"Town of Brookhaven's 17th Century Local History" Brookhaven Travelogue by BeverlyTyler

Brookhaven Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 11 photos

Historical Sketches of 1874 by Richard M. Bayles


Brookhaven, the largest town in Suffolk County, occupies the breadth of the island from sound to ocean, and about sixten miles of its length. It is bounded on the west by Smithtown and Islip, and on the east by Riverhead and Southampton. The surface along the north side of the town is hilly and elevated. A range of hills also extends through the middle from east to west. The south half is level and comparatively low. Large tracts of salt meadows border the bay on the south side. The soil generally is moderately fertile; in the northern part a heavy loam; in the southern part a few grades lighter; while through the middle a great variety of soils may be found, ranging from a stiff clay which has in many places been utilized for brick-making, to a light "blowy" sand. . .(where) some kinds of forest trees, especially the pines will grow, and to a reasonable extent flourish upon these desert places. The greater part of this town is still covered with forest and scrub growth.

The settlements are mostly along the line of the three "country roads;" on the north side (North Country Road), through the middle (Middle Country Road), and on the south side (South Country Road). Between these ranges of settlements large tracts of wood-land intervene. . .Immense quantities of cord-wood are cut and sent to market from these wooded plains.

. . .The first settlement of Europeans in this town was made in the year 1655, [by agents from Southold, Long Island and the first settlers came from eastern Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts colonies]. . .within two years, . . .the number of men, most of them probably heads of families, composing the colony was increased to fifty-four. The first settlement was made at Setauket, on the north side, near the headquarters of the Setalcott (family) of Indians, from whom the northern part of the territory occupied by the town was purchased. The lands of the town were purchased of the Indians at different times, in tracts of various sizes, sometimes by individuals on their own account, by permission of the proprietors of the town, and sometimes by the proprietors in common through their authorized representatives.

Edited by BCT

Prehistoric Brookhaven


The Three Village area was settled beginning about 8-10,000 BC. These first settlers use the rich coastal resources to support their family native groups. The Setalcott, (as the indigenous people came to be known) were a group of the Algonkian Nation. They were hunters and gatherers, dependent upon hunting local animals and gathering plants, stones, and clay for food, shelter, tools, clothes, and medicines.

The Setalcotts, a name meaning "land on the mouth of the creek", were tall and muscular with straight hair and a reddish complexion. They lived in simple lodge-dwellings. They hunted in the plentiful forests, fished in the well-stocked bays and streams, and grew corn and a few vegetables in small farming plots.

In the late 1500s, the first European traders and trappers traveled up and down the east coast of North America. They bought food and furs from the Indians (Native Americans) in exchange for iron goods, cloth goods and trinkets. Gradually the Native American way of life began to change. At the same time, with no resistance to European diseases, the Native Americans were devastated by small pox and other diseases. The native population decreased by more than 50 percent leaving rich lands open to settlement by people of English decent from New England, Eastern Long Island and England.

In 1609, Henry Hudson landed on Long Island, before beginning his exploration of the Hudson River. He described the Indians as "seeming very glad of our coming and brought greene tobacco and gave us of it for knives and beads."

We don't know all the details about life on Long Island before the Europeans came, because the people living here did not leave us a written or visual record of their lives. Archaeological excavations have given us most of the details of how people lived in this area. One of the most famous excavations in New York State was a nearby "shell midden" named "The Stony Brook Site" by the State Archaeologist, William Ritchie, in 1955. Today Native Americans still live in Setauket where their ancestors of long-ago settled in coastal villages.


Settlers & Setalcotts - Trials, Death & Epidemics


In the spring of 1665, five men from New England and one from Southold arrived in what is now Setauket and met with the Setalcotts. The six Englishmen, acting as agents (representatives) for other people, wanted to purchase land from the Setalcotts. On April 14, 1665, the Setalcotts, under the direction of Warawakmy, their leader, sold the agents about 30 square miles of land bordering Long Island Sound, from the lands of the Nessaquogues on the west to the Mount Misery cliffs (Belle Terre) to the east. Since money was not used by the Setalcotts, the Englishmen had to pay for the land another way. They bartered with the Setalcotts, and in exchange for their land the Setalcotts received "10 Coats, 12 Hoes, 12 Hatchets, 50 Muxes (metal drills), 100 Needles, 6 Ketles, 10 Fadom of Wampom, 7 Chest of Powder, 1 Pare of Child Stokins, 10 Pound of Lead, 1 Dosen of Knives."

Between 1655 and 1658, the Settlers came to Setauket from Southold, Southampton and New England. The new "plantation" settlement was under the control of the colony of New Haven. The settlers build crude shelters along the run or creek (Today the Setauket Mill Pond). This area had probably been cleared by the Setalcotts.

