The evidence suggests that the original section of the modern "chapel
house" was constructed sometime
around 1842, when they were said to have been first formally organized, or
perhaps even a bit earlier when a group may have been meeting informally.
The germinal Fire Place Congregation church society needed a place to meet
and hold services. Since the congregation had few funds, "Richard
Corwin" built for them a meeting house on the southwest corner of his farm. Their
building seems to have been a small, as they only had 10-15 members.
The lot was only 20' x 30'. It's clear from Prime that it was being used by
them in 1845. Richard Corwin Sr.'s son, William H. Corwin, seems to
have been among the original organizers of the Congregationalists.
Until recently, there has been some uncertainty as to which Richard
Corwin was responsible for its construction— father or son. It was
generally assumed that the son did not own the farmstead until after his
father's death; however, the minutes of the society indicate that they
purchased the meetinghouse from "Richard Corwin, Jun." in March 1848, before
his father's death on 27 Oct 1848, certainly suggesting that Richard Jr
owned it at that time. It was also known that Richard Corwin (Sr.)
maintained his membership in the South Haven Presbyterian parish until his
death, and was active in its affairs—raising the question as to why he would
be a benefactor to the "competing" Congregational church society.
However, the deed for the conveyance of the main Corwin farm from father
to son has been found. It is dated 1 Jan 1834 and filed with the
Suffolk County clerk on 31 Jan 1834 (Liber S, Page 328).
From this evidence it is clear that Richard Corwin, Jr. owned the
farmstead, and was the original builder of the structure.
Borthwick comments (page 218):
"... the Congregational element [in Fire Place and South Haven] was never
strong, either died out or turn Presbyterian…. [By 1875 it was nearly
extinct.] In a few years, Mr. Booth of Brookhaven Village was the only
Congregationalist left. In the meantime, the meetings of the of the Sunday
School and young people's organization of the South Haven Church were being
held here, as well as the evening service. So Mr. Booth generously gave the
deed to the land and buildings to the Presbyterians. From then until the
fall of 1899, when Mr. Augustus Floyd, a trustee from Mastic, had the
building remodeled and larger as a memorial tribute to his mother 'who did
much in enlarging and sustaining the usefulness of the South Haven Church,'
it was known as 'the Lecture Room.' After that date, 'this place for
religious exercise is now to be known as 'The Presbyterian Chapel.' About
1908, the 'Chapel Benefit Society' had an addition built on to the rear of
it, thus making it adequate for service as a parish house for the South
**According to George Perley Morse --
"The original was called a Lecture Room or what is called today a
Community Center. It first stood on land about 20 ft. by 30 ft. and close to
the road. The flooring of the old part of the building is wide 2 in. boards
of native pine, nailed to beams that are spit of half native pine trees.
Today this wood is nearly as hard as glass.
"On March 4, 1848 a Congregational Church group paid Richard Corwin
about $150.00 for the land and building. Prime's History of Long Island of
1845 says "There is a small Congregational Church of eleven (11) members
that meet in a building fitted up for the purpose of worship. The Rev.
Nathaniel Hawkins occasionally preached there."
"The last member of this group deeded the property over to the
Presbyterian Church. It was then moved over and on about 100 feet square
piece of land, and a steeple and two rooms were added with money given by
Mr. James H. Post. It was used mostly as a Sunday School and for Church
suppers, and also as an amateur Play House.
"The Presbyterians sold it in 1945, when they took over the Methodist
Church on Beaver Dam Road. It is now a private dwelling."]
Brookhaven Congregational Church Minutes, March 27, 1848:
These Minutes recorded the purchase of the "Lecture Hall" from "Richard
Corwin Jun." in 1848 and suggest that the the building existed before the
Congregationalists made the purchase. It
may be that it wasn't until 1848 that the small congregation had sufficient
resources to purchase the building.
(The term "Lecture Room" was used by Protestant
denominations in the 19th century to identify a structure used
principally for adult educational purposes. It was often a
detached building, and could be well removed from the main church
structure. In addition, religious services were sometimes held in
it during the middle of the week when attendance would be too small for
the main church building.)
Chapel House "moved"
In about 1903/4, James Post donated more land to the church (he and his wife
having already donated land for a manse e.g. parsonage in 1902) to allow
the Chapel House to be "moved." This move probably took place in the year 1903,
but it might have taken place anytime between the Annual Meeting of 1903 and
June 25, 1904. The following record appears in the Presbyterian parish's
Trustee Minutes, which are in storage at the Presbyterian Historical Society in
At the Annual Parish Meeting held on June 25th 1904 Mr. Augustus Floyd
was chosen chairman.
