Monday, May 26, 2008

Notes on the Quakers in colonial Long Island

There was not the seperation of church and state that we know today, political and religous leaders were the same people in colonial times. There were laws about church construction and attendance. Newcomers were screened before they could settle in a community, sometimes they would be forced to move on. The Quakers were widely persecuted and were not allowed into many communities. They were "fined, imprisoned, whipped, shorn of their ears, had their tongues bored with hot irons and put to death." (Bookbinder, 47). On Long Island, Peter Stuyvesant made it a crime to give the Quakers shelter, talk to them, or bring them into the area by ship.

There were some residents how opposed this discrimination. In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was issued objecting to the anti-Quaker laws on moral grounds. Stuyvesant responded by outlawing town meetings in Flushing. He also banished a Quaker leader, but was rebuked by the West India Company, whose position was similar to that of the group in Flushing.

The Quakers recieved better treatment from the English. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, visited Long Island in 1672. His visit included Shelter Island, a Quaker haven.

The Quakers were persecuted because of their beliefs. Their refusal to take oaths was seen as a defiance of authority and as subversive. Bookbinder says that the Quakers were "not always orderly. For example, they sometimes would 'bear testimony' by running naked through the streets, cursing all who differed with them." I wonder what that means exactly.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983 (Illustrations © 1983 Newsday)

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooklyn Bridge!

The Brooklyn Bridge turns 125 years old today. Here are some notes and facts about the bridge from Wikipedia:
  • It is the oldest suspension bridge of its size in the U.S.
  • The bridge is 5,989 feet long
  • The bridge has a pedestrian and bicycle path above the roadway
  • Construction began in 1870 and the bridge opened in 1883
  • 27 People died during construction
  • Robert E. Odlum was the first person to jump off the bridge, back in 1885
  • He survived the jump but later died of his injuries

There are plenty more facts like these on Wikipedia, and there are plenty of celebrations going on by the bridge if you happen to be over there!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes on slavery on Long Island

The Dutch introduced slavery on Long Island in 1626. They had asked the Dutch East India Company for indentured servants, but were turned down. Instead, they chose to imitate the colonists of Virginia and use African slave labor. By 1700, the proportion of slaves to free people was greater on LI than in Virginia. A 1732 census showed 7,232 slaves to 40,048 white colonists. All slaves were highly valued. It became something of a status symbol to own slaves, even some Quakers engaged in the practice. The Quakers were the among the first on Long Island to call for slavery's abolition. Slavery on the island peaked around the time of the revolution, shortly after which the ideas of freedom pervaded throughout Long Island communities. Slavery was legally ended in New York in 1827, although it was carried out in secrecy by parts of the maritime community near Fire Island until the Civil War.

Indentured servants, mostly from England, were also used. They often worked and lived in harsher conditions than slaves and many did not survive their term of servitude. This was because their employers knew they would not be around for more than a few years and they had no motivation to ensure their health and well being.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983 (Illustrations © 1983 Newsday)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some Geology Notes

  • LI reached present shape around 6,000 years ago

  • Wisconsinan glacier came to LI twice: 60,000 years ago and 21,000 years ago

  • Harbor Hill Morraine: Hilly ridge in the North stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Orient Point, named for Harbor Hill in Roslyn

  • This morraine has an outwash plain: Terryville Outwash Plain

  • Ronkonkoma Terminal Moraine: stretches from Brooklyn to Montauk

  • South of that is the Hempstead Outwash Plain

  • Ice claws from the glacier carved the inlets and harbors on the North shore

  • Except for some exposed bedrock in Queens, everything on the surface of LI was deposited by the glacier

  • The soil on the Morraines retains moisture and supports hardwood trees like Oak, Hickory, Chestnut and Tulip trees

  • Soil in the outwash plains does not retain as much moisture and supports softwoods pitchpine forrests

  • Dryness in the outwash plains make forrest fires more likely, some pine trees in the plains depend on fire to reproduce

  • Shade in the Morraines attracted deer and turkey, also predators like wolves, bears and cougars

  • On the extreme Eastern end of the island, some silt made the plains there more like the soil found in the morraines (windblown silt called loess settled there)

  • The Hempstead Plains, a 60,000 acre area, is the Eastern-most prarie in North America

  • It may have been created by Native Americans who burned trees and shrubs to aid hunting and farming, grasses grew there and the prarie formed

  • Grasslands of these plains provided grazing ground for livestock for generations

  • Barrier islands on South shore formed by Atlantic Ocean

  • Their protected waters provided food for natives and colonists

  • Early inhabitants (as far as 5,000 years ago) preferred to live near shores, rivers and streams

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Some history notes on the expulsion of the Dutch from Long Island and NY

The English and Dutch signed a treaty in 1650 (in Hartford), dividing Long Island along what is now the Suffolk border. The treaty was not ratified in London. King Charles II came back to the English throne in 1660 and decided to take New Netherland and give it to his Brother, James the Duke of York. In 1664 the British sent 500 troops and 4 ships, commanded by Colonel Richard Nicholls, to demand surrender. Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor, handed the territories over after receiving no assistance from his own government.

New Amsterdam was renamed for the Duke of York. Nicholl's enacted strict laws known as the Duke's Laws. These laws reached into the personal lives of Long Islanders, and they resented it. Some Long Island representatives refused to ratify the laws. In 1673, the Dutch returned with a large fleet (some 23 ships, the largest fleet seen to that date in the area). The colonists did not support their totalitarian British rulers, and they had to surrender to the Dutch. New York became New Orange. But the Dutch were weakened by wider conflict with the British, and later traded New Orange back to them in exchange for Surinam.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983

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