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Leak-Monsell-Ashton House


LEAK-MONSELL-ASHTON FAMILY HOUSE


leak

Leak - Monsell - Ashton on East Bartlett Road. 1915. Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles Collection CS 9-7
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ashtonand the boys

Left to right, Captain Ashton and Herman Bubb. Photo from Joan Marshall and Cheryl Gulino


barrels
Ashton house. Notice the barrels at sides of house that were used for gathering clean rainwater.
Photo from Joan Marshall and Cheryl Gulino


wagon

Wagon in front of Ashton House. Photo from Joan Marshall and Cheryl Gulino


This home on Bartlett Road was built prior to 1750. At the time of the Revolution the Leek family occupied the house. Captain Leek was an officer serving with the Burlington rangers in New Jersey. State archives in New Jersey show him twice escorting prisoners to Trenton.

Tradition states that while Leek was away during the war, some British soldiers stopped at the Leek home. Knowing the Leeks to be patriots they demanded that Mrs. Leek prepare them dinner. While waiting, one of the British officers began to strike the handle of his sword against panels on the wall, listening for a hollow sound where valuables might be stored. An anxious Mrs. Leek watched this knowing that a secret panel did exist next to the fireplace. In this panel were silver pieces and other valuables. The soldiers did not find anything and left after dinner.

Shortly after the war Leek sold the house to another Revolutionary war veteran Alexander Monsell and moved back to New Jersey. Alexander and his wife Mary (Moger) had 7 children: Jacob, John, Nathaniel, Samuel, Isaac, Jesse, and Hannah. While living in this home Monsell purchased 2 slaves. The Brookhaven Town Historians office provided a copy of the bill of sale.

"John Newton of Brookhaven for fifty-five pounds sells to Alexander Monsil of the township above said ' a certain negro woman named Jud being about twenty eight years of age an also a Negro boy named Oliver about five years old…'

9th Feb. 1797
Witnesses
John Smith
Jeremiah Squires"

At the time of his death in 1807 Alexander Monsell's will left the farm to his son Nathaniel. During this time a Methodist minister, Reverend Dickerson, spent the night with the Monsells.It was then discovered that he was a descendent of Captain Leek. It was Dickerson who told the Revolutionary tale of the secret cupboard. Upon examination the secret panel was found and in the cupboard behind it was the hiding place built into the solid brickwork of the chimney.

Nathaniel and his wife Mary (Smith) had eleven children.

1. Mary E. Monsell b. Feb. 5 1838
2. Nathaniel Monsell b. June 30 1839
3. Alexander Monsell b. Oct. 6 1840 died Dec. 7 1861 (during Civil War)
4. Jeremiah Monsell b. Aug. 21 1842 died Oct. 6 1843
5. Dorothy Monsell b. Dec. 6 1843
6. Isabel Monsell b. Dec.16 1845
7. Nancy Monsell b. March 20 1848
8. Julia Monsell b. November12 1849
9. Jerusha Monsell b. Oct. 17 1850
10. Hannah M. Monsell b. Nov. 17 1853 died June 11 1857
11. Elizabeth Monsell b. Oct. 12 1855 died May 27 1857

Their daughter Isabel married James Ashton and took ownership of the house when Nathaniel died. Her sister Jerusha married Adam Bubb and moved into the house next door. The Ashtons had four daughters: Minnie, Alice, Julia and Frances. Minnie took possession of the house and was the last family member to own it.
The house was sold a number of times after that and fell into disrepair. It was moved to Mount Sinai where it was renovated and stands proudly on Little Harbor Road.
today
The Leak house, after it was moved to Mt. Sinai.

Revolutionary Days Recalled By Visit to John Leek House

Middle Island Mail - 1936

 

History, or that which has to do with these who have lived before us, has an interest and fascination for a great many people. And when the history concerns something near at hand which we can see, we want to know more about it.

There is an old house in North Yaphank which the passer-by can hardly fail to notice or speculate upon. Unlike most houses of its time and type, it is two stories high and its Broad, handmade shingles are weathered to a deep brown.

During the Revolution this house was owned by a man named John Leek. While serving in the American forces, he was made a colonel and the story is that he declared a Colonel should have a two story house. He therefore remodeled his home and it is said that he did a great deal of entertaining, especially among Revolutionary officers.

There is a story that when the British held this part of Long Island, a detachment stopped at the leek house and demanded that dinner be served them. While it was being prepared, the commanding officer of the group examined the living room looking for something of value which he might take away. He struck his sword against each panel of the wall hoping to locate a hollow place or hidden cupboard, but was not successful. As a matter of fact there was such a place back of a small panel above the mantel piece and years later when it was discovered by an odd coincidence.

The house had been sold to Alexander Monsell and at the time mentioned it was occupied by his grandson, Nathaniel Nelson Monsell, who was born in the house in 1808. This Monsell was captain of his own sailing vessel. There was no regular minister in the Methodist Church, one man occupying several parishes, such as Coram, Mt. Sinai, and Yaphank. At this particular time, the Reverend Mr. Dickerson came to Yaphank and was asked to spend the night with the Monsell family. While there it was discovered he was a descendant of Colonel Leek, and told the story of the secret cupboard and how his great grandmother hid her silver and valuables there when the British were searching the house.  Upon examination the panel was found, and in the cupboard behind it was the hiding place, built into the solid brickwork of the chimney.

 

The chimney, in the center of the house, was 8 by 12 feet, partly of brick and partly large stones. Some of these stones were built in as high as the second story. There were five fireplaces and two ovens. One fireplace was so large that it had an oven built in the center. Instead of a crane, a strong iron arm extended the width of the fireplace, from which hung iron arms with holes at different lengths on which to hang different pot hooks. Later the chimney became so badly cracked, it had to be torn out, so there is nothing to be seen of it now.

The house has been changed in other ways too. Originally there were two ells – one on each side of the house. Colonel leek had one ell moved a short distance from the house for his sister who married a comb maker. Combs were made from horns at that time.

The other ell was moved across the road for the Colonel’s daughter who married James Barnaby, a tanner, currier and shoemaker. Later, his son, William, taught school in the house and N.N Monsell was one of the pupils.

There used to be a well south of the road, with a bucket attached to a sweep, and people came from miles around to wash their clothes in the water which was particularly clear and clean. The well caved in, however and Captain Monsell had a new one dug on the north side of the road, nearer the house, and a shed built above it which is still standing.

The house is now occupied by Miss Minnie Ashton, whose mother was Captain Monsell’s daughter. Another daughter, Mrs. Adam Bubb, lives next door and is familiar with the history of the house. Her great grandfather, Alexander Monsell, was the son of Jacob Monsell of Smithtown and he owned property in west Bellport. There are no records indicating that he was a Tory, having pledged allegiance to George lll of England. His son Alexander; Jr. is said to have enlisted in the American army at the age of 16, but his name does not appear on the lists of those from Suffolk County who served during the war.

The house is built of hand hewn beams, and in the doorways, the slots may still be seen, through which the bars, which served as a lock and key, slid in and out.

In the early 1970s, the house was moved to Mt. Sinai.




Information compiled by:
Michele Gulino
Jenna Fabian

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