Southampton is fortunate to have local historians who have been keeping track of the history of Southampton since 1640. Many original documents survived since the 1600’s and are now safe in the archives at the town hall. Thank goodness for the local DAR chapters who, in the early 1900’s, had the forethought to record the information off of the old gravestones in the local cemeteries before it wore away. Many families recorded their history in family bibles. Local churches kept records. The town kept records, including wills and deeds.
I grew up in Southampton. Even so, when I started working at this museum I knew little about the local history. Over the years I have accumulated more and more facts from visitors who shared their family histories and stories, and from doing my own research. During this time I have often been corrected. I’ve learned to always use more than one source when seeking facts. One of the first lessons I learned is that sometimes history is manipulated creating local folklore that is hard to let go of. With today’s technology it is easy to share and compare information and set the facts straight.
The Southampton Plantation was founded as an English Colony in 1640 by 20 heads of families who originally settled in Lynn, Massachusetts.
9 Original Undertakers:
Edward Howell – stayed and is credited for building the first water mill
Edmond Farrington – went to Flushing
Edmond Needham – went back to New England
Thomas Sayre – came and stayed
Job Sayre – came but disappears from the records
George Welbe – went back to New England
Henry Walton – went back to New England
Josias Stanborough – he arrived in 1644, was in Sagaponack by 1658
Daniel Howe – Captain of the vessel, later went to East Hampton
11 other heads of families joined later:
Allan Bread – went back to New England
John Cooper – stayed, many descendants were involved in whaling
John Farrington – went to Flushing
Thomas Farrington – went to Flushing
Thomas Halsey – came and stayed
William Harker/Harcher – went back to New England
Philip Kyrtland – went back to New England
Nathaniel Kyrtland – went back to New England
Thomas Newell – went back to New England
Richard Odell – went back to New England
Thomas Terry – went to Southold
Disturbed by the influx of new comers, these original undertakers of the Southampton venture formed their Company in Lynn in early 1640. They made arrangements with James Farret who was the agent for William Alexander the 1st Earl of Stirling to settle on 8 miles square of land. William Alexander by favor of Charles 1 became the owner of LI in 1636. Note: William Alexander is often confused with Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Stirling. The Dutch who were already settled on LI claimed that they owned LI. Let’s not forget the Native Americans who were here long before the white settlers and did not believe in owning the land, but were happy to share the land.
The intention of this company was to settle on the west end of Long Island. In May of 1640, 8 men, one woman and a child went ashore in a small sloop in the region of Manhasset/Schout’s Bay. They soon encountered the Dutch who questioned their intentions and promptly chased them away. The Dutch records give a full account of this. The eight men who were referred to as “some foreign strollers” were, Job Saars, George Welbe, John Farrington, William Harker, Philip and Nathaniel Kyrtland and we “assume”, Mr. Farret and Captain Howe. The woman and child are not named. We don’t know what happened between May of 1640 and June 12 of 1640 when some of the undertakers came ashore at what today is known as North Sea Harbor/once Feversham. We can only speculate. This time the English settlers who came ashore are not named in any records. Did they use Homes Hill as a landmark to guide them to the harbor? There is a deed that states that sixteen coates and sixty bushels of corn were to be paid to the Native Americans. They in turn ceded to the English the eight miles square of land. Here the interpretation of “ceded” seems to differ.
Abraham Pierson (wife Abigail Mitchell) vs. Henry Pierson (wife Mary Cooper)
Before the English settlers departed Lynn, they chose Abraham Pierson to be the minister for the new colony on LI. Records show that he was ordained in either Oct. or Nov. of 1640 and soon after Reverend Pierson arrived in Southampton. He left Southampton for Connecticut with his family and part of his congregation in 1647. A difference of opinion had divided the congregation. Records indicate that most Pierson families in this area are descended from Henry Pierson who it is believed was the brother of Abraham. Henry arrived not too long after the first settlers and he served as the town clerk for many years. A descendent of a Nathan Pierson who was a descendent of Abraham Pierson claims that Nathan returned to the Noyac area of LI and took up farming there. Any local Pierson descended from this Nathan would be obviously descended from Rev. Abraham.
Two Job Sayres
Job Sayre the brother of Thomas, and Job Sayre the son of Thomas, have often been confused in the history of Southampton. Thomas was approximately 14 years older than his younger brother Job who was baptized in 1610/11 and mistakenly written as Johannes in one early record. Job Sayre the brother was one of the 8 men who arrived in the sloop at Schout’s Bay. He came to Southampton but after 1649 his name disappears from the records. He possibly removed to New Hampshire. It is Job the son of Thomas who donated the land to the town to be used as a thoroughfare that is now Job’s Lane. He was the sole executer of his father’s will. Job the son died in 1694 in Southampton. The original Sayre house on Main St. was continuously owned by the Sayre family until the early 1900’s when it was torn down.
Thomas Halsey Sr. and the Halsey House
I started working as a docent at the Halsey House in 1994 and was given a booklet that I was told contained all the information I needed to know to share with visitors. Enter Dr. Hugh Halsey of Southampton, the then President of the Halsey Family Assoc.. The Association had funded research in England to help clarify some of the Halsey history. Two books resulted from that research which I was given to read. Dr. Halsey was a stickler for accuracy. By comparing signatures the correct Thomas Halsey was identified and also the correct name of his wife, Elizabeth Wheeler, not Phebe Barrett as I had been telling the visitors. I also was told that the Halsey House was the oldest house in Southampton, built in 1648. At some point during my tenure I observed that two numbers had been scraped off the historical sign in front of the house, and the numbers 48 had been painted on. In place of what numbers I wondered? I soon became aware that a heated competition had been going on for many years between Southampton and Southold. Who was the oldest?
We know that Thomas Sr. owned the property in 1648. We now have confirmed that the original part of the present house was built by Thomas Jr. ca. 1683. This proves that Thomas Sr’s wife could not have been murdered in the house in 1649. It is recorded in the records that a local woman had been murdered in 1649 by Indians that came across the sound from New England. The local woman is not named in the records. Local historians who compared records concluded that the woman was Mrs. Halsey who did die in 1649. The Halsey Family Association seems to have accepted this information.
It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many people in this country and in other parts of the world who can trace their roots to Southampton, LI, NY. Many of their ancestors migrated west and settled all over this country. Some ancestors were sailors on whaleships and jumped ship in foreign countries never again to return home.
We can’t change history as it occurred. But by sharing information we can ensure that it is recorded correctly.