Oyster Bay - Encyclopedia

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OYSTER BAY, a township of Nassau (formerly of Queens) county, New York, on Long Island, about 25 m. E.N.E. of Long Island City. Pop. (1890) 13,870, (1900) 16,334; (1910 census) 21,802. The township reaches from N. to S. across the island (here about 20 m. wide) in the shape of a rough wedge, the larger end being on Long Island Sound at the N.; on the northern shore is the tripartite Oyster Bay, whose western arm is Mill Neck creek, whose central branch is Oyster Bay harbor, and whose easternmost arm, called Cold Spring harbor, separates the township of Oyster Bay from the township of Huntington. On the south side of the township is South Oyster bay, immediately east of the main body of the Great South bay; and between South Oyster Bay and the ocean lie several island beaches, the smaller and northernmost ones being marshy, and the southern, Jones or Seaford beach, being sandy and having on the ocean side the Zach's inlet and Jones Beach life-saving stations. The township is served by four branches of the Long Island railway; the Oyster Bay branch of the north shore to the village of Sea Cliff (incorporated in 1883; pop. 1910, 1694), on the E. side of Hempstead harbor, to Glen Cove, a large unincorporated village, immediately N.E. of Sea Cliff, to Locust Valley and to Mill Neck farther E., and to the village of Oyster Bay, the terminus of the branch, on Oyster Bay harbor; the Wading River branch to Hicksville and to Syosset; a third branch to Farmingdale, which also has direct communication by railway with Hicksville; and the Montauk division to Massapequa, in the south-western part of the township on Massapequa Lake and Massapequa Creek, which empties into South Oyster Bay. The villages served by the railway are the only .important settlements; those on the hilly north shore are residential. To the north of the village of Oyster Bay, on a long peninsular beach called Centre Island, are the headquarters of the Seawanhaka Yacht Club; and to the east of the same village, especially on Cove Neck, between Oyster Bay Harbor and Cold Spring Harbor, are many summer residences with fine grounds. Massapequa, on the south shore, is a residential summer resort. The villages of Hicksville and Farmingdale are rural; the former has many German settlers. Jericho, N.E. of Hicksville, is a stronghold of the Hicksite Quakers, who are mostly wealthy landowners. In Locust Valley is Friends' Academy (1876), a secondary school for boys and girls. There are a few truck farms in the township, potatoes, cabbages and cucumbers for pickling being the principal crops; "Oyster Bay asparagus" was once a famous crop. Oysters are cultivated on the Sound Shore and there are clam beds in Oyster Bay and South Oyster Bay. In the village of Glen Cove there is a large leather-belting factory.

David Pieterssen de Vries, in his Voyages from Holland to America, makes the first mention of Oyster Bay Harbor, which he explored in June 1639. In the same month Matthew Sinderland (or Sunderland) bought from James Forrett, deputy of William Alexander, earl of Stirling, "two little necks of land,. the one upon the east side of Oyster Bay Harbor"; but Sinderland made no settlement. A settlement from Lynn, Mass., was attempted in 1640 but was prevented by Governor William Kieft. By the treaty signed at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 29th of September 1650 by the Commissioners of the United colonies of New England and those of New Netherland all land east of the west side of Oyster Bay was granted to the English, and all land west to the Dutch; but the Dutch placed Oyster Bay, according to a letter of Pieter Stuyvesant written in 1659, two and a half leagues farther east than the New Englanders did. In 1653 an Indian deed granted land at Oyster Bay to Peter Wright and others of Salem and Sandwich, Mass., who made a permanent settlement here; in 1663 another sale was made to Captain John Underhill (d. 1672), who first went to Long Island about 1653, when he led a force which fought the only important engagement ever fought with the Indians on Long Island, in which the colonists destroyed the fortification at Fort Neck near the present Massapequa, of Tackapousha, chief of the Massapequas, an Algonquian tribe, whose name meant "great pond." Oyster Bay was for a time closely connected politically with New Haven, but in 1664 with the remainder of Long Island it came under the New York government of Richard Nicolls, to whose. success Underhill had largely contributed by undermining Dutch influence on Long Island. In 1689 a Friends' meeting-house was built at Jericho, the home of Elias Hicks, near the present Hicksville, the site of which was owned by his family and which was named in his honour; and the Dutch built their first church in Oyster Bay in 1732. The harbour of Oyster Bay was a famous smuggling place at the close of the 17th century, when there was a customs house here. The first settlement on the "south side" of the township was made about 1693, when the Massapequa Indians sold 6000 acres at Fort Neck to Thomas Townsend, and his son-in-law Thomas Jones (1665-1713), who had fought for James II. at Boyne and Aghrim, who became a high sheriff of Queen's county in 1704, and who was the founder of the family of Jones and FloydJones, whose seat was Tryon Hall (built at South Oyster Bay, now Massapequa, in 1770); Thomas Jones (1731-1792), grandson of the first Thomas Jones, was a prominent Loyalist during the War of Independence and wrote a valuable History of New York during the Revolutionary War, first published in 1879.

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