Patchogue Stories

Patchogue is a small village located on the southern shore of Long Island that has a long and rich history. The town was founded in the 1700’s and is situated along the Great South Bay opposite the Fire Island barrier beach which protects it from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The town has deep roots in its maritime past. Oystering, ship building fishing and summer tourism were important parts of Patchogue's fabric.  In fact, at one time the town was one of the most popular tourist destinations for the people of New York City.   Through the early 20th century seaside resorts and family owned hotels populated the area and attracted throngs of visitors. Tourism began to boom after the extension of the Long Island Railroad through Patchogue in the early 1860’s.  The railroad opened up this beautiful village to many who previously had no way of reaching it.  Visitors were lured by the chance to escape the crowded city and enjoying the "country life", ocean, beautiful lakes, hunting, boating, fishing and plain relaxation.   At the same time, Patchouge began to develop a busy down town business area that attracted development from manufacturers, mills, banks and an assortment of small businesses.

Over the years however Patchogue suffered the same fate as many of Long Islands other towns and villages.  Modern travel and changing tastes made other destinations more accessabile and attractive dooming the tourism business and the old resorts.  Mega stores, shopping malls and Outlet factories saturated the area forcing the once prosperous stores of the downtown area out of business and leaving it resembeling a ghost town. Decay crept into the village, and looked like it was there to stay. 

Fortunately, Patchogue is a sucess story. Creative governent leadership and the efforts of a dedicated community have perservered and the town is now in a period of renewal. Botuique shops,  treandy restarants a beautifully restored local theathere and an inovative new "artists community" have transformed the down town business area  into a popular destination to shop and visit.
 
Because of its long and varied history Patchogue is full of interesting strories and people from its past.  Some stories involve well known people who lived or visited here.  Some concern events such as the sinking of the Louis V. Place that gained naitional attention. But many involve pepole who lived their life in relative obscurity known only to the people of the town.  In this section, I share a variety of the short, sometimes strange but always interesting tales of people and events that helped make this town a fascinating place.  
 
 
The Story Of "Old Joe" and Captain Frank Smith Of Patchogue Updated
 
This true life story was recounted in the September 1st, 1900 edition of the Brooklyn Eagle under the title "A Negro's Daring Deed" (1).  Frank Smith was a well known sea captain in the mid-19th century hailing from Patchouge.  At the outbreak of the Civil War he took the command of a sailing ship named the S.J. Waring and was commissioned by the Union to use the ship as a transport of men and supplies.  Often he was called on to evade Confederate blocades and war ships who patroled the waters between New York and the South, and he quickly gained a reputation as one of the most effective Captains in the North in doing so.  That was until sometime in 1864 when he was caught unaware by the Confederate Privateer "Florida", whose crew borded the S.J. Waring off of the southern coast of Long Island and took its crew prisioners.  Captain Smith and his men were put in irons and transported to the Florida to be taken to a prision camp in the South.  Left behind in the S.J. Waring was their negro cook, Joe.  The Confederate crew felt he was too old to worry about, and he was left on the Waring to cook for 5 Confederate crew members who remained on the captured ship with orders to sail her back to a port in the South.  No sooner had the Florida disappeared from view on the horizon, than the crew broke into some whiskey which had been left behind.  Joe went about his business pouring the increasingly intoxicted crew drinks and serving them food.  Within hours one by one the Conferderate crew began to pass out.  Joe waited and watched.  When the last crew member fell fast asleep, Joe crept down stairs to the kitchen and came back to the deck of the ship with one of his knives. One by one, he crept up on the sleeping crew, stabbed them to death and threw them over the side of the boat.  Within minutes, Joe had killed all 5 Confederate crew members. 
 
 
As Joe had been to sea all of his life he was able to point his ship back North and make a run for safety.  Soon, he came across a Union ship that took him on board and heard his incredible story.  After confirming his tale by boarding the S.J. Waring and seeing its blood drenched floors, he was taken along with the Waring back to New York and celebrated as a hero for the rest of his life.  While the newspaper article does not tell us how long Joe lived, it does tell us he was known for years as "Old Joe the Union Hero". It goes on to say that one insurance company even agreed to pay Joe $1.00 a day for the rest of his life, which they faithfully did.
 
The S.J. Waring was built in Stony Brook Long Island by a William Bacon and was originally used to run cargo between New York and Charleston.   It was only 499 tons but was known to be a fast and agile ship.  Three years after Joe and the ship were returned to New York, it ran aground as it tried to enter Stony Brook harbor and began to break apart.  The ship could not be salvaged.  The Brooklyn Eagle article notes the wreck of the ship was visible in the harbor for many years and that people would venture out to its resting place to obtain parts of it.  Many people came back after seeing the wreck swearing the decks of the ship still were stained with the blood of the unfortunate Confereate crew. Some claimed to have recovered some of the blood stained planks of the deck and brought them home as a souveneir. 
 
It was said that Captain Frank Smith returned to Patchogue after the war and resumed his career as a sucessful sea captain.  As to the fate of Joe, he seems to have disappeared into the haze of history, only to be brought back to life here.  Some newspaper articles report "Old Joe's" real name was William Tillman. Somewhere below the waters of Stony Brook Harbor may lie what is left of the S.J. Waring.
 
Authors Note - after originally writing this article I did come across another account of this incident that differs from this one.  An 1861 copy of Harpers Weekly states that two Confederate soliders were left alive by Joe and left in chains below.  In addition, one "Yankee" was on board (left there when the ship was captured).  This version has "Old Joe"(or William Tillman in this article) as allowing the two Conferderates to come up to the deck to help him sail the ship back North with the warning they would meet the same fate as their friends should they try anything. Which version is accurate, I do not know.
 
(1)  Brooklyn Eagle - 9/1/1900 - "A Negros Daring Deed"
(2) Picture Credit - the engraving that appears in this section was published in the 1861 Harpers Weekly
 
 

How “The Devil” Came to Patchogue during the War Of 1812  Updated

To me, some of the most fascinating stories I come across appear as simple footnotes in the accounts I find.  This little story is a great example of that.  In doing research at the ever reliable Patchogue-Medford Library I came across an article written by an A.J. Smith entitled “Patchogue Village in 1812”.1      One of the stories in this article mentions that a British ship moored outside of Sag Harbor during the war had sent a barge ashore with six men.  Their mission was to obtain water and return.  Apparently three of the men were not so happy serving in the Royal Navy and took this opportunity to run away.
 

According to the article all three made their way to Patchogue where they decided they would stay and make a new life for themselves.  The name of only one man is given to us, that being a “Devuril”.  The names and final fates of the other two run away’s is not given, but Mr. Smith goes on to say that “Devuril” stayed in Patchogue and soon became the “village pedagogue”, meaning the village school teacher. This little story finishes by saying that, playing on the pronunciation of his name, the people of Patchogue simply referred to Devuril as the “Devil”.

To me, this is a fascinating little story. A run away British solider comes to Patchogue during the War of 1812, is nicknamed the Devil and settles in as the village teacher.  And how interesting is it that three of our earliest Patchogue residents were deserters of the British navy?  It’s these little real life nuggets that make our local history so interesting.

Of course I now wanted to know what had happened to “The Devil”. Could I find any trace of this man besides this account?  The story did say he had become the “village pedagogue” so I assumed a teacher would be well known in a small town.  Although I did not find any additional mention of a “Devuril” in Patchogue, I did find a Thomas J. Deverill.  In "The History of Patchogue” by H.W. Wellingtona Thomas J. Deverill is listed in 1843 as a respected member of Patchogue’s Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. It goes on to show him being elected as Saint Paul’s first “Church Warden”2. 

I than found another mention of Thomas in an 1936 article in the Patchogue Advance(3).  Under the heading “St Paul’s P.E. Church Founding, Growth, Outlined”, the author Milton Wiggins gives the backgrounds of some of the more prominent founders of the church.  Listed in this article is one Thomas J. DeVerell, local schoolmaster. A school master just as the "Devil" had been described after arriving in 1812.

On the face of it, three different people with very similar spellings of this uncommon name would be highly unlikely in a small town like Patchogue. The individual with the spelling of "Deverill" is noted as a respected member of the community (consistent with how a teacher would be perceived) and a member of a church whose origins are in England (Episcopal). The Episcopal Church would be a natuarl place of worship for a British solider.  Finally, the individual with the spelling "DeVerell" was also noted in the article as a respected member of St. Pauls Church and the "local school master".  The same profession as the 'Devil".

I would submit that Devuril, Deverill and DeVerell are all the same man. The same man who was one of the early settlers of Patchogue. The man who escpaed from the Britsh Navy during the War of 1812 and made a life for himself as a respected member of Patchogue.  And oh yes .... we now know how “The Devil” came to Patchogue during the War of 1812!

(1) "Patchogue Village In 1812" - A.J. Smith (1900) - Patchogue-Medford Library

(2) "History of Patchogue" - H.Wellington Gordon (1925) - Patchogue-Medfore Library

(3)  "St. Paul's P.E. Church Founding, Growth, Outlined, October 16, 1936 Patchogue Advance Page 46, Milton Wiggins author
 

Ralph Brown  New

For some reason the story of Ralph Brown touched me deeply.  Most of the stories told here involve individuals that lived long ago.  Ralph Brown is different.  Ralph Brown was born around 1909 and died in 1980.  He attended Bellport grade school and graduated from Patchogue High School.  He was never a famous or very well-known man outside of the Bellport/Patchogue area.  Today, he is mostly forgotten even in his home town.  To me, Ralph was brought back to life by a picture I discovered while researching the town of Bellport.  It’s a haunting picture of a man standing outside of his store staring into the the camera.  The picture was taken in 1972.

 

Ralph owned a Hardware store in Bellport for many years.  His store was located at number 12 Bell Street in Bellport.  It is still there today, though it is no longer a store.  It is in front of this building that Ralph’s picture was taken.  The picture taken in 1972 that haunts me. The building itself is a historic structure.  Built in the late 1800’s, it originally housed the offices of Robinson and Watkins.  Robinson and Watkins was a building firm that was responsible for the construction of many of the houses and public buildings built in Bellport from the late 1800’s through the early part of the 1900’s.  Many of these houses and buildings still exist today in this historic town.  Ralph bought the building and made it his hardware store.

 

Ralphs Hardware Store is now owned by the Bellport-Brookhaven Historic Society.  It was donated to them by Ralph Brown upon his death in 1980.  A death that is explained in two simple sentences in the caption below the picture I found.  The sentences that caught my eye and made me ask why?

 

At the end of this story is the picture. You can look at it later. Below the picture is a caption.  The end of the caption contains the two sentences.  I saw the picture first.  Ralph….an everyday man…stands on the wooden porch of the store looking into the camera.  Hands in pockets.  Old looking store behind him. Nothing special.  And the caption.  And then, almost as an afterthought, the last two sentences of the caption. The ones telling us that Ralph was robbed and murdered in the store in 1980.  And that he left the building to the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society on his death.  Nothing more……

 

For some reason I had to know more.  This could not be it.  This simple man standing on the porch of his simple store had to be more than what this caption told us.  His life could not come down to being murdered and robbed in this little store.  So I dug.

 

Ralph was so much more.  I found an article in the Patchogue Advance dated 8/22/1944.  It told how Ralph Brown of Bellport Long Island had been badly wounded in France fighting the Germans in World War II.  He was a 35 year old Private.  He had written a letter home to his parents the article said stating “I was hit in the shoulder by a Jerry!”. He had been moved to a hospital in England.  I found another article in the Patchogue Advance dated 12/6/1945. The article said Ralph Brown of Bellport was being discharged after being wounded in France.  It goes on to say he served for 15 months in France during the war and another three months in a hospital in England.

 

Other small snippets I found about Ralph told me he never married.  He was a dedicated member of his church.  He was on the board of the local cemetery committe.  Not really important facts but every day nuggets of a man's life.

 

More research uncovered Ralph mentioned in the book “Bellport Revisited”.  The book has the same picture and a similar caption. But a small passage in the book gives us a little more information about Ralph.  It tells us he was known as being eccentric and loved joking with his customers.  It tells us he had a collection of coins that he prized. It tells us that he kept these coins in his store. It was these coins that were stolen from him when he was murdered in 1980.

 

And oh yes.  I forgot to mention that the Patchogue Advance article of 8/22/1944 mentions that Ralph Brown was a hero.  The article says Ralph Brown was awarded the Purple Heart.  I dont know many Purple Heart recepients.

 

Now take a look below at the picture.   I think I know why it haunts me. Ralphs caption deserves more.

 

 

Sources For Ralph Brown

Patchogue Advance – 8/24/1944 – “Ralph Brown Wounded In France”

Patchogue Advance – 12/6/1945 – PFC Brown Discharged, Wounded in France

Bellport Revisited – 2008 – Victor Principe

Picture Credit - Images of America: Bellport Revisited

  

Patchogue's Marine Monster of 1899  (Brooklyn Eagle - June 21, 1899)

 
Know one was quite sure what this strange serpent was, but everyone was sure they had never seen anything like it.  Captain Smith, seeing an opportunity to make some money off of his find, charged 10 cents to see his catch and there were lines of people willing to pay so they could say they had seen the Patchogue Marine Monster.
 
In June of 1899 Captain John A. Smith captured a strange sea creature in the Atlantic Ocean off of Patchogue.  When his ship docked and he brought it on shore it created a hysteria in town.  As reported in the June 21st, 1899 editon of the Brooklyn Eagle the strange sea creature was about 9 feet long and 9 and a half feet around.  Its head was 2 and a a half feet around and the mouth was almost a foot along.  Running along its jaw was two rows of razor sharp saw like teeth which pointed inward.  Strangest of all was the fact that the creature had a hard shelled back, with the shell beginning 10 inches below its head and continuing to its tail.  The shell was not even and round like a turtles, but instead was uneven with six ridges of pointed edges which ran lengthwise from its head to its tail.  It had two back "flappers" for feet which were each close to 2 feet long.

After a day or two Undertaker Ruland embalmed the body and sent it to the "Central Park Museum of Natural History" so it could hopefully be identified and put on display for all to see.  So what was this strange beast that Captain Smith captured?  Was it what it was rumored to be by the people of Patchogue, a hold over from the prehistoric ages that had been hidden from view in the depths of the ocean?  Regretfully this will be left to our imagination as there are no further reports telling us if the beast was ever identified.
 
 

Gilson Ruland – A Fascinating Story Of An Old Resident Of Patchogue  Updated

 

I originally wrote this piece (Gilson Rulands Wife)  focusing only on the events outlined in the August 10th, 1911 edition of the New York Times under the heading of “Silent To Wife For 40 Years” (1). The article detailed Gilson Rulands return after the Civil War to a reportedly unfaithful wife. It was one of those interesting little stories about the old residents of Patchogue that I like to find that brings the town and its people to “life”. Recently however, I have come across additional information on this fascinating resident of “old Patchogue”.

 

First the original article. The quotes in italics are taken exactly as they appear in the New York Times article:

 

"Gilson Ruland was born in Patchogue and lived there his entire life. Shortly before the Civil War Gilson married a young woman from the town and settled down.  Like many young men on Long Island he enlisted to fight for the Union at the first call for volunteers, leaving his young wife at home.  He returned in 1865 at the conclusion of the war and was greeted by gossiping residents linking his wife with those of younger men who had not fought in the war.  Without a word, Gilson took all of his possessions and left his house and his wife, building a small home next store to his old house.  He never spoke to his wife again, despite the fact that they could clearly see each other through the windows of the adjoining houses.  If they passed in the street he would icily stare ahead and proceed as if she was a total stranger.   The wife made many fruitless attempts to reconcile but was always greeted with a blank stare and a cold shoulder.  His wife died in her seventies, never having remarried.  Some said she died of a broken heart".

 

"Gilson lived until he was 91 years old and also never remarried.  When he died, he had not a friend or relative in the world to grieve for him.  He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the old Waverly Avenue cemetery.  Ruland was known by generations of Patchogue children as Santa Claus because of the long white beard he sported in his later life".

 

This story really stayed in my mind.  Who was this Gilson Ruland? What happened to him?  What happened to his wife?  So I dug a little deeper and found a lot more.

