First Church Facts

Did You Know.....

  • The Declaration of the Company to establish our church was signed by 20 men, in Lynn, MA on March 10, 1640
  • Our founding fathers first landed in the Cow Bay area of Manhasset on May 10, 1640.  They were evicted 9 days later by the Dutch.  They sailed to New Haven, CT, where they loaded on additional supplies.
  • On June 12, 1640, the first boatload of settlers landed in North Sea Harbor at Conscience Point.  There were 8 men, whose average age was 25, one young woman and a child.
  • The oldest document we own as a Town is, "The Disposal of the Vessel," drawn up in Lynn, MA on March 14, 1640.  It is kept in a vault at Town Hall.
  • This document indicates that Captain Howe was to obtain for his efforts, the one-masted sloop on which the founders sailed.
  • It further instructs the Captain that he was to make three trips annually for two years between Lynn and Southampton in order to bring supplies and more people to settle the colony.
  • It is probable that the church building was begun within the year after the settlement.
  • The first church building was located on the east by Old Town Road and north by the highway which is now known as Meetinghouse Lane, and the site is in the rear of Southampton Hospital.
  • A rude thatched building, it served as not only for church and school, but for Court and Town meetings and for the training of companies organized for defense.  For many years the expenses of the church were a part of every man's allotment.
  • In Town records dated July 7, 1645, it states, "Yt is ordered that from time to time hereafter that the meeting house shall be sweeped upon the last day of every week, of each family by turns, upon notice given by those who sweeped it last, and each family from the first of October to the 15th of April shall be turned likewise to make a fire in the meeting house each Sabbath Day."  To neglect this duty would mean a fine of two shillings and six pence.
  • Early settlers for their time were well-educated.  Men and women could read and write.  There were common schools in each community.  It was not unusual for their sons and grandsons to attend college.
  • The two most important employees of each town were the preacher and the schoolmaster.
  • The son of Southampton's first minister, Abraham Pierson, Jr., became the first president of Yale.
  • Our Founding Fathers purchased the "Plantation Deed" from James Farrett, representative of the Earl of Stirling, ceeding them "all these lands lyeing and being bounded between Peaconeck and the easternmost part of Long Island, with the who breadth of the said Island from sea to sea."
  • The price of this deed was 400 lbs sterling with the stipulation being that they should yield to His Majesty one fifth of any gold or silver found on their plantation.
  • When the first settlers were met by the Shinnecock natives, they were led southward over the trail that is now North Sea Road.  Terms with the Indiands were confirmd by a deed listing sixteen "coates" and sixty bushels of corn to be paid after the harvest of 1641.  The colonists also promised to give the Shinnecocks protection from their enemies and the right to hunt and fish on the plantation.
  • The Native name for Long Island is Paumanack.  The Dutch called the land, Lange Eylandt.  The Shinnecocks call the land on which the original colonists settled, Agawam.
  • The name Southampton has been used from the earliest days of the settlement.  It is first found on the thirtieth page of the town records dated April 6, 1641, the day of the first town meeting.  It was probably adopted in honor of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who, as treasurer of the Virginia Company, was active in the colonization of America.
  • The first shelters, unlike the grass wigwams of the Indians, were dugouts or "cellars" as they were called in old records.  To make a dugout the householder dug a square pit in the ground, cased it in with timber and lined it with tree bark to prevent the caving-in of earth.  This cellar was floored with planks and roofed with bark or sod.  These dugouts probably carried the settlers through the first winter.
  • The first concern of the colonists after selecting the site of the village was the spring planting.  Although the planting was late, with the help of the Shinnecock people, the settlers were given corn for their planting and shown how to fertilize with fish.  Enough of the Summer was left for raising one crop of hay and oats and Indian corn.
  • Church and state were one in the early days of the colony and the town meeting was the highest authority.  It was at first called the General Court and was held four times per year.
  • The Court enacted a code of laws founded on the laws of Moses, "being justly and unanimously consented unto as fundamentals by the colony of Southampton."
  • All adult males were compelled to attend the Court or pay a fine.
