by Richard M Bayles (1874). Updated by Mick
Baker, 26 June 2018
Before the arrival of European settlers, Long
Island on New England's eastern coastline had its own microcosm of
native American tribal life, with competing groups that had their
origins in at least two main tribal groups.
Richard M Bayles' writings in 1874 painted a
detailed picture of the island and its inhabitants. He started with
a list of native tribes and their approximate locations.
The Canarsee, Rockaway, Merrick, Marsapeague
(perhaps better known to modern scholars as Massapequa), Secatogue,
and Unkechaug (Unquachog) lived along the southern shore of Long
Along the northern shore were the Matinecock,
Nesaquake (Nissequogue), Setauket, and Corchaug. At the eastern
end of the island were the Shinnecock, Manhasset, and the Montauk.
The Unkechaug tribe on the island's southern coast
were situated towards the southern side of the settler town of
Brookhaven, with their main base at Mastic, and Tobaccus serving as
their sachem (chief) in 1664.
The Brookhaven's North Shore was inhabited by the
Setauket (Setalcott) tribe, which had its tribal centre at Setauket
and was a very powerful group.
The Montauk, probably the most warlike tribe on
the island, had reduced the other tribes or groups to a form of
subjugation. Wyandanch, the Montauk sachem, was grand
sachem of all the tribes on the island, and his signature
was required on the early Indian deeds in addition to that of the
sachem of the local tribe when land was purchased by the
In 1659, Wyandanch conveyed to Lyon Gardiner the
territory that comprised the town of Smithtown, which was then
occupied by the Nesaquake Indians. This was done in gratitude to
Gardiner. He had rescued Wyandanch's daughter from the Narragansett
tribe after they had captured her during an invasion of Montauk
lands by Narragansett from across the sound.
Wyandanch seems always to have been the friend of
the settlers, and it was no doubt this friendly interaction between
him and the white settlers that made their relations with the
Indians of Long Island so peaceful and harmonious. Wyandanch refused
to enter into any conspiracy with the tribes from across the sound
and always maintained a friendly attitude towards the white
settlers. Many a monument has been erected to those less worthy of
memorial than Wyandanch, the white man's unwavering friend, whose
grave lies unmarked in the solitude of Montauk.
The Indian names for Long Island are said to have
been Sewanhacky, Wamponomon, and Paumanake. The first two are said
to have come from the abundance of the quahog, or hard clam, the
shell of which furnished wampum, which was first used as money in
The Indians of the island were tall and straight,
muscular and agile, with straight hair and a reddish-brown
complexion. Their language was Algonquian, the highly descriptive
tongue in which John Eliot wrote the Indian Bible, and was the
language which greeted the Pilgrims at Plymouth. It is doubtful that
there is anyone now living who can speak this tongue, which was used
freely in those early days.
A map showing the approximate location of each of the Metoac
tribes that inhabited Long Island when the Europeans arrived,
by which time they acknowledged a single sachem of the
Montauk (click or tap on map to view full sized)
Chief Wyandanch of the 'Metoac' tribes of Long Island was the
island's grand sachem
A detailed set of features & king lists focussing on
these complex peoples.
At the time of the first white settlement on the island, the Indian
population was very large, as shown by the shell banks found at
various places around the shores of bays and coves. Their
settlements were always near the shores on the north and south sides
of the island, as it was here that they found most of their food,
this being fish and clams, and their transportation was by canoe
along the waters. The forests toward the middle of the island
were their hunting grounds for wild game, and clearings were made
where they planted Indian corn, placing a fish in each hill for
In 1653 the Narragansett Indians, under Ninigret,
one of their chiefs, invaded the territory of the Montauks, and
triggered a war that lasted for several years. It would have
resulted in the entire extinction of the Montauk tribe if they had
not received help from the white settlers. They were compelled to
abandon their villages and flee for safety to East Hampton, where
they were kindly received and protected.
The commissioners sent supplies and military
materials to the towns of Easthampton and Southampton, and
to the Indians. They also stationed an armed vessel in the sound
under the command of Captain John Youngs, with orders to wreck
Ninigret's canoes and destroy his forces if he attempted to land
on the island. This war seems to have continued until about 1657.
