“We passed the farm buildings, and then the tower of white rose from the trees as the carriage wound its way along the gravel road. The keeper had a white picket fence installed which nicely complimented the black shutters and grey roof of his dwelling.”
DeLamater House Diary, Eaton’s Neck 1898.
Eaton’s Neck is located on the north shore of Long Island, New York and is a peninsula, which extends into Long Island Sound. It is approximately 45 miles from Manhattan and is part of the Town of Huntington. It connects to the mainland of Long Island at Northport through the Asharoken isthmus. Eaton’s Neck is surrounded by beaches but is heavily wooded with hills and valleys. At its highest point, it is approximately 135 feet above sea level. Today, Eaton’s Neck consists of approximately 1000 homes on about 1500 acres of land which can be divided into four general areas: Eaton’s Neck Beach, Eaton’s Harbor, North Creek, and Asharoken. There are only a few additional building plots still remaining in the area.
Eaton’s Neck, Asharoken and Northport, all share the same ZIP code (11768). Eaton’s Neck residents are dependent on Asharoken, Northport, Huntington, and Suffolk County for access and services. The closest restaurants, drug stores, post office, supermarkets, boutiques
and gas stations are in Northport, more than five miles away. Students attend and use Northport-East Northport schools and libraries. Police, water and judicial services are provided by Suffolk County. Roads, sanitation removal and general services are provided by the Town of Huntington, while fire protection is provided by the Eaton’s Neck Fire Department.
Time has been kind to Eaton’s Neck, and it has retained most of its early beauty. Although erosion and hurricanes have damaged the beaches and woods, the hills and shores are still unmatched for their beauty, charisma, and charm. Wildlife still exists and occasionally a red fox or pheasant is still sighted. Eaton’s Neck is rich in birds. Its position on the Atlantic flyway brings a great variety of transient birds in addition to the birds that stay all year long. Giant oaks, tulip and birch trees still stand. The wild beach plum and shad bush still line the beach road, and the woods are bright with spice bush, dogwood,
azalea, and rhododendron. Until 1925, only a few families enjoyed and cherished this rare beauty. Now more than 1000 families have that privilege. It is hoped that every effort will be made to conserve this natural beauty. POENB is committed to that goal.
Prior to claims of title by the Dutch and English, Eaton’s Neck was occupied by the Matinnecock Indians. Their chief was Asharoken (also spelled Resoroken). The Matinecocks (one of thirteen tribes on Long Island) occupied and claimed ownership of the north shore of Long Island from Hempstead to Smithtown. In 1646, Theophilus Eaton, governor of New Haven purchased the peninsula from the Matinnecock Indians. There is no longer any documentation of the original deed for this purchase. Its existence and validity are attested to by its reference in other deeds. Furthermore, in 1663, a statement was signed by the Indians (by a cross, the mark X) in the presence of English witnesses affirming the sale to Theophilus
Eaton. The Matinnecocks saw nothing irregular in selling the same land to multiple purchasers. For example on July 30, 1656, in another Indian deed, Chief Asharoken sold to Jonas Wood, William Rogers and Thomas Wilkes of Huntington the north side of Long Island from Cow Harbor (Northport) to the Neesaquock River (Smithtown). The language is not clear but seems to include Eaton’s Neck and Crab Meadow. Furthermore, in 1762 another deed from the three surviving heirs of Chief Asharoken, specifically includes Eaton’s Neck and Crab Meadow, again selling the land to the trustees of Huntington. As a result of the multiple sales, the Town of Huntington filed at least three law suits but was unsuccessful in obtaining ownership of the land.
In 1662, William Jones, who was married to Hannah Eaton (the daughter of Theophilus), sold Eaton’s Neck to Captain Robert Seeley. Captain Seeley settled George Baldwin on Eaton’s Neck who built a house and worked the land. A year later, on July 29,
1663, Captain Seeley sold Eaton’s Neck to George Baldwin. It is believed that Captain Seeley sold the land before he ever made a payment to William and Hannah Jones. Five years later, on July 11, 1668, George Baldwin sold Eaton’s Neck to Alexander Bryan and his son Richard. The Bryan family owned and occupied Eaton’s Neck for more than forty years (from 1668 until 1711).
