Migration From Island

Footnotes to Long Island History

Migration From Island

Thomas R. Bayles



It was in 1792 that Silas Halsey of Southampton set sail in a sloop for New York, taking with him a hired man and a Negro servant. After reaching New York he transferred his baggage to a sloop bound for Albany, where he crossed a portage from Albany to Schenectady over the sand hills and plains, to avoid the Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk. At Schenectady he purchased a boat and "poled" and rowed up the river to the place where Rome is now located. Here he transported his boat by wagon to Wood Creek, and rowed down the creek to Oneida Lake and Seneca River into Seneca Lake, and on to Lodi Landing, a distance of about 500 miles from Southampton. The weather was favorable for exploration and he selected a tract of land on lot No. 37 in Ovid. Here he started an "improvement," cleared off the underbrush and built a small log house. Wheat was sown on about six acres without plowing, and the seed harrowed in with a rough, wooden tooth harrow of those days.

Mr. Halsey secured a quart of apple seeds from Indian Orchard at Cooley's Point, and planted them with care, forming probably the first nursery in that region. Having established his homestead, he returned to his home in Southampton and in April 1793, Mr. Halsey left Southampton with his family consisting of his son and wife and children, also his son-in-law and his family, numbering in all 18 persons. After a trip of six weeks they landed in May at Cooley's Point, and soon reached their new home. Their neighbors were located from two to 15 miles distant in various directions through the dense wilderness, broken only by an occasional Indian trail, or the corn fields of the Senecas.

Judge Halsey, with an enterprise and public spirit that distinguished him through a long and useful life, built a grist mill on which proved to be a valuable asset to the region. Before this mill was erected the nearest point where grain could be ground was the village of Rome and one near Penn Yan, which was built in 1790, and here the first bag of grain, was ground in western New York. This was used by the settlers in the region round about until Mr. Halsey built his mill above the falls of Lodi.

Through untiring industry and sound judgment Mr. Halsey and his family worked and prospered in their new home. Mr. Halsey died at the ripe old age of 90 years.

During the years after the Revolution, many of the settlers of eastern Long Island seemed to get restless and a number of them migrated to the "New Country" along the Mohawk River in upper New York State.
Among the prominent men who moved to the "New Country" was Gen. William Floyd of Mastic. When he returned to his large estate in Mastic after the war, he soon went "upstate" and began to buy land along the Mohawk river in Westernville. By 1803 he had established a home there similar to his ancestral one at Mastic, and in that year moved there with his family.

It seems strange that he should have left his life-long home at the age of 69 to start life all over in another part of the state, but it may have been that he felt his son, Nicoll, who had seven children, needed all the room in the family homestead. So in his new home on the bank of the Mohawk River, he lived until his death in 1821, which brought to an end the life of this native Long Islander, whose name will ever hold an honored place in the history of our country , and as one the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

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