Hampton Bays is situated on the South Shore of Long Island at the beginning of the South Fork.
The community is bounded on the west by East Quogue, on the east by Southampton Village and
Shinnecock Hills, on the north by Great Peconic Bay, and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean.
The glacial Ronkonkoma Moraine runs through the north part of the community, with hills winding
their way into Shinnecock Hills and eventually to Montauk. South of this hilly moraine, the land
flattens into the sandy outwash plain leading to Shinnecock Bay and the barrier beach on the Atlantic Ocean.
This area was not called Hampton Bays until 1922, previously eleven small hamlets, each containing
no more than a dozen homes. Good Ground was the main hamlet in the area occupying roughly what is
now Main Street, Hampton Bays. Other surrounding hamlets were Ponquogue, Squiretown, East Tiana,
Canoe Place, Southport, Springville, Red Creek, West Tiana, Newtown, and Rampasture. Most of these
hamlets were settled by one or two families and had their own school house.1
In 1922, as tourism from New York City increased in the surrounding villages such
as Westhampton, Southampton and East Hampton, these hamlets, by now generally called Good Ground,
consolidated under the name of Hampton Bays in order to reep some of the benefits in being part
of the exclusive "Hamptons" tourist trade.
1 Alice Raynor Squires, Local History of Hampton Bays, p. 1.
The geological history of this area is dominated by the first of two glaciers that reached Long Island in prehistoric times.
Before the glaciers, in the Cretaceous Period 60-100 million years ago, the area now known as Long Island was part of a large tropical river delta that extended out to the contintental shelf which is now ninety miles offshore. A large river in the northern highlands fed this delta which carried the water from northern ice and snow out and over the continental shelf into the sea. Extensive erosion has erased any records of Long Island for the next 50 million years or so.
The world climate became colder 43,500 - 60,000 years ago and the snows in the north increased the size of the glaciers which slowly pushed themselves southward. When they reached this area, the warmer temperatures began melting the 1,000 foot wall of ice as fast as it was advancing. The melting ice now deposited all the rocks and soil it had picked up in its journey across New England, forming a pile of rubble called the Ronkonkoma Moraine. This line of hills extends the length of Long Island through Hampton Bays (Squiretown area) and out to Montauk.2
Since most of the water on earth was in the form of ice, the sea level was 300 to 400 feet lower than at present. The coast was sixty miles offshore and streams of water from the melting wall of ice flowed south carrying with them soil and small rocks depositing them south of the moraine. This deposition is the "Outwash Plain" that stretches south to the sea. The remnants of these ancient streams are the creeks and canals that line the north side of Shinnecock Bay. They were once rivers to the sea but since have been drowned out by the rising sea level.
The receding glacier also left us various kettle lakes in the area. As the glacier receded, large blocks of ice broke off and were buried under the loose soil. After years of warming, they melted leaving large holes in the terrain that filled with ground water and became ponds and lakes. A string of ponds in the Water Mill - Bridgehampton area, Long Pond, Goldfish Pond, Jehris, Short and Camps Ponds are kettle lakes as are Penny Pond, Bellows Pond and Sears Pond here in Hampton Bays.3
The glacier returned 23,000 years ago but did not come as far south. It created the hills of the North Shore (Harbor Hill Moraine, see map).
After this second glacier, the erosion of the ocean started to affect our coastline. Rising sea levels caused by the melting glaciers drowned out much of the outwash plain. Currents from east to west along the South Shore started eroding the Montauk area carrying the material west and depositing it as sand bars along the South Shore. These bars evolved into ancient barrier beaches. These beaches were further out on the continental shelf than at the present time as was the mainland of Long Island. As the sea level rose, the mainland coast moved north and the barrier beaches migrated north with it. Today, these beaches are still under great erosional pressure as I will discuss in a later section.
When the rate of the rise of sea level slowed down about 8,000 years ago, the bays were able to establish themselves. Sediments began to build up in Shinnecock Bay from the incoming tides and land runoff. These sediments were the beginning of the salt marshes of today.
