Hamilton's Area Tour (Part 1)

Footnotes to Long Island History

Hamilton’s Area Tour

August 6, 1953


Thomas R. Bayles

          (Note:  The following story was found in a book written in longhand of my father’s, Richard M. Bayles.  The original manuscript of the trip of Dr. Alexander Hamilton by horseback from Annapolis, Md., to Maine and return in 1744 has an interesting history.  It reminded in obscurity for over 150 years, and in 1907 was purchased from a London book dealer by William K. Bixby of St. Louis, who published a deluxe private edition of 487 signed copies, which are now collectors’ items.  In 1948 the complete manuscript was published in a book entitled “Gentlemen’s Progress,” by the Institute of Early American History and Culture of Williamsburg, Va.  The following account tells of his travels through Long Island.)


Part I

          “We arrived att Huntington att eight oclock att night, where we put up one Flat’s att the sign of the Half Moon and Heart.  This Flat is an Irishman.  We had no sooner sat down when there came in a band of the town politicians in short jackets and trousers, being curious to know who them strangers were who had newly arrived in town.  Among the rest was a fellow with a worsted cap and great black fists.  They stiled him a doctor.  Flat told me he had been a shoemaker in town and was a notable fellow att his trade, but happening two years ago to cure an old woman of a pestilent mortal disease, he thereby acquired the character of a physitian, was applied to from all quarters, and finding the practice of physick a more profitable business than cobling, he laid aside his awls and leather, got himself some gallipots, and instead of cobling of soals, fell to cobling of human bodies.

          “At supper our landlord was very merry and very much given to rhiming.  There were three buxom girls in this house who served us att supper, to whom Mr. Parker made strenuous courtship.”

          “Wednesday, July 11.  We, left Huntington att half an hour after six in the morning, and after riding five miles stonny road, we breakfasted att a house upon the road att the Sign of Bacchus.  Then proceeding ten or eleven miles farther we forded Smithtown river, otherwise called by the Indians Missaque.  We baited our horses att a tavern where there was a deaf landlady.  After half an hour’s rest we mounted horse again and rid some miles thro’ some very barren, unequal, and stonny land.  We saw the mouth of Smithtown river running into the Sound thro some broken sandy beaches about eight miles to our left hand N.N.W., and about 24 miles farther to the northward, the coast of New England, or the province of Connecticut.

          “We arrived at a scattered town called Brookhaven, or by the Indians, Setoquet, about tow oclock afternoon and dined att one Buchanan’s there.  Brookhaven (Setauket was then called Brookhaven) is a small scattered village standing upon barren, rocky land near the sea.  In this town is a small windmill for sawing of plank, and a wooden church with small steeple.  (Probably Caroline Episcopal church).  Att about 50 miles distance from this town eastward is a settlement of Indians upon a sandy point which makes the south fork of the Island and runs out a long narrow promontory into the sea almost as far as Block Island (Montauk Point.)

          “While we were att Buchanan’s an old fellow named Smith called att the house.  He said he was a traveling to York to get a license from the Governour to go a privateering, and swore he would not be under any commander but would be chief man himself.  He showed us several antick tricks such as jumping half a foot high upon his bum without touching the floor with any other part of his body.  Then he turned and did the same upon his belly.  Then he stood upright upon his head.  He told us he was 75 years old and swore damn his old shoes if any man in America could do the like.  He asked me whence I came and whither I went.  I answered him I came from Calliphurnia and was going to Lathern Land.  He swore damn his old shoes again if he had not been a sailor all his life long and yet never had heard of such places.  Mr. Parker made him believe he was a captain of a privateer, and for a mug of syder made him engage to go on board of him upon Friday next, promising to make him his leutenant, for nothing else would satisfy the old fellow.  Att last he wanted to borrow a little advance money of Parker, which when he found he could not obtain, he drank up his syder and swore he would not go.

          “We took horse again att half an hour after 5 oclock, and had scarce got half a mile from Brookhaven when we lost our way but were directed right again by a man whom we met.  After riding ten miles thro’ woods and marshes in which we were pestered with muscettoes, we arrived att eight oclock at night att one Brewster’s.  (Pfeiffer’s store, Middle Island.) where we put up all night and in this house we could get nothing either to eat or drink and so were obliged to go to bed fasting or supperless.  I was conducted upstairs to a large chamber.  The people in this house seemed quiet savage and rude.”

