The Early History of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York

The Early History of Suffolk County,
Long Island, New York

compiled by
Sherrill Halsey Stevens, Lt Colonel, US Army, retired

Source: The Stevens/Stephens Genealogy with Collateral Families

Early Settlers of Southampton, Suffolk County, New York

The Dutch who had settled on Manhattan Island in the early part of the seventeenth century, soon began to build and occupy on the opposite shore of Long Island; and as their population increased, they pushed their settlements out eastward to the north and south shores of the Island. Therefore, the western part of the Island came under the jurisdiction of the Dutch Government at New Amsterdam until the surrender of New York to the English in 1664.

The proximity of the Island to Connecticut afforded some ground for the English Crown to set claim to it. On April 22, 1636, Charles I requested the Corporation for New England, called the Plymouth Colony, to issue their patent to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, for Long Island, and the islands adjacent. They did so , and on April 20, 1637, the Earl gave power of attorney to James Farret to dispose of said lands. This, however, took effect only on the east end of Long Island where the English subsequently resided. 1.

Upon the death of Lord Stirling in 1640, his heir relinquished the grant above mentioned to the king and thus it happened that on March 12, 1664, Charles II, granted, with other territory, Long Island and the islands adjacent, to his brother James, Duke of York and Albany. In the following August, Colonel Richard Nicolls, at the head of a fleet, came and obtained a surrender of New York to the crown of England. Now for the first time the eastern towns of the Island came under the jurisdiction of New York, Southampton having sent deputies to the General Court of Connecticut regularly, from 1644 to 1664. In July, 1673, New York was recovered by the Dutch and the Island followed the fate of the larger colony. Both, however, were again surrendered by the Dutch to the English Government, November 10, 1674, and so remained English Colonies until the War of our Independence. 1.

Few traces can be found of the original proprietors of the town (Southampton) prior to the settlement. They were all of English origin, and probably came from the counties of Bedford, Bucks and Lincoln. The tradition that they sailed from Southampton, England, and for this reason adopted the name for their settlement, is without foundation, since there is no evidence that they did sail from that place, but on the contrary, so far as known, they sailed from other ports of England, and at different times. George Rogers Howell offers the opinion that the town was named for Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, who was very active in colonizing the new world. He was director and treasurer of the Virginia Company, 1620 to 1624, and must have been well known to and by the leading men of the Southampton colonists.

The common statement derived from Cotton Mather is, that between thirty and forty families in Lynn, Massachusetts, finding themselves straited for land, came over to Long Island and effected a settlement. In enumerating the settlements of New England, Ogilby, in his History of America, says: “About the year 1640, by a fresh supply of people, that settled Long Island, was there erected the twenty-third town call’d Southampton, by the Indians, Agawam.”

There is truth in both of these statements though neither is absolutely correct. Some of the colonists had lived in Lynn for years and some doubtless were new arrivals.

Among the inhabitants of that place in 1630 were Edmund Farrington, Allen Breed, Daniel Howe, and John White. In 1637, were also Christopher Foster, John Pierson, Thomas, Halsey, Josiah Stanborough, George Welbye, Richard Wells, William Partridge and Phillip Kertland. John Cooper was made freeman, i.e. admitted to privilege of voting, at Boston, December 6, 1636; Christopher Foster, the same, April 17, 1637; Edward Howell, same March 14, 1639;* Rev. Abraham Pierson arrived in America in 1639. With some more which are mentioned elsewhere, these are all the traces that can be given of the founders of Southampton.

The original “undertakers,” eight in number, purchased a sloop for the transportation of their families and their goods for 80 Pounds, of which Edward Howell and Daniel Howe each contributed 15 pounds. Edmund Farrington, George Welbe, and Henry Walton each 10 pounds; and Josia Stanborough, Job Sayre, Edmund Needham and Thomas Sayre, each 5 pounds. More on the disposition of the sloop and payment for land on Long Island can be found in Howell’s History of Southampton and other Long Island historical texts.

