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Town Clerks of Brookhaven

Footnotes to Long Island History

Town Clerks of Brookhaven

by

Thomas R. Bayles


 

            The office of town clerk was established by the patent given for Brookhaven Town by Gov. Thomas Dongan in 1686.

            Previous to that time there were four known “recorders,” who were, Richard Woodhull, Roger Barton, John Tooker and Thomas Helme.  The first town clerk was Andrew Gibb, who was appointed by the town trustees at their first meeting in January 1687, and served until May of that year when Thomas Helme was elected.  He was succeeded by John Jenner, who was elected in 1688, and in May 1689 Timothy Brewster was elected.  He was a son of the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, first minister of the old “town church” in Setauket, and served until 1711, when his brother, Daniel, was elected and held the office until 1737, when Daniel Smith was elected and held the office for many years until 1775.  Mr. Smith was succeeded by his two sons, Amos Smith who served during the dark days of the Revolution, and Elijah Smith, who served from 1783 to 1789.  The newly-established State Legislature had changed the annual town meeting elections from the first Tuesday in May to the first Tuesday in April, and elections were held on this date up to the present century.

            All of these men lived in Setauket, which was the mother settlement of Brookhaven Town and the only one of any size until about the time of the Revolution, when the settlement at Mt. Sinai, South Haven, Coram, Patchogue, and the Moriches section began to grow.  It had been an understanding up to this time that the town clerk’s office was to be held in the home of the clerk, so the office was located in Setauket for over a century until Isssc Hulse of Coram was elected in 1789 and probably used the “front parlor” of his home for an office.  Now Coram, for the first time, had the town clerk’s office, and this was the first of many moves in the years to follow.

            In 1801, Appolos Wetmore of Setauket was elected, so back the office went to Setauket for a year.  In 1802, Mr. Hulse was re-elected, so it returned to Coram again until 1807, when Mordecai Homan of Middle Island was elected and the office went to Middle Island for 41 years with Mr. Homan as clerk.  In 1848, Benjamin T. Hutchinson of Middle Island was elected to the office and in 1850 Samuel A. Hawkins of New Village, (Centereach) was elected and held the office in that village until 1859, when Lewis R. Overton of Coram took over for one year and returned the office to Coram.  In 1860, Benjamin T. Huchinson was again elected and the office returned to Middle Island, where it remained until the death of Mr. Hutchinson in 1877.  His son, Henry P. Hutchinson, was elected and held the office until 1890, when Roswell Davis of Yaphank was elected and the office moved to Yaphank where it remained until 1901, with the exception of one year, which was 1891, when it went back to Coram with Daniel R. Davis as clerk.  In 1896, Edmunds F. Hawkins of Yaphank succeeded Roswell Davis and moved the office down the street to his general store, where it remained until George L. Chichester of Patchogue was elected in 1901 and the office was moved to Patchogue where it remained since that.

            It is no wonder that the old town records were in such a confused condition years ago after being moved from village to village so many times.  Finally, conditions got so bad that the town officials engaged a man who was familiar with the records to arrange them and put them in shape so that they could be easily searched.

The office of town clerk was located in Middle Island for over 75 years, the longest time of any village in the town.  Benjamin T. Hutchinson was also one of the first postmasters in Middle Island, which was the first post office established in Brookhaven Town in 1796. 

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