2 Englebright, "Geology of Long Island", lecture SUNY at Stony Brook, July 6, 1978.
3 William D. Halsey, Sketches From Local History, Yankee Peddler, Southampton, 1966, p. 16.
INDIANS: BEFORE SETTLEMENT
The first Indians came to Long Island about 5,000 years ago. They were of the Algonkian group and by the time the white man came to the area, they were one of thirteen tribes on Long Island.
Five of these tribes lived in the areas bordering Southampton Town. The Poosepatuck and Patchogue to the west, the Peconics to the north, and the Montauks to the east. The principal tribe in the immediate area being the Shinnecocks.
Much of what we know of the Shinnecocks before the coming of the white man was obtained by an archeological study done in the Sebonic Creek area of Southampton in 1902 by Mark R. Harrington and the American Museum of Naturual History. Harrington and his expedition found sites of ancient Indian villages along the creek. From these diggings, they were able to piece together much about the life of the Indians before the coming of the settlers.4
Dwellings were oval in shape, made of saplings lashed together and covered with marsh hay. There was a fireplace in the center of the wigwam and a hole in the top which was plastered with clay to let the smoke out without danger of fire.
The piles of shells found at the Sebonic sites tell us that the Shinnecocks diet consisted of shellfish which they steamed open in large kettles, fish, snails, turtles and occasionally whales which they found stranded on the beach. There is also evidence that the Indians ventured into the surf in their canoes, which were oak logs hollowed out with the help of fire, to kill the whales which were much more plentiful close to shore than they are today. The Indians taught these whaling techniques to the early settlers.
The Indians used the bow and arrow, which was as tall as a man, to shoot deer and bear. Various nets and traps were used for fishing. One method was to set up a net at the mouth of a creek or mud flat at high tide; when the tide started to go out, the fish coming out of the creek were caught in the net.
The Shinnecock as well as other tribes on Long Island were a peaceful group. They paid tribute for protection to the more warlike Iroqois in upstate New York and the Narragansetts in Rhode Island. This tribute was in the form of beads made from the shells of the hard clam (Mercenaria) and the channaled whelk (Busycon Canaliculatum). The purple beads from the clam were of more value than the white beads of the whelk and were highly valued by tribes all over the northeastern United States.
The men wore breech clothes at all times and added robes of fur and moccasins in colder weather. They burned their hair off with hot rocks, leaving only a central comb of hair. Various feathers were also worn on the head. Children ran naked until puberty.5
Marriages in the tribes were arranged at birth, but could be vetoed later by an unwilling partner.6
The dead were washed, ornimented, and painted before burial. They were mourned by the family for one year. If a person died in a wigwam, it was burned.7
Sacrifices were offered to both God, Cauhluntoowut, and the devil, Mutcheshesunnetooh.8
The Shinnecock language has been lost over the years but many words for places have been recorded by Tooker in his Indian Places, Names On Long Island and Islands Adjacent. The following are some local areas and their Indian names and meanings:
|Shinnecock||-||a level country
|Achabochawesuck||-||Weesuck Creek, East Quogue
|Toyoungs||-||Red Creek, Hampton Bays
|Niamuck||-||"between fishing places" - Canoe Place
|Paumanock||-||"land of tribute" - Long Island
|-||"the pond at the place where the bay bends"
|Quamack||-||A place on the beach opposite present East Quogue, where an inlet once was. An old resident, Alexander Ryder, described it as "a large and extensive flat formed where water rushed in and out; on this flat the formerly drew their nets for the small fish locally known as mummies used as bait for eel pots, etc."
|Seponack||-||"a ground nut place" A neck of land on Peconic Bay where the penobscot or root of the yellow lilly (L. Canadensis) grew and was picked by the Indians and cooked in meat soup to thicken it.
|Suggamuck||-||"place where they went to catch bass"; Birch Creek, Flanders. Tooker refers to a colonial diary that explained how the early colonists would come here to fish using lobster pieces as bait. They would catch 12 to 20 bass from 3 to 4 feet long in a three hour period.
|Tiana||-||Name of a squaw who lived at the head of the (Tianna, Tianah) bay.
|Weekeuachmamish||-||"a place where Indians gathered or cut reeds, rushes or flags" (to make baskets, mats, etc.) This is now called Mill Creek in the Red Creek area of Hampton Bays.
|Seapoose||-||An inlet to let the ocean flow into the bay.
