Early History of Yaphank Neck

Early History of Yaphank Neck

The eastern part of the Brookhaven and South Haven Hamlets, Town of Brookhaven, NY was not included in the Town’s “Old Purchase at the South” of 1664. A land sale to Samuel Terrill by the indigenous native Wopehege in 1688 completed the land purchases that now comprise the two hamlets. “Yamphank Neck” is the parcel of land between Yaphank Creek (aka Barteau Creek) on the west to the Connecticut River (now known as the Carman’s River) on the east. The community that became established on the neck was to become known as South Haven. Samuel Terrill can therefore be considered the founder of the Hamlet of South Haven, which was to become the commercial center of much of southern Brookhaven Town during the colonial period.

Unfortunately, five years later this same parcel also was included in the first patent from Governor Fletcher (the Patent of 1693) for the Manor of St. George granted to Col. William Smith ‘Tangier’ — the lands of this patent otherwise being on the east side of the Carman’s River. For two hundred years there were legal disputes because of the overlapping. The Neck remained theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Lord of the Manor until 1789 when the Manor was formally dissolved as a governmental unit and it’s land area annexed to the Town of Brookhaven by the newly independent government. As a practical matter, however, it appears from the Town records that the colonial Town trustees believed that the Neck was within their authority, and that the Neck was largely governed by the Town.

Shortly after Terrill acquired the land, a dam and mills were erected on the Connecticut River. Since Terrill was a blacksmith, not a miller, their establishment was likely done by others. No evidence has been found that Samuel Terrell actually established the mills. Since the “Tangier” Smith family claimed a clear title to the river bottom (if not the Yaphank Neck lands to the west), it is likely that the Smith family also had some ownership rights in the mill or leased use of the river. Normally, permission of the Town was required to dam a river and erect mills, and such a record has not been found. Perhaps this is a case where the Lord of the Manor exercised early authority. (Even today, surviving records of the “Tangier” Smith family have not been released for public research by the trustee of the Smith estate.)

What happened to Terrill’s ownership is unclear. Except for one action of the Town Trustees recorded on 11 April 1738, there is no other reference to Samuel Terrill in the Brookhaven Town records. The 1738 Town action may have been an attempt by the Town to clear Terrill’s title to Yaphank Neck for its sale.

On April 10, 1745 an indenture was entered in the records of the Town of Brookhaven by which Richard Floyd, Nicoll Floyd, and Mordecai Homan, Jr., sold to John Havens of Shelter Island, NY “Yamphank Neck.” Clearly by 1745 Terrill no longer had ownership (and the Town clearly thought it had legal jurisdiction over the Neck). The description of the boundary of the sale is identical with the original Wopehege deed, but now included “the Grist Mill, Saw Mill and fulling Mill: and all ye other-houses buildings orchards Gardens, Lands Meadows improvements profits Commodities Advantages.”

John Havens, “late of Shelter Island but now of the township of Brookhaven,” died about 1750. In his will he leaves Yaphank Neck to his sons Jonathan and Benjamin. “I leave to my sons Jonathan and Benjamin all my neck of land that I have now in possession in Brookhaven, with all buildings. My son Benjamin is to have the east part, bounded east by Connecticut river, or Seponack river, with all the houses and mills, and he shall pay all the money I owe towards this neck. My son Jonathan is to have the west part and a yoke of oxen, chains, etc.”

Ownership of Yaphank Neck, and in particular the mills on the Connecticut River, is uncertain after this point.

According to Bigelow, shortly before the Revolutionary War the mills became the property of the Homan family; however there are some details of this account that are questionable and do not agree with known facts. She may have confused the Homan interest with the earlier Mordecai Homan interest. Samuel Carman, Jr. did marry a Homan, however this would have been after his father apparently acquired the mills (Samuel Sr. apparently acquired the mills around 1790, Samuel, Jr. did not marry until 1812).. On the other hand, Bigelow may have received information from Carman descendants living at the time of her authorship, and therefore it should not be totally discounted. Bigelow also records that a number of people bought interest in the mills, including Thomas Ellison ( the elder).

Sometime after the Revolutionary War, Samuel Carman, Sr. acquired majority (or perhaps sole) interest in the property and the mills, which remained in the Carman family for a 100 years. Samuel Carman and family, originally from Hempstead, NY, were recorded in the 1790 census for the Town of Brookhaven, probably living in South Haven.