 

There is a monument to those from Patchogue who fought in the Civil War.  On it is inscribed the names of the individuals from the town who fought in the War.  It is located in front of Village Hall. Although there is no Gilson Ruland listed on the monument, there is a Gelston Ruland listed there.  I felt that this was the Gilson Ruland of the New York Times article, with his name perhaps misspelled. Digging further I found listed in the "Record of Suffolk County Volunteers In The Civil War”(2) a "Gilson W. Ruland" of Patchogue who fought with the 13th New York Calvary Regiment.  A search of the Official Roster of the 13th Calvary also shows a Gilson W. Ruland of Patchogue who on 2/23/1864 at the age of 38 enlisted as a Private in Company L.  The record shows he signed on for three years and transferred on 8/17/1865 to the 3rd New York Provisional Calvary from which he was discharged. Bingo. It would seem that is the same Gilson Ruland who returned to Patchogue after the end of the Civil War and encountered the rumors of an unfaithful wife.  The same Gelston Ruland whose name is inscribed on the Patchogue Civil War monument.  Digging further, I found listed on the 1910 Census a Gilson W. Ruland living in Patchogue and listed as 'widowed".  I was then also able to find in the 1904 edition of the “Argus Business Directory of Patchogue”(4) a Gelson Ruland residing at 75 River Avenue.  This had to be our Gilson.

 

Then, most interestingly of all I found an article in the 1912 issue of a paper named the Daily Star and entitled “Did Threatening Note Cause Old Mans Death”(3). The article retells the tale of Gilson Ruland returning from the Civil War and turning his back on his reportedly unfaithful wife.  It than goes on to tell how a year after his death executors of his estate visited his house to establish its worth.  The article describes the home as an “old ramshackle dwelling” that was referred to in town as the “Hermitage”. The article goes on to describe the executors finding hidden in a crevice of the house what is referred to by them as a “white cap letter” threatening the old man if he did not clean up his hedges outside his house.  They then went on to speculate that perhaps it was the fear of these threats and not ill health that lead to the old man’s death. Fascinating!

 

This newspaper article also provides us with a great deal more information on Gilson.  Not only was he called Santa Claus by the children of the town, but he is described as being a “lovable old recluse” who had fat cheeks, laughing blue eyes and a long white beard just like Santa Claus.  It also tells how every Christmas the recluse would walk the streets of Patchogue while giving out “toys, candy and coppers” to the children who followed him.  It goes on to note that Gilson’s hobby was collecting door knobs, that he survived on his Civil War pension and that he had an old ships bell on his front lawn which he rung once in the morning to welcome the day and once at night to close it. 

 

On a cold blustery day I went to Patchogue and found what is now number 75 River Avenue.  I wanted to see if there was anything that remained of the old house that Gislon lived in.  Any clue of the man who lived there.  I am farily certain this would be the same location as number 75 was in 1904, as I was able to located the house number in apporixamtly the same place on an 1870's street map of Patchogue I found in the Patchogue library(5).   Alas, the “old ramshackle house” was no longer there, replaced by a very small building that houses a business.  Interstingly enought though, inscribed to the left of the front of the building is the date “1914”. This building was put up only a few years after Gilson's death in 1911 and it would seem reasonable that it replaced the "old ramschackled" house that he lived in.  I looked to see if I could find any trace of the old ships bell, but I found none.  I looked to see if there was an old home next to number 75 that could have been Gilsons wife...but only a more modern home was there.  So I had to imagine.  I stood outside number 75 and realized this was the place where Gilson's home once stood, sitting next to his wife’s whom he never spoke to.  The house of a Civil War veteran.  The house of Patchogue’s very own Santa Claus.  

 

And what of Gilson's wife?  I have yet to find a clue.  She seems to have disappeared into history.  Her first name is never mentioned, and besides the fact she died before Gilson...... I have found no other trace of her.

 

Gilson Ruland was buried in the older part of Lakeview Cemetery.  There was no one at his service.  Therer is no headstone marking the spot.