Other Indian works taken from Boyles: Sketches of Suffolk County are:
4 Mark R. Harrington, Reading in L.I. Archaeology and Enthnohistory, Vol, I, 1977, p. 40-45.
5 George R. Howell, The Early History of Southampton, Yankee Peddler, Southampton, 1887, p. 164-170.
6 Ibid. p. 168-170.
9 Richard M. Bayles, Sketches of Suffolk County, Friedman, Port Washington, 1873, copy 1962, p. 63-64.
In 1524, Verazzano of Florentine wrote of his voyage to the new world…
"…We discovered an Ilande in the form of a…distant from the mainland 3 leagues, about the bigness of the Isle of Rhodes, it was full of hills, covered with trees, well peopled, for we saw fires all along the coast."10
This is one of the earliest accounts of Long Island by a white man. In 1633, Governor Winthrop of Connecticut came to the east end of Long Island and returned with the tales of its beauty, leading colonists to the area.
On April 30, 1636, Charles I asked the Corporation for New England of Plymouth Colony to give a patent to William Alexander, Earl of Sterling, for Long Island and the islands adjacent. Later in 1637, the Earl gave the power of attorney to James Farret to the east end of Long Island.
These happenings eventally led to an expedition of eight men, lead by Daniel Howe to leave Lynn, Massachusetts in the Spring of 1640 to set up a new settlement on Long Island. The expedition first landed in Cow Bay, Queens, which as Dutch territory. The group was arrested by the Dutch but eventually were released and sailed east landing in June of 1640 on Conscience Point in North Sea, thus founding the first English settlement in New York State. They were given the authority by the Earl of Sterling to settle on any part of Long Island, an area eight miles square of wilderness territory.11
Ogillg's, History of America says that "about the year 1640 by a fresh supply of people, that settled in Long Island, was there erected the 23rd town called Southampton, by the Indians, Agauam".12
The band of settlers were led by Indians from North Sea to a flat area near the ocean. Here they set up their first houses in an area later called Old Towne about ¾ of a mile from town, near the present sight of Southampton Hospital.13
The settlers purchased land from the Indians through several deeds, the first of these was the "Indian Deed of December 13, 1640". This deed was made between thirteen leaders of the settlement: John Gosmer, Edward Howell, Danial How, Edward Needham, Thomas Halsey, John Cooper, Thomas Sayre, Edward Harington, Job Sayre, George Welbe, Allen Bread, William Harker, and Henry Walton. Also, nine Indians, Pomatuck, Mandusk, Mocomanto, Pathemanto, Wylennett, Wainmenowog, Heden, Watemexoted, and Chchepuchat. The Indians turned over the land from Canoe Place east.14
"from the place commonly known by the name of the place where the Indians hayle over their canoes out of the North Bay to the south side of the Island, from thence to possess all the lands lying eastward between the foresaid bounds by water."15
In return, the Indians received sixteen coats, three score bushels of Indian corn and the protection from raiding Indian tribes.
In 1659, the "Quogue Purchase" added land from Canoe Place to Beaverdam (Accobanke) Creek in Westhampton.
"beginning at the west end of Southampton bounds…Northward to the water of the bay and to the creeke of Accobaucks…Westward to the place called pekeconnache (Peconic), and Southerly to potunk…"16
The early settlers protected the Shinnecocks from Indian raids from New England and in return the Indians taught the colonists how to plant corn and beans, to use fish for fertilizer, the use of succotash, shellfish, wild plants and techniques of whaling in canoes off the south coast of the town. Whales were plentiful off the coast at the time and in 1644 people were posted to watch for beached whales. Equipment for killing the whales and furnaces for processing were started behind the dunes along the beach.
Although the colonists were English subjects, the government in Southampton was independent of any outside rule. In 1703, William Vesey in a report on churches in New York Province wrote:
"In Suffolk County, in the east end of Long Island, there is neither a church of England minister, nor any provision made for one by law, the people generally being Independents and upheld in their separation by New England Commissaries".17
The town was, however, closely tied to the colony in Connecticut and the laws of Connecticut. Since they were across the Sound from the governing body, two magistrates were chosen from town citizens yearly to rule. If any existing laws of Southampton differed from Connecticut laws, the town had the right to choose which law to adopt. Furthermore, the people of Southampton only had to pay taxes to Connecticut for their own fortifications. This relationship with New England existed because of trade between the two areas as well as similar customs, education, and religion in the two regions.
