School Districts In Brookhaven Started as 1-Room Houses in 1813

Footnotes to Long Island History


DEC 14 1967

Thomas R. Bayles

       Brook haven town which is the largest town on Long Island, was settled in 1655 over 300 years ago, when six men from the colonies of New England bought a large tract of the land in the Setauket area from Indians.

      Setauket was the seat of the town government for about 100 years and the south side of  the town in the Mastic and South Haven area, it became too far to go to Setauket, so a more central place was chosen which was Coram.

      The town government was located at Coram for over 100 years, and the annual spring elections were held at the homestead of Lester Davis. The voters came from all over the town to Coram on "Town Meeting" day, and the other town business was also conducted there. In 1885 the town was divided into election districts which ended the "Town Meeting" days in Coram

       The town was divided into school districts in 1813 and shortly after, small one -room school houses about 20 by 24 feet in size were built in each settlement. These had a high slanting desk around the sides of the room at which the pupils had to stand, and a stove that burned large chunks of wood was in the middle of the room, with wooden benches without backs sawed out in the Yaphank saw mill. The pay of the teacher was small, about $10 a month and board. He boarded around at the homes of the pupils. As late as 1890, the pay was only $7 or $8 a week.

       The Middle Island  Central School District No.12 was established in 1959. It was made up of six small school districts of Ridge East and West Middle Island, Coram and Yaphank. The districts now has four grade schools, Ridge built in 1951, West Middle Island built in 1956, Coram built in 1953, and Yaphank built in 1950, and the Longwood high school built in 1961.

        The Longwood high school is located on a 51 acre tract of land donated by Elbert C. Smith which is part of an enormous tract of thousands of acres which was purchased from the Indians by Col William Smith in 1691.He held a patent for this from the king and queen of England through the governor of New York

       This extended from the Middle Country road south to the ocean, and from Carman's River to the Mastic River this was called the Manor of St. George and the northern part where the high school is located was called Longwood the old Manor House across the road from the school was built in 1790 and has been occupied by members of the Smith family since that time until the death of miss Helen Smith several years ago.

 Miss Smith's will gave the estate at Longwood of about 1,000 acres to her cousin Elbert C. Smith of California, who with his wife and five children moved here and occupied the old homestead until his death last summer. Mrs. Smith has moved to California and the place will be closed and later disposed of, which will end the long line of the Smith family.

         The south part of the Manor of St. George is located in Mastic near the Great South  Bay and the old manor house was given by the last member of the Smith family to live there,  Miss Eugenie Tangier Smith to the residents of Brookhaven as a museum. A visit to this old house, filled with priceless furnishings from the early years is well worth a visit. It is open during the summer.

    Cutting and shipping cordwood was a big industry in this area in the early years up until about 1900. Thousands of cords of woods were cut each winter and hauled over to the Sound and piled in long piles on the bluffs.

        During the open season wood sloops and schooners would come as close to the shore at high tide as possible and as the tide went down the wood was carted across the beach and loaded on the boats which had to be ready to sail again at high tide. The wood was shipped down the Sound to New York and much of it went up the Hudson to the brick yards around Haverstraw where it was burned in curing bricks in the brick yards. Nothing remains of this once important business except some of the old landing roads leading down to the sound shore

        The Carman's River used to rise in Pfeiffer's Pond in Middle Island. It flows down through Yaphank and South Haven to the Great south Bay at Brookhaven. This river was important in the early life of the settlers as several grist and saw mills located on it ground grain into flour and meal and sawed their logs into lumber.

        There was a fuling mill north of Yaphank, a grist and saw mill at the upper lake in Yaphank and another grist and saw mill at lower lake in Yaphank, also a grist and saw mill at South Haven just north of the Montauk highway.

          The following item is from the diary of a Middle Island woman in 1808: "August 14, we got up very early in the morning and I got to spinning about sunrise, having had breakfast by candle light. Carded mixed wool for stocking yarn."

         When the railroad came through Yaphank on the way to Riverhead and Greenport in July 1844, it was a time of great rejoicing by the people who lived in the east end villages as a trip to New York which had taken two or three days by stage coach could now be made in as many hours. 

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