Smith, Lucy

C.A. Brown
Jan. 26, 1997


Who and Where is Lucy Smith ?

 For a few moments after each Sunday service, the names behind the altar drew my attention. For the two years that I have come to worship at this church I wondered what was the thread that brought those names together. Obviously, the individuals were associated with the congregation of that time. However, there was a wide range between the life spans of the persons named that I wondered what the little child, Florence W. Smith, who died in her fourth year in 1893, might have had in common with Catherine Terry who lived to eighty-nine years and died five years after little Florence. Low on the left hand side is written the name of Fred Dare. What ended this young man’s journey through life at the early age of twenty three years in 1896 ? Was it due to one of the diseases prevalent at that time Consumption ( now known as Tubercu­losis ), Pneumonia or maybe Tetanus resulting from an accident on his father’s farm.

 It was the name of Tilly V. Mott that kept drawing my attention. Born in 1883, she went to the Lord in 1903 at the relatively young age of 20 years. With a name like “Tilly” I imagine her as outgoing and happy, with smiling eyes that caught the attention of young men riding. past on the tree lined dirt track that was Middle Country Road in the 1890s. Was Tilly’s laughter and love taken from her family as quickly and unexpectedly as Fred Dare’s had been?

 My curiosity about young Tilly Mott started my search. I went to the Longwood library and in the Thomas A. Bayles Local History Room I found reference Volumes such as the 1886 Suffolk County History, the Federal Census of 1850, and many other volumes that provided some answers, but also raised other questions. My initial question was quickly resolved. What the names behind the altar have in common was that in the early 1900s the parishioners of the Trinity Methodist Church replaced the original small windows with the eight larger windows we now have. The donors dedicated the windows in memory of their loved ones, whose names are listed behind the altar. That told me why the names were there, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the individuals.

 In the 1850 Federal Census I found Richard W. Smith and his family listed. Richard Smith’s house stood on the Northeast side of the junction of Middle Country Road and Rte112.. Probably right between the current Auto Barn Parking lot and the Joyce Leslie store. The census of 1850 lists the occupants of the home as Richard W. Smith, a Farmer, age 53 with his Wife Frances, 41 years of age and their two Sons, Richard age 25, also a Farmer and John age 22, whose occupation was given as a Merchant.

 An interesting detail caught my attention. The census taker also noted that living in Richard Smith’s home was one Lucy Smith age 95 If she was 95 in 1850, then she must have been born in 1755.

 Even by current standards, Ninety-Five years is a full life. To reach that age in a time when the level of medical knowledge could do little to ease injuries, cure disease or minimize pain, is an achievement of note! Just outside our church, next to the road than goes through the cemetery, and in front of an old hitching post you’ll find the headstones for Richard and Frances Smith and their two sons. However, I found no trace of a resting place for Lucy Smith, the long-lived family matriarch.

 Lucy Smith was a young woman of 25 years when on 23 November 1780, twelve rebel soldiers sent by Major Benjamin Tallmadge destroyed several hundred tons of hay the British had stored in Coram. Since the Hay storage area was located practically in the back yard of the Joshua Smith house, Lucy Smith probably watched the flames and smoke rising in the chilly November sky over Coram. Although they owned a farm the Smiths weren’t Gentleman farmers. They tilled their fields, and harvested the crops themselves. While the men worked in the fields, Lucy would have tended a small vegetable garden and kept some chickens for eggs and meat to supplement the family’s diet. The scent of woodsmoke and candle tallow probably permeated her hair and clothing. Her hands would have been rough, chapped and calloused from chopping wood for the cooking fires and drawing water from a well. At only 25 years of age, she probably displayed a noticeable squint when focusing on closer objects, as her eyesight would be starting to deteriorate from the constant irritation of wood smoke and the strain of reading and sewing by candlelight.

 I returned to the Library to see what other information might be found about the persons whose names are on our altar wall. I found that Richard Smith’s Grandfather was one Isaac Smith. The records show that on 24 November 1778 Isaac Smith signed an Oath of Allegiance to King George III of England. Evidently Isaac later changed his mind, as only a year late, in 1779 the Loyalist press reported that “ Mr. Petticoat Isaac has been remarkably industrious in harboring, or supplying the rebels with provisions.” The 1886 Suffolk History indicates that when the British came to Coram and arrested Isaac for his activities against the Crown, Isaac Smith, then 48 years old, later escaped by disguising himself in woman’s clothes. (Probably in his Wife Martha’s clothing). This escapade gained Isaac the less than heroic sounding nickname of “Petticoat”. The parishioners of the Baptist Church, then standing on the present site of our church, would have consoled the young Lucy Smith. Her Husband, Joshua Smith, was wanted by the authorities for his raids on the Loyalists of Brookhaven town. Joshua Smith, like many other Long Islanders had fled to Connecticut and periodically crossed the sound in whaleboats to raid and rob those they viewed as loyal to England. ( If you’ve taken the Port Jefferson Ferry, you know that was no short row in a whaleboat ).

 In addition to the usual objective to plunder and loot Loyalists, Joshua Smith liked to capture British soldiers that had strayed too far from their garrisons. He took them back to Connecticut and then to New York City where he would exchange them for rebels the British held as Prisoners of War. Lucy Smith’s Father-in-Law, Isaac Smith, was now also a wanted man in hiding, and British soldiers were billeted in Joshua Smith’s home, which was then located near what is now the “triangle” of trees across the street from our church.

  After the Revolutionary War ended President George Washington toured Long Island to visit several of his personal friends and other staunch supporters of the revolution. On April 22nd, 1790 he stopped in Coram for lunch. Presumably the local residents informed him of the town’s part in the war. President Washington asked if he and his coach driver might dine in the room where British officers had once resided. President Washington’s hostess on that occasion was Lucy Smith, the mother of our Richard W. Smith. Richard was born seven years after George Washington’s visit to Coram. But one can imagine a young Richard Smith at bedtime, pleading with his mother to tell him once again about the famous President’s visit to her home.

