McKeown sisters at Beaver Dam Creek and South Country road

Brookhaven & South Haven Hamlets

Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York

Brookhaven/South Haven Hamlets Study

  Previous Next Last

Prologue:  Fire Place, Then and Now

By the end of the year 1687, through purchases of land from the Seatalcott and Unkechogue Indians, and the consolidation of private patents granted by the English monarchy, the Town of Brookhaven had grown from a small settlement at Setauket to become the largest town on Long Island.

In those days, the population center, and the hub of social, religious and economic activity in the Town, lay at the north shore, whose bays were the ports of entry for European ships. The south shore was explored by farmers from the north seeking open spaces to raise hay and graze cattle. Attracted by large meadows of salt hay near the mouth of the Carmans River (then called the Connecticut River), these settlers also discovered abundant fishing and oystering in the Great south Hay, and learned of the opportunities for capturing whales off the south shore of Fire Island

In a remarkable book chronicling the history of the Old South Haven Church, The Church at the South, George Borthwick describes the arrival of the first English-speaking residents of the area we now call Brookhaven Village. It was then known as Fire Place – a term that was sometimes used indiscriminately to refer to the southern part of the town (and gave the barrier beach its current name). The name refers to the fires built to guide whaling boats crossing the bay at night. Back then, Old 1nlet on Fire Island was a real inlet from the Atlantic Ocean, and the route through this inlet to landing places along the shores of the Carmans (Connecticut) River was marked at night by fires built on what we now call Long Point. Among the landing points were "Squassuck’s Landing" and "Indian Landing." The former is still the favorite landing spot for Brookhaven Villagers returning from Old Inlet, and Indian point, now a part of the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge remains a fixture of loca1 lore and a popular stop for canoeists on the Carmans River

The early activities in the south led to the formation of a well-traveled road from Setauket in the north to Fire Place. Dating from about 1665, traces of this road exist today. Originally called "Road to South," its remnants can be found on some contemporary maps as "Old Town Road." It passed through our hamlet along the road now known as Fireplace Neck Road, and down what is now Bay Road. For many years, this was the most heavily traveled road in the Town.

Two hundred and some years ago, as the seeds of great social and political change took root along the eastern seaboard of North America, Brookhaven Hamlet was a thriving community, and one of the focal points for the call to revolutionary action. The Old Southaven Church stood at an important crossroads in those days – with soon-to-be Revolutionary War generals William I Floyd and Nathaniel Woodhull as regular parishioners, as well as visits from Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison. The Reverend Dr. David Rose ("Priest Rose") was minister from 1768 to 1799. Ordained at Yale Divinity School, he was a fiery leader from the pulpit. It was Priest Rose who, in the words of Rev. Borthwick "with the authority of God behind his words, stirred the minds of the men, who listened to his preaching, to action."