Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Southampton Honors Lizbeth White"

Lizbeth May Halsey White & Edward Pearson White 
c1929 | 34 Post Crossing
from "Southampton Honors Lizbeth White"

By Portia Flanagan

Long Island Traveler-Watchman
23 May 1985

SOUTHAMPTON—The Contents of the Southampton Historical Museum were designated officially as the Lizbeth White Memorial by members of the Southampton Colonial Society at their annual meeting held in the museum’s spacious drawing room Friday night, May 17.

The members’ unanimous action was taken to honor the late Mrs. White who, as Town Historian in the 1920s, uncovered numbers of long-hidden treasures and urged the community to preserve its rich heritage for future generations.

Society Trustee Roy L. Wines Jr. told the 100 persons present that it was “a privilege to offer the motion” to designate the museum’s contents in Mrs. White’s memory. His motion also provided for the creation of “an appropriate bronze plague” to be mounted in the museum building, known as The Captain Rogers Homestead, at Meeting House Lane.

Preceding the establishment of the memorial, Society president Robert Keene, who is the current town historian, described Mrs. White as “one of my heroines.” It was in his own search of town records that revealed her accomplishments and foresight, along with her remarkable grasp and concept of local history, that endeared her to me, three Town Historians and some 50 years later,” Mr. Keen said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr. Keene said that in 1915, when Southampton celebrated its 275th anniversary, the local paper, the Sea-Side Times, published a piece written by Mrs. White that he said, “proved to me that she had the understanding and inspiration that, over 35 years later, resulted in the founding of the Southampton Historical Museum.

In it Mrs. White noted that  “Many of our town’s most precious memorials have vanished forever. Our fathers were too busy planting and colonizing, to think much about leaving behind them personal souvenirs . . . The golden opportunities for constructing the infant history of our colony have for the most part passed away. Those which remain ought to be seized with the greatest avidity.”

She would like to see, she wrote 70 years ago, “The fairest lot of land to be found between Long Springs and the beach devoted to a memorial use. Spare an acre or two from your generous farms, upon it to be erected a modest but dignified structure of stone, or brick, fireproof, which shall contain primarily a library. Then into this repository let every native and every citizen take a pride in gathering whatever shall preserve the memory of the past or throw light upon its life. The place and time to begin are here and now.

“Begin with today and work backward as fast and as far as possible,” she wrote, continuing: “Gradually the past will be restored, the lost will be found. Long hidden treasures will leap from their hiding places and find their companions and congenial associations.”

She noted in the article that the Colonial Society, established in 1898, had sponsored two loan exhibitions of “a rare and beautiful collection of articles and relics of earlier days  . . . These exhibitions have proved our locality rich in treasures of the past and the Society has long looked forward to making permanent an exhibit of the kind of thing which historical societies everywhere are doing, with a background of incidents far less picturesque than that Southampton possesses.”

It was not until 1951, however, 19 years after Mrs. White’s death in October, 1932, that the Colonial Society was able to open the doors of the Historical Museum, its first permanent home, which Mr. Keene said on Friday is “this truly magnificent museum complex which has become a fitting memorial for all that Lizbeth White ever dreamed of. And furthermore, he said, “it is a tribute to Lizbeth White, the first woman historian of the Town and the meticulous recorder of our history and heritage.”

It was Mrs. White, Mr. Keene said, who was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the Town Board in 1928 the design of the town flag; it was her “small typewritten note” that he found among the papers of the late Town Historian William K. Dunwell that led to the adoption of the first Southampton Town Flag in 1982, Mr. Keene added.

And it was Mrs. White, he said, who discovered that the first woman to step ashore at what is now Conscience Point in North Sea in 1640 was Eleanor Howell, the wife of the leader of the first white settlers, Edward Howell. It was she who identified the small boy in the boat as the Howell’s eight-year-old son, Arthur, he said.

Mrs. White, who was born Lizbeth Halsey, live din what is today the Post House at North Main Street, and raised her family there. She was the founding Regent of the Southampton Colony Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and it was, appropriately, the chapter that presented the flag to the town.

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