 

 

(1)  New York Times – August 10th, 1911 – “Silent To Wife for 40 Years - Ruland Never Forgave Wife When He Returned From War” 

(2) Record of Suffolk County Volunteers Who Served in the Civil War" - W.W. Munsell and Company – 1882

(3) Daily Star – 1/22/ 1912 – Did Threatening Note Cause Old Man’s Death”

(4) Argus Business Directory Of Patchogue - 1904

(5) Carol Hastings History Room - Patchogue Public Library

 

 

The Strange Will of Mrs. Weeks


Mrs. Augusta J. Weeks was one of the wealthiest people in town. She was well known for her philanthropy, and upon her death in 1901left money and land to the town to build and maintain a park named after her and her three sisters (Four Sisters Park) for use by all.  Her Will also left money to be used to create a memorial to her and her other three well known sisters and for a fund to clean up Lakeview Cemetery and maintain the family plot that resided in it. 

Her will also contained a very peculiar provision as reflected in her own words below.
"  I desire and direct that after my death my body be kept in a warm room and that my cloths be not removed until the day following my death; that my body remain unburied for five or more days after the day of my death, and that no ice preparation be applied to my face or body, either externally or internally". 

Mrs. Weeks you see was obsessed with the fear that she would be buried alive.  The activities that Mrs. Weeks forbade in her will were common embalming practices when preparing the dead for burial.  Stories of people who would awake in their coffins after being buried were common at the time, and Mrs. Weeks wanted to ensure this did not happen to her.

Augusta J. Weeks was buried as her will directed, six days after her death.  As far as we know, she was truly dead when she was put in the ground.  She rests in Lakeview Cemetery in the family plot.

 
Annanias Smith- "Old Rooster-Skin Narse of Early Patchogue"

One of the most interesting individuals I ran across while researching Patchogue was one Annanias Smith.  He lived on the outskirts of the town in the early 1800's and was described as a "rough and tumble" character who was a prolific hunter.  His nick name among the people of the village was "Old Rooster-Skin Narse".  He was given this name after his beloved pet rooster died and he skinned it and turned it into a hat which he proudly wore at all times.  In fact, it was told that he kept the skins of every animal he had ever killed. He than turned the skins into outfits which he wore throughout his life.  These outfits were often  complete with animal heads, paws and tails.

You can imagine the scary and peculiar site  Annanias made when he appeared in town.  These were times of great superstiston and a man walking around dressed in animal skins with a hat made of a dead rooster was someone to fear. Many people considered him  an agent of the devil and avoided him at all costs.  Children universally feared him and were swept off the streets by parents when he would walk by.

In reality however, Annanias was extremly odd but religious.  He was present in church every Sunday where he would sit only with the woman in one of the front pews.  He often became disruptive in church however and on more than one occasion the pastor would have to ask some of the male members of the congregation to have him forceably removed from the church.  In his later years, Annanias got around with the help of a long walking stick.  While at church he would often react to sermons which were condeming some type of bad behavior by using his stick to tap and individual and point out "that means you"!  On other occassions, he would tap himself on the head with his stick and proclaim "That one I will take on myself"!

For years after his death, people of Patchogue would swear that they would see the ghost of Annanias walking through the woods outside of town in his animal outfits, trying to scare people away from his beloved hunting grounds. 

Sailors Snug Harbor Tavern - "The Old Haunted Tavern of Patchogue"

The tavern still exists in Patchogue on South Ocean Avenue.  It stands opposite where the old Laurel Hotel use to sit. It does not exist however as it did in the 19th century.  Today, what was once a tavern that catered to the local fisherman and sailors visiting Patchogue is now a private residence.  In fact it exists as three separate residences, as the original house was divided at some point into three separate sections which all exist today as separate houses.   According to a November 18th, 1930 article in the Patchogue Advance entitled "Old Resident Writes About Private Schools Long Ago", an old resident of Patchogue relates the house was originally a tavern owned by a Edward Horton.  Edward than met and married Betsey Newey Horton, who converted part of the house into a school.
 
In another article dated March 31st, 1931and entitled "Jottings About Local History", the author states that Mrs. Betsey Newey Horton was married twice with her second husband being Edward Horton.  The author relates that the tavern turned house was notoriously haunted.  She relates "this place, I distinctly remember as a young child, was said to be haunted".  She claimed many families moved in and out of the house over the years as a result of the ghostly apparitions that appeared on a regular basis.  The article goes on that it was rumored that the house had often been the site of wild parties that often got out of control and that a gruesome murder had taken place in the tavern in the early days. 

