The evolution of Town government mirrors the unique development of Islip itself. Unlike most of the early towns, hamlets or villages on Long Island, the inhabitants of Islip, primarily land patent holders, had no common background, religious beliefs or a desire for a particular form of government (1).
Despite the establishment of Islip as a distinct governmental entity on November 25, 1710 (2), it was almost 10 years before the residents of Islip decided to form a government (3). The first Town meeting ws held on April 1, 1720. The minutes of the meeting are as follows:
It has been speculated that the delay in forming a government was essentially to avoid the payment of taxes on rather large tracts of land held by so few residents. (5)
Once a government was formed, including the annual election of two assessors, a tax collector, constable and supervisor, (6) annual Town meetings were held in residents' homes. (7) These Town meetings were generally held in April or May; some in June. (8) Although no specific location was mentioned for the period 1720 through 1813, John Douglas' home was probably used from the late 1700's until 1814. (9) The Douglas home was called the "log house" which included a store; the only store within Islip hamlet. (10) Apparently, the "log house" continued to be used as a meeting place for the Town government annual meeting, as well as a social gathering place upon Luther Loper's purchase. The "log house" continued to be used for annual Town until 1825. Interestingly, both Douglas and Loper were elected the Inspectors of the Common Schools during the years that the meetings were held at the "log house". (11)
The Town's official minutes reflect that the annual meetings were then held at various resident's homes.
|1720-1780||No mention of meeting place.|
|1835-1836||Charles E. Snedecor's Tavern|
|1838-1839||Eliphalet Snedecor's Tavern|
|1840||Peter Crandall's Inn|
|1841-1842||Eliphalet Snedecor's Tavern|
|1843||Peter Crandall's Inn|
|1844||Eliphalet Snedecor Tavern|
|1845||Henry B. Cook|
|1846||Eliphalet Snedecor's Tavern|
|1847||Henry B. Cook|
|1848-1849||Eliphalet Snedecor's Tavern|
|1850||Obadiah Snedecor's Tavern|
|1851||Amos R. Stellenwerf|
|1852||Obadiah Snedecor's Tavern|
Note: This was the building known as "Snedecar's Tavern", which is still standing in Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Oakdale, NY. This building earlier owned by Charles E. Snedecor then Eliphalet Snedecor. Obadiah is Eliphalet's son, who took over the inn (sometimes called hotel), when his father retired.
**While no deed for either John Douglas and/or Luther Loper has been located at the Suffolk County Clerk's Office for Islip Hamlet, an early record refers to John Douglas compiled by Carl Starace in his pamphlet, "Brief Descriptions of Conveyances Town of Islip 1692-1825." Noted in the conveyance from Elizabeth and Samuel Strong (Executors of Benajah Strong's estate) to John T. Champlin, that the land transaction, " ... Beginning at the Black Oak Tree, then N 75 degrees, E 19 chains 21 links, to a post on the north side of the Country road (South Country Road or Montauk Highway) it being fixed as a boundary between the land heretofore sold to Ketcham Terry now owned by John Douglas and the other land where of the seized Benajah Strong died thence North four degrees and 30 degrees, 66 rods, 17 links thence No 6 degrees, 15 minutes, E 128 chains, 25 links, to a line running N 84 degrees to Wingan Hauppauge Swamp or Brook thence keeping the said Brook or Creek so the Great South Bay of salt water aforesaid." Recognizing that Wingan Hauppauge Swamp or Brook is the combination of Knapp's Lake (Brookwood Hall) and Champlin Creek (eastern border of Islip Hamlet) set as the east side and north of the Country Road east of the "Branch Road"(Islip Avenue). The Committee determined that the approximate location of the Douglas' and Loper's Log House is north of St. Mark's Church east of Islip Avenue where the Islip Tennis Club was once situated. (12)
The first elements of a developing government were noted in the Town minutes of 1851:
Resolved - That the town clerk be requested to procure a suitable ease and chest for preserving the Town records and form a table of reference for all papers of value belonging to the Town and that a sum of not over $20 be appropriated for that purpose out of the contingent fund. (13)
Other Town positions now appearing in the minutes include town clerk; Justice of the Peace; Commissioner of Highways; Overseers of Poor; Inspectors of Election, District 1· and 2. (14)
This early expansion of government was in response to a growing population. When the government was formed in 1720, there were 31 freeholders (white-male, landholders having the right to vote at Town meetings). (15) By 1860, the population of Islip Town was 3,845 and was to grow to 4,597 in 1870. However, it should be noted that voting rights while expanded from landholders was still restricted to white-male adults.
At the April 6, 1869, Town meeting it was established that the next annual Town meeting will be held at the:; new hall. (16) Accordingly, on June 28, 1869, a joint syndicate of 18 local residents entitled, "Islip Union Hall", purchased a tract of land from Henry and Hannah Clock for $200. (17) The cost of building the town Hall was $2,800. Union Hall was completed in 1869. (18) The first Town meeting was held in the new Union Hall on April 5, 1870. (19)
The first floor of the new building was used for Town meetings and public gatherings. The second floor was occupied by Meridian Lodge No. 691, F. & A. M. which had formed in July, 1869. (20)
Union Hall appears to have been named as such to show support for the returning veterans of the Civil War, some of which were syndicate members. This support was exemplified by the naming of "Union Hall" on Union Hall Street, later to be renamed Grant A venue (most likely named after General U. S. Grant).
Union Hall was used from 1869 until 1907. (21) Thereafter, the Hall was converted into a pickle factory, newsstand, and later as a paint store. (22) Some of the unique features of the Hall were the cupola and front entrance. (23)
Subsequently, the Hall was replaced by a Cape Cod style home in the 1950's which remains on the site to this day.
(1) Curran, Patrick J . The History of Islip Town. A Doctoral Thesis, 1983, p.l.
(2) Colonial Laws of New York, Five volumes (1664-1775) (Albany, 1896), Vol. 1., P.723
(3) Idem, Curran, P. 19.
(4) Minutes Book of the Town of Islip (Islip, New York), vol. 1, p. 1.
(5) Idem., Curran, p. 20.
(6) Idem., Colonial Laws of New York, p. 723.
(7) Idem, Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1. p. 1.
(8) Baldwin, Richard, letter of August 15, 1994, regarding review of Minutes Book of the Town of Islip,. Vol 1.
(9) Hawkins, P. J., Taking Leave of the Old School House, 1993, the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet, pp. 1-4.
(10) Ibid., Hawkins, pp. 3-4.
(11) Idem., Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1.
(12) Carl Starace in his pamphlet, "Brief Descriptions of Conveyances Town of Islip 1692-1825. "Ibid., Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1.
(13) Idem., Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1 Weeks, George L., Jr., Some of Town of Islip's Early History, Consolidated Press (Bay Shore, New York, 1958), p. 28.
(14) Idem., Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1.
(15) History of New York, Suffolk County with Illustrations, Portraits & Sketches of Prominent Families and Individuals, Munsell, Co. (New York, 1882), p.2.
(16) Idem., Minutes Book of the Town of Islip, Vol. 1.
(17) Book of Deeds, Suffolk County Clerk's Office, pp. 115-118. Bayles, Richard M., Historical and Descriptive sketches of Suffolk County with a Historical outline of Long: Island (1872), p. 216. Bailey, Paul Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk, (1949), p. 329.
(18) Idem., Bayles, p. 216. Picturesque Bay Shore, Babylon and Islip, Illustrated, Mercantile Cu. (New York, 1894), p. 71.
(19) Idem., Minutes Book of the Town of islip, Vol 1.
(20) Idem., Bayles, p. 216. Fortunato, Vincent, "History of Meridian Lodge #691, 125th Anniversary 1869¬1994, (1994), pp. 9-10.
(21) Idem., Bayles, p. 329.
(22) Personal Accounts: 1) Dr. Ray T. Smith in his letter dated October 12, 1994, along with photocopy of picture of Union Hall. 2) Ethel Urban, October 1993, presentation to the Historical Society of Islip Hamlet.
(23) Idem., Dr. Smith, personal recollection.