March is National Reading Month!
By Barbara LaMonica
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Library
The Huntington Public Library began as one of the oldest libraries in Suffolk County. The original library’s ledger book contains a copy of a covenant dated June 29, 1759 establishing a subscription, or private, library funded through membership. Rev. Ebenezer Prime, one of the original signers of the covenant, was appointed Library Keeper in charge of membership and the purchasing of books. The library opened with 39 subscribers and a collection of 71 titles, mainly comprising works on divinity and history as stipulated by the covenant. Notably missing were any works of fiction or poetry.
The initial subscribers represented some of the prominent and wealthier families in the community including the Platts, Rogers, Scudders, Brushes, Woods, and Ketchams. Evidence that the library was unusual for its time is the acceptance of women as initial subscribers with “equal right with his or her co-subscribers to improve and make use of the library”. The library was the only institution at that time in the town that gave full rights to women.
The library survived until 1782 when under the British occupation Rev. Prime’s home was commandeered as British headquarters, and presumably, the library was destroyed during this time.
By 1801, a new group was formed to revive the library. Rev. William Schenck was elected chairman, presiding over ministers and prominent families in keeping with the general religious character of the library to date. The new library, situated on the town green had 23 members. Historical documentation is sketchy but it seems this library also dissolved. In 1817 a larger library with 57 subscribers, (many of them heirs to the original members), was formed and housed in the librarian’s home.
Station Branch opened in 1929 at 1351 New York Avenue
By Barbara LaMonica
Finding enslaved African-American ancestors prior to the Civil War can be very difficult. The following article, while not exhaustive, provides information on some basic records critical to this genealogical research.
From 1790-1840, the names of slaves were not listed in census records since they were considered property rather than persons. Only the names of the head of household appear with the number of slaves they owned. Enslaved individuals rarely had surnames, many, but not all, took the surname of their owners. However, there are resources that may provide clues to tracking down enslaved ancestors.
For the 1850 and 1860 census, the Federal government required that enslaved individuals be recorded separately in “slave schedules”. These schedules do provide more details about these persons including age, sex, color (i.e. mulatto), if they were a fugitive slave, if manumitted, and their physical and mental condition but no names.
1850 Slave Schedule - North Carolina
The family papers and records of Southern plantation owners contain an abundance of information such as slave registers, personal correspondence, photographs, and business account books. Sometimes in personal and business letters, the names of slaves may be mentioned. Unfortunately, many plantation records were lost or destroyed during the Civil War. However, most of the surviving papers were often donated to libraries throughout the south. A guide to these papers “Index to Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations: Locations, Surnames, and Collections” lists where records can be found, usually university libraries. If the area where the ancestor lived is known one can go to this guide and see if there are existing plantation records. The link below provides further information.
Click for Index to Records of Ante-bellum Southern Plantations
Eighteen-seventy is an important turning point for African-American genealogy since the 1870 census is the first one to include the names of former slaves. Therefore, after 1870, a genealogical search of records will be similar to those of European Americans; census reports, births and deaths, service records etc.
Other post-Civil war records that can illuminate ancestors’ lives include:
-1867 Voter Registration whereby Southern states were mandated to register all African American men over the age of 21 to vote. Since these records include place of birth and name this can be useful to trace back to where person was enslaved.
-Records of United States Colored Troops in the Civil War lists the over 186,000 African Americans who served in the Union Army.
-The Freedmen’s Bureau Records 1865-1874 known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, was established by the War Department. The Bureau supervised abandoned and confiscated property in the South and provided relief and assistance to former slaves. The bureau dispensed clothing and food, operated hospitals and schools; legalized marriages conducted during slavery, and assisted black soldiers and sailors to apply for pensions. The field office records, organized by state, contain personal correspondence from freedmen revealing their experiences in the harsh and still racially divisive society of the post- Civil War South. Here one can find former slaves’ full name, residence, and former masters’ names and plantations.
In 1807, Congress outlawed the African slave trade. However, the right to buy and sell slaves and transport them from state to state remained legal. Certain requirements applied to the coastal transport of slaves. The captain of the vessel had to provide a manifest of slave cargo to customs at the port of departure and the point of arrival. This is one of the rare resources prior to 1870 where one can find the name of the enslaved person. In addition to name, the age, sex, color, and residence of owner are provided. Annapolis, Beaufort South Carolina, New Orleans, New York are among the port records with remaining manifests.
