Geology of Coram


Article written in the Brooklyn Eagle

March 1, 1906

The following letter was submitted to the newspaper the Brooklyn Eagle on Mar. 1, 1906. The article describes how Major Bryson sought to trace the origin of Coram and add to his geological knowledge. A copy was made from the original in the Queens Borough Public Library in 1952.

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle:

In all of my geological periginations for the past twenty-five years, I had never visited Coram until a few days ago, although it has been my desire to know what it was that gave origin to the Indian legend connected with that region. It is related in Long Island history that the devil on one occasion got into trouble with the primitiveYankees over in Connecticut, and was forced to retire across the Sound at a place known as the "stepping stones," and that in revenge for his disconfiture, he went to work and gathered up all the boulders he could find around Coram and carried them to the Sound for the purpose of bombarding his enemies on the opposite shore.

He certainly did not exhaust all of his ammunition, but why his satanic majesty selected Coram as the depot of supply was a query that has never been explained as far as the present writer is concerned.

I knew it must have had some connection with the bowlder [boulder] phenomenon of that region, and on my recent visit I think I found the key to unlock the mystery.

I started from yaphank on foot, walking all the way to Coram, a distance of over four miles, in order to examine closely the character of the drift formations of this locality. About half way betweeen the two places the hills rise into a broken ridge covered with the boulders, some of the them very large. The fences, or stone walls, along the highway and in the fields, are composed of those erratics until the village of Coram is reached, when the bowlders begin to disappear and only and isolated one is found here and there in the extensive basin which borders the site of this historic little hamlet.

There is also a deeper depression, known to geologist as a kettle-hole, just in the rear of the morraine, a kind of diminutive Ronkonkoma, for the whole basin would have been a lake, had conditions faored. The kettle-hole, however, is about as deep as the Ronkonkoma depression, and was formed in the same way. At the later place the bowlder phenomena is similar to Coram; that is, back of the morraine, or ridge, there are no erratics and on the whole they are less conspicuous in the region of Ronkonkoma.

It is natural, then , that Coram should have been selected for the bowlder legend of the Indians, who were not blind to such phenomena, even if they could not explain them without the supernatural. In fact, such legends exist in all countries where the erratics are found.

The height above sea level of the Coram basin is about 96 feet; the kettle-hole must be so many feet below the round level, and dip into the reservoir which underlies the whole of the island at the level of the ocean.

On the road to Medford a fine section of glacial drifts was exposed in banks along the old country road, which is now being widened and repaired. In the rut through the ridge the bowlders are again in evidence, in what is known as unmodified dritf or sill, which is only about three feet thick. Below this is a fine section of stratified sand and gravel was revealed.

Great floods prevailed here in glacial times, and the moraine is very much broken, especially at Yaphank, where Carman's river is stil in existance, the only live stream that seems to penetrate the backbone of the island.

Why bowlders were carried over a wide depression as the Peconic Valley and csattered on our hills is a question which has perplexed scientists as well as the Indians.

A long, weary march of about eight miles brought me to Patchogue, making in all over fifteen miles of pedestrianism on my seventy-third birthday. The trip was full of interest, however, not only in a geological way, but in its reference to legendary lore.

John Bryson
Eastport, L.I. February 26, 1906.

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