With the "2012 Summer Season" ending a look back to a beginning came to mind.
A howling spring sea breeze blew through the riggings of the vessel that sailed from Lynn, Massachusetts in 1640 that brought the founding fathers to Cows Bay. They came to create a “plantation” now known by the name of Southampton. Historians of another era called them, "God fearing men," men who were to spend much of the early years existing in living quarters dug into the earth.
They had left Lynn, Massachusetts, (a settlement founded only 11 years earlier in 1629) to pursue a dream. They reportedly landed on Conscience Point on June 12, 1640. Their names: Edward Howell, Edmond Farrington, Edmond Needham, Daniel How, Josias Stanborough, Thomas Saire, George Welbe, Henry Walton and Thomas Halsey. They all came ashore from up the Atlantic coast to find a land they would make their own.
There were situations with the Dutch, who at first attempted to expel what they considered the "illegal immigrants." Also there were the issues with the Shinnecock, then referred to as “wild Indians.” Yet these men were of very strong stock and the colony was successfully settled.
Reports in old histories state the original settlers were led to Old Town Pond by the Indians. So that is where the early settlement was established. Church services were first held in the home of Edward Howell, whose home was the first to be completed. The originals brought what they could fit on a ship to start a way of life Southampton locals now sometimes take for granted, a life now filled with many of the original's traditions.
They called their Puritanism, “a church without a bishop, a state without a King.” They fished, they hunted, they planted and all who followed have reaped what they sowed. Twenty-eight years later, their infant Southampton town purchased Wegwaganuck from the Indians that lived there, now we call that purchase Sag Harbor.
The constitution of Southampton was considered not as liberal as that of Plymouth, yet, first minister Abraham Pierson held enormous power and influence as only his church members could vote on town matters. Such was the Puritan way of life in those first 20 years of settlements in the Northeast; (not as true in Virginia, things were more commercial.)
Today the is the oldest remaining home in Southampton. The first meeting house is believed to have been constructed somewhere near the location of Southampton Hospital. Much credit is given to Thomas Halsey and his relationship with the Shinnecock Indians with learning their successful ways to grow corn, fertilizing it with fish, digging for clams and scallops and planting potatoes. The first Presbyterian Church was built on Town Street now know as Main Street in 1652, rebuilt in 1707 with the remaining wood gothic church built in 1843.
By 1690, just 50 years after the first settlers came from Lynn, Massachusetts, there were settlements in North Sea, Wickapoque, Water Mill, Cobb, Mecox, and Sagaponack.
In 1701 Southampton created the first Indian reservation for the Shinnecocks with a written treaty.
In 1707 Sag Harbor becomes recognized as a settlement by documents in both, Southampton and East Hampton. These brave pioneers created and maintained militia’s, that battled attacks from the Pequot, Narragansett, and Mohawk Indians not to mention the French and Dutch. At the same time the originals were building schools, churches, clearing farmlands, all with the crudest of tools.
By 1776, the local census of the time for Southampton had 1,434 people residing east of Water Mill and 1,358 residing west. In the Revolutionary War, Suffolk County sent 760 officers and men into battle. Southampton men comprised 3 companies.
Historian Henry Hedges sums up the occupation of the East End best with his lines delivered in a speech in 1872, “Not until Evacuation day were the pent up patriot passions of this people released from the hydraulic pressure of British power. No town in the old thirteen states welcomed Independence with a louder shout than Southampton.” He was referring to the barbarities of Major Cochrane of the British who tortured women to get information.
By 1808 Southampton was taking on the appearance we now know. The and were still 40 years in the future but as President Jefferson was completing his last year as President ,horses pulled wagons, Ox and other bovines pulled plows, and children rode mules. At times after rainstorms the dirt of main streets became mud that was waist high. It was not until the 1880s that rich New York socialite’s came out to the tiny historic village and began to build their mansions and golf courses.
By 1896 there was regular train service not only to Southampton, but actually out to Montauk. With that train service, large trunks where shipped out for the very rich to spend the whole summer on the east end. One hundred years ago on July 4th, the town looked very much as it does today. Perhaps fireworks were purchased at Hildreth’s. Perhaps a Mr. Corwin was setting some diamonds on Main Street very near the same buildings Corwin's is in now. Back then, the Swank family dairy was providing milk and butchering meats. A few years later rounds of golf were being played at both and golf links, Tennis balls were being stuck on the grass tennis courts on Gin Lane at the , by the way, their 36 grass courts are more than there are at Wimbledon in England.
Since those years many things have changed, yet so many things remained the same. Summer seasons come summer seasons go.