The Long Island Smiths

Footnotes to Long Island History

The Long Island Smiths


Thomas R. Bayles


            A good story is told of a census taker years ago before there were so many new names in the town, who formed a habit of asking at each place he stopped, the name of the next family and usually met with the same response.

            “ Bless me,” he said at length to a long lanky native, “are you all Smiths around here?”

            “ I’ll tell you how ‘tis, squire,” said the old man.  “There are a pretty considerable lot of us Smiths around this part of the Island, and no mistake.  There was Tangier Smith, who the British government thought so much of they gave him a grant for a large part of the present Town of Brookhaven.  Then there was Bull Smith, who made a swap with the Indians of a few beads and red coats for all the land his brindle bull Sam could trot around in one day.  One family of us is known as the John Rock Smiths, because its ancestor used a big boulder for the rear wall of his house.  Another line is called the John Black Smiths, because its ancestor was as dark complexioned as an Indian. Still another family is known as the Block Smiths, because the fact their founder had a big horse block in front of his door, and another as the Weight Smiths, because their ancestor owned the first set of weights and measures in the settlement.

            “ But bless you, we’re not as bad off as they were in Patchogue a few years ago.  There were actually five William Smiths living there not a mile apart.  But the people got around that, too. One of them owned a peacock, the only one of the five that did, so he became “ Peacock Bill Smith.” Then one of them invented an improved kind of a wheelbarrow with three wheels, and he was known all his days as “Wheelbarrow Bill.”  A third one lived on a point putting  put into the bay so he was called “Point Bill.” The fourth one was famous diver so he was known as “Submarine Bill.”


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