On March 12, 1644, Charles II gave Long Island to his brother, the Duke of York, and the following September, New York was surrendered by the Dutch. It was decided that Long Island would be part of New York rather than Connecticut. This news was not received favorably by East Enders.
The town has laws against offenses such as lying and drunkenness. For lying, the penalty was five shillings or five hours in the stocks. For drunkenness, ten shillings for the first offense, twenty for the second, and thirty for the third offense. Public punishment for crimes was common as the following instance shows:
"1651…Sarah Veale, wife of Thomas Veale, was at Quarter Court held upon the 4th day of June, 1651, sentenced by the Magistrates for exorbitant words of imprecation to stand with her tongue in a cleft so long as the offense committed by her is read and declared".18
There was also a law prohibiting the sale of articles of war or liquor to the Indians.
The colonists of this area raised Indian corn, summer and winter wheat, oats, barley, and beans. Shellfish were not a popular food and tea and coffee were unknown. Wine, cider, beer, ale, milk and water were the only beverages.
County Fairs were held in Southampton the first Tuesday of July until the following Friday. It was an occasion for all to offer for sale whatever he wanted.
As time went on, small industries sprang up in the area including: agriculture, stock, whaling, cabinet making, clock making, engraving, cranberries, a brewery, shipbuilding, fishing, a paper mill, and a brick factory.
The Revolutionary War was a hard time for Southampton Town residents. From the Battle of Long Island until November 25, 1783, Long Island was occupied by the British. During the winter of 1778-79, a squadron of British cavalry occupied Southampton. They built two or three small earthwork forts overlooking the town. The remains of one of these forts can still be seen on a hill just west of the Shinnocock Canal overlooking both Shinnecock and Peconic Bays as well as the ocean (see pictures). Frequent calls for food for the occupying troops hurt the farmers of the area during this occupation.
It was also during this time that a few colonists moved their families across Canoe Place to the unsettled lands in the western part of Southampton Town.
10 Howell, p. 2.
11 Ibid. p. 150-155.
14 Harry D. Sleight, Ed., Trustees Records of the Town of Southampton, Volume II, Addendum p. 33.
15 Ibid. p. 33.
16 Ibid. p. 35.
17 Howell, p. 170.
SETTLEMENT OF HAMPTON BAYS
In 1750, Jeremiah Culver built an inn and tavern at Canoe Place. Until 1773, the Canoe Place Inn was the only refuge for travelers between Riverhead and Southampton Village.
In 1773, Ellis Squires, a farmer from East Hampton and Manchios, Maine, came to Squiretown in a whaleboat with his wife, Phoebe, and their nine children. They built the first house in what is now Hampton Bays. The foundation of this house still stands in the rock garden on the Cohen's property south of Squires Pond (see pictures). Squire's son, Ellis, Jr., built a home south of his father's in 1783. This house is called the "Brook House". Seth Squires built his home nearby in 1786. Both of these houses are still standing today and are also still lived in (see pictures).
In 1774, Wakeman Foster built a house on the north side of South Country Road (Montauk Highway) just west of Canoe Place Inn. In 1800, he moved to Ponquogue and built a house near Pepperidge Lane (see map) which burned in 1831.
The Squires and Fosters were followed closely by other families such as the Fourniers in Red Creek, the Kings in Good Ground, the Pennys from Aquabogue to Red Creek in 1789, and the Terrys, Corwins, Aldrichs, Bellows, Raynors, Jacksons, Meschutts and the Warners.