Below is a link to the Freedmen’s Bureau records and links to other pertinent collections at the National Archives. Many but not all of these records are digitized.
Click to link to Freedmen's Bureau records
For local assistance contact the African Atlantic Genealogical Society, a member of the Genealogy Federation of Long Island. They are located in the Joysetta & Julius Pearse African American Museum of Nassau County in Hempstead
Click for information
By Josette Lee
The following is an excerpt from the Huntington Historical Society Quarterly from 1986.
To read more from this quarterly and others, make an appointment to visit our Archives!
By Barbara LaMonica
Born a slave in 1856 in Virginia, Booker T. Washington rose to become a renowned spokesperson for African Americans. Washington’s belief that African Americans could advance themselves through education in the trades and industrial arts prompted him to establish the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881.
Washington was well respected as an orator and author. Of his 14 books, his autobiography “Up from Slavery” (published in 1901) became the most well-known. His writings gained him national influence in education and politics and led him to become an advisor and friend to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In 1901, Washington was invited to dine with Roosevelt at the White House, a radical invitation that led to much outcry from southern politicians and press.
WASHINGTON IN HUNTINGTON
When the school session ended at Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington would head north to Long Island for summer vacation and fundraising. Before purchasing a home in Fort Salonga, Washington summered at the Van Wyck Farm in Lloyd Harbor.
Van Wyck Farm in Lloyd Harbor, which no longer exists
In 2021, a descendent of the Lloyd Harbor Van Wyck family donated three letters from Washington that refer to his stay on the Van Wyck Farm. The letters are now part of the Society's collection and provide insight into his time there.
While in Huntington, Washington gave several talks at the local Opera House, as well as a commencement speech at Northport High School. He also taught Sunday School at Bethel AME Church.
Most locals know that Washington purchased a property in Fort Salonga, but it is less commonly known that he also acquired a house in Huntington Village.
According to this deed dated May 7, 1914, Henry and Fanny Brush transferred property at 43 Greene Street, Huntington to Booker T. Washington. The house still stands today and is the location of Finley’s Restaurant.
43 Green Street, today Finley's Restaurant
It is not known what Washington planned to do with the home as he passed away within a year of purchase.
By Emily Finan
Known as the Patriotic Santa, this cotton textile held in the collection was designed by Edward Peck in 1868 and printed by Oriental Print Works of Warwick, Rhode Island, a company founded by Alfred Augustus Reed and Edward D. Boit that operated from around 1857 to 1883.
Appearing in the central foreground in a snowy woodland, Santa Claus wears a fur trimmed coat and fur hat. His right arm overflows with toys including a hobby horse, two dolls, a drum, a bell, a quadrupedal stuffed animal, horns, and a pinwheel; in his left arm, he carries a sled inscribed “Oriental Print Works” and an American Flag from which the illustration derives its title.
Framing Santa are four vignettes illustrating Peck’s interpretation of Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” which inspired the print as a whole. Quotes from the poem inscribed below Santa’s feet—“His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry”—guide Peck’s depiction along with editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast’s contemporary portrayal of Santa in Harper’s Weekly as a jolly, rotund figure which marked a shift from earlier depictions of Santa with a stern disposition. Peck’s curious portrayal of Santa through a patriotic lens can also be attributed to Nast’s influence. As a supporter of the Union, Nast’s illustrations also served as Civil War propaganda, exemplified by his 1881 Merry Old Santa Claus portrait. Donning a dress sword and belt buckle that refer to the Army and a pocket watch set at ten to midnight, Nast’s Santa serves as a critique of United States Senate’s inaction on paying members of the military fair wages. Though not as pointed, Nast’s imagery manifests in Peck’s print through the inclusion of a similar dress sword, pocket watch, flag, and red, white, and blue motif.
