Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Bit of Local History Written by the Late W.S. Pelletreau

Record of the Ownership of the Triangle between Main Street and North Sea Road Southampton Press

The recent burning of the Dawson dwelling and barns recalls an article written by our esteemed historian, the late William S. Pelletreau
--> [1840-1918], and published in the PRESS in May, 1917. The article has much value and interest to all living in that section of the village and is reprinted by request.

In old times, long before the Revolution, the entire triangle between the Main street and the North Sea road was owned by Abner Howell. He was the son of Col. Josiah Howell, and was a man of importance in his day and time. A small, brown tombstone tells us that Mr. Abner Howell died Sept. 16, 1775 in the 76th year of his age. About 1750 he gave his son, Phineas Howell, the lot where John Cavanagh now lives, and he built a house upon it which was standing in our boyhood days. At the same time there was another house exactly like it and this was owned by Mr. Peter Fournier and was where the Commercial House now stands. They were not only exactly alike in other respects but there was a peculiar style to the chimneys which attracted our attention. Both of these houses were torn down about 1849. Abner Howell seems to have divided the entire triangle between his two sons, Phineas and David, and Phineas had the north part and David Howell had the south portion. In 1788 Phineas Howell sold east part to Annanias Halsey and went to what was the “Western Country” and settled in the town of Tully, in what is now Onondaga County, New York, and he died there at a very advanced age. Annanias Halsey was the father of a family that had been prominent in Southampton. His son, Uriah Halsey, lived on the place now owned by Mrs. Wilmun Halsey and had two daughters. One married John Sherry of Sag Harbor and the other married Capt. Crowell of the same place.

Another son of Annanias was Eli P. Halsey, who was the father Edwin P. Halsey, who lived in the old house, next north of Herrick’s store.

Another daughter married Col. Samuel hunting, whose wealth has been of benefit to many families. Another daughter, Mary (or Polly, as she was generally called) married Mr. Daniel Fordham, whose descendants are numerous and well known. Another daughter, Susan (commonly known in our boyhood days as Aunt Susan Halsey) lived and died unmarried in a little old house that stood just north of Capt. Daniel Jagger’s house, now Mr. Donnelly’s. After her death the house was sold by Capt. Jagger to David Terry, who moved it to Tuckahoe where it still remains.

The part of the lot sold to Annanias Halsey was in later years sold to Capt. Harry Halsey, who is well remembered. The part where the little house stood is now owned by Miss Abigail Halsey, and the homestead by the Rev. Jesse Halsey. The old house and lot of Phineas Howell was sold by him to Ebenezr Jagger in 1772. He had a tan yard on the premises, and was the great-grandfather of Mr. Hubert Jagger. In later years the house and lot belonged to Mr. Aja Halsey, who tore down the old house and built a new one and which, after passing through several hands now belongs to John Cavanagh.

We may add that Abner Howell did not live on that tract. His home lot, which was that of his father’s before him, was where Mr. Livingston Bowden now lives. He was the village blacksmith and the relics of his shop were plainly visible some years ago, when the road was ploughed up on Bowden Square.

The south part of the triangle was given by Abner Howell to his son, David Howell, who built a house upon it about 1750. In 1770, the main street of Southampton was surveyed from the beach to the road at Long Springs and David Howell’s house is there mentioned. Like most houses of that time it was built on the line of the street. The present door yard has been taken in from the highway but no one is any the worse for it. David Howell was a silversmith and learned his trade from Capt. Elias Pelletreau. We have seen spoons made by him and stamped with his name. On May 10th, 1782, David Howell sold his house and lot to Col. Josiah Smith of Moriches for £400, or $2,00. As the lot included what is now Mr. Donnelly’s property, it is worth as much today. What became of David Howell we do not know but he may have gone West like his brother. Colonel Josiah Smith bought this place for his daughter Hannah, who married Elias Pelletreau, and they lived there many years keeping a store, which did a large business for those days. Flax was a staple article and was raised in large quantities and taken in trade but times have changed and there has not been an ounce of flax raised in Southampton for nearly 100 years. We may as well mention that another article of extensive sales was West India rum. In the latter part of his life Elias Pelletreau purchased a large farm at the south end of the village, with a house still standing and well known as the Hollyhocks.

After the death of Elias Pelletreau, the David Howell, house and lot was sold to Benjamin Howell and after passing through one or two hands it came into possession of Capt. Austin Herrick and is now owned by his descendents who are well known to us all. The house which still remains, was built originally after the standard style of those times, with a long sloping roof on one side, but at some later period it was changed, and by making gambrel roof with dormer windows, it was made practically a two-story house. In old times, when land was cheap, houses were built large on the ground, the upper part was a necessary evil, and it was not necessary to put one house on another. It has stood the storms of more than 160 years and will outlast many of the flashy houses of the present time.

The person who sees Mr. Dawson’s place would hardly believe that it is a hundred years old. So much has been added that it looks like a new house, but the original house has passed its 100th mark long years ago, and hereby hangs a tale.

In the early part of the last century, the farm at the north end, now owned by Mr. James E. Foster, was the homestead of John Bishop and his wife Jerusha, both models of short-sighted penuriousness. The story goes, and we have heard it repeated by those who evidently believed it, that they were left this farm and much other land, with the condition that they were to support two maiden sisters until their death or marriage. They seem to have been well convinced that the former would happen first and they might have to wait a long time for that, and they worried about certain sharp individuals, and there were sharp people even in those virtuous days, and they were Squire William Herrick, Rufus Sayre, and Joel Jacobs, made them the offer to take the girls off their hands and support them until they were dead or married, in exchange for their farm and some other lands, among which we believe was a lot at Halsey’s neck, now owned by Edward. H. Foster, Esq. They accepted the offer and congratulated themselves on their grand stroke of luck. One of the characters in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” says, “Gals is mighty on certain things. If you think they have gone one way they are sure to be gone the other.” With that perversity, so peculiar to the female sex, these girls, who were expected never to marry, were both married within a year. The Bishops then repented in sackcloth and ashes, that they had parted with their land so easily. The house on the farm was sold to Paul Sayre, the grandfather of our well-known townsman, Mr. Rufus Sayre, and he moved it to its present site where he purchased a small piece of land of the proprietors. This is the 100th anniversary of its moving and it is certain that it was of some age at the time. Here Paul Sayre lived and died, and his daughter, Miss Nancy Sayre, with a sister lived there within our recollection.

As for the Bishops’ story we hardly know what to say. There are some things which make us doubt it, but as the Italian saying is, “If it is not true, it is well made up.”

The Jesse Halsey Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library. 

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