The Carmans River flows south through a gap in the Ronkonkoma moraine fromits headwaters located in the area of Artist Lake in Middle Island.
Only one Native American tribe lived on Long Island – the Algonquians. Throughout theIsland, they spoke the same language and shared cultural and religious beliefs. They werethe Long Island confederacy of the Delaware Indians. About 6,000-7,000 Algonquians livedon Long Island in the 1600s when the first settlers arrived. They were known for making finewampum, the currency used by all Indians east of the Mississippi river.
About 1,000 BC, Long Island’s Algonquin people began using horticultural techniques, and small permanentvillages evolved across the Island, mainly along the shores. The main local village was along Unkechaug Creekin today’s Shirley (where Tobaccus, who signed many of the land sales, was buried in 1700). It is said that oneof their meeting places was at today’s Indian Landing on the east side of Carmans River.
By 1700, most of the local Delaware-Algonquins – called Unkechaugs, those who lived between Bayport andEastport – were decimated by disease. Not understanding the white man’s idea of land ownership, they gaveaway their land, as well as their right to hunt and fish on it, for mere trinkets. Like Natives elsewhere, mostturned to wage labor, mostly obtained by going to sea. They often married with Black slaves and therebysacrificed their legal freedom.
The Native Americans called it the Connecticut, meaning long river; the settlers called it the EastConnecticut, the West being today’s Connetquot River. In this 1797 map, which shows the inletthat opened in 1772, the highlighted areas shows the land that was most valuable to the settlers,that which was salt hay meadow.
In 1657, Narcomacmeadows was thevery first parcel ofland on theCarmans River thatthe white settlers inSetauket boughtfrom theUnkechaugs.
Nearly the whole upperriver, as well as about 2miles of the west bank ofthe lower river, waspurchased, first from theLong Island Algonquinsachem Wyandance in1664, and again in 1671from the local Algonquinleader Tobaccus, who wasunhappy that he wasn’tincluded in the originaldeal. The last piece of theriver purchased was Map delineated by John DeitzYaphank Neck in 1688.
The location for these photos is at the end of Beaver Dam Road. From about 1873 to 1905,the land was owned by Joseph Carman, then by Carman Lush who sold the 50- foot widestrip of land to the Town circa 1909. The Town then extended Beaver Dam Road to theriver. In 1917, James Post bought the 13 acres along the river to the south of the road(Squassux Landing) from Mr. Lush, to quietly let the community use it for their boats. All salt-haying photos courtesy of the Post Morrow Foundation
Salt marsh meadows were precious to the early settlers because it was landthat they didn’t have to clear and cultivate to provide grazing for their cattle .Salt hay, which initially bought the settlers down from Setauket, was also usedfor insulation in housing and for ice houses in which winter ice was stackedand where perishable food was stored.
All photos of salt haying in this presentation weretaken by artist Fredrick Kost circa 1900 and are partof the Post Morrow Foundation’s collection.
Many of these photos were made into oil or watercolorpaintings by Fredrick Kost and are still in thecommunity. Mr. Kost lived at 298 Beaver Dam Roaduntil his death in 1923.
To regulate the taking of salt hay, the Town declared thesecond Tuesday in September as “Marshing Day.” In this circa1900 photo, Wallace Swezey (179 Old Stump Road) is shownwith his harvest.
Although feudalism had already been abolished by parliament in England, Long Island was still considered personal real estate of the sovereign andconsidered the property of King William and Queen Mary. In 1687 Colonel William Smith purchased much the land outlined above and in 1693 wasgranted a patent for the Manor of St George. The portion of this map from west of the Carmans River is inaccurate and not part of the Manor.
This photo of South Haven mill was taken before 1875. Probably built by Samuel Terrell circa1740, it was located where Sunrise Highway is today and was in operation until 1910. The buildingon the left was the planing, or saw mill, and the building on the right was the fulling (processing ofcloth from flax so that it thickened and shrunk) and grist mill. The mill was purchased by JohnHavens in 1745 and later owned by the Carman family.The lumber mill was removed in 1875, whenHenry Carman sold the land it was on to the Suffolk Club. Next three photos courtesy Post Morrow Foundation
T. R. Bayles, “Early Mills, Roads, and Industries in Brookhaven Town,” 1976: “The South Haven mill,located just north of the ‘goin over’ of the Montauk highway, and was in operation in 1745, and containedthe large mill stones between which the grain was ground, until it was torn down by the extension of theSunrise highway in 1958. Water still poured through the mill race as it did before the Revolution, but themill wheels had long been silent. As with the Yaphank mills this was a grist and saw mill. Sam Carmanconducted a tavern and general store just to the west of the mill, and with the meeting house across theroad built in 1740, this was the center of life in this part of Brookhaven town in those years."
This picture of the mill, taken before 1875, is from the north side looking downriver. The Carman family, who alsoowned the Tavern and general store just in front of the mill along South Country Road, was a shareholder in themill from 1780 to 1875. All photos of the Carmans mill courtesy of the Post Morrow Foundation
Postcard from the first half of the 20th century
Picture taken for Mrs. Florence Hard, circa 1936.
