Prosser’s Pine Forest to Become County Park

Footnotes to Long Island History

MAY 4 1967   


Thomas R. Bayles

Walking in Prosser's Pines

    The Suffolk county board of supervisors last week approved the purchased of Prosser pines 50 acre tract of Middle Island land which contains the last remaining white pine forest on long island the history of Prosser pines which is now to become a county park is recalled here by noted historian Thomas R Bayles in an article entitled Prosser Cathedral Pines

     Now that the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors have approved the purchased of the Prosser estate of 50 acres on the Yaphank road in Middle Island which includes the 13 acre white pine forest, something of the history of the Cathedral Pines is of interest.

          It was back in 1812 that uncle Billy Dayton set the first white pine seedlings on his farm in Middle Island on the road to Yaphank, which was in later years purchased by George Prosser. As the years passed the trees grew and seeded themselves over the land that surrounded the first planting until they covered nearly 15 acres and became the most beautiful white pine forest on long Island

As one walks through the quiet solitude of these "Cathedral Pines" covered with a soft carpet of pines needles, and gazes up into their lofty heights, the rush of our modern world seems far away.

          Several years ago a hurricane blew down over 50 of the original tress that had grown to a height 100 feet. A neighboring farmer, Charles Szuster who owns a saw mill, cleared them out and sawed the logs into boards. He also hauled all the brush away and burned it as Mrs. Prosser would not allow any fires near the forest. Where these tress stood, and after they were blown down, the sunlight came into the tress seeded themselves and have become a thriving grove of growing pines again.

       Mr. Prosser took great pride in keeping the forest in first class condition during his lifetime. He built the road running all around the forest and it was enjoyed by the public for years until careless people went there for picnics and left rubbish all around. Finally conditions got so bad that for several years the white pine forest has been closed to the public, although Mrs. Prosser gave permission to the writer to take many groups of school children and others through this wonderland of nature until her death last winter.

       Across the road runs the Connecticut (now called Carman's) River which was so important in the early life of that settlers in this area as it furnished water power to run their saw and grist mills. This is part of the acreage along the river from South Haven to Middle Island that has taken over by the county for a wild life refuge.

           On the west side of the river lies a large tract of land consisting of several hundred acres that has been purchased by the Suffolk County Boy Scouts for a camping area, and is known as Camp Wilderness At times over 2000 scouts camp there on weekends.

           Now that the Cathedral Pines will become a part of the Suffolk County park system, we have the assurance that they will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

        The following poem was written especially for the cathedral pines by Walter Beverly Crane several years ago.

               " of Prosser's dreamy woods I sing.
              Each tree a harp each branch a string.
              The cadence soft and low is balm,
              In Prosser's woods a hallowing calm
             Tis God's cathedral, minister choir,
             The singing pines are harp and lyre;
             In Prosser's woods I voice a prayer,
            And worship god and nature there."

         The sentiments in Mr. Cranes poem were also those of a great Long Island poet, William Cullen Bryant when he wrote in 1910, "the groves were God's first temples. In the darkling wood, amid the cool and silence, man knelt down and offered to the mightiest, solemn thanks and supplication.

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