Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum, spoke to us about Southampton 375th birthday, and some of the events that will take place this year to celebrate it.
Happy 375th Anniversary to Southampton.
Happy 375th to you. Southampton and Southold share the 1640 founding date, and for the last 150 years there has been a mostly friendly rivalry between the two on who is the oldest. The argument is based on a few months’ difference. This year we are focusing on how 1640 changed the East End forever—some of the pioneers thrived, some went back to England, some moved on, some came as slaves and the natives did not do well at all.
There are a lot of events lined up for the next year, which ones are you the most excited about?
We designed a local history lecture series that includes many representatives from around the Peconic Bay. Richard Wines from New Suffolk will give a talk on a forgotten battle from the War of 1812 that took place on the Long Island Sound. Richard Barons, director of the East Hampton Historical Society, will lecture on Captain Kidd who landed on Gardiner’s Island. David Bunn Martin, director of the Shinnecock Museum, will give a tour of his museum and the new, outdoor Wikun Village.
One that I’m really happy to be a part of is the March 7 convocation at Southampton’s First Presbyterian Church, which is also celebrating its 375th year. Speakers include Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile, tribal elder of the Shinnecock Nation; Al Krupski, Suffolk County legislator for the North Fork; the Reverend Peter Kelly from Southold’s First Presbyterian Church (also 375 this year,); Jay Schneiderman, Suffolk County legislator for the South Fork; the Reverend Michael Smith, Shinnecock Presbyterian Church; Showers of Blessings, a gospel group from Kings Chapel in Southampton and Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley.
After the convocation, guests are invited to a reception and 375th exhibition opening at the Rogers Mansion, a property of the Southampton Historical Museum, across the street.
Could you tell me a little bit about the event re-creating the 1640 historic walk?
The Southampton Trails Preservation Society has marked out a trail that recreate the original hike taken by the English pioneers and the Shinnecock tribe. The Shinnecock were eager to acquire allies in their continuing war with the Pequots of Connecticut who were raiding their villages, killing tribesmen and kidnapping women. They hoped the English would help them so they encouraged them to settle on one of their prime spots near the ocean (today located near the Southampton Hospital) with access to good land and fishing. The Shinnecock helped them build primitive dugout huts which are being recreated by Southampton Village.
What else will be done to include the Native Americans and other peoples who were here prior to 1640?
Little has been done to acknowledge the Paleo-Indians, the first settlers of Southampton, who came here 10,000 years ago after the glaciers receded. Almost nothing is known about them except for the extraordinary amount of arrowheads they left behind. Native development on Long Island began with the Big Game Hunters, the first people to arrive, to Hunters and Gatherers followed by the Shinnecock Woodland Period (500 CE to 1640) who were hunters, farmers and fishermen.
The Shinnecock Nation has participated fully in Southampton’s birthday celebrations every 25 years. Elizabeth Thunderbird Haile is on our board and also of the Shinnecock Museum. I’ve been working closely with her and David Bunn Martin.
What is really different this year is that the Shinnecock are preparing the historic recreation of the of the 1640 landing, and not the town. Our June 13th rededication of the monument to 1640 should be very interesting!
Just this month, the couple who demolished the historic Pyrrhus Concer House decided to sell the property. Do you think that the community and the local officials are doing enough to preserve and protect our history?
No. Southampton’s historic buildings and natural resources attract new residents and tourists from around the globe. Businesses and property owners should think of our ancient heritage and historic charm as an asset that is good for business and needs protection, instead of something that gets in the way.
For more information about the Southampton Historical Museum visit southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org