Simultaneous with the establishment of the mill in 1740 was the building of the second church in BrookhavenTown, the Old South Haven Presbyterian Church, directly across from the mill on the banks of Carmans River.
In 1780, 40 years after the mill and church were built, the new owner of the mill, Sam Carman, built a tavern,inn and general store directly in front of the mill, and South Haven became the Colonial center of the southshore of Brookhaven.
Although the areareferred to as “theplains” was part ofthe “Old Purchase atSouth” in 1664, itwasn’t until 1720 thatthe Town begandividing the land intolots in soon-to-be-named Millville.
Beginning in 1740, acommunity dependent uponthe mills for their livelihooddeveloped between the twomills that lie along today’sMain Street, as indicated onthis 1873 map.There were severalMillvilles on Long Island,and that caused postalproblems. So, in 1845, thecommunity was renamedYaphank, after the name ofthe eastern boundary line.Yaphank is a NativeAmerican name meaning“the bank of a river.”
Known as the Sweezey Mill or Upper Mill, the original Yaphank mill was built by Capt. Robert Robinson and wasin operation circa 1740. By 1815, the mill changed hands to the Christopher Sweezey family, who tore down theoriginal mill and replaced it with the saw mill shown above. This saw mill remained the family business until circa1900. It burned down circa 1914. Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society.
Sweezey’s Mill, date of photo unknownPhoto courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society.
Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society
Sweezey Mill Dam. Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society
The current upper lake dam, circa 1930.Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society
In 1762, John Homan built a saw mill about a mile downstream of the Sweezey mill, and, in 1771, added a grist millto it. In 1821, the Homan family sold their mills to Robert Hawkins, who tore down the original mills and replacedthem with a larger saw mill. A decade later, Hawkins’ nephew, E. L. Gerard, took over his uncle’s mill, which heoperated until his death in 1899. Gerard’s children continued the operation for a while and, sometime before 1917,sold it to the Suffolk Club. The mill burned down in 1919. Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society.
Gerard’s Mill, date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society.
In 1792, Ebenezer Homan built a fulling mill about a mile north of the Sweezy Mill. This mill apparentlydidn’t last very long, perhaps only 20 years. There are no known photos of it except of the aboveremains. A fourth mill site, a saw mill, was built about half a mile below Gerard’s Mill but wasabandoned before long. Photo courtesy of the Yaphank Historical Society
1815: All Roads lead toCarmans and the Yaphank mills.
This 1900 survey, filed in theCounty Clerk’s office onJune 6, 1904, file number 29,shows that the TangierSmiths owned the riverbottom and all uplands onthe east side of the river,about 7,000 acres, fromMontauk Highway south tothe Atlantic Ocean.
In 1910 Fredrick J. Quinby created the Tangiers Development Corporation andpurchased nearly 7,000 acres along the east side of Carmans River, today’sShirley, from approximately Montauk Highway south to the Great South Bay.
Note Advertisement in Times SquareFortunately for Carmans River, the Tangiers Development Company failed, and by1917, the 7,000 acres had resorted back to the Tangier Smith family.
250 years after ColonelWilliam Tangier Smithpurchasedapproximately 10square miles ofBrookhaven Town andwas granted a feudalpatent, the TangierSmith portion of theMastic peninsularemained largelyundeveloped.
Currier and Ives’ depiction of Daniel Webster catching his famous 14-1/2 lb. trout in Carmans mill pond, circa 1821.Sam Carman may not even have been the major shareholder in the mill, but he and his descendants became rich andfamous because of the businesses they ran from directly in front of the mill: a store, post office, tavern and Inn. All ofthe “men of the day,” mostly members of the exclusive Suffolk Club, would come to hunt and fish at Carmans. TheSuffolk Club, whose members would include Martin Van Buren, August Belmont and Teddy Roosevelt, as well asWebster, would lease the rights to Carmans River for 25 years at a time. In 1875, they bought approximately 1,200acres from Henry Carman, mostly on the west side of the river, all the way from Yaphank down to the Great SouthBay. The Tangier Smiths still owned the east side of the river from Montauk Highway south to the bay.
Circa 1900, the Suffolk Clubbegan selling off some theirholdings along the southernportion of the river.
Circa 1920, Anson Hard,stockbroker, member of the NYStock Exchange and Suffolk Clubmember, bought the outstandingshares from the remaining membersof the Suffolk Club and made it hisown personal hunting lodge forhimself and close friends. Anson Hard, circa 1924
The Hard Estate was morethan 1,000 acres,straddling 4 miles ofCarmans River all the wayfrom the Lower Lake inYaphank to the Montaukbranch of the LI Railroadin South Haven.
Anson Hard’s home along the west bank of the river, near theoriginal site of the Suffolk Clubhouse, burned down in 1936.
The Hard home was rebuilt circa 1937 and is today’s SuffolkCounty Parks Department headquarters.
The Hard Estate would also include all but two of the buildings shownin this circa 1938 photo looking north over Montauk Highway. Notshown in the above picture is the mill, which the dirt road goes to, asshown in the following slide. The Carman Tavern was torn down in1936 by Charles Robinson, and the lumber from it was used to buildsome of his duck houses.