 Now I was very interested in finding where Lucy Smith was buried. She wasn’t with her Son Richard and his family. Assuming that the Smith family had been members of the Baptist congregation, and the records show that “Petticoat Isaac” died in 1789, and Lucy’s husband Joshua passed away in 1811, those gentlemen would probably have been laid to rest in the old Baptist Cemetery across the street from our Trinity Methodist Cemetery. Since the 1850 census taker had listed Lucy Smith as living in her son Richard’s home, Lucy obviously lived on for several decades after her husband Joshua died. Where do people usually want to be buried ? Traditionally it is with their spouses. So I looked in the Old Baptist Cemetery and there I found Lucy Smith’s resting place. Located between the left side of the Sanford family plot and a tree are Richard W. Smith’s ancestors. On..-one side of Lucy is “ Petticoat Isaac “ who died on February 6, 1789, and on the other side is her husband Joshua. Displaced by the effects of time and weather, or vandals, the headstones for Isaac and Lucy Smith lie on the ground. Nearby is a smaller headstone indicating that Lucy and Joshua had another son, also named Joshua, who died at the age of two.

 The inscription on Lucy Smith’s headstone informs the reader that she died on 4 December 1851 at the age of 96 Years, 7 Months and 12 Days and that she “ Died in the residence of her Son Richard W. Smith in Coram L.I. “ No indication is given on the headstones about the role this family performed in America’s founding. Nor is there a hint that Lucy had hosted a meal for one of America’s most respected founding fathers. After the church service today, look in the Old Baptist Cemetery and pay your respects to Lucy Smith. Her grave is the one with the red, white and blue flowers.

 Next week invite a friend to our Sunday service and let them share a page in the history of our Church, its congregation and our nation.

 26 Jan/97
 C.A. Brown


Follow up:

6 April 1997     FOLLOW—UPS TO WHO AND WHERE IS ??


While investigating some background on the Davis house I noticed in a volume on Suffolk County history a small note that Lucy Wallace Smith was reported to have also hosted a meal for General Lafayette in her hometown of North Salem, NY in Westchester County I This was somewhat of a surprise. First because I had assumed Lucy was a local girl when she married Joshua Smith, and secondly to find out that in addition to hosting a notable person as President George Washington, that Lucy had also met the famous General Lafayette

 I contacted the North Salem Library, and they in turn referred me to Mr. Richard Yakman, North Salem’s Town Historian. In response to my inquiries Mr. Yakman very kindly responded with a letter and some very detailed family history of the Wallace family of North Salem, NY. Lucy Wallace was born April 10th, 1757. This coming Thursday will be the 240th Anniversary of her Birthday I 

Lucy’s parents were James and Abagail ( Burt ) Wallace. Both were 45 Years of age, and had been married for twenty—two (22) years when Lucy was born in 1757. Lucy was the ninth of the ten children ( 5 sons and 5 daughters ). The James Wallace home was situated near the Danbury road in North Salem. The North Salem Town Historian, Mr. R. Yakman states that the Wallace family was one of North Salem’s founding families. Lucy’s Father, James, and his brother John apparently owned large tracts of land and their families were well to do. There is no definite record showing that General Lafayette dined at the Wallace home. However, during the Revolution French troops under the command of General Rochembeau did bivouac in North Salem.

The Wallaces’ would have extended an invitation to an ally of General Rochembeau’s social standing, and who is to say that General Lafayette may have been in the area at the time visiting his subordinate, General Rochembeau. Or perhaps later in her long life, when recalling an event of her younger days, our Lucy may have understandably confused one gallant French officer visiting her home with another.

 During the French and Indian War, Lucy’s Father, James, served with New York Provincial troops as a Captain. Her older brother Thomas, enlisted on 20 April 1762 at the age of 19 and served with his Father.

 I still have not been able to verify when Lucy Wallace of North Salem married Joshua Smith of Coram. If it was before the Revolution it would be interesting to learn how these two met and courted when their homes were so far apart. Although the Smith’s of Coram were not poor, their social status would have been well below the Wallaces’ of North Salem. Lucy would have been marrying

below her station for those days, which would have disappointed her parents. That may account for the fact that although her husband and Father—in—law were fugitives during the Revolution, Lucy remained in Coram rather than returning home to North Salem and living in relative comfort with her family. If any disharmony existed, it must have been resolved in later years, as Lucy sent her son Richard ( the same one who is buried right outside our church by the cemetery road ) back to the North Salem Academy for his education.

[ Note: Richard’s Uncle, Abijah Wallace, was the then the president of the board of trustees for the North Salem Academy. I’m sure young Richard Smith received every consideration and kindness from the instructors and staff of the Academy 1! ] His education apparently served him well, for Richard went on to be elected Sheriff of Suffolk County 1832—1834, a member of the NY State Assembly in 1844 and Justice of the Peace from 1856 to 1859.

 Another footnote of interest is that Lucy’s older brother Abijah had a daughter he named Lucy in honor of his little sister. In 1797 she married a Caleb Hulse ( pronounced Halsey ) and also moved to Brookhaven, where she must have visited with her Aunt Lucy in Coram. Does anyone in the congregation know where in Brookhaven there might be headstones for Lucy Smith’s niece and her husband ?

( Ans: Union Cemetery on Middle Country Rd )

Lucy (Wallace) Hulse   (b)        Aug 20 1780            (d)        Mar 21 1868
Caleb Hulse      (b)        ?            (d)        ?


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