The next we hear of them, the Lynn Immigrants arrived in the following month of May (1639-40) at Manhasset at the head of Cow Bay (or Schout’s Bay, as the Dutch called it). Here they found the arms of the Prince of Orange erected upon a tree, and Lieutenant Howe, the leader of the expedition, pulled them down. This was on the 10th of May 1640. But the Sachem Penhawitz who had just ceded all his rights to the Dutch, promptly informed (the Dutch) Governor Kieft that some “Foreign strollers” had arrived at Schout’s Bay, where they were felling trees and building houses, and “had even hewn down the arms of their High Mightinesses.” Commissary Van Curler (Corlear) was sent to ascertain the facts, and the Sachem’s story was found to be true. The arms of the State had been torn down, and in their place had been drawn and “unhandsome face,” “all which aforesaid appeared strange to us, being a criminal offense against his Majesty, and tending to the disparagement of their High Mightinesses.”

After arresting and interviewing most of the settlers, the Dutch authorities ordered them to “depart forthwith from our territory, and never return to it without the Director’s express consent.” Thus ended the first attempt at settlement; the “strollers and vagabonds” departed, and low Dutch alone was spoken in that land.*

*Subsequently, (Sept. 19, 1650) when the English settlements had increased and strengthened on the eastern part of the island among other questions submitted to four arbitrators for settlement was the boundary line between the Dutch and English in Long Island. This was then declared to be a “line run from the westernmost part of Oyster Bay, and so a straight and direct line to the sea,” the Dutch west and the English east.


Although there is some argument about the original date of the Settlement of Southampton by the English, Winthrop* in his History of New England, says expressly the second and successful attempt at a settlement was made in the fourth month (or June) of the year 1640. Among the town records of Southampton, a writing exists which begins with “Southampton, June, 1640”. Some historians of the town of Southold argue that on the 15th of August, 1640, a man named Oliver obtained a deed from Lord Sterling’s agent, James Farrett for lands which he had purchased in this Town. Therefore if one believes the old records and Governor Winthrop, there is little doubt that Southampton was the first English town settled on Long Island.

This author believes that the above argument is moot in that the small amount of time elapsed between the two settlements is so minor as to be inconsequential. In any case, some of our earliest ancestors settled in Southampton (Thomas Halsey, John Cooper, Ellis Cook, Lyon Gardinier, John Jagger, William Rogers, Thomas Stephens, Obadiah Rogers, William Hallock, Richard Howell and others), and some settled Southold. (Thomas Mapes, John Tuthill and others.)


On the 30th of July, 1673, the Dutch sent a fleet to re-take New York and Long Island from the English. The Dutch required that all men take an oath of fidelity, however, the men of East Hampton, Southampton, Southold and Huntington refused to take the oath, they believing that the oath was to be taken only by their magistrates. The Dutch then sent a vessel to compel the people to take the oath in October, 1673.

The commissioners came from New York in the frigate “Zeehond,” arrived at Southold, and called a meeting of inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance to the Dutch government. The flag of the Prince of Orange was brought in and displayed. Failing in their attempts to force the oath upon the Southold people, they resolved to break up the assembly and depart. An extract from the frigate’s Journal affords an interesting item:

“On leaving the place, some inhabitants of Southampton were present; among the rest one John Cooper who told Mr. Steenwyck, to “take care and not appear with that thing at Southampton,” which he more than once repeated, for the the Commissioners, agreeably to their commission, had intended to go thither next morning. Whereupon, Mr. Steenwyck asked what he meant by that word thing, to which said John Cooper replied, the Prince’s Flag: then Mr. Steenwyck inquired if he said so of himself or on the authority of the Inhabitants Southampton. He answered, “Rest satisfied that I warn you, and take care that you come not with that Flag within range of shot of our village.”

They (the commissioners) did not visit South and East Hampton fearing that they would “do more harm than good.” The commissioners, on their return to New York, reported that the inhabitants of these towns “exhibited an utter aversion thereto, making use of gross insolence, threats, Etc., so that the commissioners were obliged to return their object unaccomplished.

