In Old Days, Postage Was Collected at Receiver’s End

Footnotes to Long Island History

SEPT 29 1966 


Thomas R. Bayles

       This is the fourth of a series of five articles on the early years in Brookhaven town This first post route was established in 1764 and a post rider on horse back went through the north side of the Island and back on the south side once in two weeks the first post office in Brookhaven was opened at Middle Island in 1796 which was then called Middletown with Appollus Wetmore as the first postmaster.

       A report  for this post office in 1812 shows a return to  the Post master General for the year of $17.92. For many years the mail was very light. In 1824 the rate  of postage on a letter of one sheet of paper up to 80 miles was 10 cents and for over 400 miles it was 25 cents. A letter of two sheets was charged double that rate. At first, most of the letters were sent with postage to be collected on the delivery end.

       According to the post office records in the National Archives at Washington D.C., there were 11 post offices in Brookhaven Town in 1830. They were Middletown, 1796, (later called Brookhaven and changed to Middle Island in 1820); Drowned Meadow (Port Jefferson) 1801; Patchogue 1802; Fireplace 1803 (changed to Brookhaven in 1871); Stony Brook 1807; Setauket and New Village both 1821; Miller Place and Wading River both 1825; Coram 1826; and Moriches 1827.

       Before the main line of the Long Island Railroad was opened through to Riverhead and Greenport in July 1844, travel on land was by the mail stage coach, and it took two or three days to go from the east end villages to New York.

       It was a day of great rejoicing when the "iron horse" finally came and a trip to the city only took about three hours. Prime in his history of Long Island in 1845, says, "It is impossible to divine the amazing changes which this improvement will effect on both the intellectual and secular interest of the eastern part of the Island. But until the people beheld with their own eyes the cumbrous train of cars drawn by an iron horse, spouting forth smoke and steam, passing like a steed of lightning through their fields and forests with such velocity that they could not tell whether the countenances of the people were human, celestial or infernal, they would not believe that a rail road had the power to annihilate both time and space."

       The first real move towards educating the children by the town was when the Town of Brookhaven was divided into school districts in 1813, by a vote of people at a town meeting held in Coram. Within a short time small, one room school house were build in all the village of the town. These were about 20 x 24 feet in size and had slanting desks attached to the wall around the sides of the room, and seats in the center of the room made from slabs sawed out at the local saw mill, which had no backs. A fire place at first furnished heat and later a stove that took in a large chunk of wood and threw out lots of heat. Only part of the children went at one time, and the older boys attended school during the winter months when the farm work was slack, and the younger children in the open season, as they all had to walk, some as far as two miles. The teacher at first received about ten dollars a month and board, as the custom of 'boarding round' at the homes of the pupils was common in those days.

       "The oldest road of any length in the town was the "Old Town Road" which was opened from Setauket to the early settlement at South Haven and Fireplace soon after settlement was made at Setauket. The middle country road was opened around 1700 and for many years was the most important highway between Brooklyn and the east end villages. Before many years, roads running through the Island on the north and south side were opened. The town ordered in 1707 that every freeholder should work two days a year in clearing the commons and the highways.

       One of the most important men in the early life of the town was Richard Woodhull who was born in Northhamptonshire, England, in 1620. He was located in Brookhaven Town in 1657, and in that year purchased meadows at Mastic for the town. He was a surveyor for the primitive colony, and in 1661 was appointed to many offices and acted on many important commissions, and according to one historian, "the records of Brookhaven and the facts of history are the modest but unfaltering witness to a character, which for principles of honor and justice unselfish motives far seeing discretion and kindliness of manners has few superiors among the honored names of American history.

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