Early Years in Middle Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Years in Middle Island

December 23


Thomas R. Bayles

Caption:  Way back When-Here’s the Middle Island Presbyterian Church that was built in 1837 to replace the first one built in 1766, that stood in front of the present one which is still serving the community.  Note schoolhouse in corner built in 1813, and called “The school by the side of the road.”  Horseblocks can be seen in front of the fence where the ladies got in and out of their carriages.

          The will of James Swezey, who lived near Half Mile Pond or Pine Lake as it is now called, is interesting.  This was made in 1778, and in those years careful distribution was made in wills of feather beds, pillows, tongs, irons, etc., as they were highly valued.  An interesting item of this will reads as follows.  “I will that my sons Isaac and James provide and keep a good milch cow for my wife during her life, if she remains my widow so long.”  Apparently she lost the cow if she remarried.

          Artist Lake used to be called Corwin’s Pond, as the Rev. Jacob Corwin lived nearby.  He was one of the first pastors of the Wading River Congregational Church, which was organized in 1785, and was also the first pastor of the New Village (Centereach) Congregational church in 1815.

          The artist, Alonzo Chappel, lived east of Artist Lake (which was named after him) in the house formerly the home of Charles Mierow.  He was born in Brooklyn in 1829 and moved to Middle Island in 1869, and was employed for many years by the publishing house of Martin, Johnson, & Fry of New York.  He painted the plates for the illustrations in many of the books published by this firm, among which were “Spencer’s History of the United States,” “Duyckink’s History of the Civil War,” “The National Portrait Gallery,” and many others.  Mr. Chappel seemed to understand a subject completely and to have the ability to portray the products of his imagination with striking effect,

          A pre-revolutionary house is the old Ashton homestead on East Bartlett road which was the home of Major Leek and his family during the Revolution.  It was the custom in those war days for the British soldiers who were riding through the Island, to stop and demand dinner from any known sympathizer of the American cause, and one day a party of British soldiers stopped and Mrs. Leek prepared dinner for them.  While waiting, one of the officers went around the dining room hitting the sides of the room with his sword to see if any valuables were concealed.  They found none. 

          Prosser’s Cathedral Pines, located on Yaphank Road, is the largest white pine forest on Long Island, and the original trees in this beautiful forest were planted by “Uncle Billy Dayton” in 1812.

          The Connecticut or Carman’s river used to rise in Pfeiffer’s pond and flow through Yaphank and into the bay at Brookhaven.  Several mills were located on this river, among which were the old fuling mill in 1792, south of Middle Island, the Upper Mill at Yaphank, built in 1739 and the Gerard’s mill or lower mill, built in 1762.  The diary of Minerva Hutchinson in 1808 says, “At night our rolls were brought home from the carding mill down the river.  I began to spin them.  Very good rolls,” and, “Carded mixed wool for stocking yarn after breakfast by candle light.”

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2021 Manitowoc Public School District