Previous to the visit of the “Zeehond”, the Southampton people had sent a notice to the New England colonies, advising them of the demands of the Dutch to surrender to the arms of the Prince of Orange, and their deplorable condition, and the necessity through their weakness, to submit to these demands. On the receipt of this, John Winthrop, Major of the Connecticut militia, was sent with such force as could be spared in a vessel to Southold, to assist the Long Island people. The Dutch sent the “Snow”, a Dutch ship , with one ketch and two sloops, who then summoned the town of Southold to surrender. Major Winthrop then challenged the commander of the Snow. Captain John Howell, with forty soldiers from Southampton, and twenty from Easthampton, came promptly at the summons from Major Winthrop for assistance, and took part in an engagement in which they defeated the Dutch. The Dutch then removed their forces. Never to return.

The Dutch were again compelled to surrender the province of New York to the English Crown a second time. On November 10, 1674, the Dutch Governor Colve again surrendered to Edmund Andros, in behalf of the King of England.


Thomas Stephens, born about 1648-50, who this author refers to as Thomas (II), shows up initially as follows in the Southampton town files: I show him as Thomas II because the Southampton Town records indicate that his father may also have been named Thomas. He would therefore be Thomas I. Thus, we would have four generations of direct ancestors named Thomas Stevens in a row who resided in and around Southampton, Long Island, New York.

“The town records mention that Thomas Stephens, when a lad of 16 years of age, in 1663, had lost his parents and had some property left him and that he went to live with Ellis Cook, who then occupied as his homestead the present (in 1887) homestead of Capt. James M. Herrick. Thomas subsequently married a daughter of Ellis Cook and lived in Water Mill. In 1670, he exchanged homesteads with Martha, wid. of Ellis Cook, and in 1807 another Thomas Stephens sold this place to Micaiah Herrick. As to his age there are three data---the one above given; his will says he died Nov. 26, 1700 , and his tombstone says he died Nov. 26, 1701, aged 51.”

Martha Cook was the daughter of John Cooper, an original settler who was born in Olney, England.

Thomas apparently was not indentured but he was employed as an apprentice to Ellis Cook. Mr. Cook’s will mentions “I give unto my Servant Thomas Stevens one heifer of about one yeare old to bee delivered unto him at the expiration of his Apprentisship provided hee carry himself as hee ought in his place during his time of Service etc...” Thomas subsequently married Ellis Cook’s daughter Elizabeth on 20 October, 1675. They initially lived in Water Mill but later moved to Southampton.

In addition to farming and raising livestock, Thomas also owned a boat and a whaling company. In 1687*, there were fourteen whaling companies of twelve men each in the town of Southampton who reported an estimate of oil then in their possession, the result probably of the catch of one season. In this report , at Quaquanantuck, Thomas Stephens and Company ..................264 bbls. Thomas did well that year as the average number of barrels of oil was 154 per whaling company.

Since he owned the boat and the whaling company, Thomas was called Captain.

It is important to note that the Long Island whalers of the time did not go out in great ships pursuing whales, but rather had what we might call long boats in which they approached whales who were stranded on the beach or in shallow waters. It was customary to fit out expeditions of several whale boats and cruise along the coast in the whaling season and camp out during the night. These expeditions did not usually consume more than a week or two on any one voyage. Indians were often employed by the whites on these expeditions, the latter furnishing boats and whaling gear, and the former receiving a certain proportion of the oil for their services.

It must also be assumed that Thomas Stephens belonged to the local militia as did all able bodied men of the town.

The tombstone of Thomas Stephens II was observed by Mr. Jack Phillips of Quogue. It read: “Here lyeth buried the body of Capt. Thomas Stephens aged about 51 years. Departed this life November ye 26th 1701.”

Thomas and Elizabeth had three sons and two daughters that are known. They were:

Thomas (III) b. 1 January 1677, Hester (or Esther), Phebe, William and Josiah.

No information is available on the descendants of Phoebe, William or Josiah.

Thomas Stephens (III) was born 1 January 1677 at Southampton. He married Hannah Cooper, daughter of James Cooper. Following in his father’s footsteps, he also owned his own whaling company and he was referred to as Captain. He was also listed as a lieutenant of militia. In 1698 Lift (Leftenant) Thomas Stephens was shown as an inhabitant of Southampton in “Lists of inhabitants of Colonial New York.”


This page was last updated September 14, 2000.