On Thursday, April 29th at 11am author and historian Anne Halsey will be giving a lecture live on Zoom detailing the interesting history of Southampton's Main Street through the stories left behind by those who lived there. Including some of Anne's own relatives. To RSVP for her talk please click here!
The blog entry below comes directly from Anne as an early look at some of the info she will talk about in her virtual talk in April.
Also if you're interested, you can buy your very own copy of "In Old Southampton" from our online store if you click here!
by Anne Halsey
“In the earliest days of the village the triangle of land bounded by Main Street, Bowden Square, and North Sea Road was common land, for some time after that on every side had been occupied,” wrote Town historian Lizbeth Halsey White in a paper given during a meeting of the Southampton Colony Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, by Lizbeth Halsey White, in 1929, and later published in the Southampton Press.
Early in 1700, the triangle was bought by Abner Howell, who built a tannery on the west half and divided the rest between his two sons, David and Phineas. The Main Street part of the lot was purchased in 1788 by Annanias Halsey, whose son Urah lived across the street in the Wilman Halsey house. In 1831, Annanias sold the property that would become 49 North Main to my great-great-great grandfather, Captain Harry Halsey.
Interestingly, Harry Halsey was named for his great-uncle Henry Halsey, who was captain of a privateer during the Revolutionary War and who lost his life in the Battle of Groton Heights. After the news of the Battle of Lexington had reached Long Island, Henry Halsey and his brother Jesse, both signers of the Articles of Association, rowed across Long Island Sound, walked from New London to Boston, enlisted in the Continental Army, and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Henry became the captain of a privateer in the harbor of New London, and was killed in the Battle of Groton Heights on September 6, 1781, when Benedict Arnold made his raid on New London.
Jesse Halsey served throughout the war and won the rank of Captain. He was present at Cambridge when Washington took command of the Continental Army and served on Washington’s staff. He fought in the Battle of Monmouth and heard the famous reprimand given by Washington to General Charles Lee when the later had ordered retreat of the regiment he was leading. Captain Jesse was said to have General Washington’s rebuke of Lee was “righteous and well timed.”
Around 1750, David Howell, a silversmith, built the Herrick house on the southern half of the triangle. Howell is believed to be one of the many Long Islanders who sought refuge in Connecticut during the Revolution. In 1772, the house was purchased by Colonel Josiah Smith of Moriches, for his daughter, Hannah, who was married to Elias Pelletreau. Pelletreu was a merchant and the store which he built remained for many years attached to the house on the south. During the Revolution, Colonel Smith was imprisoned by the British at Provost Prison in New York City, and it was said Hannah had gone deaf as a result of exposure to the cold while “endeavoring to relieve her father’s distress.”
In the early 1930s, Lizbeth Halsey White published an extended “Memorial of the North End” in the Press, and we’ll let her tell the story from here:
Some years after this, a certain young man living in the South End was so attracted to this same gambrel-roofed house that he desired it for his home in case he could persuade a certain young woman living at Long Springs to share it with him. She was cool to his suit and he sailed away on a whaling voyage with his dream unrealized. No news was heard of him, nor of the ship, for many a long day.
The vessel was wrecked on the shores of Brazil and twelve sailors made their way, as best they could, through the tangled forests to Rio de Janeiro. It took them a month to reach it—torn and bedraggled. They told their story to the captain of a small vessel sailing for New Bedford. He could take only a part of their number. So they drew lots, and the young man of our story was not one of the fortunate. When the ship sailed, however, it carried one more than the lot had selected and the stowaway was not discovered until the ship was far at sea.
So he received with cheerfulness the captain’s order that he should sail ‘before the mast’ for his passage. Thus it happened that on a September afternoon of this same year two men, grimed with dust, were walking toward Southampton. Meanwhile, the good ship Warren had been given up for lost, and the crew also. A woman standing by her gate on the Sag Harbor road that day saw the men. She looked at them, then looked again. She grew pale, and ran down the street crying, ‘Oh, Lord a Massy! There comes them two poor fellows that was drowned in the bottom of the ocean!’
