Friday, November 7, 1930
by Osborne Shaw
R.M. Bayles Dies, A Noted Historian Was One of Town's Grand Old men
Former surveyor Living at Middle Island Contributed Much in Research and Historical Writing for This and other Localities
By: Osborne Shaw
Richard M. Bayles died at his home in Middle Island , Tuesday afternoon in the eighty-fifth year of his age. He was one of the most widely known and respected citizens, not only of his native Town of Brookhaven, but of the whole Suffolk country , while among historians, he was widely known.
He was born in Coram, March 23, 1846, and was descended on both his fathers and mother's side from some of the earliest settlers in Brookhaven town. His great-grandfather, Daniel Bayles, was born June 6, 1746, and his great- grandmother, Joanna Davis, was born April 22, 1754. They were married October 19, 1777. Her father, David Davis, of Mount Sinai, then known as Old Mans , was born March 11, 1714-15 and her grandfather, Benjamin Davis was the grandson of Joseph Davis, one of the original proprietors of the Town of Brookhaven.
Of this marriage of Daniel and Joanna Davis, there was born six children of whom Thomas Bayles, the oldest was born July 28, 1778. He married Phebe Underwood, February 9, 1805, and their third child and oldest son, Richard M. Bayles, Sr., was born April 20, 1810. He married Harmony Swezey, daughter of Joshua Swezey ,a descendant of John Swezey one of the six men who made the first purchase of the Indians in 1655, of the land at Setauket, where the Town of Brookhaven was first begun.
Richard M. Bayles, Sr. died March 12, 1846, at the early age of 35 years and eleven months -just eleven days before his son, Richard M. Bayles, Jr., the subject of this sketch was born.
When Richard, Jr., was but 13 years old, his mother died and when he was 15, his two brothers, Albert E, and Edward F., of the 139th Regiment , were killed in the Civil War.
Mr. Bayles was educated in the common school and at Northville Academy when that institution was under Joseph N. Hallock, who later became the owner and editor of "The Christian Work." Mr. Bayles began his career by writing a historical article for the press when a lad of about 18 years. He spent several years teaching in the schools in Coram, Eastport, Center Moriches, Manorville and Middle Island from 1877 to 1893.
In 1872, he began his first important work, "Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Suffolk Country." It was published in 1874. This led to his being engaged by W.W. Munsell & Co., publishers to write the history of Riverhead Town and Brookhaven Town for their "History of Suffolk County," published in 1882. The article on Brookhaven is the most complete and exhaustive ever written, and Brookhaven is indebted to him for having preserved more of our history than anymore with the possible exception of Benjamin F. Thompson.
Mr. Bayles took most of his material for this history from the Records of the Town and one can imagine the time this must have consumed for the records at that time were for the most part unpublished and unindexed and in manuscript form-the oldest of them writer in "middle English" script, or the handwriting in use during the time of Queen Elizabeth and the Stuart Kings, requiring an expert to decipher.
His next work was a history of Green Country, N.Y., published by J.B. Beers & Co., in 1884. In 1885 , he published his "Handbook of Long Island" containing maps and illustrations and the only thing of the kind ever brought out by any other than the railroad company. His "City of Yonkers appeared in 1885 in the "History of Westchester County" published by L.E. Preston & Co. Folling this in 1886, he composed his History of Richmond County, Staten Island. This was followed by his Newport County", R.I in 1887. Then came his "windham County", Conn. In 1889 and this in turn was followed in 1890-1, by his last work, a two-volume history of "Providence County", R.I.
All of the books are large and no one but a person with a genius for history or one of Mr. Bayles' patience and love of research, would or could have attempted them. Beside compiling these works, he found time to contribute articles for newspapers and periodicals and from 1886 to 1908,he wrote the Long Island articles for the Brooklyn "Eagle Almanac".
In 1903, Mr. Bayles married Florence V. Rowland, of Millers Place. Two sons were born to them, Thomas and Albert. The former married Gertrude Benjamin of Center Moriches and has two sons Elwin and Donald. Albert is unmarried and lives at home. Mrs.Bayles, the sons and grandsons survive Mr. Bayles.
A number of years ago, he was chosen by the town board , to be the town historian and he acted in that capacity until his death. After the close of the World War, he made a roster of every person of Brookhaven who was in the service, including his or her war record. He assisted Roscoe C. Craft compile the "Directory of the public Schools" and the "Directory and Year Book of the public recently for the Second Supervisory Schools" published recently for the Second Supervisory District of Suffolk County. Mr. Craft wrote a short sketch of Mr. Bayles' life in 1926, and I am indebted to him for many of the statements of this article.
Mr. Bayles home was on the Middle Country Road at the top of the hill a rising from Connecticut Hollow in Middle Island. He knew every inch of the country for miles around, and, being a surveyor of excellent calibre for many years, he picked up a wonderful fund of knowledge about places and people with whom he came in contact.
He made copies of the names and dates from tombstones for miles around, abstracted data from old wills ancient deeds in documents and had in his collection, many valuable historical genealogical data. Much of this he "carried in his head" and would converse about the people and their characteristics and the events of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries and familiarly as thought they were but yesterday.
His home and little office was a mecca for town assessors, surveyors and historians as well as people of all walks in life, seeking information about family ancestory, wanting a title searched, asking advice about a will, wanting a deed made out.
His aid was sough by the lawyer the genealogist, the historian. He was an insurance agent, a realtor, and notary public. People who could not call on him personally, wrote for information and his correspondence was always extensive and, must have been a great burden as he invariably answered all his letters personally.
With all of his countless duties and tasks of his busy and useful life, he never lost sight of the better side of life and his exemplary character is one to be followed. He was a Christian gentleman of the old school. Sunday and prayer-meeting nights found him at the old Middletown Presbyterian Church until within a short time ago when the infirmities of old age kept him away during cold or stormy weather. He was the oldest of the elders of the parish, was the clerk of the session as well as a teacher in the Sunday School. In the absence of the, minister, he often conducted the meetings.
Mr. Bayles was a true friend, a kind neighbor and a courteous man- one never too busy to help any who came to him for help or advice. The time he spent in letter writing to people from far and near, the efforts he made to give help where needed, beside his other excellent qualities, makes his name stand out prominently in this age of hurry and money getting, as one of that fast disappearing, type whose simple, plain and kindly ways made them the true aristocracy of the nation.
Funeral services are being held this afternoon at 2 o'clock in the Presbyterian church, the Rev. William Stewart officiating, with burial in the Middle Island Cemetery.