  • All freeholders might vote, that is, anyone who owned land, but only freemen could hold office.  The freemen were selected by all the freeholders.  They had to  be at least twenty-one years old and had to be  "of peaceable and honest conversation."  Any man chosen who refused to accept was fined forty shillings.
  • By the end of the first four years of the settlement, thirty to forty familes were living in Southampton.  Of the original company, only Edward Howell, Thomas and Job Sayre, Thomas Halsey, John Cooper and Josias Stanborough (who came in 1644) made permanent homes.  The others dispersed to Southold, East Hampton, Flushing, or back to New England.
  • Rev. Abraham Pierson was minister from 1640-1647.  He was a man of strong faith and stern theology.  He believed that only church members should be allowed to vote in the civil elections, while a majority of the Southampton men believed that every freeholder should have the privilege.
  • After Southampton voted to join the Connecticut Colony and send delegates to the General Court in Hartford, Abraham Pierson, with a few adherents, left Long Island and went to Branford, CT, under the stricter New Haven colony.
  • The Reverend Robert Fordham followed Abraham Pierson, becoming the second minister of Southampton in 1649.  He preached at first in the old meeting house, built the second church, and received as "annual maintenance for the work of the Lord amongst us three score pounds (about $300)."  He remained until his death in 1674.
  • Eight years after the settlement at Olde Towne the Towne Street (now Main Street) was laid out and every householder was allotted a "home lott" of 3 acres with farm land and woodland in outlying districts.  Here the settlers built substantial homes and in 1652 they built their second church.
  • The second church was still the church of the whole community, but the purchase deed expressly stated that the new building was to be used by those "Congregations of Christian Protistants usually known and distinguished by name or stile of Presbiterians."  According to historian William Pelletreau, "This was the first mention of Presbyterianism as attached to any church in the province of New York."
  • Just when the drum gave place to the tolling of the steeple bell is unknown, but a belfry was added to the second church in 1681 and a 54 pound bell was hung.  Galleries were added to the church in 1682.  Sometime within the next ten years, the bell cracked.  There is an old bill, dated 1694, where credit is given for the original bell, which was then replaced by a new bell weighing 173 pounds.  The bell came from England on the ship, "European" and was unloaded at Northwest, the port of East Hampton.  Samuel Cooper carted the bell to Towne Street with his ox team.  This church served the community for fifty-five years.
  • In 1707, our congregation built its third church.  It stood on the Northwest corner of Towne Street and Meeting House Lane, across the street from where the church stands today.
  • The new church not only had a bell but also a clock which was made in New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Until the time of the Revolution at exactly nine o'clock every night curfew rang from the tower, calling all children back to their homes.
  • Among the archives of the third church are four beautiful silver communion mugs, two given by Stephen Boyer, a French Huguenot, who came to Southampton in 1686.  Two other mugs, given in 1729, are marked "South Hampton Church."
  • The minister when the third church was built was the Reverend Joseph Whiting, who stayed until his death at age 82.
  • The first street in Southampton must have been Old Town Road, east of Old Town Pond and running south to the beach.  On it and around it the settlers built their first homes, dugouts, later replaced by houses of hand-hewn timber.
  • Wickapogue Road ran eastward from the Olde Towne.  The Indian name of Wickapogue means, "at the end of the pond or waterplace."  It is first mentioned in Town records in 1688.
  • Meeting House Lane doubtless grew from the footpath way leading from the new Towne Street to the meeting house.
  • Towne Street is now called Main Street and follows from the ocean two miles to the north.
  • On either side of Towne Street lots were cleared for the settlers.  East and west of it were the cleared plains for farming:  Little Playne on the east and Great Playne on the west.  Little Plains Road, opened in 1664.  The Great Playne or general field was the farmland west from Agawam Lake to Shinnecock Creek, and from it Great Plains Road takes its name.
  • North of the Little Playne, Gin Lane opened in 1664.  It owes its name to the old gin, or trap for stray cattle.  "Cattle" included cows, pigs and goats.  The gin was fenced in and had a gate swinging only one way.  An animal that once came in could not get out until the Indian who kept the gate released her.
  • From the Olde Towne to the new Towne Street ran the "lane called Toylesome."
  • Job's Lane pushed out westward until it became an Indian trail.

To be continued.......