Called for Building Church Early Settlement of Town

Called for Building Church Early Settlement of Town

By Thomas R. Bayles


            The first settlement in Brookhaven Town was made at Setauket in 1655, but no settlement was made in the middle of the Island until about 1730.  Around 1700, Col. William Smith had established a homestead at the Manor of St. George in Mastic, and some settlement was being made around Fireplace, (Brookhaven).  It was a long trip from Mastic to the town capitol at Setauket, so a meeting place about halfway was chosen at Coram.

            The first record of a public meeting being held at Coram was one on the first day of January 1695, which was held for the purpose of considering the question of inviting a minister to the town.  But the public meetings of the town were not regularly held at Coram until many years later, when it became the regular meeting place for town meetings and all the official boards of the town, and was so used until 1885, when the town was divided into election districts.

            Land through the middle of the island was not distributed to individual owners until about 1730, and before that time all the land for several miles around was held by the town proprietors in common and was used as a common range for cattle, and by roving bands of Indians who used it for a hunting ground.

            The town records show that one, John Smith, had a house on a 30-acre tract of land at Coram in 1730, which lay upon the country road.  From that time on, settlement was made through the central part of the town along the Middle Country road.

            During the period of prosperity that followed, a meeting house was erected at Coram for religious worship.  This was built in 1747 and stood on the site of the present Methodist church.  A Baptist church was organized which is supposed to have been the first one of that denomination in Suffolk County, and for a long time was the only one.  The history of this church seems to be wrapped in much obscurity, but membership in the church was important according to the inscriptions on the tombstones in the old burying ground across the road from the present Methodist church, where many of the forefathers of Coram sleep.

            The names of the Hammonds, Yarringtons and Overtons and others are found inscribed, and among them the following inscription gives us a glimpse of the old Baptist church. “Rev. Noah Hammond, Minister of the gospel and pastor of the Baptist Church of Coram was born Feb. 24, 1718, died Nov. 4, 1774.”

            This old Baptist church was probably owned by individuals in shares, as was sometimes done in those days, and from a paper dated in 1789, shows that Samuel Bishop, for the consideration of two pounds, quit claimed to David Overton and Isaac Smith all his interest in the Baptist meeting house and land at Coram.

            The records of Brookhaven Town show that at a meeting of the town trustees in February 1792, “it was voted and agreed that Isaac Overton do invite the Rev. David Rose, (pastor of the Middle Island Pres. Church) to preach an election sermon at the meeting house in Coram at the annual town meeting to be held on the first Tuesday of April next, to begin at eleven o’clock of said day.”

            In 1847 the old Baptist meeting house, having served its day and generation, was torn down and sold to Alanson Overton, who used the materials in the construction of a house in Port Jefferson.

            One of the early settlers of Coram was Nathaniel Norton, who was born in 1742, and who was active in the Revolution as a lieutenant in the Fourth New York Continental Regiment.  After the war he retired to his farm and in 1790 became the minister in the Baptist church at Coram.  He died in 1837 and was buried in the old Baptist burying ground with the solemn and impressive services of the Cincinnati Society, (composed of officers of the Revolution) of which he was the oldest member.

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