River.”

            The following descriptions of historic places of interest in Wading River were provided by Mrs. Russel Meier for a historical tour of that section held on Aug. 14, 1948.

            Along the route is the house probably built by Benjamin Tuthill around 1750.  Originally in two parts, one for the master and one for his servants, it was joined together in 1833.  Benjamin’s son Hiram had five wives; the first three were sisters, all named Davis; the last two were also sisters and cousins to the first ones.  The property now belongs to St Joseph’s Orphanage, and runs through to the Sound.

            Another old house on the road to Wading River is one of the oldest still standing in the Village.  It was built about 1720 by Josiah Woodhull, second son of Richard Woodhull, and the first of the Woodhull name to actually occupy Wading River.  Reversing the usual order the second story was built first.  Later the house was raised and the lower story added.  Francis Woodhull was the last of the name to occupy the house.  Wooley’s Mill, a sawmill, was in operation for many years in the years gone by. 

            On the road to the Sound is the oldest cemetery, owned by the Congregational Church, and contains the graves of the first settlers back to 1713.

            On the left, another original Woodhull house, now the property of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Heatley.  Part of this house predates the Revolution, for it was often the target for foraging parties of British soldiers who came up the “Wading River” to plunder.  The story goes that a calf was once hidden from the British in the old fireplace, concealed by hanging skeins of wool in front of the fireplace, put there to dry.

            The old house of Benjamin Woodhull, which was torn down in 1845, was of pre Revolutionary origin, and it was from the west kitchen of this house that the oldest daughter slipped between two British soldiers with crossed bayonets, leaped over the stone fence, still partly visible, and ran to the home of Major Hudson to give the alarm.  The British ran for the shore to their boats, leaving much they had earmarked to take with them.

            As we come to the Sound shore, where during the past century wood sloops loaded cordwood for shipment to New York and Haverstraw, the “Lay Ashore Rock” may be seen if the tide is right.  This rock told the wood sloop skippers the proper tide at which to “lay” the boats on the beach for loading.  Among the sloops that sailed in this business were the “Alert,” and “Olive Leaf” the “Mary Alice,” the “Sharpshooter” and others which made the Sound shore a scene of colorful activity during those years when the cordwood business was such an important one in this part of the Island.

            The residence of George E. Hart, with its lovely landscaping, is often called the “Sid Terry Place,” probably built before 1800.  It was purchased in 1905 by Ralph Peters for the Long Island Rail Road Experimental Farm.  Mr. Hart purchased it from Peters’ heirs in 1925.

            The historic Woodhull farm, now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Keillor, was purchased in 1812 by Nathaniel Woodhull, and has been farmed continuously since 1823 by a descendant of Nathaniel.  For years it was farmed by Anna Belle Woodhull, said to have been Long Island’s first woman farmer.  This farm was one of the two “Century Farms”

            On the left as we enter the village is the Mill Pond and Stream, which were granted to John Roe, Jr. by Brookhaven Town in May 1708, with the understanding that he was to operate a grist mill thereon.  The mill was located on the west end of the pond, and was in operation until the turn of the century.  It is now completely gone.

            The first church in Wading River was built in 1740, across the road and to the east of the present Congregational church; Zopher Miller gave the land for the present church, which was built in 1837.  Across the road are the two old Miller houses.  The older and larger of the two was built by Zopher Miller in 1799.  Note the original hand made shingles, the small paned, hand blown glass windows.  The bricks of the foundation and chimneys were made on the place.  The nails also are hand made, as well as the long hinges on the double Dutch door.

            Inside the house may be seen the oldest chest bearing the mark of the British soldier’s axe during the Revolution.  Note the giant old white oak tree standing back of  the house, probably over 300 years old, and which no doubt provided shade for the Indians before the coming of the white man.

 

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