Suffolk LodgeStorage shed Horse barn Equipment barn House owned by Mill Hard
After Anson’s death in 1939, the estatewas left to his wife, Florence, and theirsix children. When their youngestchild, Kenneth B., returned from thenavy after WWII, the family decided tolet him use the estate because hewanted operate it as a game preserve. Photo: Mrs. Florence Bourne Hard with Kenneth B. and his sister, Florence, 1927
Ken Hard grew up on the estateand to him this was home.
In 1946, Ken Hard married LeonaRobinson, whose family owned the duckfarm across the street. Together they raisedfour children on the Suffolk Lodge estate.
1958 was the beginning of the end for Suffolk Lodge with the Sunrise Highway extension. A few years later, SuffolkCounty condemned the rest of Ken Hard’s property, which became South Haven Park, the County’s first park.
Little Neck Run,April 2007 Photo: Jen Puleston Clement
Robinson Duck Farm, South Haven, 1948. The Old South Haven Church in foreground is the last remnant of theformer Colonial center. In 1961, the church was moved 4 miles to the west. Photo courtesy of Ron Bush
Carmans River Duck Farm, aka Robinson’s Duck Farm. View looking north from the feed mill.Photo by Ken Hard, 1949
The Robinsons duck farm was in operation from 1936 to circa 1980. During its mostproductive years up to 10,000 Peking ducks a week were processed here. Photo Ken Hard
In 1938, banker Maurice Wertheim purchased 1,700 acres straddling the lower Carmans River, mostfrom the Tangier Smith family, for his personal game preserve. In 1947. he deeded this land to the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service to become a wildlife Refuge upon his death. In 1974, some 600 additional acreswere added to the Refuge, including a 260-acre donation by the Wellington family and the purchase ofmost of the land from Yaphank Creek west to Old Stump Road and south to the Carmans River,including Little Neck Run and Yaphank Creek.
By 1917, all four mills in Yaphank were gone.Roadways now cover over the original mill racesof both the Gerard and Sweezey mills.
During the late 1930s several campsopened along the upper river, one ofwhich was infamous. Today theformer Camp Siegfried is aBrookhaven Town park.
In 1900, Sam Neweyopened a ship buildingyard near the mouth of theriver. Stephanie Bigelowwrites: “Captain SamNewey started to buildboats in 1900. Having soldto the Vacuum OilCompany a 65-footfreighter he had built forhimself, he subsequentlybuilt fourteen tankerswhich went to India andAfrica. He built sloops,yachts, yawls; boats forferrymen, boats for the oiltrade; and commercialdraggers equipped withheavy booms….”Dick Tooker bought theboatyard in 1945 and ran it Pictured circauntil 1975, then sold it to 1940, SamBill Starke, who operated it Newey (1865-until 1999. The Post 1949) withMorrow Foundation now local baymanowns and operates a boat- Tom Poolebuilding school at the building eelboatyard. pots.
Squassux Landing, circa 1900, as a cow pasture. This may have been owned by either the Suffolk Club or by JosephCarman at the time. This natural landing place near the mouth of the Carmans River has been used by both NativeAmericans and Colonists for centuries. Early in the 20th century, as land along the river became privatized, manylocals, as well as a large New York City transient crowd bought on by the arrival of the railroad in 1881, SquassuxLanding was the best and only place to access the river. In 1917 James Post quietly brought the 13-acre site to let thecommunity use it as they wished. His heirs would deed the site to the Brookhaven Village Association in 1945.
Several competing ferries ran from Squassux Landing to the Smith’s Point House on Fire Island.
For the past 63 years, Squassux Landing has beenused as a boatyard, park and fairgrounds for theBrookhaven Hamlet community.
Cathedral Pines, Headwaters of Carmans RiverGolf Course Thanks to the efforts of Art Cooley and the Bellport High School students 40 years ago, much of the land bordering the river has been preserved, as will be shown in the following photographs.
Map courtesy of John Turner,Town of Brookhaven
Map courtesy of John Turner,Town of Brookhaven
Looking south overSouth Haven Park,Hard Lake inbackground.Photo April 2007 by JenPuleston Clement
Former 86-acre Robinson farm, now Suffolk County ParklandWertheimRefugeHeadquarters Photo by Jen Clement
Land that wastargeted foracquisition ifthe 2007Community Map courtesy ofPreservation John Turner, Town of BrookhavenFund hadpassed.
Former canoe rental business; Brookhaven Town in contract to Sun purchase. rise Hig h wa y ay The w ove old “go gh r” in ’ Hi uk ta nMo
dl e I sland , Mid R t 25 BNLFlow rate= 2,500,000gallons/day (PaulGrosser, engineer) Yaphank Flow rate = 15,600,000 LIE gallons per day (USGS) Flow rate = 35,000,000 gallons per day (USGS) igh w ay Mastic Sunrise H Fire Place Bellport Flow rate = 46,500,000 gallons per day (USGS)