Are the houses still haunted today?  Who knows. 
 
Betsey Horton was a very interesting person. She was highly regarded in the area and was a member of the well to do Newey family of Patchogue. She was reported to be a very intelligent woman who was educated beyond her day and generation.  She was one of the very few woman educators that could teach navigation, and she was said to have taught it to many of the old-time captains of the day. 
 
Interestingly, a small note in the Long Island Traveler (January 22nd, 1874) notes that Edward Horton was granted a divorce from Betsey Newey Horton as a result of Betsey's 3 year affair with another man.

The Mystery of 1813 

In the Fall of 1813 eleven men from the Brookhaven area set off in a small boat to fish in the  ocean opposite Patchogue.  None of the eleven returned alive and how they died has been the source of speculation to this very day.  The bodies of eight of the eleven men who set out that day washed up on shore the day after their disappearance along with the broken remains of the boat.  The bodies of the others were never found.  Most speculated that the fisherman had been stranded when their boat floated away after they  had left it on a sandbar to cast their nets in the sea.   Others felt this unlikely as these men were experienced fisherman and would never make such a mistake.  They theorized it may have been the work of the devil or perhaps sabotoge from a rival fishing crew.  Still others thought it was the work of the British who were still smarting from the War of 1812 with the Americans and whose ships could still be seen sailing the waters of the east coast and the Long Island area.

Below is a version of the most widely accepted theory of the tragedy, taken exactly as it was written by Osborn Shaw(1).

"Of the terrible calamity that befell this community, there is not an old family in this section but knows about it.  On Friday night, the 5th of November 1813, eleven men from this vicinity went as a fishing crew over to the South Beach.  Just what happened will never be definitely known, but from what was printed in the "Long Island Star" of 10 Nov. 1813 and from what my late grandmother and father and the late Capt. Chas. E. Hulse have related to me, the men went through "Old Inlet" and hauled their boat on the "dry shoal" in the ocean opposite the inlet.  The shoal was bare at low water but covered at high tide.  While busily engaged in shaking out their net, they did not notice that the tide was rising under their boat and it being not properly secured, it floated away in the swift current running through the inlet.  When the realized their predicament, they began calling for help, and set up such a howling that their cries were heard over here in Fire Place, it being a clam moon-light night.  One woman here, went to a neighbor's and remarked that something must be wrong over on the beach, as she was sure she recognized her husband's voice.  It is told that another rival crew was at the time, also on the Beach, and that they were fiddling and drinking and some of their members were drunk.  Some one of them heard the cries of the imperiled men and suggested going to their aid.  He was greeted with the remark:  "Damn 'em, let 'em drownd" from another member and the eleven men were left on "dry shoal" with the tide gradually rising over them.  Every man was drowned and there were six or seven women left as widows here the next morning.  The names of the men were:  William Rose, Isaac WoodruffLewis ParshallDaniel ParshallBenjamin BrownNehemiah Hand, James Homan, Henry Homan,Charles Ellison, James Prior and John Hulse.  The boat came on shore in pieces and eight of the bodies were recovered.  I have located the tombstones of some of them.  William Rose was buried on the ground on which this building stands, but was removed some few years ago to the present village cemetery; Isaac Woodruff's stone is in St. John's Cemetery in Oakdale; the two Parshall boys have a stone in the old Patchogue Cemetery on Waverly Avenue; Benjamin Brown's body and stone were removed to the Bellport Cemetery; Nehemiah Hand's stone is in the Presbyterian Cemetery in South Haven.  If the other five have stones, I have failed in finding them".