The Bryan's held political contacts in Huntington and were able to soften the bad feelings with the Town of Huntington over the ownership of Eaton’s Neck. Despite the earlier deeds, the Bryan family must have had a legal problem with William and Hannah Jones. It is possible that Captain Seeley never paid the Joneses for the land he sold to George Baldwin. In any event, another deed filed November 13, 1684, between the Jones’ and the Bryan’s sells Eaton’s Neck to the Bryan’s for 30 pounds.
In colonial times, Long Islanders were British subjects who came under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Governor of New
York. The only exception to this rule were areas which were formed into “royal manors.” Each manor had a “Lord” and a “Manor House.” The English Lords were rulers of their own territory and responsible only to the King. Once the legal problems with the Joneses were solved, Alexander and Richard Bryan applied to Governor Thomas Dongan for a “Lordship and Manor” patent for Eaton’s Neck. On August 23, 1686, Governor Dongan granted the application, which made Eaton’s Neck virtually an independent municipal government. It is believed that the original house built by Geroge Balwin was modified to become the manor house, Cherry Lawn. The Lordship and Manor of Eaton’s Neck was one of six royal manors on Long Island.
On September 11, 1711, Alexander and Richard Bryan sold all but the 21 acres of Duck Island of the Lordship and Manor of Eaton’s Neck to John Sloss for 1650 pounds. It is interesting to note that 32 years later in 1743, Alexander Bryan paid the Town of Huntington 37
pounds 11 shillings and 9 pence to obtain a release and settlement from all judgments, quarrels and controversies over the ownership of the land. Thus, nearly one hundred years after Theophilus Eaton secured Eaton’s Neck from the Indians, the resulting bitterness felt by the Town of Huntington over the ownership of the land (due to the multiple deeds), seemed to come to an end.
John Sloss died ten years after he acquired Eaton’s Neck. He left the Manor of Eaton to his three daughters, Sarah, Ellen, and Deborah. Ellen married the Reverend Noah Hobart and had a son, John Sloss Hobart (a Revolutionary War Hero, Judge, and U.S. Senator who helped get the lighthouse bill passed and signed by President John Adams) who was born on May 6, 1738. From the will of Sarah and Ellen, the Manor of Eaton was passed on to John Sloss Hobart. In 1788 Hobart sold Eaton’s Neck to the Robert Watts family of New York City although the deed does not appear to have ever been recorded. Four years
later, on May 15, 1792, a deed records the sale of Eaton’s Neck from Robert and Mary Watts to John Gardiner. Ironically, the presiding judge of this transaction was John Sloss Hobart. It is also interesting to note that this deed is still recorded as the Manor of Eaton, even though the revolutionary war ended all feudal manor rights.
John Gardiner was married three times (Johanna, Rachel, and Hannah) and had nine children, all with Johanna. He lived in the pre-revolutionary war house, no doubt the manor house, called Cherry Lawn. His father, Lion Gardiner, purchased Gardiner’s Island from the Indians in 1638.
In 1798, John and Johanna deeded 10 acres of land to the United States Government for $500 for the construction of the lighthouse. His son John H. Gardiner became the first keeper of the lighthouse. John Gardiner, his three wives, John H. Gardiner, his wife Abigail and daughter Jennett, Jonathan (son of John and Johanna) and his two wives Sally and Fanny and some of
their children, Albert, Sarah and Eliza (Sandford) and a few other relatives are all buried in the Gardiner Graveyard located on a little hill across the road from where the Cherry Lawn Manor House once stood.
