Long Island’s Islands

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In addition to the main island, several smaller islands comprise what is collectively considered Long Island.

These islands include:

FireIslandLighthouse1)  Fire Island is the large center island of the outer barrier islands parallel to the south shore of Long Island, New York. Occasionally, the name is used to refer collectively to not only the central island, but also Long Beach Barrier Island, Jones Beach Island, and Westhampton Island, since the straits which separate these islands are ephemeral. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy once again divided Fire Island into two islands. Together, these two islands are approximately 31 miles (50 km) long and vary between 520 and 1,310 feet (160 and 400 m) wide. Fire Island is part of Suffolk County. It lies within the towns of Babylon, Islip, and Brookhaven, containing two villages and a number of hamlets. All parts of the island not within village limits are part of the Fire Island census-designated place (CDP), which had a permanent population of 292 at the 2010 census, though that expands to thousands of residents and tourists during the summer months.

The physical attributes of the island have changed over time and they continue to change. At one point it stretched more than 60 miles (97 km) from Jones Beach Island to Southampton.  Around 1683, Fire Island Inlet broke through, separating it from Jones Beach Island. The Fire Island Inlet grew to 9 miles (14 km) in width before receding. The Fire Island Lighthouse was built in 1858, right on the inlet, but Fire Island’s western terminus at Democrat Point has steadily moved west so that the lighthouse today is 6 miles (10 km) from the inlet.

Fire Island separated from Southampton in a 1931 Nor’easter when Moriches Inlet broke through. Moriches Inlet and efforts by local communities east of Fire Island to protect their beach front with jetties have led to an interruption in the longshore drift of sand going from east to west and is blamed for erosion of the Fire Island beachfront. Between these major breaks there have been reports over the years of at least six inlets that broke through the island but have since disappeared.

Plum-Island-Center2)  Plum Island is an island in the Town of Southold in Suffolk County, New York in the United States. The Island is situated in Gardiners Bay, east of Orient Point, off the eastern end of the North Fork coast of Long Island. It is about 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1-mile (1.6 km) wide at its widest point.

The Island is the site of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) which was established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1954. The Island is also the site of the former U.S. military installation Fort Terry (c. 1897), and the historic Plum Island Light (c. 1827), and its automated replacement.

Plum Island is owned in its entirety by the United States Government, which was considering sale of the Island as part of a debt-reduction package, but suspended the plan in February 2012. Access to the island is controlled by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

On August 29, 2013, the United States General Services Administration (GSA) and United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final “Record of Decision (ROD): Public Sale of Plum Island, New York”

Plum Island was called “Manittuwond” by the Native American Pequot Nation. Plum Island was probably first seen by Europeans in 1614 when Adriaen Block, a Dutchman employed by the Dutch West India Company, charted the area. The Island was named from the beach plums that grow along the shores, and an old Dutch map made about 1640 shows the name “Pruym Eyelant” (Plum Island). In 1659, the Island was purchased by Samuel Wyllys III (Samuel Willis III), son of the Governor of Connecticut, from Wyandanch, the ruling local Indian Chieftain of Long Island, for a coat, a barrel of biscuits and 100 fishhooks.

On August 11, 1775, General David Wooster dispatched 120 soldiers to the island, then known as Plumb Island, who were immediately fired upon by the British. After firing a single return volley the soldiers retreated back to Long Island. Although no casualties were reported, this brief skirmish is believed to have represented at least one American military first, the first amphibious assault by an American army.[citation needed]

The historic Plum Island Lighthouse is located at the west end of the island. The first lighthouse on Plum Island was constructed in 1827 and subsequently rebuilt. The light marks the east side of “Plum Gut”, a mile-wide entrance to Long Island Sound with extremely strong tidal currents. The light aided navigation near the entrance to Long Island Sound, especially through the “Plum Gut” channel between Orient Point and Plum Island.

robins-island-ny3)  Robins Island is a 435-acre (1.76 km2) undeveloped island in Peconic Bay by the eastern end of Long Island off the coast of New Suffolk, New York. The island is privately owned and not accessible to the public and is within the jurisdiction of the Town of Southold in Suffolk County, New York in the USA.

Robins Island was part of the 1615 deed to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling by King Charles I in which Alexander received all of Long Island and adjacent islands.  Alexander gave James Farret power to act as his agent and attorney in settling Long Island. In reward Farret was allowed to choose 12,000 acres (49 km2) for his personal use. Farret chose Shelter Island and Robins Island for his use. Farret in turn sold the islands to Stephen Goodyear, one of the founders of the New Haven Colony in 1641.

The island was purchased by a Parker Wickham in 1715. The island and other nearby lands in Suffolk County were confiscated in 1779 during the American Revolution by act of attainder, and Wickham, a Loyalist, was banished from the state. When his property was put up for sale, it was purchased in 1784 by Caleb Brewster and Benjamin Tallmadge, who had been members of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolutionary War. The island was purchased for $1.3 million in 1979 by two German investors, Herbert and Claus Mittermayer, who planned to sell it to private developers. In 1989, Wickham’s descendants attempted to regain the property, but their lawsuit was dismissed in 1992.

In 1989, Suffolk County agreed to purchase Robins Island for $9.2 million and turn it into a nature preserve. However, the island never fell into public ownership because of legal disputes, as another developer had signed a contract to purchase the Robins Island for $15.3 million and develop 22 luxury homes on five-acre lots, while preserving much of the island. The deal collapsed after the county determined that an environmental study was necessary before the island could be purchased and developed.

Robins Island is currently owned by Wall Street financier Louis Bacon, who purchased it in 1993 at a bankruptcy court auction for $11 million. Bacon has invested considerably in restoring the neglected island, going so far as to import full-grown oak trees to replace ones harvested for lumber years earlier. Some non-native grasses were removed from the island and replaced, and hunters reduced an overgrown deer population. The island has the healthiest turtle population in the state, which includes the Eastern mud turtle. Bacon is known for hosting traditional English “driven pheasant” hunts on the island for wealthy guests.

gardiners_island4) Gardiners Island, a small island in the town of East Hampton, New York, in eastern Suffolk County; it is located in Gardiners Bay between the two peninsulas at the eastern end of Long Island. It is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, 3 miles (4.8 km) wide and has 27 miles (43 km) of coastline. The island has been owned by the Gardiner family and their descendants for nearly 400 years, and it is the only American real estate still intact as part of an original royal grant from the English Crown. It is one of the larger privately owned islands in the United States, but not the largest.  It is of similar size, although smaller, than Naushon Island in Massachusetts that is owned by the Forbes family.

In 1639, on the basis of a grant by King Charles I, the island was settled by Lion Gardiner as a proprietary colony, the first English colonial settlement in what later became New York state. The island was originally in its own jurisdiction, not part of Connecticut or Rhode Island, long before there was a state of New York. It has been privately owned by Gardiner’s descendants for over three hundred and fifty years and is the only real estate in the United States still held by a royal grant from the English Crown.

Lion Gardiner reportedly purchased the island locally in 1639 from the Montaukett Indians for “a large black dog, some powder and shot, and a few Dutch blankets.” The Indians called the island Manchonake, while Gardiner initially called it Isle of Wight, because it reminded him of the Isle of Wight in England. The Montauketts gave Gardiner title at least in part because of his support for them in the Pequot War.

The original royal patent of 1639 gave Gardiner the “right to possess the land forever”, with the island being declared a proprietary colony. Lion Gardiner was given the title of Lord of the Manor and thus was able to govern the island.

On April 22, 1636, the King had ordered the Plymouth Colony, which had laid claim to the island but had not settled it, to yield its claim to William Alexander, future Earl of Stirling. Alexander sold much of Long Island to the New Haven and Connecticut colonies, but that land remained unsettled.

On October 5, 1665, after it had been settled that the English, rather than the Dutch, would rule Long Island, and that it would not be part of Connecticut, Richard Nicolls, the first Governor of the Province of New York, issued a new patent to Lion Gardiner’s son David Gardiner.

In 1688, when Governor Thomas Dongan granted a patent formally establishing the East Hampton government, there was an attempt to annex the Island to East Hampton. However, the Gardiners resisted and Dongan reaffirmed its special status. The island’s special status was to continue until after the American Revolution, when it was formally annexed to East Hampton. Gardiner established a plantation on the island for growing corn, wheat, fruit, and tobacco, as well for raising livestock.

fishers_island5) Fishers Island, about 9 miles (14 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, is located at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, 2 miles (3 km) off the southeastern coast of Connecticut across Fishers Island Sound. It is about 11 miles (18 km) from the tip of Long Island, 2 miles (3 km) from Napatree Point, Rhode Island, and Groton Long Point, Connecticut, and about 7 miles (11 km) southeast of New London, Connecticut, from which it is accessible by plane or regular ferry service.

It is part of the town of Southold in Suffolk County in the U.S. state of New York. It is a census-designated place (CDP). As of the 2010 census there were 236 people living year-round on 4.1 square miles (10.6 km2) of land; however, the population rises to about 2,000 during peak summer weekends[citation needed] as throngs from Connecticut disembark on the island.

The island was called Munnawtawkit by the Native American Pequot nation. Adriaen Block, the first recorded European visitor, named it Visher’s Island in 1614, after one of his companions. For the next 25 years, it remained a wilderness, visited occasionally by Dutch traders.

In 1640, John Winthrop the Younger, son of the famous Governor Winthrop, the founder of Boston, obtained from the Massachusetts Bay Colony a grant of Fisher’s Island so far as it was theirs to grant, “reserving the right of Connecticut if it should be decided to be theirs.” Nearly at the same time, in order that there might be no flaw in his title, he applied to the Connecticut General Court for a similar grant, which was given him in the following words, which are copied from the records of a General Court, held at Hartford, Connecticut, April 9, 1641:

“Upon Mr. Winthrop’s motion to the court for Fisher’s Island, it is the mind of the court that so far as it hinders not the public good of the country, either for fortifying for defense, or setting up a trade for fishing or salt and such like, he shall have liberty to proceed therein.”

Winthrop lived only one winter on the island. Winthrop was named governor of the Connecticut Colony 1657-1658 and 1659-1676, and he used the island to raise sheep for food and wool. After Winthrop died in 1676, his son, Fitz-John, installed a lessee farmer from England, William Walworth, on the island. Walworth brought with him a system of cultivation which was continued on the island for nearly 200 years. He established farmland out of the heavily forested island. Walworth and his family vacated the island nine years later due to the threat of pirates. Fishers Island remained in the Winthrop family of Connecticut until 1863, when ownership passed to Robert R. Fox, and then to Edmund and Walton Ferguson, also of Connecticut.

Shelter-island-ny6) Shelter Island is a Town and island at the eastern end of Long Island in the U.S. state of New York. Considered part of Suffolk County, it is separated from the rest of the county by water. The population was 2,392 at the 2010 census.

The island was long inhabited by indigenous peoples, related to those who lived north of Long Island Sound. At the time of European encounter, it was occupied by the Manhanset tribe, an Algonquian language-speaking people related to the Pequot and other Algonquians of New England.

Shelter Island was included in the original Plymouth Company land grant made by James I of England in 1620. On April 22, 1636, Charles I of England, told that the colony had not made any settlements yet on Long Island, gave the island to William Alexander, the Earl of Stirling. The grant gave Alexander all of Long Island and adjacent islands. Alexander gave James Farret power to act as his agent and attorney in colonizing Long Island. In reward Farret was allowed to choose 12,000 acres (49 km2) for his personal use. Farret chose Shelter Island and Robin’s Island for his use. Farret in turn sold the islands to Stephen Goodyear, one of the founders of the New Haven Colony.

In 1651 Goodyear sold the island to a group of Barbados sugar merchants for 1,600 pounds of sugar. Nathaniel Sylvester (1610–1680), one of the merchants, was the island’s first white settler. He was among a number of English merchants who had lived and worked in Rotterdam (where he was born) before going to Barbados. His connections there and with the Netherlands helped him establish a far-flung trading enterprise. On March 23, 1652, he made the purchase official by agreement with Youghco (called Pogatticut), the sachem of the Manhanset tribe. The other owners, Sylvester’s brother Constant, and Thomas Middleton, never came to Long Island. In 1673 Nathaniel Sylvester claimed ownership of Shelter Island, Fishers Island, and other parts of Long Island. By that time the Manhansett had declined in number and power.

In 1652 Sylvester constructed a house on the island for his 17-year-old bride, Grissel (also spelled Grizzel) Brinley from London. Her mother was Anna (Wase) Brinley and her father Thomas Brinley had been an auditor in the court of King Charles I. With the Revolution he had lost his position; Grissel had gone to the colony with her older sister Anne, who had married William Coddington, the governor of the Rhode Island colony. Archeological research in the 21st century has revealed there may have been two early house complexes. The Sylvesters had eleven surviving children. The more elaborate manor house, which survives today, was built in 1733 by a Sylvester grandson.

The Sylvester estate was developed as a large provisioning plantation. It raised food crops, as well as livestock for slaughter, sending casks of preserved meats and other supplies to the Barbados. Labor was provided by a multicultural force of American Indians, enslaved Africans and English indentured servants. Sylvester and his associates were part of the Triangle Trade between the American colonies (including the Caribbean), Africa and England. His descendants continued to use slaves on the plantation into the 19th century. An estimated 200 blacks are buried at the Negro Burying Ground on the North Peninsula.

The Sylvesters gave shelter to many persecuted Quakers. Sylvester Manor stands today, just off New York State Route 114, and is controlled by Sylvester descendants. All but about 24 acres of the original thousands of acres have gone into other hands.

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