Let me start by being honest: it took me over two weeks to write this post. It wasn't due to my busy schedule (surprisingly), but rather to allow myself more time to frequent this village that has grown to mean so much to me. Setauket, as I had touched upon briefly in my post on the Alexander Hawkins House a few weeks ago, is a sleepy little village on the North Shore of Long Island, nestled between the two larger towns of Stony Brook and Port Jefferson. Because of it's location, Setauket is often overshadowed by it's more popular neighbors, and yet that only makes it more of a hidden gem: the area is almost virtually unchanged since the last century. Never have I seen a village outside of New England hold so dearly to their history as Setauket. Imprints of the past echo through the breeze off the bay, down every quiet street, beckoning you to slow down and stay awhile.
Here we are overlooking the Setauket Village Green from the gateway of the Caroline Church. Setauket played a crucial role in the Revolutionary War, not only being the central location for America's first spy ring (more about that later!), but also the site of a British fort and a small battle which was fought right where you're looking upon. The fort was built right on the village green, adjacent to the Presbyterian Church which the British gutted and made into a stable for their horses (the British despised Presbyterians as they considered them rebellious against the Anglican Church), and used the gravestones of it's cemetery to fortify it. By 1777, the British were in full control of Long Island, terrorizing the locals, taking their food, occupying their homes, and forcing all (many against their will) to swear allegiance to the Crown. Attempting to extinguish some of this madness, troops from the Continental Army in Connecticut sailed across the Long Island Sound and attempted an attack against the fort, but soon retreated after making little progress. Among those Patriots was an officer by the name of Caleb Brewster, a Setauket native who later became one of Washington's leading spies. This skirmish is known to us today as the Battle of Setauket.
Patriot's Rock, commemorated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the 1930s, remains a focal point of the Battle of Setauket, allegedly having been used as a barricade by the Continental soldiers, and perhaps even as a platform for one of their cannons. The first sermon of the Presbyterian Church, conducted by Reverend Nathanial Brewster, was said to be held here as well.
The Setauket Presbyterian Church, built in 1812, replaced the original structure after a lightening bolt, of all things, struck it down. It's cemetery is the final resting place for many notable Setauket residents, among which include the famous 19th century Long Island painter, William Sydney Mount, whose grave overlooks the site in which he was born.
Reverend Nathanial Brewster's (great-great grandfather of Caleb Brewster) grave. This was not his original gravestone, nor do we know the exact location of his grave site. His original headstone was ripped out by the British and never recovered.
The Caroline Church, the second oldest continuously used Episcopal Church in the United State, was built in 1729. During the Revolutionary War, it served many loyalists and British alike, but once the Americans won, the congregation dwindled and the church suffered for many decades. Fortunately, after help from historic Trinity Church in Manhattan, the Caroline Church was able to get back on its feet and it thrives to this day.
Just one of the many intriguing graves in the churchyard.
If you thought the Hawkins House was the only beautiful home in this village, you're sorely mistaken. An array of historic architecture spanning from the 17th to early 20th century embellish the neighborhood, adding to the striking landscape.
A timid farmhouse has overlooked the Setauket Mill Pond for almost two centuries.
Architectural eye-catchers abound.
The Setauket Neighborhood House has worn many hats over the past couple of centuries, once a residence, an inn, a general store, post office, and bank, to name a few. It's now rented out for weddings and other small private affairs.
Intrigued? Well, there's more to come! Jake and I are attending a three hour, three mile Spy Ring walking tour through Setauket tomorrow afternoon where we'll be visiting many of the significant sites involved. We thought you'd like to come along too, so to save you the trek and the sweat, stay tuned and join us here on Bygone Living!