As more families moved into the area, hamlets sprang up, scattered here and there. Trees from the surrounding forests were cut for timber to build the homes. A saw mill run by large sails was built on Penny Point to cut the logs into usable lumber. Thus, the name Mill Creek to the creek east of Penny Point. East and West Landings in Squiretown were used to load wood on ships bound for New York. This extensive lumbering, along with fires later caused by the Railroad, resulted in an almost treeless area by the late 1800's. As early as 1744, colonists saw the need to conserve these forests. In the town records of November 13, 1744, and later in April, 1763, the cutting of trees west of Red Creek was forbidden. Evidence of this absence of trees is noted in the writing of the times. Bayles in his Sketches of Suffolk County describes Canoe Place:
"low, sandy hills, overlooking bays north and south, and affording an unobstructed view of the bleak waste of Shinnecock Hills on the east."19
He goes on further to describe Shinnecock Hills:
"Here and there a patch of some low growing shrub…are the only representatives of vegetation that dare venture an existence upon these hills…There are no trees here. Scarcely an apology for one is seen in the whole region. Nor do we see any evidence to support the conclusion that it was ever wooded, though it is possible that some parts of it were once…"20
These hills were such a desolate wasteland in early times that travelers thought twice about crossing them alone. Bayles tells of a popular tale of the 1870's concerning earlier times:
"a traveler who challenged all the spirits to cross the hills on a stormy night…some found lying dead without a sign of violence except his tongue was pulled out and hung on a nearby bush".21
The absence of very large trees in the area as well as most of Long Island is the result of fires and lumbering. The present forests are a result of growth mostly in the last 100 years, since the lumbering stopped.
Aside from local lumber, the first homes built foundations of native stone, insulated walls with lime and oyster shells and cedar shingles. Most houses faced south to take advantage of the heating effects of the sun.
By 1870, Good Ground and the surrounding hamlets except for Red Creek had a population of 504.
Canoe Place, in the 1870's according to Bayles, consisted of 28 houses, a tavern, church and a store. Most of the inhabitants were fishermen. The Canoe Place Inn was a favorite spot of politicians and celebrates of the day. John L. Sullivan trained there for his championship fight with Jim Corbett in 1892.
Squiretown was a hamlet of six farm houses and was an area people came to to cut marsh hay for their cattle.
Red Creek had six homes and a school whose enrollment was 46 pupils in 1870.
There were fourteen homes in the hamlet of Tianna.
Springville was a hamlet on Smiths Creek. It also had a school of 120 pupils.
Ponquogue (Pongon Quogue) was an area on a peninsula in Shinnecock Bay. It was covered with an oak pine forest and dotted by fifteen homes, the Ponquogue Light and the Bay View House, a popular retreat for sportsmen from the city which opened in 1870.
The main and central hamlet was Good Ground. Its name is said to be arrived at by a widow by the name of Goodale who lived on South Country Road (Montauk Highway) west of what wash Elisha Kings' house (see map 1873).22
"Three score and ten years ago, a small house on the north side of Old South Country Road - two miles west of Canoe place, four miles east of Atlanticville (East Quogue). A house stood alone in a valley near Mr. Elisha King and was then occupied by an old widow. In this comparatively fertile land was a pool of water. Walking near it one day she picked up a lump of soil and said, 'this is good ground'".23
Although Bayles tells of this being the birth of the name, the town records of 1738 mention of the laying out of the lower division of the area.
"We laid out a highway near the middle of said neck (Pougan Quogue) eastward of the good ground".24
This is the laying out of Ponquogue Avenue and precedes Bayle's widow Goodale by more than sixty years.
Benjamin Thompson in his History of Long Island written in 1919, refers to Good Ground as "an oasis in the desert of sand and forest that surround it. It consists of a few dwellings, a post office, and a Methodist church built in 1838".25
Good Ground grew into a small community of fishermen, tradesmen and farmers growing enough strawberries that large quantities were sent to Boston in 1872 for the "Boston Jubilee".26 A flour mill stood in the middle of town on what is now the southeast corner of Ponquogue Avenue and Montauk Highway, and what was then known as "Mill Corner". The Methodist Church was built in 1838 and enlarged in 1863. It burned down but was rebuilt in 1906. St. Rosalies, the Catholic Church was built in 1901 and St. Mary's Episcopal Church was built in 1917. Canoe Place Chapel is the oldest church in the area. It was built in the late 1700's or early 1800's on Indian land. It was cut in two by tribe members and half was pushed over the ice of Shinnecock Bay to the reservation, the remaining half still stands on Canoe Place Road, a short distance south of its original site (see map and picture). The railroad came to Good Ground in 1869 opening the east end to the tourists and vacationers from the city.
