While the Dutch was settling in western Long Island North Shore in the 1600s, the English were taking claims to what is now the Suffolk County on land next to Great South Bay. East Islip, a hamlet in the Town of Islip on the South Shore of Long Island was one such place. Originally referred to as “East of Islip”, the hamlet was acquired in 1890 from the estate of William Nicoll, an English aristocrat, founder of the Town of Islip and son of New York City Mayor, Matthias Nicoll.
On November 29, 1683, William Nicoll was awarded the first royal patent to the east end of what is now the Town of Islip. Nicoll’s purchase comprised 51, 000 acres (20,639 ha.) from the Secatogue Indians, reaching as far as Bayport to the east, Babylon to the west and Ronkonkoma to the north. He later purchased the surrounding land to build a family residence from Sachem (Chief) Winnequaheagh of Connetquot. He named his plantation “Islip Grange”, in honor of his ancestral home of Islip in East Northamptonshire in England, from which Matthias emigrated in 1664. Nicoll paid an annual quit-rent (tax) of five bushels of good winter wheat or 25 shillings to Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick and Governor of the Province of New York.
William Nicholl also purchased five islands from Winnequaheagh on November 19, 1687, including Hollins Island (a.k.a. East Fire Island). The purchase was confirmed on a patent by Governor Dongan on June 4, 1688. Altogether William Nicoll acquired four patents for land – the final purchase was on September 20, 1697, issued by Governor Benjamin Fletcher. Nicoll’s estate eventually became the largest manor on Long Island.
For decades before Jan. 16, 1890, this small community was part of what was known as “East of Islip.” The citizen obviously didn’t want much change so they changed the name officially to East Islip on Jan. 16, 1890. The area was part of the original 51,000-acre purchase from the Secatogues by Islip founder William Nicoll.
The community, which covered a territory reaching east to Bayport and north to Lake Ronkonkoma, was long sparsely settled, with farming, fishing, boat building, lumbering and some shipping the mainstays of the economy. Residents used churches in the surrounding communities for years. Its hotel – the Pavillion, the Somerset and the Lake House – often were the site for town meetings held in April. A one-room schoolhouse was replaced by one with two rooms in 1857. Rail service, available since 1842 via Brentwood, reached East Islip in 1868.
The original Hewlett School for privileged young women, begun in Hewlett in 1915, was moved to an estate site on Suffolk Lane, in East Islip, in 1941. (above photo).
East Islip became the home of Heckscher State Park, which would have been named Deer Range State Park if not for philanthropist August Hecksher’s donation of $262,000 toward the purchase of the Great South Bay estate of George C. Taylor, a wealthy eccentric who died in 1908. The estate was unoccupied for 16 years until 1924, when Charles Moses, president of the new Long Island State Park Commission, moved to take it for a state park. That triggered a five-year court battle against wealthy local opponents led by W. Kingsland Macy, a powerful Republican who later went to Congress. At a hearing during the long legal fight, Gov. Al Smith heard a millionaire express fear the park would be “overrun with rabble from the city.” Smith retorted, “Why, that’s me,” and promptly signed some key papers.
More to come in the next installment – The Hollins, the Knapp and the Morgan family.
Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring Long Island.
Sources: Hometown Long Island, Along the Great South Bay by Harry W. Havemeyer, Wikipedia, New York Times.