In the top left vignette, Santa is riding his sleigh pulled by reindeer who are slipping out of frame under a starry sky along with the words “Santa Claus is coming.” In the top right, titled “with compliments of Santa Claus,” Santa stands on a roof and delivers presents down a chimney. On the bottom left, “All the stockings in the house were hung to be filled by Santa Claus” is written within a scene of three children hanging stockings from the mantle of a fireplace in preparation. On the bottom right, three children play with their new toys—a drum and rocking horse—around their parents’ bed, illustrated by the quote “Santa Claus gave all these toys because we were good girls and boys.”
Displayed in a variety of manners—as a banner, a handkerchief, a scarf, a table cover, a decorative textile hanging—additional examples of this print can be found in other museum collections, such as the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. [https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18669979/] Another edition, now in the collection of New York Historical Society, was designed by Peck as a make-your-own Santa Claus doll; the same patriotic Santa is printed with its reverse on one textile which allowed users to cut each out and sew them together to fashion a doll. [https://emuseum.nyhistory.org/objects/6630/santa-claus-doll?ctx=35019b47c703c699e3e4137815d21bc7d7ee13cc&idx=15]
We wish you a very happy holiday!
By Emily Finan
Gifted to the Society by John Hulsen, Huntington’s first motorcycle policeman, these three unique trophies commemorate the donor’s participation—and success—in the Highhold Games, an annual event held by Henry L. Stimson and his wife Mabel White Stimson at their home in the Huntington hamlet of West Hills. The name Highhold was inspired by the view that the over one-hundred-acre property provided from the Long Island Sound to the Atlantic Ocean.
Each Thanksgiving Day from 1904 into the 1920s, Stimson—who served as Secretary of War under President Howard Taft, and Secretary of State under President Herbert Hoover—invited his friends, family, and neighbors to Highhold estate, through postings in The Long-Islander, to compete in a series of games including trapshooting, spar fighting, barrel racing, novelty racing, flat racing, and steeplechase. Originally held as a gesture of appreciation to his neighbors for their hospitality in allowing him to traverse their lands while foxhunting, Stimson’s games became an annual tradition that exemplified generosity and fostered community. Hundreds of people—young and old—gathered to compete, enjoy cider, coffee, and donuts at the refreshments tent, and warm themselves by the bonfire before returning home for their own holiday dinners.
Hulsen competed in the games as a child and fondly recalled standing alongside Teddy Roosevelt during a trap shooting event one year. The first two trophies he earned are mugs in the shape of barrels. The first is made of brass encircled by copper bands, and indicates Hulsen’s success in the 1915 trap shooting event; the second is made of pewter overlaid with copper bands, and notes that Hulsen won the 1916 spar fight event. The third trophy, a pewter stein awarded for the 1919 spar fight event, is notable in that 1919 marked the return of the Highhold Games after a two-year intermission caused by World War I.
Portraits of Henry and Mabel Stimson by famed portrait artist Leopold Gould Seyffert. These portraits formerly hung at Highhold and are now part of the Society's collection.
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In this photo from 1908, the white building to the left was the First Union Free School. Built in 1858, it served all grades through high school. The brick building to the right was built in 1900 and served elementary grades, while the original school was used for high school students only. Eventually this would become the site of Huntington High School located at 100 Main Street.
A high school was built in 1910. This photo shows the building around 1925. It was later enlarged in 1928 by a portico connecting it with the former elementary school building and an auditorium was also added. In 1979 the high school became Town Hall, which it remains today.
Below: Interior main entrance of Huntington High School, circa 1930.
Below: Huntington High School Girls Basketball Team, 1914. Standing left to right: Helen Lowndes, Vera Williamson, Ethel Sammis, (captain). Sitting left to right: Esther Funnell, Dorothy Burne, Jane Fleet.
By Toby Kissam; With Barbara LaMonica
Shortly after the Civil War, baseball’s popularity rapidly spread throughout Long Island. Many towns, including Brooklyn and Queens, (Nassau County was part of Queens until 1899), formed their own baseball clubs. Rival clubs would challenge each other, with many games played at county fairs. Most of the teams consisted of farmers, merchants, and students, although they often had semi-pro players in their lineups.
Later, other clubs were formed including the Young Suffolks, the Huntington Base Ball Club and teams from different parts of town like the Northport Base Ball Club and the West Side Boys.
