The Brooklyn Daily Eagle—Sunday, 15 December. 1895


It Weighed Fourteen Pounds and was Caught on Long Island.


Autograph Letters of the Great Jurist Produced in a Law Suit at Riverhead, Showing That He Did What He Could for His Old Friend, Samuel Carman, in a Dispute With the Long Island Railroad

An interesting ejectment suit involving the title to important fishing grounds at Carman's river, South Haven, was decided at the last session of the Suffolk county court, at Riverhead.  The plaintiffs in the suit were William E. T. Smith and others and the Suffolk club was the defendant.  The plaintiffs claimed title to the territory stretching north from the south country road along the river.  They are the sons and daughters of the late Egbert Tangier Smith and claim title to the property in question by virtue of deeds and wills dating back to the seventeenth century, their claim resting mainly on an old colonial patent.  The Suffolk club, the defendant, which was organized in 1865, is composed of men so wealthy that a candidate for membership must be worth at least $500,000Go to Footnote before he can be as much as proposed.  The club claimed to own ninety acres of land there and to hold many more acres leased property, together with the fishing and hunting privileges of Henry Carman.  They traced their claim to Samuel Carman, Henry's father, who owned all the land and their streams and fishing privileges by deeds from the first settlers.  To substantiate this claim ex-Judge Reid and August Haviland, who appeared for the club, submitted two autograph letters of Daniel Webster, to show that in an old action in which Carman was once involved with the Long Island, Webster, who was an old friend of Carman, had examined the deeds and found that he was the identical owner of the property, streams and fishing privileges involved in the suit then being tried.  In spite of the autograph testimony of the great jurist the jury found for the plaintiff in the sum of $250 damages.

Mr. Haviland, who is the custodian of the Webster letters, intrusted (sic) an Eagle representative with the shorter epistle to Samuel Carman, in order that it be reproduced in fac simile, and here it is.

Facsimile Envelope Webster to Carman

That Webster made use of his franking privilege to forward the letter, as was the custom with United States senators and representatives at that time, is clear from the envelope, of which this is a reproduction:

The copy of the letter to Mr. King, which Webster inclosed (sic) to his friend Carman, is as follows:

 Boston, March 31, 1845.

My dear sir—I was at Fire Place last week and Mr. Carman consulted me professionally on the subject of the of the Long Island railroad in making a dam over the river, etc.  He placed his deeds in my hands that I might see what his title really and actually is.

I find that he is owner of all the land on the west side of the river from his house northerly to the north line of the George's or Smith's manor and I find also by express grant in all the deeds he is sole owner of the whole stream.  His eastern boundary thereof is the easternj edge of the stream or its banks from the crossing place below his mill to the northern line of the patent which is half or three-quarters of a mile north of the railroad.

In damming up this stream it is clear that the company are mere tresspassers (sic) and he has a right clearly to abate the nuisance by taking away the dam if he pleases.  But he is well disposed and reasonable and I am sure that the company will not be less so.

The dam is injurious to him in several ways.  First it renders the supply of water to his own mill below less regular.  Secondly, it completely cuts off the passage up and down of the fish and must destroy the whole race, by depriving them of their spawning grounds.  This is no small matter, considering the value and use of his establishments, but finally, the site would make a mill power for his own use equal, as he thinks, to the one below.

It strikes me the cause is one for compromise and adjustment.

You are interested in the company and know all the gentlemen and I am very sincere friend to the road and shall advise Mr. Carman to be reasonable and equitable and have no doubt he will be so.  The matter of the passage for fish can be well enough provided for by suitable stairs or path to let them up and down and the rest is the proper subject for just estimate.

I told Mr. Carman that I would write you when I had considered the subject, as he looks on you as friendly to him, and at the same time that you have an interest in the road.

Probably I may see you in New York in the course of next week.


Hon. Jno. King.

Fire Place, to which Webster refers in his letter, is now known as South Haven and sometimes by the old name of Carman's river.  It lies on the west side of the river, about two miles from its mouth, and has now, as it had in 1845, an inviting, quiet, homelike air about it.  It was at a spot near there that the Suffolk club built its handsome club house, and having secured the privilege of fishing in the stream from Uncle Sam Carman as he was familiarly known.  It was a celebrated fishing spot and lovers of of the sport from all parts of the country came there to fish.  His guest included the fine men of the country in those days.  Uncle Sam is described as a most sociable boniface, and he was Uncle Sam to everybody.  His wife was a jolly woman, too, and any visitor was made to feel at right at home at the Carman homestead.

Uncle Sam and Webster were great friends, and Webster came there to fish for twenty years or more.  The company always had plenty of brandy, and together with lots of tobacco, the evenings were spent around the old fashioned fireplace of Uncle Sam's house in a jolly, sociable manner.  The old Carman homestead still stands in a well preserved condition.  It is occupied by Henry W. Carman, Sam's son, and Nathaniel Miller's wife, of Brookhaven is a daughter of Uncle Sam Carman.  Uncle Sam was a miller, which, in those days, made him very popular, for people came to his mill from miles around.  It was a grist mill and he did a thriving business.  His sons now run the mill, which has been in operation for more than 120 years.

An interesting incident in the life of Uncle Sam is told by an old personal friend of his.  Uncle Sam was a great lover of the pipe and smoked almost incessantly.  Mart Raynor from the manor was also a great smoker, and the question arose who could smoke the most.  A wager was made to decide it, and they they were to smoke and eat nothing save bunkers, a quantity of which were prepared for the occasion.  After smoking constantly for two days and nights they gave it up and called it a draw.

The largest trout ever caught on Long Island was caught in Carman's river.  It weighed fourteen pounds, and when news of the wonderful catch reached Daniel Webster he went down with a party of friends and paid $100 for the trout, which was served at a big dinner given to Webster's friends in New York city.  Some of those who accompanied Webster on this fishing trip to Uncle Sam Carman's were Attorney General Hoffman, Philo T. Ruggles, the celebrated lawyer; Chief Justice Thomas J. Oakley, Judge William S. Rockwell, George P. Barker, David Graham, Henry A. Cram, James A Gerard and John J. Crittenden, senator from Kentucky.

Before Mr. Carman parted with the big trout a fac simile of it was sawed out of an inch board, and this Mr. Carman had rigged up as a weather vane for his barn, and it is still doing duty to show the way the wind blows at the Carman homestead.

The occasion of Webster's letter arose out of a dispute between Carman and the Long Island Railroad company as to whether the latter had a right to construct an embankment that would back up the water the celebrated trout stream.  Uncle Sam wrote to his friend Webster asking for legal advice upon the subject, and the result was that Webster took up the cause of his ole friend and wrote the letter quoted above to John A. King, then acting as the representative of the road, in the matter.

Mr. Carman later received another letter from Webster which is also a cherished heirloom. It seems that Webster, during his twenty annual visits to Uncle Sam's had never paid him a cent for his accommodation.  After the matter was satisfactorily settled with the road Webster wrote Carman saying:  “I would charge anyone else fifty dollars ($50) for this advice.  So you can credit me with fifty dollars on our account.”