The land was purchased from the Native Americans who had no understanding of the concept of ownership of land. The Native Americans did not understand that they were giving up all rights to all the land between Stony Brook and Wading River. The Setalcotts relied on the use of local trees and plants in their daily lives. (Many of the native trees and plants can be found along the nature trails in the Three Village Garden Club Sanctuary and in the Frank Melville Memorial Park. They are all listed in the book Native And Near Native by Albert Hostek.)

In 1659, Setauket, then known as Cromwell Bay, in honor of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), petitioned to come under the protection of the stronger and more tolerant colony of Connecticut [at Hartford].

When exiled King Charles II was restored to the English throne in 1660, Setauket ceases to be known as Cromwell Bay.

In 1661, Hartford voted to accept Setauket and appointed Richard Woodhull and Thomas Pierce as magistrates. The Settlement was then expanded to include six acre lots in the area west of Conscience Bay (Old Field).

In 1662, an outbreak of smallpox among Long Island's Native Americans was disastrous for the small population. Setauket's Setalcotts, who then lived mainly on Little Neck (Strong's Neck) were decimated by the epidemic.

After the death of so many Setalcott's, Daniel Lane bought the southern half of Little Neck for the settlement from the remaining Setalcotts.

Villians, Witches, Slaves & Freedoms


John Scott arrived in Setauket in the fall of 1663 and by the end of the year he had the name of the settlement formally changed to Ashford. Scott was then appointed as a commissioner of Connecticut for Ashford. He claimed land for himself on the east side of what is now Port Jefferson Harbor. His political influence continued to increase during the first months of the following year.

Scott quickly became a thorn in the side of Setauket residents with his land claims, lies and schemes to bring all of Long Island under his influence. By May of 1664 his influence ended and he was sentenced in Hartford for "villainous and seditious practices."

The Dutch turned New York over to the British in 1664. The Duke of York claimed Long Island as a part of New York and Long Island came under the newly published "Duke's Laws." Towns no longer had the right to govern themselves through town meetings.

The first grist mill was built on the mill pond. The settlement was first referred to as Brookhaven in 1664, but the name Setauket was also used.

Ralph and Mary Hall of Setauket were tried for witchcraft after the death of George Wood in 1665. The trial, at the court of Assizes in New York, acquitted Ralph. Mary, however, was placed on probation for three years.

The bounds of Long Island towns were set by Governor Nicoll of New York at a meeting in Hempstead. Daniel Lane and Roger Bartow represent Setauket (Brookhaven). The eastern Long Island towns were now known as the East Riding of Yorkshire.

In 1668, there were 35 occupied home lots in an area around the mill pond, and as far away as East Setauket and Stony Brook. The Village Green extended from the area where the Presbyterian Church now stands to the mill stream.

Finally in 1672, the first meeting house was constructed in Setauket at the head of the Village Green where the first Setauket Presbyterian Church wasbuilt 42 years later.

The first recorded notation of slavery in the Three Village area was in 1674 when "Richard Floyd, of Setakett, sold the ...Negro, named Antony, to John Hurd, of Stratford." Floyd had purchased Antony two years earlier from Robert Hudson of Rye, New York.

In 1675, Zachariah Hawkins was listed as one of 31 heads-of-family. One of the wealthiest men in Brookhaven, Hawkins owned four oxen, one year-old calf, one two-year-old heifer, two horses, five pigs and eight acres of meadowland.

The first school classes were conducted at the meeting house at the village green in 1678. Robert Rider was hired to teach, and given a home lot and a salary of 30 pounds a year.

Governor Thomas Dongan arrived in New York in 1683. Acting on the authority of the Duke of York, he called a general assembly of representatives from all the towns.

This assembly adopted "The Great Charter of Liberties" which establishes 12 counties including the County of Suffolk and provided a "bill of rights" that the people will be represented when laws are made governing them.

Suddenly, in 1685, the "bill of rights" gives way when James, Duke of York became King of England succeeding his brother, Charles II.

Brookhaven was issued a new patent by New York Governor Richard Nicoll in 1686. The patent fixed the name of the town as Brookhaven, instead of Setauket. It is a beautifully written document on sheepskin parchment.

The following year Suffolk County joined the rebellion against the rule of King James. Town meetings were reestablished. In 1691, with William & Mary in power in England, New York returned to colonial rule, but town meetings remained a feature of Brookhaven Town government.

The first grist mill was built in Stony Brook [actually the mill straddles the towns of Brookhaven and Smithtown] by Adam Smith in 1699. Smith was the son of Richard "Bull" Smith, the founder of the Town of Smithtown.

  • Page Updated Feb 1, 2004
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