Colonial Times

L. Candela
A typical colonial house from Bethpage Restoration Village.

The first Europeans to set foot on Long Island were Henry Hudson and his crew in 1609. They were looking for a shortcut to India and didn't find one, so they didn't stay. Long Island got its name in 1614 from Adriaen Block of Holland, who sailed around the island, calling it Long Island because of its length (Block also created the first map of Long Island). That same year, the West India Company sent five ships to Manhattan to set up a trading post to trade fur with the Indians. In 1635, Charles I (king of England) gave all of Long Island to the Earl of Sterling.

The first settlers came from Holland and set up trading posts in Manhattan. They brought with them cows, horses, pigs, and sheep. They called their town New Amsterdam. The Dutch eventually bought Manhattan from the Manhattan tribe for $24. The first settlements on Long Island were set up by the Dutch West India Company from 1636 to 1660. They were Breuckelen (Brooklyn), Amerfort (Flatlands), Midwout (Flatbush) and New Utrecht. All of these were on the western side of Long Island. The English settled eastern Long Island, setting up the colonies of Southold (1640), Southampton (1640), and East Hampton (1648). In 1650 the Treaty of Hartford drew a boundary between the Dutch and English settlements. It gave the Dutch the western part of Long Island and the English the eastern part. There were many differences between the Dutch and the English settlements. The Dutch were more interested in trading with the Indians and the British were more interested in building settlements. The Dutch also introduced slavery to Long Island in 1626 so they would not need indentured servants (person who signed a contract to work for a certain length of time in exchange for passage to the colonies). The English started using slaves soon after.

In March of 1664, Charles II gave Long Island to the Duke of York. By August 1664, the English forced the Dutch to give up land claims and New Amsterdam be- came known as New York. The county system was set up in 1683 with the creation of Suffolk, Queens, and Kings counties. In 1700, the population was 220,000, but during the eighteenth century, the population doubled every two years.

Settlements were set up near the sea because the sea was a means of communication. The first settlements on Long Island were Southampton, Southold, and East Hampton which are located by the water. There was limited traveling and communication between the colonies. There was a ferry between Brooklyn and New York and there were also small ships that traveled between Long Island and New England. Horses and wagons were also used after the development of dirt roads.

The population was made up mostly of farmers and jobs associated with the agricultural community (tanner, weaver, carpenter). Boys often learned the trades of their fathers. The needs of the community determined what crafts would develop. The principle crops grown were grain, tobacco, pumpkins, and melons. They also had livestock such as hogs, sheep, cattle, and horses. The Long Island economy was based on the barter system which is the exchange of goods for services. Long Island had a big fishing industry. Fishermen caught clams, oysters, fish, and crabs. Whaling was also a major part of the fishing industry because the whales were used to make oil. The export of oil began in the seventeenth century, but did not become profitable until the nineteenth century.

The life of the colonists consisted of hard work as well as recreation. They played card games, backgammon, and dice. There were also outdoor sports such as trout fishing, fox hunting, duck hunting, deep sea fishing, and beach parties.

The first race course in the United States was also built in Long Island in 1668. An annual event called the Huckleberry Frolic consisted of a variety of athletic events, horse and mule races, and track races. There were also comedians, fire eaters, wild beasts, and gymnasts.

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