Mills of Yaphank, Vicinity (part 1)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Mills of Yaphank, Vicinity

December 6, 1956

Thomas R. Bayles


               Yaphank is located in the southeastern part of what was once known as the “Parish of Middle Town” (Middle Island), and was locally known as Millville.  The name Yaphank is taken from an old Indian name Yamphank, meaning the bank of a river, which was given to a small stream at Brookhaven that flows into the Connecticut or Carman’s River.

            The Connecticut River, which flows through Yaphank, is from an Indian name meaning “the long river,” and this river is about the longest on Long Island.  Years ago it rose in Pfeiffer’s pond at Middle Island and ran through a culvert under Middle Country Road or Route 25, as it is now known.  Fish used to swim through this culvert from Pfeiffer’s pond on their way downstream to Yaphank years ago.  Now it is dried up for a mile or so south or near Prosser’s park.  From Szuster’s farm south it is navigable for a row boat.

            There were two important mills in Yaphank in years gone by.  The one known as Swezey’s Mills or Upper Mills was the first to be used.  This mill was built under a grant from the town trustees to Capt. Robert Robertson in 1739.  He paid six shillings for this right to build a mill there.  In 1762 the town trustees granted the right to John Homan to build a saw mill in lower Yaphank.  He paid 40 shillings for this right.  He was also granted the right to build a “fuling mill” there.  In 1771 he was granted the right to build a grist mill there also, and his grant read as follows:  “That he said Daniel Homan shall complete a mill for grinding within two years from this date, and shall keep an approved miller.  Also he shall take, as toll for grinding, three quarts of each bushel of grain that may be ground.”

            This miss was known in more recent years as Gerard’s Mill.  It burned down during World War I.  Here it was that the farmers who lived for miles around came with their grain to be ground into flour and meal of different kinds, and here also they brought the logs from their forests to be sawed into lumber which they used in building their houses.  “Going to mill” was a favorite expression in the old days, and it was an interesting trip for the children to go with their father with a load of grain to be ground.

            The old fuling mill, which stood on the river about a mile north of the Upper Mill pond, was in operation in 1792, and in that year the town trustees granted, to Ebenezer Homan, the right to the stream north of his “fuling mill” for the sum of three pounds.  This mill was used for several years in the making of cloth of some kind.  In an old diary of Minerva Hutchinson, of Middle Island, the following entries appear:

            “July 26, 1808; At night our rolls were brought home from the carding mill down the river. I began to spin them.  Very good rolls.”

            “August 14th; We got up very early in the morning.  I got to spinning about sunrise, having had breakfast by candlelight.  Carded mixed wool for stocking yarn.”

            In 1799 a road was laid out from the eat end of Granny Road across the “old fuling mill dam” to the Middle Island-Yaphank Road.  This was closed in 1823.  A fourth mill site was about half a mile below the lower mill (Gerard’s Mill) and a saw mill was built there by Daniel Homan, but it was abandoned before long.

            In 1851, funds were raised and a chapel built, which is the Presbyterian Church.  Services were held there every other Sunday afternoon.  Before this the people in Yaphank attended the Presbyterian Church in Middle Island.

            St. Andrews Episcopal Church was built in 1854 on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. James H. Weeks.

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