“It often happens that the unusual or exciting character of an event attracts such attention and interest in itself that the more important result of the same event is overlooked or forgotten. This is so of the story of the ‘Phantom Ship’ in New Haven, a tale known by every school child in this city. The story of that ‘Great Ship’ which early residents of New Haven saw floating in the sky over the harbor possesses weird interest, suggests a sad poem, and is thought of merely as an example of the morbid superstition of the early Puritans; that precious lives, a valuable cargo, and a costly ship were lost, and that this was a crushing blow to the material interests of the new colony at Quinnipiac is lost sight of. The bold defence of the Regicides in New Haven excites our admiration, prompts the preservation of their rocky refuge in West Rock Park, and is cherished as one of the inspiring traditions of local history, the fact that it cost the struggling little colony favor at the court of Charles II at the most critical period of its history, is forgotten.
Yes in these two dramatic incidents, that of the ‘Phantom Ship’ and that of the Regicide judges, lie two of the vital reasons why New Haven Colony failed to become a state of the Union.
PHANTOM SHIP CLIMAX
The incident of the ‘Phantom Ship’ formed a fitting climax to that series of misfortunes and disasters which impoverished the New Haven Colon in the first few years of its existence. The Swedes on the Delaware interfered with commerce. In one way or another the financial capital of the would-be commercial settlement waned. The most elegant in all New England were built in the town of the New Haven colony and the inhabitants continued to dream on of a harbor filled with ships laden with rich cargoes. In order to recoup some of their losses, the settlers combined their remaining available funds and built what the records described as a, ‘Great Ship.’ A cargo worth thousands of dollars was put aboard and in January, 1646, she set sail for England, all New Haven’s eggs in one basket.
But that was not all. On that ship there sailed Thomas Gregson as an agent to procure a charter from Parliament to insure the independence of the New Haven Colony.
STORY SAD ONE
The story of the departure of the ship is a familiar one. The channel cut through the ice, the sad farewells, the long Winter of anxiety, the absence of tidings in the Spring, the hopes deferred, and the final realization that their ship and friends were lost at sea. The stricken colony was in despair. Mourners went about the streets. The spirit of the people was crushed. Those who had lost their loved ones were the last to give up hope. They continued to watch, with tear-dimmed eyes, the entrance to the harbor, hoping against hope that some day the brave ship and dear friends were come back to them. How they yearned for it! Is it any wonder they saw the vision of the ship in the air?
The commercial interests of the colony never recovered from the blow. Many of the settlers, even, chose to move away.
The second cause of the failure of the New Haven Colony to maintain her independence was the bold shielding of the Regicides. This story too, is a familiar one. When the official summons to arrest the judges was received at Boston, Massachusetts, anxious to avoid the reproach of harboring or seizing them, hurried them off to New Haven. Governor Winthrop of Connecticut also exhibited commendable zeal which was rendered less difficult by the knowledge that the judges were not in his colony. The king’s officers, highly pleased by their reception at Hartford, were sent off to New Haven with great expectations.
The responsibility for the defence of the fugitive judges being thus shifted to the shoulders of the already overburdened colony at Quinnipiac, New Haven accepted it with praiseworthy courage, but with fatal boldness. It is a thrilling story, that of the hunt for the Regicides, and Davenport’s defiant sermon on the occasion. It was magnificent, but it was not diplomacy.
And in this way poor New Haven was made the scapegoat for the regicidal sins of all New England. In disgrace at home, and discredited by her neighbors, she cast about for a way out of the difficulty. But no way was found and the road to royal favor was forever closed.
The third cause of New Haven’s failure to maintain a distinct colonial government was her theocratic polity. With the laws of Moses for their working code, they restricted the right of suffrage to the members of approved churches. A strict enforcement of this fundamental provision in their constitution greatly retarded the growth of the colony. It was opposed to the spirit of the times and as doomed to failure in New England’s free air.
The Connecticut colony had no more claim to the lands it occupied than did the New Haven colony, but the settlers around Hartford did not make the mistakes that the followers of Davenport did in New Haven. When the Puritan Commonwealth came to an end in 1660 Connecticut found the time ripe to apply for a royal charter, and this, a most-liberal one, was granted. New Haven was left out in the cold, even her very territory being claimed by the dwellers on the Connecticut.
One by one her gems fell away from her crown. Southhold, L. I., Guilford, Stamford and Greenwich broke away from New Haven and chose to be under protection of the Connecticut charter. Milford shortly after broke away too, leaving New Haven and Branford alone survivors of the New Haven colony. Finally in 1664 New Haven colony lost her long bitter fight to maintain her independence and was obliged to become a part of the Connecticut Colony. At that time the Rev. John Davenport who had long and obstinately fought against enroachment wrote to a friend that ‘God’s cause is miserably lost in New Haven.’ Later he shook the dust of New Haven from his feet and went to Boston to die, a broken-hearted old man.
MANY MOVED AWAY
Many of the people of New Haven moved away. The inhabitants of Branford were so dissatisfied that they left that town in a body and moved to New Jersey. Town records and all went with them and the East Shore town was almost wholly deserted.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Digital Archives of the James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford Scrapbooks, New Haven Evening Register, July 31, 1933. (top) “Ignoring Dutch claims to the land, English Puritans from Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay settled along the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound on lands they purchased from Native American peoples. By 1645, the settlements of Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford had united to form River Colony, which became known as Connecticut. New Haven was separate, with its own government. Concerns about attacks by Indians and the Dutch led both colonies to become part of the New England Confederation in 1643.” Image courtesy of National Geographic, Resource Library, Maps, “Colonies in Connecticut in the 1640s,” from the book, “Voices from Colonial America: Connecticut, 1614-1776,” published by National Geographic Society, 2007
“MOST New Yorkers have doubtless forgotten it, but until a little more than three centuries ago the town of Southold, L.I., was the southernmost holding of New Haven Colony. It was bitter loss to New Haven when Southold was written out of the Royal Charter. The people of New Haven stewed for three years before they finally accepted the charter in 1665, without the property on Long Island. The people of Southold resisted the change for many years longer, petitioning the King to be left as part of Connecticut, and refusing to pay New York taxes.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the New York Times, Times Machine, “Politics,” by Lawrence Fellows, May 8, 1977
“‘IF the farmers can continue to work, profitably, then perhaps Orient will remain pretty much as is,’ John Tuthill said as he pulled his boat filled with stripers, weakfish and blues out of the choppy waters of the Sound. ‘But if they can’t, then development is inevitable.’
Mr. Tuthill, who was born and raised here, retired as a chemical engineer with du Pont in Wilmington, Del., when he was 55 years old, and returned to fish for a living. He fishes with traps, a method involving a series of nets that his ancestors, who first settled the North Fork in 1640, learned from the Indians.
Situated amid the cauliflower fields and oyster farms, Orient is an outdoor museum of 17th-, 18th- and 19th‐century architecture. For more than 300 years it has been a sleepy, unspoiled hamlet. Last year, in time for the United States Bicentennial, through the three‐year effort of a small but dedicated group from the Oysterponds Historical Society, the Orient Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.
Ethel Bentz, a relative newcomer to Orient, started the ball rolling and recruited neighbors work on the project.
‘Much detail work was done in the field and in files,’ she said, ‘for over 100 buildings predating 1800 had to be researched as thoroughly as possible for structural and historical data. Houses were inspected, owners were consulted and long‐time residents were interviewed on tape.’
Until 1836 the village was called Oysterponds, so named by the early settlers from the New Haven colony who bought the land from the Indians and founded Southold Town in 1640. The community was first settled in 1661.
Shortly after that, the first graveyard, Brown’s Hill Burying Ground, was set aside. And it is here and in other local cemeteries that present and past meet. Ancient headstones reveal names such as Tuthill, King, Terry, Vail and Young, among others.