It is known that Joseph Conklin, a miller from Southold, NY, moved to South Haven, and that he left in his 1780 will his “movable estate” [personal property] to his “cousin, Jeremiah Havens” [actually his grand nephew], his sister Sarah’s grandson, and Jonathan Haven’s son. There was no mention in Joseph’s will of real estate or of any ownership interest in the mills. He may have just worked at the mills. Sarah was the wife of John Havens, and mother to Jonathan and Benjamin. Joseph appears never to have married. Jeremiah named his first son, born shortly after Joseph’s death in 1780, “Joseph Conklin Havens.” Joseph Conklin, and his sister “Mrs.” Elizabeth Conkline, were both interred in the South Haven Church cemetery. Elizabeth died in 1756, suggesting that she, and perhaps her brother, were both living in Southaven at that time; she was perhaps keeping house for her brother. It is unknown why her headstone is marked “Mrs.” or who “Mr.” Conkline might have been.

It is to be remembered that the period, 1775-1783, was the middle of the Revolutionary War, with much turmoil which must have had great impact on the life and business affairs of South Haven residents.

Waracta Neck and its relationship to Yaphank Neck

Samuel Terrill also acquired ownership of Waracta Neck, about 7 miles east of South Haven in Moriches, as described in this account from a history of the Moriches Presbyterian Church:

“The title to the land on which the extended village of Moriches is built was gained by three different patents. That lying between the Mastic River and the creek Senex was included in Smith’s first patent [the Patent of 1693]; that between Senex and the mill stream, called Barnes’ Mill Pond (formerly [and today] Terrill’s River) was included in Smith’s second patent [the Patent of 1697]; and that east of the latter point was covered by the patent given for land purchased by Messrs. Taylor, Townsend, and Willets, commonly known as Moriches patentship. During the first years of the 18th century the neck of land lying on the west of the mill stream was called Waracta, and was in possession of Samuel Terrill. The mill stream was named in his honor by the Indians called Paquatuck, and the land on the east of it was called Moriches or Maritches. To keep on friendly terms with the Indians, Chief John Mayhew was also paid ‘a competent sum of money for the land.’ “

This property and its owners offer interesting clues as to the ownership interests of the various families.

Terrill sold his Waracta Neck holdings to Sarah Scudder Conkling, widow of John Conkline, of the Town of Southold, by deed dated 5 Aug 1714, as mentioned in her will dated 19 Jan 1732, and proved 1 Apr 1755 . The dam and mills on the Terrill River were erected in 1737 by Oliver Smith, after Terrill sold the property. Waracta Neck, or the greater part of it, was said to have been eventually sold to a “John Havens.” However, it is unlikely that it was the same John Havens who owned the South Haven mills and Yaphank Neck — this latter John dies before Sarah; and there is no mention of the Moriches properties in his will. Interestingly though, Sarah is sister-in-law to the South Haven John Havens’ wife, Sarah Conkling Havens.

But by the late 19th century, the Moriches property was owned by John S. Havens; this John was the great-great grandson of the South Haven John Havens through his son John (Jonathan) who inherited the western half of Yaphank Neck. Much of Waracta Neck, known as the Havens Estate, remained undeveloped. It is today a County nature preserve and a camp for handicapped children (Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck sponsored by the Rotary Club of the Moriches.) And most of Samuel Terrill’s Yamphank Neck lands are also either public park lands (South Haven County Park), or nature preserve (the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge).

Who was Samuel Terrill?

Was he Samuel Terrill of Milford, CT?

I have not determined for sure who Samuel Terrill might have been. But the most likely candidate seems to have been a Samuel Terrill, son of Roger and Abigail Ufford Terrill of Milford, New Haven County, CT. While there was Terrills in Southold, NY, I have yet to find any Samuels among them who are satisfactory candidates. The Milford Town records indicate that Samuel removed to the Town of Brookhaven. Some researchers record that he married in the Town of Brookhaven, and had children there.

Our Samuel was said to have been a blacksmith. His principal homestead and blacksmith shop were said to have been on the west shore of the Terrill River on Waracta Neck, in Moriches. However, the shop and homestead were said to have burned, and that he then removed to Yamphank Neck (perhaps this was the reason for the 1714 sale of Waracta Neck?). In addition to Yaphank and Waracta Necks, Samuel Terrill was said to have had other land holdings—by all accounts Samuel had excellent relations with the indigenous natives, and appeared to have been able to negotiate land purchases at what today would appear to have been very favorable terms.