In an article that appeared in the 2010 Fire Island Tide written by Jay D. Raines, another theory was advanced for the death of the fisherman (2).  The author felt that experienced fisherman would never have left their boat in such a vulnerable position, and that the British had little interest in killing American fisherman. Instead, she felt that most likely the men were the victims of an attack by a great white shark or group of great white sharks that came upon their small boat as they fished.  Some men may have been in the water when the attack occurred and were killed there while others may have been knocked from their small boat and than attacked.  Mr. Raines notes that this would account for the condition of the boat when it was found (in pieces) and the fact that some of the bodies were never found.  He speculates that they could have been devoured whole by the shark.  Mr. Raines notes that there was no official record of an autopsy done and that most likely the people of the time were not familiar with the killing machine that we now know the great white shark can be.  It was, he said, far easier for the families of the men to believe their loved ones simply drowned rather than having been eaten by a sea monster. 

We will never know for sure exactly how these men died.  Only our speculation and theories.  But the account given in Mr. Shaw's presentation to the Fireplace Literary Club contains an interesting note.  Two of the eleven doomed fisherman "had a stone in the old Patchogue Cemetery on Waverly Avenue".  The men were Daniel Parshall and Lewis Parshall.  Two more  interesting individuals from a time long ago whose remains reside in Patchogue's Lakeview Cemetery.

I have searched the cemetery for that stone but have been unable to find it.  There are a  few other stones that bear the name of Parshall, but none for these two men.  Their remains now rest in an unmarked grave, with their stone most likely having disappeared over time, a victim to time, vandalism or the elements. 
 
  (1)  T

aken

 

exactly as it appeared from a paper written by Mr. Osborn Shaw of Bellport for the Fireplace Literary Club, and read by him at the Brookhaven Free Library, October 5th, 1933. Mr. Osborn was the Brookhaven Town Historian

(2)  Fire Island Tide Newspaper - July 23, 2010 - By Jay D. Raines

 
 "Hermit Sam Of Cannan" ( Brooklyn Eagle, 1/6/1895)
 
A story about this unusual character appears in an 1895 article in the Brooklyn Eagle.  In the article, Hermit Sam is described as "known to nearly every inhabitant of Long Island".   Sam lived "almost like a wild man in a cave that was located somewhere in the hills just north of Cannnan (present Cannan Lake area).  He lived on his own and made his living as a hunter, and was often seen in the forests around Patchogue tending his traps.  He had very long hair, an overgrown bushy red beard and was always wrapped in rags from head to toe. Towns people nick named him the "Wild Man".  You could imagine the site he made on the rare occassions he ventured into Patchogue to buy supplies. Sam was also firecly protective of his cave and he would use the ax he always carried to frighten away anyone who would come near it.
 
Well, it seems that at the time of the writing of this article the towns people and law enforcement had decided Sam had grown a little to eccentric and they chased him down to send him to the notorious "County House" for the poor in Yapank.  Notorious for its poor treatment of those who stayed there and generally died there, alone and forgotten.  Sam was captured but he convinced his captors to allow him to return one last time to his cave to retrieve some belongings.  Once there he proceeded to dig up a bundle wrapped in paper which contained "several hundred dollors in silver".  The article says that "this he wrapped up and took with him to the poor house".
 
The last two sad sentences of this article reads " He was suppose to be about 70 years of age.  HIs once powerful frame is wasted until he appears more like a ghost than a human being".
 
I wonder if Sam's cave near Cannan Lake still exisits somewhere beneth a mound of dirt or buried under some thick underbrush? Maybe one day I will search for it and see if there is any hints of this strange man left hidden.

Who Was Sam Gordon?      Update - Sadly, this buidling was demolished in July 2012. 
 
 
If you are from Patchogue, this building should be a familar site to you.  This long abandoned building sits on Lake Street looking shabby and desolate.  Written above the door is the name Sam Gordon.  I have always been curious to know exactly what the purpose of this building was and who Sam Gordon was.  Well thanks to a little research I found out.  Sam Gordon was a local business man who imigrated from Russia to Patchogue in around 1905.   He originally started a business selling  produce and fruits from the back of a wagon before opening up his wholesale business from this building on 38 Lake Street.  
 
Sam Gordon died in 1959 when the coupe he was driving was hit by an eastbound Long Island Railroad train nick named the "Cannon Ball Express".  Sam was heading north bound passing over the tracks on River Avenue in Patchogue when he was hit.  An eye witness to the event who was stopped at the crossing said that Sam was seemingly unaware of the oncoming train and never slowed down when he approached the crossing.
 
 
 
 
 


























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