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

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Chapter III: History of Brookhaven/South Haven Hamlets – The Fire Place

The land that includes what is known today as Brookhaven Hamlet was purchased from the Unkechogue Indians on June 10, 1664, by a group of thirty-nine buyers. Referred to as Old Purchase at South, the land included the western part of South Haven, all of the land in Brookhaven Hamlet and Bellport, and some land to the north. Among the buyers were Richard Woodhull, forefather of Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Woodhull; Richard Floyd, grandfather of William Floyd, signer of the Declaration of Independence; and Samuel Dayton, who was among the first white men to live in this section. The receipt for the land is now on file in the Brookhaven Town Hall at Patchogue and shows that the buyers paid Tobaccos, the Unkechogue chief, with four coats and the sum of six pounds, ten shillings – the equivalent of about three hundred feet of wampum. After the sale, the Indians still had liberty to fish and hunt.

The part of the purchase that is today Brookhaven Hamlet was then called Fire Place. To quote Thomas R. Bayles, The Early Years in Brookhaven Town (1962): "The name ’Fire Place’ was probably given to the tract of land lying west of the southern part of the Connecticut Carmans River, which extended into the bay and was known as Woodhull’s Point. Fires were built here to guide the whaling boats through the inlet at night from the ocean, which was opposite here. On the banks of the river were landing places with names such as ’Indian Landing,’ ’Squassacks Landing,’ and ’Zack’s Landing,’ where the boats brought the whales to be cut up and ’tried out’ for their oil and bone." Legend also has it that the fires originated with an Indian potter named Wessquassucks, and that Squassacks Landing (today Squassux) is the area which once held his kiln.

The Carmans River, which flows into the Great South Bay, was centra1 to the life of other early inhabitants of Fire Place. In the 1800s, residents harvested ice from the river. From the marshes bordering the river, they harvested salt hay, a major crop on Long Island in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That same salt hay was used to camouflage hunting blinds for winter duck shooting, which white settlers learned to do from the Indians in the nineteenth century. And, of course, fishing, oystering, scalloping, crabbing, clamming, and eeling have always been important to the people of the Carmans River area.

According to the 1860 census, those who did not look to the river for their occupation primarily engaged in farming. The tar industry was also important. Probably since before 1678, "tar-men" had lived in the area, manufacturing tar and turpentine from pine trees near the northwest corner of today’s Beaver Dam and South Country roads (the area was called Tar-men’s Neck).

The designation "Fire Place," which was first mentioned in the Brookhaven Town records on March 3, 1675, endured until about 1871, when residents voted to change the name to Brookhaven. Listed below are some of the historical events that took place whi1e it was still the Fire Place: