Monday, January 24, 2011

143 Years Ago, Part III

Continuing along with this historic series, here are excerpts from the third of a series of articles published by The Southampton Press titled “Southampton Sixty Years Ago,” beginning in December of 1927 and written by Benjamin C. Palmer.

“In our last article we stated that Southampton was discovered and placed on the map by Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas and Salem H. Wales, Esq. To make that plainer we might add that through them it became an established summer resort attractive to men of wealth, who built and who are still building residences of a substantial order and making it their home town in the summertime.

But others came before them, either by accident or through some friend, and were known as “Boarders.” They were catered to by quite a number of the village people, who were only too glad to increase the size of their family by an additional member who was wealthy enough to pay seven dollars per week during the summer season, and some of these transitory additions continued to come for some years, and some even bought land and built homes for summer use.

The home people were thrifty, money was scarce……….So the young men were forced out and away from home in order to find the way to a livelihood. Many went bass fishing in the fall for the New York market that brought cash if fishing was good. Some went to New York and a few took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west, but the leading inducement was to go whaling. Many went. Some made good voyages, worked up from before the mast through the various officerships, became captains and returned home to establish homes and become substantial citizens. That is how we use to have so many captains here.

One we recall….was the renowned Mercator Cooper, Capt. of the whaler "Manhattan," which went out from Sag Harbor. It was he who ran across a crew, 28 we believe, of shipwrecked Japanese sailors in the Pacific Ocean and sailed with them right into the Japanese port, delivering them safe. Japan was then, in 1845, a pagan nation and all ports closed to strangers. This was a brave Christian act on the part of Capt. Cooper and Southampton people have always been proud of the fact that he was a native and resident here. His home was in that colonial building on the hill top west of Windmill lane now occupied by Robert R. Kendrick, [now Cooper Hall, part of the Rogers Memorial Library] who married Miss Howell, grand-daughter. The captain died in 1872.

The old Post house just south of the Methodist Church was the best equipped boarding house in the old days, owned by the late Albert J. Post. His sister, wife of Captain Hubert White, parent of our present smiling Town Clerk, held forth as the general manager and gained a well deserved reputation. This house was built in 1684 making it one of and perhaps the oldest house in the village today.

Across from the Methodist Church stands the old time residence of Capt. George G. White. Capt. George and Mr. Albert were great friends, but Capt. George was unfortunate according to Mr. Albert and he “orter know,” for Capt. George was one of ”them air” Democrats, and they had many a heated debate as to the pros and cons, but Mr. Albert always won out when it came to election because he was a Republican, while the poor Capt. lost out because he was a Democrat. We can see in the pages of our memory pictures of Capt. George – tall, slender, active, wiry and well tanned by the weather exposure. We can see him striding down Main street with a flash of fire in his eye going to town meeting; probably no man in town was more conversant with the town’s rights, roads, water fronts, rights of way, than he. He visioned the gradual absorbing of these rights by people who had no right to absorb them and he was up in arms to defend them for the people and he did. When Capt. George spoke in meeting everybody listened to his impressive truths. When he was called home to his fathers, Southampton lost a loyal citizen, one who would have made a most efficient official. What a pity he was a Democrat, but he was born so and couldn’t help it.”

Ha! Stay tuned for Part IV.

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