It left the Montauks in a very much weakened condition.
Indian land bought
Soon after the original purchase of land from
the Indians had been made at Setauket in 1655, and this land had
been divided into lots or 'accommodations' between the settlers,
these pioneers began to explore the island beyond their holdings.
They discovered large meadows of salt hay
and grass on the island's south shore which could be harvested for
their cattle. In 1657, Richard Woodhull, acting for the town,
purchased two large tracts of meadow land from the Unkechaug Indians
at Mastic. One of these meadow areas was at Noccomock, a region on
the eastern bank of the Connecticut (Carman's) River, whilst the
other was in the southern part of Mastic, along the bay's front.
The deed to these meadows, the second earliest
recorded, is dated 20 July 1657. The price paid was the usual
assortment of axes, guns, powder, lead, and knives, gathered
from the settlers who hoped to use the land.
Evidently the Unkechaug Indians were displeased
with the deal for their land, which had been transacted by
Wyandanch, sachem of the Montauk tribe, and grand sachem
of all the Long Island tribes, or groups, as they are sometimes
called. A committee was appointed at a town meeting on 22 August
1671, to go to the Indians and settle the dispute, and to carry
'som Likers with them to the Indians on the town's account'. The
committee was apparently successful, whether by reason of the
'likers' or otherwise, and the same land was repurchased in 1674
from Tobaccus, the new Unkechaug sachem. The town of Brookhaven
now owned all the 'mowable meadow land, whether higher land or lower
that lieth between a river called Connenticut, to another river
called Mastic'. This was called the 'New Purchase'.
During these years other tracts of land were
purchased from the Indians, and one in the southern part of the
town is the 'Old Purchase at South', which included parts of the
communities now known as South Haven (the western part), Brookhaven
and Bellport. This purchase was made from Tobaccus on 10 June 1664,
for four coats and six pounds ten shillings in cash (US$16.25). The
original deed and receipt for payment are still preserved amongst
old papers in the Brookhaven Town Hall at Patchogue.
An illustration showing the wife of a weroance and
their young daughter, originally drawn by Theodor de Bry after
John White around 1590, entitled Nobilis Matrona
Pomeioocenfis (A Noble Married Woman of Pomeiooc)
The Shinnecock Indians occupied a section of the eastern end of Long
The small settlement thrived as the years went by. Land was cleared
and planted, grist mills constructed, and the town government more
clearly developed. The increase in population was slow as Brookhaven,
like her sister towns, was an exclusive community. The rules regarding
the buying of land by anyone not already a freeholder of Brookhaven
were clearly defined.
The following regulation was passed at a town meeting
on 8 March 1664: 'To the end that the town be not spoiled or
impoverished, it is ordered that no accommodations shall be sold piece
meal, but entire, without the consent of the Constable and Overseers,
or the major part thereof'.
The town kept a vigilant eye upon the character of
its inhabitants, and individuals who wanted to join the settlement
were generally placed on probation for a term of three to six months.
At the end of that time, if their character and behaviour were
approved, they were admitted to the privileges of freemen, and
allotted certain portions of land, with the same rights as the other
Committees were appointed to investigate
the character and reputation of proposed settlers, and if they did
not prove satisfactory to the townspeople, they were directed to
leave within a specified time. No individual inhabitant was allowed
to sell or lease property to a stranger who had not been accepted by
the town as a proper person to be a member of the settlement. By
enforcing these restrictions, the society of the first settlements
was kept measurably free of undesirable persons.
The town's early settlers lived peacefully
amongst the Indians
The town of Brookhaven is the largest on
Long Island. It extends across the island from the sound to the
ocean, and is about twenty miles long, east to west. The towns of
Smithtown and Islip are located to the west, and Riverhead and
Southampton are to be found to the east.
