Booth Home in Yaphank (part 2)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Booth Home in Yaphank

August 20 1956

Thomas R. Bayles


         In continuing the story of Yaphank, its mills and places of historic note, mention must be made of the old home across from the Yaphank Episcopal Church, the birthplace in 1831 or Mary Louise Booth.

            She was widely known as the editor of Harper’s Bazaar from 1867 to 1889.  Her history of New York City was the first complete work ever published.

            The Suffolk County home was built in 1871 on a farm of 170 acres that was bought for $12,700.  The original building, which was torn down when the present building was built several years ago, was three stories high and was 35 by 90 feet, with a wing on either side 40 by 80 feet.  The Children’s home was built in 1879 on the east side of the road and was used for many years before it was torn down.

            The Connecticut River flows through Yaphank and on to the Great South Bay, where is had another important mill located on it at South Haven, where it flows under the Montauk Highway at Robinson’s Duck Farm, near the Presbyterian Church.  This old mill is still standing and was in operation in 1745.  It still has the old mill stones between which the corn and grain brought by the farmers were ground.  Here also are the rusted remains of the machinery that operated the saws that cut the farmer’s tree logs into lumber.  Water still pours through the mill race as it did a generation before the Revolution as though it expected to again hear the creak of revolving wheels.

            It was in one of the pools below this mill that Daniel Webster caught a famous trout.  He was spending the weekend at the Carman Tavern nearby, and on Sunday morning went to church across the road, leaving a Negro boy to watch the pool for the long sought fish.  During the service the boy tiptoed into the church and whispered to Mr. Webster that the fish was in the pool.  Mr. Webster quietly went out and soon several others who knew what was going on left also.  Finally, the minister, the Rev. Ezra King, who was my great grandfather, closed the service and the whole congregation went over to the mill and watched Mr. Webster catch the second largest trout on record.  A copy of it in wood was made for a weather vane and was hung on the steeple of the church for 50 years, until one summer afternoon a thunder storm came up and lightning struck the steeple and knocked off the weather vane, killing a mule that had taken shelter against the side of the church.

            Near the mill was the general store of Samuel Carman.  The store sold about everything the farmers who came to the mill in those days needed.  An old account book in 1798 showed a great variety or articles sold, among which were thimbles, needles, thread, powder, shot, trousers, coats, shoes, paper, tobacco, molasses, (very popular, as it was used to make rum) tea, knives, combs, cloth, spices, salt, books, snuff, rum, whips, wheels, rice and groceries.  The largest item sold was rum.

            Groceries were mostly all weighed in those days, and crackers, sugar, salt, oatmeal and a great many things came in barrels and were weighed by the store keeper when sold.  Salt pork was kept in a barrel of brine in the back room and a hook was used to fish a piece out when wanted.  Hams were hung on hooks also, and cheese came in a big round cake which was cut into pieces as needed.  Things were different from today when everything comes in a package and is picked up in the self service stores.

            More about Yaphank will appear in a coming issue of The Patchogue Advance.

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