The young lady, meanwhile, had changed her mind and not very long after this incident, Austin Herrick and Mary Jagger went to live in the gambrel-roofed house which has furnished history and atmosphere for the neighborhood and for the village for many years before and since.
Captain Austin Herrick made seventeen voyages to sea and after he retired he kept the store attached to the house. He is described as tall and very dignified, especially in his elder days when he carried a cane. It is related of him that on the Sunday morning after the Reverend William Neal Cleaveland, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, had preached his sermon in defense of African slavery, Captain Austin Herrick arose and walked out of church with a very decided step. Though none followed, his action was much approved and the Reverend Cleaveland soon afterwards resigned his charge. Captain Herrick’s son, the Reverend Samuel Edward Herrick, was a prominent minister in Boston for many years, and his daughter Mary remained in the old home.
In the early days when only wood fires were known and the only means of lighting them was by the slow process of flint and steel, it was the custom if the coals burned out to seek live coals from a neighbor that the fires might be replenished. Coals were not the only things borrowed for there were no markets and grocery stores were not as convenient as today.
One woman of the olden time was heard to say, ‘The devil is always around, even in church on Sundays, taking your mind off the sermon by reminding you that you owe your neighbor a loaf of bread.’
Mrs. Elizabeth Howell Pierson of the South End and Mrs. Elizabeth Jessup Post of the North End were having tea together. In the course of conversation, Mrs. Pierson remarked, ‘Well, Elizabeth, you know the South End is the Court End of the town because the minister and the doctor and the squire all live there.’ Theodore White in his composition written about 1850, when a boy of 13, upon the ‘South End,’ said there was one advantage the North End had: ‘The farmers could raise a better crop of corn on their land.’
So there have been rivalries; but since the Methodist Church has given to the North Side its quota of the clergy; since doctors, village presidents, and bank presidents are counted among its leading citizens and the Town Hall has marked its boundaries, many of these have been eliminated. We suppose, however, we must concede to the South End the Summer Colony. The North End, too, has its ‘city voks’—we remember well the Bonner family who were at Charles Selden’s, and Connie’s birthday parties when all the children of the neighborhood were invited, and you had ever so much ice-cream!
The Gemmells and the Duers who were sometimes at the Wilmun Halsey’s. The mother of Katherine Mackay O’Brien was a little girl and her toys and dainty ruffles were the admiration of all the neighborhood children. Her dresses, like her mother’s, were pressed each time they were worn and we discovered for ourselves a secret, even though there was no maid to do the pressing. (Southampton has learned many tricks from the ‘City Folks’—and is still learning.) Then there was the very friendly Mrs. Lizzie Jean Nelson wife of Cyrus Sears and the dainty Aline. We still can see Madame Sears sitting and rocking in our mother’s kitchen, chatting gaily while the Saturday baking was going on—but mother could bake and listen, too.
The North End has good reason to remember the Coffin family who were at William Jagger’s, for they must have furnished several parlors with the priceless heirlooms they gleaned in the North End. In our grandmother’s parlor were six high-back fiddle-backed chairs of Queen Anne pattern. Mrs. Coffin succeeded in persuading her to part with three of them at the (then) fabulous sum of $5.00 each.
In general, however, the North End has been too far from the ocean for summer rentals and she has been left to follow her accustomed ways, and much of the informal neighborliness, which is one of her traditions, remains, unbroken, as in the years agone.
A prominent representative of the South End when asked by a prominent resident of the North End how his next door neighbor was (who was chronically ill), he replied he did not know, then added somewhat apologetically, ‘You know in the South End we do not boil our teakettles on our neighbor’s stoves as they do in the North End.’
The North End has adown the years cherished her traditions of old-fashioned neighborliness and when families have commenced together for several generations the ties of friendship become very strong.
There was one especially, who has but lately left us, Mary Herrick (and the gambrel-roofed house still speaks), whose life among its many graces is remembered, first of all, for its kindly interest and friendly neighborliness, which like the flowers in her garden have made the years of her generation fragrant and sweet. It is spirits such as these that have made the atmosphere of the old North End, and happy shall be those who make a like contribution to the perpetuation of her traditions.