Huntington Suffolk Baseball Club, 1893
THE FIRST BASEBALL MATCH
What appears to be the first organized baseball match in Huntington was between the Huntington and Dix Hills Base Ball Clubs, as reported in the November 2, 1866 issue of The Long-Islander:
The match was played near the home of David Woodhull Conklin. His house still stands on the west side of West Neck Road near Tanyard Lane. Conklin’s lot was on the east side of the road about where the Methodist Church stands today.
Tintypes of the early Suffolk Base Ball Club
In April of the following year, the Suffolk Base Ball Club held an inter-club match between the 1st Nine and the Field, to select the team for 1867. The following month they called for a meeting to be held on Friday evening at the Suffolk Hotel on Main Street to ready them for the up-coming season.
As noted on reverse: "Suffolks of Huntington" -- a semipro base ball team around 1888
The Huntington Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the Town of Huntington. Please help us continue this work by making a donation!
By William H. Frohlich
Trustee, Huntington Historical Society
The Town of Huntington, as we know it today, extends from the Nassau County line to the Smithtown line in Commack. And, from the Long Island Sound on the north to the Babylon Town Line in the south. But, it wasn’t always that way.
The “original” Huntington Town existed from the Sound all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Babylon is a relatively “new” creation, which was carved out of Huntington. In 1842, the Long Island Railroad’s Main Line crossed the Town of Huntington through what is now Farmingdale, Wyandanch and Deer Park. Thirty years later, in 1872, a decision was made to split the town into two. All the land lying one mile north of the LIRR tracks remained the Town of Huntington, and everything lying south of that line became the Town of Babylon.
An 1858 map of Huntington
The Long Island Atlas published by Beers, et al, in 1873 shows the new town boundary line clearly, even though the survey work had been done in 1871 and 1872 before the new town had been established. When the atlas was published in 1873, it was correct!
Interestingly, Nassau County didn’t exist either at the time and is also a relatively “new” invention. (Early on there was an attempt made to call Long Island the “Island of Nassau,” but it didn’t stick.) Before Nassau County was established in 1899 it was all part of Queens County, which extended from the East River all the way to Huntington. (New York City, as we know it with its five boroughs, which included Queens County, wasn’t established until 1898.)
What many may not know is that Lloyd Neck remained part of Queens County until the early 1880s. Then, it finally joined Huntington and Suffolk County.
The original settlers that occupied the Town of Huntington bought the land from the local Indian tribes through several purchases in the mid-1600s. Our Town was criss-crossed by many Indian trails which the settlers then used as well. Many of these still exist, but today we know them as Main Street, 25A, Jericho Turnpike, Montauk Highway, among others.
The area that we now call Babylon was unpopulated at the time (sometimes known as Huntington South). That part of Huntington was used mostly as grazing land and for ocean fishing. The first resident was Jacob Conklin, born in Huntington in 1675. He built a house in the Half Way Hollow Hills in 1710 on, it is said, 3,500 acres of land. This original name for the area was chosen for its location: half way between the sound and the sea.
Sketch of the Jacob Conklin Farmhouse
Photo of the Jacob Conklin Farmhouse, built in 1710 and destroyed by fire in 1918
Legend has it that he was an impressed seaman on Captain Kidd’s ship. When the Captain put in to Cold Spring Harbor, Jacob jumped ship and ran south. According to "The Human Story of Long Island," by Verne Dyson, 1969, “One of the numerous Conklin legends, (is that) his mission was to bury treasure for Kidd; instead he escaped with the chest and from the proceeds bought the estate (land) in the Half Way Hollow Hills.” Some say he hid out in the hollow of a tree for years afraid Captain Kidd would find him!
Eventually, he built a house in what is now the Wheatley Heights area on the line between Huntington and Babylon off Bagatelle Road, and married Hanna Platt of Huntington. Unfortunately, the house burned down in 1918. The cemetery where he and his family are buried is still on the property of the the Henry Kaufman Camp Grounds.
Jacob Conklin's headstone
The history of the Town of Huntington is a fascinating microcosm of American in its early days. If you are interested in reading more about our local history, find the “Huntington-Babylon Town History,” published by the Huntington Historical Society in 1937. You can also look for the Vern Dyson book and the old maps of Huntington.
This hand-drawn map was prepared for the Town's 350th anniversary in 2003.
This blog has been written by various affiliates of the Huntington Historical Society.