Historic Mill Still Stands

Footnotes to Long Island History

Historic Mill Still Stands


Thomas R. Bayles


By Thomas R. Bayles


            The old mill still standing at South Haven on Carman's river, formerly called Connecticut river was located just north of the “going over” as the present Montauk highway bridge site over the bridge was called in the early days.  There was no bridge then and the horses and wagons were driven through the river. 

            The mill was in operation in 1745, according to a deed of  April 10 in that year made by Richard and Nicoll Floyd and Modecai Homan, who in consideration of 720 pounds sold to John Havens, “All that tract or neck of land and meadow bounded on the east by a river called Connecticut, south by a small river called Yaphank, north by a swamp called Saswsunce, together with the grist mill, saw mill and fuling mill, and all ye other houses, orchards, gardens, improvements etc.”

            Today the 200 year old mill long unused contains the large mill stones between which was ground the corn and grain brought by the farmers for miles around.  Here may also be seen the rusted remains of the old saw mill which cut the logs from the nearby forests into timber, and it was here that the lumber was sawed out for the Presbyterian church that was built just across the way about 1760.  Water still pours through the mill race as it did a generation before the Revolution, but the mill wheels are silent.

            The Connecticut river, named after an old Indian name meaning “long river,” turned the wheels of more mills, perhaps, than any other river on the Island.  Four dams were across it at various points, furnishing water power for the fueling, grist and saw mills of those days. 

            This property contained the famous old tavern just west of the mill that in 1789 was purchased by Samuel Carman, and known as Carmans Tavern.  This was a regular stopping place for the weekly stage that ran between Brooklyn and East Hampton.  Mr. Carman's Tavern, besides serving travelers food and lodging and “spiritous liquors,” also enjoyed a certain prestige as a place to hold political meetings and elections.  It was there that some of the prominent men of the day lodged, and there the townspeople gathered to discuss the latest new brought in by the visitors from the outside world.  Letters and packages for people living in the nearby settlements were left there.

            Sam Carman also conducted a store in connection with his tavern, and this with the mill and meeting house across the road was the center of the life of the communities in this part of Brookhaven town.  A great variety articles was sold in this store, and an old account book from 1789 mentions thimbles, needles, thread, powder, shot, trousers, coats, shoes, hogsheads, paper, tobacco, molasses (very popular as it was used in making rum, tea, knives, combs, cloth, spices, salt, books, snuff, rum, whips, harness and the general line of groceries sold in that day.  By far the largest item sold was rum.

            People drove to this store from Moriches, Middle Island, Bellport, Coram, Yaphank, Fire Place and from mastic came such distinguished customers as William Floyd and Judge William Smith.

            Boats sailed up the Connecticut river, anchored, and sent rowboats to the store for supplies.  The entries in the old account book which were numerous in the year following September, 1789, became meager in 1789 when the day book ends.   

            It was in one of the pools just below the old mill that Daniel Webster in later years, while spending a vacation at the Carman homestead, caught the mammoth trout whose silhouette was traced on a slab of wood and cut out for the weathervane for the South Haven Presbyterian church. 

            The story goes that during a Sunday morning service being conducted by my great grand father, the Rev. Ezra King, the pastor, word was brought to Mr. Webster, who was attending the service, that the long looked for trout was in the pool below the mill.  Quietly Mr. Webster slipped but, followed by most of the other worshipers who had guessed the reason.  Finally, the Rev. Mr. King, dismissed those who remained and joined the group at the river in time to see Daniel land the famous fish.  

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