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Early Town Charities

Footnotes to Long Island History

 Early Town Charities

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       Public charity engaged the attention of the town authorities at an early period in the history of Brookhaven town.  We find that on December 26, 1701 the trustees recorded their conviction of duty  "not to suffer any of God's creatures to want," and accordingly ordered that a certain child which had been left with Hugh Mosier should be taken care of until the next quarter session, and that Mr. Mosier should be paid two shillings three pence week for the service.

     There is a little record of the town's attention to matters of charity for many years after that, but in 1739 Obidiah Seward seems to have fallen in to distressing need of a coat.  The trustees appropriated four shillings six pence for making him one.

     Years later the poor of the town were farmed out, that is put in charge of whoever would take care of them at the lowest price.  This system was used until 1817, when a more humane system was adopted and in April of that year is was voted that the trustees should provide a house for the town poor, in conjunction with Islip and Smithtown towns.

     Nicoll Floyd, Thomas S. Strong and William Tooker were appointed as a committee to confer with those towns on the subject.  This resulted in the purchase of a farm at Coram during the same year for $900 and the establishment of a town poor house.  An addition was made in 1851 for protection of the insane.

      The question of establishing a county poor house was discussed as early as 1831, but popular sentiment was not favorable to it.  It was voted on again in 1839 and again in 1869 and both times the question was defeated, but this popular expression was disregarded, and the county home was built in Yaphank in 1871.  This was on a 170-acre farm which had been purchased by the county in 1870 for $12,700.

      In 1879 another farm of 80 acres was purchased for $5000 and the work of clearing was done by the residents.  In 1880 there were 180 persons cared for and the average cost per person for food and clothing was 12 cents a day.

      The residents of the town poor house at Coram were transferred to the new county building at Yaphank December 8,1871, and the furniture of the vacated house was sold at auction January 13, 1872.

      The house and farm, except for the burying grounds, 6 by 11 rods in the northeast corner of the farm, was sold by the town trustees May 7, 1872 to Lester H. Davis of Coram for $600.  This is the farm which in recent years has been owned by Winfield Davis. 

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