19 Bayles, p. 322.
20 Ibid. p. 325.
21 Ibid. p. 235.
22 History of Suffolk County, N.Y. 1683-1882, Munsell and Co., N.Y., p. 29.
23 Bayles, p. 319.
24 History of Suffolk County, 1683-1882, p. 29.
25 Benjamin F. Thompson, History of L.I., Vol. II, Sentry Press, N.Y., 1918, p. 206.
26 Bayles, p. 319.
Because of the east to west movement of sand along the south beach and the extensive erosion of the beach, especially during the winter months, inlets or seapoose, as the Indians called them, have opened and closed periodically since before colonial times. In the records of October 6, 1653, reference is made to an inlet:
"…at a town meeting it is ordered that there shall be another attempt to let go Shinnecock water".27
It is apparent by town records that the early settlers realized an inlet had to be open periodically to revive the life in the bay and prevent stagnation.
In 1686, Governor Dongan of New York drew up what is now known as the Dongan Patent. In it "residents of the town serve the waters, the lands under the waters, products of waters, fish, game and fowl, for the common use of all residents, forever". Southampton is the only town to receive and reinsure the patent by paying "Quit Claim" to New York. This patent gives the town trustees legal power to control and regulate the bays including the digging of inlets. The town records of June 4, 1754, read:
"…proprietors shall have liberty to stop Quaug a Dich (ditch?) so as the water shant run westward and then to dig through at some place westward of the loted (lotted?) meadow and let the water of the bay run into the sea".28
April 3, 1764, town records:
"inhabitants of this town may and shall have liberty to dam and stop the Ditch of Quog at convenient times then dig through the beach and let the bay into the sea".29
In these quotes, the Ditch is the stream which is now Quogue Canal. By damming up this ditch, the water in Shinnecock Bay would remain high and when an inlet was dug the water from the ocean would keep the water level of the bay high.
Inlets were opened up by the town and nature but they all were closed up by the migrating sands along the beach. Again the town trustee records, February 24, 1789:
"…inspect that part of beach lying between Ogden's Neck and one mile to the westward of the place where the Gutt has run for 7 or 10 years last past and appoint a place to let out the Shinnecock Bay".30
At times more than one inlet was running. The map of 1873 shows an inlet opposite Rampasture Point, but by 1891 the town records tell of two inlets "both are said to be running all right".31
In 1922, locks were proposed on the Quogue Canal to help keep an inlet open by preventing the water of the bay from getting too low, closing the inlet.
Throughout the year of 1923, work was done on an inlet at the "Bunker Bar" that was to be forty feet wide and six feet deep. This inlet was open and reported running on March 12, 1924, and was being maintained by town trustees. The inlet was opened because of a heavy easterly gale that raised the bay level too high. During the night, heavy surf made it necessary to close it again. It was opened again at 4:00 A.M., March 13th and was now 180 feet wide at the ocean side and 100 feet wide at the bay side.32
This inlet greatly improved the waters of the bay. On September 12, 1924, the Trustees sailed to the inlet at Bunker Bar and found the condition of the waters of the bay much improved.33 The inlet was closed up by January of 1925 but, the fact that opening an inlet would improve the bay water and shellfish and fish industries was recognized by this experiment.
On September 21, 1938, nature succeeded where man had for about 300 years failed. The morning of that day was partly cloudy and in the low 70's. By noon, there was rain and gale winds, but no one had any idea that a hurricane was coming. It had been over 100 years before. In 1815, a hurricane had at last hit Long Island. No one living had ever experienced a hurricane on Long Island nor did they ever expect it.
As the storm hit from the south, winds of 90 mph came from the northeast pushing much of the water in the ocean offshore. As the eye of the storm passed, the winds shifted to the south and southeast in gusts over 150 mph. This shift in wind pushed the ocean water back toward land like snow being pushed by a plow. One observer described this oncoming wall of water:
"…It looked like a thick and high bank of fog rolling in fast from the ocean. When it came closer, we saw it wasn't fog, it was water".34
There is some discrepancy over whether there was one of these huge waves or a series of them, but most observers agree they were 30 to 40 feet high. Chief Stanley Teller of the Westhampton Beach Police tells this account:
"…I was carrying twin boys 6 years old…wave came and lifted us to the cross bars of a telephone pole 30 feet high…next I was on Quantuck Bay on the roof of a house...floated for 5 hours and landed in the middle of Quogue Village at 9 PM".35
It was this wave or series of waves that washed over the dunes that left only 12 of 200 homes that were on the dunes between Southampton and Westhampton and broke through ten inlets between the two towns including a 300 foot wide inlet where the Coast Guard Station was before the storm. The Shinnecock Inlet remained open with the help of the Shinnecock Canal and the rock jetties that were put there in 1955-56.
