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Long Island Native American settlements, and their neighbors
This area had been inhabited for thousands of years by varying cultures of indigenous peoples. At the time of European contact, East Hampton was home to the Pequot people, part of the culture that also occupied territory on the northern side of Long Island Sound, in what is now Connecticut of southern New England. They belong to the large Algonquian-speaking language family. Bands on Long Island were identified by their geographic locations. The historical people known to the colonists as the Montaukett controlled most of the territory at the east end of Long Island.
Native Americans inhabiting the western part of Long Island were part of the Lenape nation, whose language is also in the Algonquian family. Their territory extended to lower New York, western Connecticut and the mid-Atlantic coastal areas into New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their bands were also known by the names of their geographic locations but did not constitute distinct peoples.
In the late-17th century Chief Wyandanch of the Montaukett negotiated with English colonists for the sale of land in the East Hampton area. The differing concepts held by the Montaukett and English about land and its use contributed to the Montaukett losing most of their lands over the ensuing centuries. Wyandanch sold an island to English colonist Lion Gardiner for "a large black dog, some powder and shot, and a few Dutch blankets." The next trade involved the land extending from present-day Southampton to the foot of the bluffs, at what is now Hither Hills State Park, for 24 hatchets, 24 coats, 20 looking glasses and 100 muxes.
In 1660 Chief Wyandanch's widow signed away the rest of the land from present-day Hither Hills to the tip of Montauk Point for 100 pounds, to be paid in 10 equal installments of "Indian corn or good wampum at six to a penny".The sales provided that the Montaukett were permitted to stay on the land, to hunt and fish at will, and to harvest the tails and fins of whales that beached on the East Hampton shores. Town officials who bought the land filed for reimbursement from the colony for the rum with which they had plied the tribe during negotiations. Gradually, however, colonists pushed the Montaukett off the land and prevented them from hunting and fishing, saying they were interfering with their farms.
Many of the Montaukett died during the 17th and 18th centuries from epidemics of smallpox, a Eurasian disease carried by English and Dutch colonists and endemic in their communities, to which the Indians had no immunity. After the American Revolution, some Montaukett relocated with Shinnecock to Oneida County in western upstate New York, led by the Mohegan missionary Samson Occom, to try to escape settlers' encroachment. They formed the Brothertown Indians with other refugee Indian people from New England, and gave up some of their traditions. In 1831-1836, the Brothertown Indians migrated to Wisconsin, where they founded the settlement of Brothertown.
Stephen Talkhouse, Montaukett, c. 1860s.
Some Montaukett continued to live on Long Island. In the mid to late nineteenth century, their most well-known member was Stephen Talkhouse. Their area on Lake Montauk was called Indian Fields until 1879. With their population reduced, over the years the Montaukett intermarried with other peoples of the area, but brought up many of their descendants as Montaukett in their culture. When Arthur W. Benson forced a government auction of Montauk, New York, in which he bought nearly the entire east end of the town, he evicted the Montaukett. They relocated to Freetown, a community established by free people of color on the northern edge of East Hampton Village. The tribe made several attempts to get the courts to declare the evictions illegal, but failed. Since the 1990s, the Montaukett have pressed for formal recognition as a tribe. The Shinnecock Indian Tribe, many of whom had continued to occupy a portion of land on the South Shore, have received federal recognition as a tribe. Historically both groups were part of the larger Pequot people.
Montaukett artifacts and sweat lodges are visible from trails at Theodore Roosevelt County Park. The park was formerly called Montauk County Park.
Lion Gardiner tomb at the South End Cemetery
East Hampton was the first English settlement in the state of New York. Lion Gardiner in 1639 purchased land, what became known as Gardiner's Island, from the Montaukett people. In 1648 a royal British charter recognized the island as a wholly contained colony, independent of both New York and Connecticut; a status it was to keep until after the American Revolution, when it came under New York State and East Hampton authority.
On June 12, 1640, nine Puritan families from Lynn, Massachusetts landed at what is now known as Conscience Point, in Southampton; some later migrated to present day East Hampton. Among the first English settlers in East Hampton were John Hand, Thomas Talmage, Daniel Howe, Thomas Thomson, John Mulford, William Hedges, Ralph Dayton, Thomas Chatfield and Thomas Osborn.
The Mulford Farmhouse, on James Lane, is the best-preserved 17th-century English colonial house in East Hampton. The barn dates to 1721, and the complex is operated as a living museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1680 for Josiah Hobart, a prominent early settler, named in the first formal deed of conveyance of East Hampton. This was known as the East-Hampton Pattent or Dongan Patent. The 1686 instrument granting East Hampton to its new proprietors was signed by Thomas Dongan, then Governor of New York. The patent named Capt. Hobart one of "Trustees of the freeholders and commonalty of the town of East-Hampton". A son of Rev. Peter Hobart, founding minister of Old Ship Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, Josiah Hobart and his brother Joshua both came to Long Island with their families. Josiah Hobart settled in East Hampton, where he served as High Sheriff of Suffolk County; and his brother Joshua, a minister, went to Southold, where he served the town for 45 years.
Mulford House, East Hampton
East Hampton was the third Connecticut settlement on the East end of Long Island. East Hampton formally united with Connecticut in 1657. Long Island was formally declared to be part of New York (and also subject to English law) by Charles II of England after four British frigates captured what is today New York City, releasing East Hampton from its Connecticut governance.
East Hampton was first called Maidstone, after Maidstone, Kent, England. The name was later changed to "Easthampton", reflecting the geographic names of its neighbors, Southampton and Westhampton. In 1885 the name was split into two words, after the local newspaper the East Hampton Star began using the two-word name. "Maidstone" is frequently used in place names throughout the town, including the Maidstone Golf Club.
Deep Hollow Ranch, established in 1658 in Montauk, is the oldest continuously operating cattle ranch in the United States.