          “Thursday, July 12.  When I waked this morning I found two beds in the room besides that in which I lay, in one of which lay two great hulking fellows with long black beards, having their own hair and not so much as half a night cap between them both.  I took them for weavers, not only from their greasy appearance, but because I observed a weaver’s loom at each side of the room.  In the other bed was a raw boned boy, who with the two lubbers, huddled on their clothes and went reeling downstairs making as much noise as three horses.

          “We set out from this desolate place att 6 oclock and rid 16 miles thro very barren wasteland.  Hew we passed thro a plain of 6 or 8 miles long where there was nothing but oak brush or bushes two foot high, very thick, and thinly scattered over the plain were severall old naked pines at about two or three hundred feet distance one from another.  In all this way we met not one living soul nor saw any house but one in ruins.  Some of the inhabitnants call this place the Desert of Arabia.  We breakfasted at one Fanning’s.  (Riverhead.)  Near his house stands.  the county court house, a decayed wooden building, and close by his door runs a small rivulet into an arm of the sea about twenty miles distance which makes the eastern end of Long Island called the Fork.


Part II

          “July 12, 1744.  this day was rainy, but we took horse and rid 10 miles farther to one Hubbard’s where we rested half an hour, then proceeded eight miles farther to the town of Southold, near which the road is level, firm and pleasant, and in the neighborhood are a good many windmills.  The houses are pritty think along the road here.  We put up at one Mrs. More’s in Southold.  In her house appeared nothing but industry.  She and her granddaughters were busied in carding and spinning of wool.  We ordered some eggs for dinner and some chickens.  Mrs. More asked us if we would have bacon fried with our eggs and we told her no.  After dinner we went to inquire for a boat across the Sound.

          “While we were att supper there came in a pedlar with his pack along with one Doctor Hull, a practioner of physick in the town.  We were told that this doctor was very much of a gentleman and a man of great learning.  The pedlar went to show him some linen by candlelight and told him he would be upon honour with him and recommend to him the best of his wares, and as to the price he would let him know the highest and lowest att one word.  There passed some learned conversation between this pedlar and doctor in which the doctor made it plain that the lawyers, clergy and doctors tricked the rest of mankind out of the best part of their substance and made them pay well for doing of nothing.  We left this company att 9 oclock at night and went upstairs to bed, all in one chamber.


Oyster Pond (Orient)

          “Friday July 13.  We took  horse after six in the morning and rid 5 or 6 miles close by the Sound till we came to one Brown’s who was to give us passage in his boat.  Then we proceeded 7 miles farther and stopped att one King’s to wait the tide, when Brown’s boat was to fall down the river and take us in.  The family att King’s were all busy in preparing dinner, the provision for which consisted chiefly in garden stuff.

          “Here we saw some handsome country girls, one of whom wore a perpetual smile on her face and prepared the chocolate for our breakfast.  She presently captivated Parker, who was apt to take flame on all occasions.  After breakfast for pastime we read Quevedo’s Visions and att one oclock dined with the family upon fat pork and green pease.  Att two oclock we observed the boat falling down the river, and having provided ourselves with a store of bread and cheese and some rum and sugar in case of being detained upon the water, that part of the Sound which we had to cross being 18 miles broad, we put our horses on board 10 minutes before three and set sail with a fair wind from the Oyster Pond. 

“Att three oclock we passed the Gutt, a rapid current betwixt the main of Long Island and Shelter Island caused by the tides.  Att a quarter after three we cleared Shelter Island, larboard, upon our weather bow.  Gardiner’s Island bore east by north, starboard, about three leagues’ distance.  This island is in the possession of one man and takes its name from him.  It had been a prey to French privateers in Queen Anne’s war, who used to land upon it and plunder the family and tenants of their stock and provisions, the island lying very bleak upon the ocean just att the easternmost entry of the Sound betwixt Long Island and the main of Connecticut.

          “We arrived in the harbour att New London att half an hour after six and put up att Duchand’s att the sign of the Anchor.  The town of New London is irregularly built along the water side, in it one Presbyterian meeting house and one church.  It is just such another desolate expensive town as Annapolis in Maryland, the houses being mostly wood.

          “The inhabitants were allarmed this night att a sloop that appeared to be rowing up the river into the harbour, they having heard a little before the firing of guns out in the Sound, and seen one vessel as they thought give chase to another.  A shot was fired from the country station sloop in the harbour which whistled through her rigging, and she struck and made answer that it was Capt. Trueman from Antegua.  Then the people’s fears were over for they imagined it was old Morpang, the French rover, who in former times used to plunder these parts when he wanted provision.”

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