SUFFOLK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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MEMBERSHIP DRIVE

If you’ve been enjoying our Photo of the Week, please consider becoming a member of SCHS. The Suffolk County Historical Society, founded in 1886, collects and preserves the rich history of Suffolk County and beyond. We offer a history museum, art galleries, a research library and archives, and a multitude of exhibits, programs, and educational lectures and workshops year-round. Our unique collections reflect more than three centuries of Long Island history.

Click here to learn about Member Benefits!

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From the Civil War to civil rights, revolutions to restorations, spies to Suffragettes, boatbuilders to bootleggers, and whalers to wineries, Long Island’s history comes alive at the Suffolk County Historical Society! 

Interested in seeing more historical photos from the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society? Spend an afternoon at our Local History Library perusing our extensive archival photography collectionsWe’re open Weds. – Sat., 12:30 – 4:30 PM.   

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Photo of the Week

———- March 1, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Letter from George Washington, 1795

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Letter from George Washington to Nine Suffolk County Residents Who Had Expressed Opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795. (From the Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

This rare document from our library archives originally turned up in the Southold home of Mary Dayton, whose ancestors were among New York state’s first judges. The letter, dated September 7, 1795, was addressed to Ms. Dayton’s great-great-great grandfather, Jared Landon of Cutchogue, and eight other Suffolk County residents who had expressed opposition to the Jay Treaty of 1795: David Hedges of Bridgehampton, Benjamin Huntting of Southampton, Abraham Miller of East Hampton, Benjamin Horton Jr. of Southold, Nicoll Floyd of Mastic, John Howard of Shelter Island, Josiah Reeve of Mattituck, and David Warren of Jamesport.

Although we are unsure whether George Washington or a staffer actually penned the letter, it was issued from the president’s office. The letter reads:

“Gentlemen, I have received your letter of Aug 6 expressing your Sentiments on the Treaty lately negotiated between the United States and Great Britain. It is now generally known that the Treaty has received my Assent on the Condition proposed by the Senate; this was not given until after most mature deliberations. Not withstanding the Diversity of Opinion which has been manifested is much to be regretted, I cannot but hope that experience will show that the public interest required the Course which has been pursued. With due respect, I am Gentlemen, Your Obedient Geo. Washington.”

There was anger over Britain’s refusal to withdraw troops from the northwestern frontier, refusal to enter into commercial agreements, and mistreatment of crews on American ships. President George Washington had sent Supreme Court Justice John Jay to negotiate with Britain, and Jay returned with a treaty in which some concessions had been gained, but not nearly as many as the American public had hoped for. The nine Suffolk County residents had sent a letter to Washington expressing doubts about the Jay Treaty that the young United States had recently signed with Great Britain.

Many Long Islanders had been imprisoned or forced to flee to Connecticut during the British occupation, and when they returned, many found that their possessions had been plundered and their homes wrecked by fire or cannonballs. In addition, Washington had been informed that David Hedges had spent seven years in a British lockup in Southampton. The President therefore took special pains to respond personally to these men of Suffolk County.

Suggested Reading: The Diary of George Washington From 1789 to 1791; Embracing the Opening of the First Congress, and His Tours Through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States, 1860. 

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here.

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Photo of the Week

———- January 16, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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Civil War Portrait, 1964

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Elisha Wells Civil War Portrait, 1864(Image from the Elisha Wells Civil War Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

Elisha Wells (1830-1895) of Aquebogue married Maria Skillman Hudson, and together they had eleven children. During the Civil War, Elisha was a private of Capt. Hubbard E. Tuthill’s Co. 7, 2nd Regiment of Conn., Heavy Artillery Volunteers. He enrolled on February 5, 1864 – at age 33 and with seven children – to serve three years during the Civil War, and was discharged on August 18, 1865. Our library collection includes dozens of letters that he wrote to his wife and family while he was away at war (one of which is transcribed here). Elisha, a Riverhead farmer and a one-time Riverhead Postmaster (1870), is buried in the Riverhead Cemetery. 

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Fort Williams
Near Alexandria, Virginia
April 3, 1864

Dear Maria,

I now take the opportunity to inform you that I am in the land of the living yet, and in the enjoyment of good health as good as ever I enjoyed in my life…. The last time I wrote to you I said I thought that we should not have to leave Fort Williams, but that is now somewhat changed. Some two or three regiments have gone to the front and several more have got to go. Among those gone was the 15th New York – they were stationed at Fort Lyons about 1/2 mile to the south of us. They went away last Sunday. They refused to go at first and drew up in battle line. Then the 5th Pennsylvania bucktails encamped close to the city were called upon to take the fort; they marched up to the fort, 2,400 of them, when the New Yorkers thought best to obey orders as they could not have held the fort….

I suppose you know that General [Ulysses S.] Grant was in command of the whole force of the U.S. The soldiers are going South every day to reinforce [General George] Meade for the purpose of the taking of Richmond. Grant is there himself. The Army of the South is in the charge of General [George H.] Thomas. You may expect to hear of some fighting bye and bye. I should like to be at the taking of Richmond; however, there will probably be a great many lives lost in this spring campaign. I expect to stick to it; I believe I am in the right, and I believe the North will conquer the rebels and give them their desserts for they are as bad as the savages. They have been hanging some of our soldiers, maybe you read in the papers. Don’t trouble yourself about me. I can stand my hand with any of them….

My love to all inquiring friends.

From your husband,
E. Wells

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here.

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Photo of the Week

———- January 9, 2021 ———-

FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES

“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck

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LONG ISLAND RAILROAD

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian 

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LIRR Train to Wading River, 1906, by Hal B. Fullerton. The Port Jefferson line ran to Wading River until the 1960s. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the SCHS Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved. [To view the Fullerton photo, please visit www.suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.com website].

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LIRR Train to Wading River, 1906, by Hal B. Fullerton. The Port Jefferson line ran to Wading River until the 1960s. (Image from the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the SCHS Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)

The Long Island Railroad was incorporated nearly 187 years ago, on April 24, 1834, mainly for the purpose of constructing a link from Brooklyn to Boston. Because of New England’s hills and broad rivers, the Greenport route was chosen, and it connected with a steamship line to Stonington, Conn. The extension of the LIRR to Greenport in 1844 was an event that caused much excitement all over Long Island–for now it was possible to make the trip from the western end of Long Island to the eastern end in three hours instead of two to three days!

In the winter of 1843-44 there were a large number of men working on the Greenport line construction. Among them was Michael Creighton, grandfather of Thomas Creighton, flagman on the Griffing Avenue railroad crossing in Riverhead. Also among them was James Magee, grandfather of Barney Magee, blacksmith of Aquebogue. The first train to Greenport was run over the tracks on July 27, 1844. The engines burned wood, mostly pine, which was cut by men with buck saws.

INFO. SOURCE: Clarence Ashton Wood, “First Train to Greenport in 1844” (Long Island Forum, 1944).

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The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum is open to the public for a safe, socially-distanced family outing with 15-minute intervals between parties. Exhibits provide a safe, “touchless” experience for adults and children alike. Masks are required of all museum visitors over age 2.

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www.suffolkcountyhistoricalsociety.org

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To View 2014 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2015 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2016 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2017 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2018 Photo of the Week pages click here.

To View 2019 Photo of the Week pages click here. 

To View 2020 Photo of the Week pages click here.

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