Today more than 90 of the 200 local families are paternally descended from the early settlers and bear their surnames. Twenty‐five other families are maternally descended. Even some descendants of more‐recent immigrants who have Polish, German or Irish surnames have one or more lines going back to these same families.
Some tracts of land have been farmed by 12 successive generations. One of these is Terry Farm. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Terry, Orient natives, chuckled as they took a framed citation from the wall. It read: ‘The New York State Agricultural Society is proud to recognize Terry Farm as an Empire State Bicentennial Farm since 1732.’
‘Imagine!’ Martha Terry said, laughing. ‘After all these years we are now ‘recognized!’’
Mrs. Terry was a Terry before she was married her husband is a distant cousin. Asked how she felt about living in Orient, she said: ‘I wouldn’t move for anything and it’s a wonderful place to raise children.’
And as for the longevity of the farm ‘When you farm for a livelihood, as we’ve always done, you stay in the same place. After all, you can’t move the farm.’
But Orient, the community that is more like New England than New England, has changed some. Mrs. Terry recalls that not too long ago virtually every community activity was a family reunion.
‘We were all cousins,’ she said. ‘Now I see more and more faces I don’t know.’
‘But it was the newcomers who put Orient on the historical register. We natives farm and earn our living. Many of the newcomers are retired, formerly summer people. They have time.’
‘Every year there is more and more traffic and although the summer people are very nice, we all breathe a sigh of relief when Labor Day is over. Then we have the place to ourselves.’
Of Orient’s special ambiance, Mrs. Terry said: ‘We never thought about the uniqueness of the area. We take it for granted, for almost everybody has always lived in old houses surrounded by old things. To us these aren’t antiques, they’re things that were grandmother’s or great‐grandmother’s.’
Seventy‐eight‐year‐old Gerald Latham, a native and retired tugboat operator, and grandson of the last Orient lamplighter, said of the changes:
‘Since World War II over 100 houses have been built. Now they want to change the zoning and put in a business area outside the Historic District. It won’t happen because we don’t need it.’
Orient’s street names, such as Skipper’s Lane and Navy Street, reveal the village’s colorful maritime history. They are flanked by towering Norway maple trees and ancient buttonwoods; and lined with quaint little 17th and 18th‐century half‐Cape Cod houses with picket fences or grander 19th‐century neo‐classical and Greek Revival houses.
The waterfront looks out over Gardiners Bay, with Shelter Island, Gardiners Island and the South Fork and Montauk in view. It was here that the sailing ships and schooners loaded and unloaded produce, fish and passengers on their way to and from New York, New London and Boston. The four‐acre town green, Poquatuck Park, once an Indian campsite, was acquired by a small group of Orient citizens and presented to’ the Oysterponds Historical Society in 1955.
This little village of about 800 residents has seven museum buildings, six of which are part of the Oysterponds Historical Society complex and open to the public during the season.
‘The basic uniqueness of the collection is that it truly relates to local history,’ said E. Richard Keough, former president of the society. ‘Almost everything in the museum was found in Orient and comes from local families.’
The Village House, a former inn and once the home of Augustus Griffin, Orient historian, journalist and jack‐of‐alltrades until his death at 99 in 1865, is the center of the complex. The parlor is furnished as it might have looked around 1830, when Griffin operated the place as a stagecoach stop on the line that ran to the sailing ships that crossed the Sound to New London from Orient.
The Indian Room includes an ancient skeleton and artifacts of the area’s earliest settlers. The Nancy Latham Room, originally a bedroom, houses the manuscript and photograph collection. The 1890 kitchen, bedroom, summer kitchen and Orient Room complete the first floor.
Upstairs is the Roy Latham collection of Orient shells and insects, a bonnet room, a toy room, a room for quilts and a midget room in which are displayed many artifacts relating to the five Tuthill dwarfs, a brother and a sister and their three aunts, who lived more than a century ago. P.T. Barnum once tried to sign up the brother, who was said to be smaller than Tom Thumb, for his circus.
The Hallock House, formerly a cookhouse, contains the society’s collection of marine‐related artifacts. The Sail Room includes many valuable paintings of schooners and whaling ships by Stubbs. The Steamship Room has memorabilia of a later chapter in local marine history.
