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Edwards Pond

Some Ancient Haunts
Of Long Island Indians
 Site of many villages found
on the North Shore by Frederick M. Wilson

Shell Mounds Rich in Relics

 An Active businessman who finds time to gather large and valuable collection of Indian curios

 

Brooklyn Eagle
Dec. 29, 1900


 Port Jefferson, L.I December 29 – One of the most careful and indefatigable collectors of Indian remains on the island is probably Frederick M. Wilson of this place. Although Mr. Wilson has been in active business all his life, he has found time to gather the large and valuable Wilson collection of Indian relics from Port Jefferson and vicinity now in the museum of the Long Island Historical Society, besides a valuable contribution to the museum of Natural History and a large private collection of his own. Mr. Wilson is also an authority on the weapons tools and implements of the Long Island Indians, and on the sites of former Indian villages in this vicinity.

 “The coastline from Smithtown Bay eastward to Miller’s Place was once thickly dotted with Indian villages.” Said Mr. Wilson recently in conversation with an Eagle representative. “The distance may be twenty miles in a straight line, and it is doubtless three times that if the windings of the shore lines are followed. It would be difficult to find a coast of equal extent showing greater sinuosities. Stony Brook Harbor, with its tributaries. Conscience Bay and Setauket Bay, and Mount Sinai Harbor are all wide and deep indentations in the bold coast line of the north shore, each with a water front of from ten to fifteen miles.

 On the shores of these sheltered bays the red men loved to build their villages, both because of the beautiful outlook, as I like to think, and because of the ease with which they could gather their food from the waters before them. All kinds of fish, oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and even the periwinkle were food for the Indian. While their shells made his money and their bones his arrow and spear heads. And most of the year ducks, geese and all sorts of water  fowl swarmed in the sedgy marshes.

 “It is quite easy now to determine the sites of many of these villages by the shell mounds in their vicinity or by the arrows, spear heads, domestic implements and chips from the workshops of the arrow makers found near them. Every village had its heap of refuse near by, composed principally of shells and of the bones of animals killed and eaten, and when I find one I know I am on the site of an Indian village or encampment. When the shells have lain for centuries, the lime has washed away, leaving a black earthy material rich in fertilizing qualities. Some of these shell mounds were carted on to their lands by the earlier settlers for fertilizers and are lost to us. I have located Indian villages at Head of the River in Smithtown, at Stony Brook. On Old Field, near the present lighthouse at the head of Conscience Bay and Setauket bay on the site now occupied by the houses of Setauket Village on Strong’s Neck.

 Over to the old man’.’ Everyone knew who was meant by it, and so in time it came to be the only name of the settlement.”

 Half way to the harbor two roads intersected with two or three dwellings in sight. This was the old place.” Said Mr. Wilson where the first school house in this part of the country was built because it would serve both Old Man’s and Drowned Meadow.” Shortly after he turned into a footpath leading through a young forest of oak and chestnuts on a smooth level platform.

“There are indications of an Indian village here.” He said “this land has never been ploughed. If it should ever be, there ought to be some rich finds

 Almost immediately the land fell abruptly two hundred feet or more to the level of the Mount Sinai Harbor. A corn field with the brown stalks rustling in the wind lay before the travelers: beyond that in a dense forest Crystal Brook Pond, and washing the base of the dam the reedy channels of the harbor. On the left covering the entire west side of the harbor lay the great Strong estate. Oakwood with its fine old manor house plainly visible a quarter of a mile above.

 The bay must have fairly swarmed with red men in their day.” Said Mr. Wilson. “You see that great promontory a short distance above the manor. There was the largest shell mound I have found in my researches. Loads upon loads of shells were carted from it by the first settlers and spread over their fields. You can see the deep chasm in the hill now. I found a few arrowheads only there, but have never had the opportunity to dig. From that point all around the sweep of the bay to Hopkins on the east were Indian villages, or perhaps summer camps of families from the interior as is indicated by the shell heaps found along the shores. In this corn field before us I found numerous arrow and spear heads and a beautiful specimen of tomahawk.’

            A search of the cornfield discovered many chips of quartz and one arrowhead of red sandstone.

“This is a rare find.” Said Mr. Wilson, referring to the latter, “and is very old. It represents the primitive stage of Indian art. When they improved in handcraft they used the quartz pebbles picked up on the beach. Innumerable chips of which you can find in this field showing that it was a favorite workshop of the arrow makers.

 ….. He led the way along the pretty woodsy road forest on one side, and tangled swamp hiding pretty Crystal Brook Pond on the other. Soon he came to Crystal Brook Hollow, a deep ravine running down to the sea from near Middle Island. Eight miles distant is the center of the island. Its bed is now dry as a bone and yet, said Mr. Wilson. “Captain Dayton, who would be about 100 years old if living, told me that in his boyhood a considerable stream flowed here and that there were stepping stones across it for the convenience of foot passengers. I am confident that a stream once flowed here large enough to float Indian canoes. I will tell you why. Follow the ravine to its head at Floyd Edward’s house, near Middle Island and you will find two ponds one on either side of the house. Between the two in the old days an Indian path from Miller’s Place to Middle Island used to run and Mr. Edwards said he had heard his Grandmother tell of seeing Indians going back and forth on it with packs on their backs. I once dug down four feet in the banks of those ponds and found deposits of shells of unknown depth.. As it is seven miles from the sound. It is evident that the red men did not carry them there on their backs and the only reasonable explanation is that a creek once flowed from the ponds down this hollow to the ground, up which the Indians paddled their canoes laden with shell fish.

 
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