During the early part of the year 1655, a
party of six men from the colonies of New England landed on the
shores of those beautiful bays and coves around Setauket. They
purchased from the Setalcott Indians, who were centred on this
particular region, a tract of land that extended from Stony Brook to
and including Port Jefferson, and gave the Indians in payment, '10
coats, 12 hoes, 12 hatchets, 50 muxes (small brad awls), 100
needles, 6 kettles, 10 fathoms of wampum, 7 pipe bowls of power, 1
pair of children's stockings, 10 pounds of lead, and one dozen
The deed was dated 14 April 1655, and
contained the signature marks of the Setalcott sachem,
Warawasen or Warawakmy, and fourteen of his tribesmen. The settlers
also were given the right to let their cattle run beyond the bounds
of their purchase, and to cut timber as far east as they pleased.
The Indians and the proposed settlers agreed to live peaceably with
each other, which they did.
The purchase of Manhattan Island
produced a classic misunderstanding with the natives
who had no concept of the European need for ownership
The first settlement was called Ashford, and later
Brookhaven, and finally Setauket, and was located around the
'meeting house' green at Setauket. The land upon which the town was
built were purchased from the Indians at different times by the
early settlers. It was later held by the fifty-four proprietors as
tenants in common, and was divided amongst them as occasion
demanded. In some of these divisions an extra share was made for the
support of the minister.
Those first settlers at Setauket soon began to
explore the southern side of the town, where they discovered large
meadows of salt hay and grass which could be harvested for their
cattle. In 1657, they purchased two tracts of meadowland from the
Unkechaug Indians, who had their main base at Mastic. The settlers
purchased from Tobaccus, chief of the Unkechaug Indians, on 10 June
1664, the entire tract of land that extends from Yamphanke Creek in
South Haven to a small pond in the western part of Bellport, and
north to the middle of the island.
On the same day, Governor Winthrop of Connecticut
purchased from Tobaccus all of the land to the west of this to the
Islip Town line at a creek called Nampkee in the western part of
Blue Point. On this tract were built the communities of East
Patchogue, Patchogue, and Blue Point. This was underdeveloped for
many years and was not annexed to Brookhaven Town until 1773, by an
act of the Colonial Assembly.
The town also purchased at the same time from the
Setalcott chief all of the land on the north side, between Mount
Sinai to Wading River, and south to the middle of the island. Old
Field was purchased from the Indians sometime before 1659.
A patent was issued by Governor Nicolls on 7 March
1666 for all of the land that had been bought or should be bought
from the Indians, bounded on the west by a line running across the
island at Stony Brook, and on the east by a line at Wading River.
On 19 November 1675, the Setalcott chief, Gle,
conveyed to Richard Woodhull who was acting for the town all unsold
land within the limit of the patent to the middle of the island, and
also confirmed all former grants, with these covering all of the
land that was claimed by the Setalcott Indians from Stony Brook to
This is a reproduction of a fairly detailed, comic-like
strip which attempted to illustrate the lives of the
Canarsee Indians, although the strip's providence is unknown
European settlers gradually influenced the natives, including the
custom of morning prayer
A second patent for the town was issued by Governor Dongan on
27 December 1686, which included all former grants, and named
John Palmer, Richard Woodhull, Samuel Erburne, Andrew Gigg,
William Satterly, Thomas Jenner and Thomas Helme as trustees.
A tract of land on the south side of the
town extending east from the Connecticut (Carman's) River to the
Mastic River and north to the middle of the island was purchased
from the Indians by Colonel William Smith in May 1691. This also
included the Great South Bay, the island in it, and the ocean beach,
and was known as the Manor of St George. A patent for this immense
tract of thousands of acres was issued by Governor Fletcher in 1693.
A certain Mr Smith later purchased most of the land east of this to
the Southampton Town line at Eastport, for which he received a
patent in 1697 from Governor Fletcher.
In 1659, the town requested an alliance
with Connecticut for protection against any possible invasion by the
Indians or the Dutch to the west end of the island. On 16 May 1661
Hartford voted to receive Brookhaven Town and appointed Richard
Woodhull and Thomas Pierce as magistrates. This continued until 1664
when the English took over the Dutch settlement at New York, which
included Long Island. The duke of York appointed Richard Nicolls as
Bayles, Richard M - The Thirteen
Tribes of Long Island (1874)