Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Jesse Merritt - A Brief Biography

Jesse Merritt was born on September 4, 1889. The house he was born in was built in 1699 by Thomas Whitson, one of his ancestors.

He attended the Farmingdale Grammar School before attending Friends Academy and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. From 1917 to 1924, he was the clerk of the Nassau County Board of Supervisors.

He served as part of the 7th New York Infantry Regiment, Company C 1916 and did a tour of duty on the Mexican border. During World War I, he was attached to the 27th Division and served in France and Belgium. His regiment was with the British when they broke through the Hindenburg Line. He received the Victory Medal, the Cross of Honor, and the Mexican Border Medal.

Jesse became Official historian Village of Farmingdale in 1920 and the historian for Nassau County in 1936. As part of his job as Nassau County Historian, he visited the White House and interviewed President Herbert Hoover. He has written three books: Two Hundredth Anniversary of Mattituck Meeting, Locust Valley, Long Island, 1724-1924, Essays on Walt Whitman, and Story of Nassau County, New York.

He was a lifetime member of the New York State Historical Society. Jesse was a member of the Mortin Lodge in Hempstead and became President in 1921. Was a charter member of the Bethpage Lodge in Farmingdale.

He was married Mabel Elva Witte on April 3, 1917 and they had two daughters. In 1920, he founded The Farmingdale Post. The village designated it as the official village newspaper. On April 9, 1923 the Women’s Club of Farmingdale met with representatives from various organizations of the village at Jesse Merritt’s home for the express purpose of forming a library. Jesse Merritt was elected the first President of the Farmingdale Library Association. He wrote a request for a library charter to Albany and it was granted in May of 1923. The library’s name was then changed to the Farmingdale Free library.

In 1932, Jesse suggested the name Bethpage State Park of the park recently built to Robert Moses, who agreed. Jesse Merritt died in 1957.


Farmingdale’s Story: Farms to Flights. Junior Historical Society of Farmingdale, 1956

Halpin, James R. History of the Farmingdale Public Library. Master’s Thesis for Long Island University, 1965

Long Island: A History of Two Great Counties, Nassau and Suffolk. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1949

Monday, June 5, 2017

Revolutionary War on Long Island

By 1775, eastern Long Island was well settled and an important agricultural district. The Gardiners on Gardiner’s Island were the first white settlers in that area. For many years, the farmer on eastern Long Island drove their sheep and cows to pasture on the hills of Montauk for the summer. There were concerns about their livestock and they requested protection for them against the British. John Hulburt lived in Bridgehampton and raised a company of minute men to guard the stock. After hearing a patriotic sermon, he then raised a company of twenty-one men from the steps of the church and recruited more on his way back to Montauk. By the end of the week, he had 68 volunteers and they were one of the first companies organized in New York State. They were eventually incorporated into the Third NY Regiment. The women of some of the families got together and created a flag with thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen six pointed stars for them.

The New York Provincial Congress was not positively inclined to independence. Upon reading the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, New York delayed its approval after discussion. On June 11, 1776, John Jay submitted a motion that stated, ‘that the good people of this colony have not, in the opinion of this [New York] Congress, authorized this [Continental] Congress to declare this Colony to be and continue independent of the Crown of Great Britain.” The delegates of New York consistently refrained from voting for any measures aiming at independence.

The Battle of Long Island was fought in Brooklyn in August, 1776. General Sir William Howe, commander of the British army, set up camp on Staten Island in June of 1776. On August 22, thousands of British troops were ferried across the Narrows and landed at DeNyse’s Point. There was no opposition as the British secured a beach head. On August 27, the Battle really began. By August 29, General Washington knew he had to retreat. On August 30, the Patriots were forced to withdraw and Long Island was left in British hands.

In order to find out what was going on, Washington organized a spy ring on Long Island. Some of the members were Robert Townsend, a merchant; Austin Roe, a tavern keeper; Abraham Woodhulll, a farmer; and Caleb Brewster, a whaler.  This group became known as the Setauket or Culper Spy Ring. One of the accomplishments of this spy ring was uncovering Benedict Arnold’s act of treason.

The colonies declared their independence on July 4, 1776, but it wasn’t until 1783 that it was fully assured. The last of the British red coats left Long Island in November of 1783.


Flick, Alexander C. The American Revolution in New York. Ira J. Friedman, 1967.

Halsey, Carolyn D. The Revolution on Long Island. 1988.