The following is a contemporary account of the 1813 disaster:
MELANCHOLY OCCURRENCE—Rarely, indeed, has it been our painful duty to record a more melancholy occurrence than one which recently took place in that part of Brooklin [sic, Brookhaven] called Fire Place. On the evening of Friday, the 5th instant, eleven men, belonging to that village, went to the South Shore with a seine for fishing, viz: William Rose, Isaac Woodruff, Lewis Parshall, Benjamin Brown, Nehemiah Hand, James Horner, Charles Ellison, James Prior, Daniel Parshall, Harry Horner and John Hulse. On Saturday morning the affecting discovery was made that they were all drowned. It is supposed the whole party embarked in one boat, and went out to the outer bar, a distance of two miles from the shore, and which at low water is in some places bare, but that by some accident the boat was stove or sunk, and the whole party left to perish by the rising of the tide, which, at high water, is eight or ten feet on the bar. The boat came on shore in pieces, and also eight bodies. The six first named have left families. Long will a whole neighborhood lament this overwhelming affliction, and the tears of the widow and orphan flow for their husband, father and friend.
From Long Island Star (Brooklyn, NY) 17 November 1813, as quoted in: Parshall, James Clark. The History of the Parshall Family from the Conquest of England by William of Normandy, A.D. 1066, to the Close of the 19th Century. Syracuse: Crist, Park and Parshall, Cooperstown, NY, 1903.
Who Were The Men Lost in the 1813 Calamity
The following is the results of the research so far conducted.
- Benjamin Brown: Benjamin Brown was twenty-nine when he died. He was married to Mary Ann Leek, and left a five year old son, Alfred Benjamin. Mary Ann did not remarry. Alfred lived to be 87, and had seven daughters and four sons. Many of his descendants continue to reside in the Brookhaven, Bellport, and Patchogue region.
- Charles Ellison: Charles Ellison was age 36 at the time of the tragedy. He was a younger brother of Robert Ellison, and son of Thomas and Letitia Homan Ellison. In 1785, Thomas and Letitia had a quarter interest in the South Haven Mills, which they sold to Samuel Carman, Sr. In 1805, Charles’ brother Robert bought two substantial plots in Fire Place — one was the “Pasnage Living” or manse lands owned by the South Haven Presbyterian Church parish roughly bound by modern Montauk Highway, Old Stump Road, the Long Island Railroad and South Country Road, the other parcel was along both sides of Beaver Dam Creek from the “upper going over” (modern South Country Road) north to approximately modern Montauk Highway (except for certain plots which remained public). Robert, along with his wife Elizabeth Hulse established the general store that would become known as the Brook Store. On 6 Apr 1810, Robert, his brother Charles, and Robert’s wife Elizabeth sold most of this land to Robert Hawkins, retaining a parcel at the south end for the family homestead and store. Robert Ellison died October 23, 1813, and Charles drowned thirteen days later, leaving Robert’s young son, infant daughter, and the responsibility for running the store to Elizabeth. The son was later known as “Big Tom” Ellison who became prominent in Town of Brookhaven politics. Elizabeth came to be known affectionately as Aunt Betsey. Charles and Robert are said to have been buried in the old Burying Ground in Hempstead.
- Nehemiah Hand: Nehemiah Hand of South Haven, NY, was the son of Ezekiel Hand, also of South Haven. He was age 41 at the time of his drowning. The Hand family was originally from East Hampton, NY. Nehemiah was buried (or a memorial stone erected) in the South Haven Presbyterian Church cemetery where his gravestone may still be found. His wife, the former Mary Mapes, was left with a family of five young children, the youngest, Nehemiah, was born after his father’s death. She soon remarried, to Thomas Wood Rowland also of South Haven. They eventually relocated to Setauket, NY. On her second husband’s death, she again remarried , to David DeForrest, and survived him, living to be 87 years of age. Nehemiah was a farmer and a bayman. Of his four sons, three became shipwrights and one a boatman. Son Nehemiah, often referred to as “Boss” Hand, started a successful shipbuilding business in Setauket and became prominent in the trade. At least two of his siblings and his step-father Thomas were also associated with the business.
- Henry Homan:
- James Homan:
- John Hulse:
- Daniel Parshall:
- Lewis Parshall:
- James Prior:
- William Rose: William Rose was likely the son of Lt. Thomas and Deborah Rose of Fire Place. William was age 41 at the time of his death. His father Thomas, along with his uncle Capt. Nathan Rose, were Revolutionary War soldiers. Both were buried in the “old” Rose family cemetery off Jarad’s Path, Brookhaven Hamlet. William married Catherine Brewster, daughter of Charles Jeffrey Brewster and Temperance Smith, of what is now modern Bellport. William was probably originally interred (or a memorial stone erected) in a “new” Rose family cemetery originally located near the Brookhaven Free Library. This burying ground was later relocated to the Oaklawn Cemetery in Brookhaven Hamlet, where William’s gravestone now may be found. William and Catherine appear to have had only one child, Deborah Ann Rose, born in January of 1807, and who died later the same year. On Charles Jeffrey Brewster’s death in 1820, Catherine received the middle third of his large estate in what would become Bellport, NY. She soon sold here inheritance, much of which would eventually become the property of Thomas Bell, after whom Bellport was named. By 1850, she was living with the Daniel Ruland family, whose farmstead was on South Country Road near to the intersection of Beaver Dam Road. Catherine, who was fourteen years older than William, died in 1852; here gravestone may be found next to her husband’s. She apparently never remarried.
- Isaac Woodruff: