The “old country road,” as it is called along its line, was the first laid out by authority through Long Island, and ran from Fulton Ferry to Orient, with a branch from Riverhead to Easthampton. A colonial commission laid it out in 1704. From Fulton Ferry to Smithtown it has been largely merged in other roads and its identity destroyed, but from Smithtown to Riverhead it exists as in earlier times. A journey over it introduces the traveler to a section of the island remote from railroads and little known to tourists, yet with a quiet beauty of its own and not without objects of interest.
At Lake Forest the tourist is within a mile of Lake Ronkonkoma, the largest, most beautiful and mysterious of Long Island lakes. A good bicycle path leads to it from Lake Forest.
Selden, some seven miles east of Lake Forest, is notable as being the point where the cycle path from Port Jefferson to Patchogue crosses the old country road. Some two miles further on is Coram, the geographical center of the town of Brookhaven, where for nearly fifty years town meetings were held and freemen came from all over the town to vote. From Coram it is eight miles to Patchogue, in the southern part of Brookhaven Township; seven to Port Jefferson, in the extreme northern part; fourteen to Moriches, in the extreme southeastern corner, and fourteen to Stony Brook, in the northwestern.
The old country road was in former times the route of the stage coach from New York. There are men living along it who remember those days vividly.
“The stage brought the New York paper,” said one octogenarian, “always with us, the Weekly Post, edited by William Cullen Bryant, and I remember how eagerly we watched for its coming. The railroad went through from Farmingdale to Greenport in 1843, or about that time, and the stage would start from its terminus as it progressed. While they were building it, west of Medford station, I remember going down to see the operation, being then a boy of 10 or 12.
“When the road had got as far as Yaphank the officials came down on a trial trip, and father, mother and I went over to see the great men. There was one little car, drawn by a diminutive locomotive, called the James B. Fisk, after the first president of the Long Island Railroad, I think, and which is, or was a few years ago, in the round house of the road at Long Island City. We were invited on board with several other citizens and rode for half a mile or and return. A little later Richard W. Smith ( of Coram)started a stage line from Medford Station to Port Jefferson, and I was the first stage driver. That was forty-seven years ago, and, as you can imagine, I have seen some changes since then.”
It is about four miles and a fairly good road, with side path, from Coram to Middle Island. This is a farming community, and all along the way pleasant rural landscapes and scenes appear, some of which were caught with the camera. Middle Island is notable for three things, Artist Lake, the old Hutchinson House and as being the home of Mr. Richard M. Bayles, the local historian.
Artist Lake is almost unknown to the great public, and has comparatively few visitors. Its shores are very winding, with here a bay, there a cape and it mirrors fine old forests for nearly its entire length. It took its name from an artist who, chancing upon it in a summer’s wandering, built his cottage beside its dancing waters, and lived and died beside them.
The old Hutchinson House is one of the landmarks of the country, being quite one hundred and fifty years old. Its windows are small paned. The heavy outside door is two-leased, as is often the case in old colonial houses, but in this instance the door is divided by a line drawn vertically from top to bottom, instead of horizontally, as is usual. The huge iron locks of the doors are set in blocks of wood, and there is the usual number of cupboards and closets.
Mr. Bayles is the historian of Suffolk County and an authority on all matters relating to its history. Beside his “History of Suffolk County” he has been employed by prominent publishers to write the history of several other counties.
Beyond Artist Lake the country road enters the oak forest that marks the arid belt of the island, and so continues nearly to Riverhead. This section is almost impassable for the wheeler and toilsome for horses. The only resource for the former is to take the railroad at Yaphank, the nearest railway station, some four miles distant.
The article is from the Brooklyn Eagle Archive
Date: September 29, 1900