Treasurer's report was read and accepted.
Mr. Augustus Hawkins & Mr. James H. Post were elected Trustees to hold
Office until the last Sat. in Jun 1907.
Mr. Augustus Floyd was elected President of the Board of Trustees for 1
yr. But declined to serve, owing to so much personal business.
And Mr. Augustus Hawkins ws elected in his place.
George Miller was elected Clerk and Treasurer for 1 yr.
Henry Ghoday, Mr. Emmett Hawkins were elected returning officers.
A Vote of thanks was given
to Mr. James H. Post for his generosity in giving more land, and, moving the
Chapel at Brookhaven.
It was voted that the money received from the sale of the right to
subscribe for New Stock of the Bank of Commerce be increased to $250 and
invested in Atlantic Script. George Miller Clerk
The above reference seems to settle when the building was moved. It does
not settle where it was moved from. The original historic site survey form
prepared by Stephanie Bigelow recorded that it was moved from "across the road."
Her understanding appears to have been a misinterpretation of the actual events.
Borthwick indicated that the transfer from the remnant Congregationalists to the
Presbyterians occurred sometime after 1885, during the pastorate of the Rev.
Frederick Van Deuser Frisbie, but made no mention of it being moved. The 1873
Beers map shows it at its
approximate present site well before this transferred to the Presbyterians.
An exhaustive review of the historical record, while not without
some ambiguities, lead Dr. Richard Thomas to conclude that its "move" was
from one location on the present lot to another more convenient site on the same
expanded lot, following additions purchased by James Post's from Louise Goodall
in 1903 (see explanation and map at Post
Addition to the Chapel Property).
The Rev. Nathaniel Hawkins appears
to have been the principal pastor during the earlier years of the Fire Place
congregation. He had been ordained as pastor of the New Village (now
Centereach), NY, Congregational Church in 1823 at age 46, and served this
congregation for some 20 years. Evidence suggests that he was licensed to
preach earlier. He then removed to the family farm in Fire Place/South
Haven, on Little Neck at about the time when the Fire Place congregation was
formed and their meeting house erected. He continued to serve the
congregation until near his death in 1860.
From about 1850 onward, the Rev.
John Gibbs also provided
ministerial services to the congregation. Rev Gibbs was also the stated
supply to the Bellport, NY, Congregational Church, and resided in Bellport.
He likely provided these services until near his death in 1874. By this
time the congregation was nearly extinct, and the property was deeded to the
South Haven Presbyterian Parish about 1878.
Sale of Chapel House by the South Haven Presbyterian
By 1945, the South Haven Presbyterian Church no longer
had need for the Chapel, having acquired the former Brookhaven Methodist Church
building on Beaver Dam road (another story, see
Site Datasheet Old Methodist Church, ID Br29C). On February 25,
1946, at a congregational meeting, the congregation approved the sale of the
property. George Perley Morse purchased the site for $2500, and by June
1946, he and his wife Ruth had established an antiques store in it.
However, because of legal issues, probably related to the original deed of
transfer from the Fire Place congregational church society to the South Haven
Presbyterian church, the sale was not finalized until 1948. The deed of
sale was recorded Jan 22, 1948 at Libor 2796, p. 563.
The following newspaper clipping was undated and its source unidentified, but probably was from the Patchogue Advance in May or June of 1955, when the Bulls were believed to have moved into the residence:
"Mr. And Mrs. Marshall Bull and daughter Katie, formerly of South Haven are now occupying their new home, the Chapel house, on the corner of Chapel road and south Country road. Owned and operated since 1944 by Mr. And Mrs. George P. Morse as an antique shop, the chapel, according to church records studied by Mr. Morse, dates back to 1848. Historians think it may have been built as early as 1837. Organized as a congregational church on land given by Richard Corwin, it became a butcher shop during the Civil war. When the congregation decreased, it became a lecture hall and was supported by the community. The last of the congregational members, William Booth, turned the church over to the Presbyterians, who used it as a church and Sunday school until the Morses took possession. The original structure had a wing added in 1910. Funds donated by James H. Post enabled the building to be moved from the corner back to its present site. The original wagon shed still stands on the property."