The opening of the inlet revived the bay waters. Clams which grew to half an inch in diameter and died now grew to marketable size. Fish, crabs, and scallops also prospered from the flushing of the bay. The inlet now, not only cleans the bay, but provides a means for fishing vessels to go from the shelter of Shinnecock Bay into the open ocean, creating an ocean commercial and sport fishing industry in the area.
27 Ibid. p. 310.
28 Sleight, Vol. I
31 Sleight, Volume III, p. 93.
32 Ibid. p. 288, 289.
33 Ibid. p. 298.
34 Joe McCarthy, Hurricane!, American Heritage, N.Y. 1969, p. 50.
35 Ibid. p. 62.
Legend tells us of a Shinnecock Chief Mongotucksee who dug a ditch connecting the North and South Bays before the coming of the white man. By the time white man came there was not trace of there ever being such a canal but the need for one was seen as early as the 1600's. In the memorandum from an agent of Lord Sterling in 1640, Canoe Place is called a neck of land where the "Indians draw over their canoes out of north bay over to the south side of the island". This gives support of the argument that no water connected the two bays in early times.
In 1826, Shinnecock Bay had been without an inlet to the ocean for over 100 years, and the water was becoming brackish, unable to support clams and oysters. A proposal to open the bay into Peconic Bay was given to the Long Island Canal Company on April 15, 1828, along with $200,000 for the project. Nothing was done.
In 1848, the Long Island Canal and Navigation Company tried to build the canal unsuccessfully. Finally, in 1892, the canal was opened and bay water conditions improved slightly.
The flow back and forth between the bays caused heavy erosion on the sides of the canal and dredging had to be done. Bulkheads were added to solve this problem.
There were no locks in the canal at the time, only a set of gates that could be opened and closed. Before the Shinnecock Inlet broke through in 1938, the gates were kept open Friday to Monday each week for six months in the summer and all winter. This meant they were opened 75% of the time letting the water flow in both directions, the water into Shinnecock then reversed itself with the tide and flowed the other way into Peconic Bay. The salinity and cleanliness of Shinnecock Bay was raised and shellfish and finfish production increased.36
Since the inlet opened, water is only allowed to run into Shinnecock Bay. When the tide changes, the gates are closed, keeping the water level of Shinnecock Bay high, thus maintaining the inlet. This has kept the inlet open and fairly stable for over forty years.
36 Thompson, p. 147-148.
- History of Suffolk County, N.Y. 1683-1882. W.M. Munsell and Co., N.Y.
- Southampton L.I., 1640-1965. 325th Anniversary
- "Old Hampton Bays" Southampton Press, August 21, 1976.
- Report on Preliminary Plans for New Shinnecock Locks, Hampton Bays, N.Y., Prep. for Suffolk County Dept. of Public Works, Yaphank, N.Y., 1964
- State of N.Y. Report of the Sale Water Bays Commission on the Filling of the Channels of Shinnecock, Quantuck and Moriches Bay, J.B. Lyons, Albany, N.Y., 1924.
- The First Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, John Hunt Books, Sag Harbor, N.Y., 1924.
- Records of the Deeds of Southampton, Vol. I, John Hunt Books, Sag Harbor, N.Y., 1915.
- Bailey, Paul, ed. L.I. A History of Two Great Counties, Nassau and Suffolk, Vol. I, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., N.Y., 1949.
- Bailey, Paul, Physical Long Island, L.I. Forum, Amityville, N.Y., 1959.
- Bayles, Richard, M., Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Suffolk County, Friedman, Port Washington, N.Y., 1873.
- Beers, F.W., Atlas of Long Island, N.Y., Beers, Constock, Cline, N.Y., 1873.
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