The barn includes a country store with a penny‐candy counter, very popular with local youngsters, and a collection of sleighs, Orient’s first hand‐pumping fire engine, buggies and phaetons.
The Orient Point School, moved to the complex, is furnished as a museum of 19th‐century education. There is also the Amanda Brown Schoolhouse, moved to the site recently. Mr. Keough said of the class program offered at this building:
‘The local children learn about the everyday life style of 18th‐ and 19th‐century residents. Our museum is a vital living institution, not just a collection from grandma’s attic. At Thanksgiving we will prepare dinner just as they did in the 18th century, using the fireplace, old pots and utensils, and food gathered from the woods and the sea.’
Last spring, a five‐acre site of an ancient Indian village was donated to the historical society, which also maintains the Slaves Burial Ground and runs an antiques consignment shop called Shinbone Alley.
Directly across the street from the Oysterponds Historical Society museum complex is another museum, the Webb House. Facing four‐acre Poquatuck Park, it is a privately owned, fully furnished ‘house museum’ open to the public free of charge.
Originally it was called Constant Booth’s Inn and was in Greenport, west of Orient. Col. George Washington visited the taproom on his way to Boston in 1757. In 1955, George Latham of Mineola and Orient bought the house and moved it by barge to its present location.
Today, during museum hours, 88 year‐old Mr. Latham receives sightseers and escorts them around his fantasy realized. Often he invites guests‐ to join him before a roaring fire in the summer kitchen for a glass of sherry and chats about his treasure.
A visit to Orient is a visit to America’s past.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the New York Times, Times Machine, “In Orient, History Is Part of Today,” by Theodore James Jr., October 30, 1977
“IF the East End of Long Island conjures up images of hellish traffic, snobbish socialites and publicists behaving badly, you may be ready to discover Southold, on the North Fork. In the middle of Long Island’s wine country and framed by the Great Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, Southold has dazzling waterfront homes and acres of beaches — but without the conspicuous consumption and bumper-to-bumper bottlenecks. It’s a good spot for people who want a low-key, family-centered weekend community.
‘We were looking for an old-fashioned traditional family experience, not a high-pressure social scene,’ said Catherine Harrison, who lives in Short Hills, N.J., and owns a second home in Southold with her husband, Giles, an investment banker. They bought it two years ago after rejecting shore areas in Delaware and New Jersey. ‘We wanted our kids to have the same kind of summer experience we did, riding bikes with other kids in the neighborhood, hanging out on the beach and picking up seashells,’ Ms. Harrison said.
That’s the summer Southold. In the fall, pumpkins replace sweet corn at the roadside farm stands, and children’s weekends are more likely to involve hay rides or apple cider sampling at one of the North Fork’s fall festivals.
Though the hamlet of Southold is colloquially called Southold Village, it is an unincorporated community in the Town of Southold, which runs east from the border of Riverhead through Orient Point. Puritans from the New Haven colony settled the area in 1640 after gaining title to the land from the Corchaug Indians, who called it Yennecott.
For centuries, the main industries were maritime: whaling, coastal trading, fishing and shipbuilding. The Horton Point Lighthouse and Nautical Museum now stands on one of the oldest original land grants in Southold, Barnabas Horton’s 1640 estate. A descendant, Joshua Horton, is the current town supervisor of Southold.
Until fairly recently, the bulk of homes in the hamlet of Southold were owned by year-round residents, said Bob Celic, the owner of Celic Realty in Mattituck. But in the 1990’s, a building boom already in full force in places like Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor hit Southold.
‘The doctors and attorneys who got tired of the Hamptons discovered us,’ Mr. Celic said. Retirees were also attracted to the town. As weekenders began buying here, prices shot up. Mr. Celic estimates that home values have risen 35 percent a year for the last three years.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the New York Times, Times Machine, “Havens; Weekender, Southold, N.Y.,” by Ann Colin Herbst, October 4, 2002