Timber Made Big industry

Footnotes to Long Island History

Timber Made Big Industry


Thomas R. Bayles


By Thomas R. Bayles


            At the time Brookhaven town was settled by the white men, the greater part of the land in the town was covered with a heavy growth of timber.

            Pine was the most common and the cutting of cordwood was begun at an early period.  The wood growing upon “common” lands was freely used by the individual owners and perhaps by others.  There was danger of abuse in this practice, and to prevent it, the town trustees in 1813 forbade any person cutting or selling cordwood in the common lands without first obtaining a license from the trustees or the majority of the land proprietors.

            Some timber was used in the early years in the manufacture of pipe staves, and the manufacture of tar was carried on to some extent.  Reference to it is made as early as 1678 regarding a house occupied by men engaged in this business which stood upon a piece of land on Dayton's neck, now Brookhaven.  From this the locality gained some reputation as Tarmen's neck.  The industry was of sufficient importance in 1716 that the trustees levied a tax upon it of nine pence for every barrel made.  Officers were appointed to collect this tax, Col. Floyd on the south side and Selah Strong on the north side.

            The most important use made of the timberlands was for cordwood, and this industry grew up in the early days due to the superior transportation available by boats, and the business flourished until coal was brought into general use.

            Long before the railroad was built there were numerous landings on the shores of the town from which wood was shipped to market.  On the south bay where the water is shallow near the shore, piers were built far out into the bay and small boats were used to carry the wood from shore to them, where it was reloaded on larger boats.  In 1812 the trustees granted the right for such a pier to Smith Mott.  It was to stand a little west of the Connecticut (Carman's) River, and was to be 25 rods from the shore of this land, and to be 16 by 45 feet in size.

            Previous to the erecting of any mills for grinding grain in  the town the settlers had to send their grain by boat to Connecticut to be ground into flour.  To relieve this situation Daniel Lane, with the assistance of the townspeople, was the first to undertake establishing a mill in the town, and in 1664 18 of the principal inhabitants of the town made an agreement with Mr. Lane that if he would build a mill and keep it in repair, for the grinding of the grain of the town, they would erect a strong dam and besides pay him 20 shillings a lot for the rights they represented.  Also they agreed to pay him two quarts of every bushel of grain he ground for them.

            This first mill was located at Setauket.  As the years went on mills were established at various places in the town where water power was available.  In 1701 the trustees notified Arthur Futhy that if he did not put his mill in good condition with in a few months the privilege of the water power at that point would be sold at public auction.

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