When John Gardiner died in 1813, his sons John H. Gardiner and Jonathan Gardiner bought out the other family children heirs for $12,500. Jonathan and his family then lived in Cherry Lawn. In 1815, Jonathan bought back Duck Island. In 1822, a small one-room schoolhouse was opened for the Gardiner family children as well as other children living on Eaton’s Neck. In 1850, John H. Gardiner deeded the land for the schoolhouse to School District 27. The school district lasted until 1922 when a consolidated school district began in Northport. The original schoolhouse, now a private residence, still stands on the corner of Eaton’s Neck Road and Lighthouse Road. When Jonathan Gardner died in 1833, his son William moved into Cherry Lawn and another son George moved into
Oakleaf. Oakleaf, a farmhouse, was built in 1784 by John Sloss Hobart on a high bluff overlooking Duck Island Harbor and is still standing today. No one knows what happened to Cherry Lawn, the original manor house. It is believed to have fallen apart sometime between 1931 and 1935. Jonathan’s daughter, Sarah, inherited Duck Island and another daughter, Eliza (who married Charles Hewlett Jones of the prestigious Long Island Jones Family), inherited all of West Beach.
In 1840, Benjamin Franklin Gardiner (another son of John H. Gardiner) and his wife Maria began the breakup and sale of Eaton’s Neck into smaller holdings by selling 200 acres around Walnut Neck to Zephaniah P. Brush. Eventually Brush lost the land by foreclosure and it was sold to Mary Skidmore in 1843. In 1856 it was sold to William Beebe. After the death of John H. Gardner in 1854, Benjamin Franklin Gardiner and the other heirs sold the bulk of John H. Gardiner’s land to William Cassidy of Brooklyn for $1500.
In 1862, Cornelius H. and Ruth O. DeLamater purchased most of the land previously owned by the Gardiner Family. The only exceptions were the land belonging to Eliza Gardner Jones and Duck Island which was sold by the Sarah Gardiner trust to the Rowland family in 1868. DeLamater purchased Walnut Neck from William Beebe which resulted in the creation of Beacon Farm. The farm provided fresh milk, eggs, and poultry for the family. DeLamater also purchased the Cassidy land, Cherry Lawn from William Gardiner, and Oakleaf from George Gardiner. Thus once again Eaton’s Neck was predominately owned by one family. The DeLamater’s rebuilt the Beebe’s farmhouse which is known today as the Bevin house. The DeLamater’s called it “Vermland” in honor of their friend and business associate Captain John Ericsson (who was born in Vermland, Sweeden). The DeLamater’s had a son and five daughters who inherited all of the land. Laura, the oldest daughter, married Curt Ramshom and had a son,
Oakley. Oakley married Elizabeth Hasbrouk and built the Crest house. Curt Ramshom died four years later, and Laura then remarried to Leander A. Bevin and had two more sons, Sydney and Victor. As the oldest daughter she inherited Vermland. Sarah married George H. Robinson and built and lived in the Robinson house (the Point). They had a son, Attmore, and three daughters, Ruth, Laura, and Edith. Attmore married Annette Colgate of the Colgate family and moved to Smithtown. Ruth married Harry E. Donnell and built the Hill house. Laura married Harry’s brother William B. Donnell. Lydia married John Robins and lived in the Walnut Neck farmhouse which was renamed the Robins’ Nest. Zillah, the fourth daughter married George H. More and received Cherry Lawn. The youngest daughter, Adah, married Charles Vezin and inherited Oakleaf. William DeLamater, the only son of Cornelius and Ruth never married.
In time the DeLamater-Robinson-Donnell estate began to break up. One of the first
sales was to Dr. Frank L. Babbott, Jr. Dr. Babbott expanded and lived in the house across from Bevin Road by the Sound and later rented it to Eugene O’Neill who wrote some of his great plays there. In 1927 the Eaton’s Harbors Corporation was formed to sell the rest of the estate. Gradually homes began to appear on the streets of Eaton’s Neck. Henry Morgan bought approximately 440 acres and built a large house overlooking the Sound. The Bevin and the Vezin heirs also began to sell their holdings.
The part of the neck (West Beach, today Prices Bend) which was not owned by the DeLamater’s was owned by Eliza and Charles Jones. After their death in 1882, their daughter Mary inherited the land. Mary married her cousin Oliver Jones and in 1884 leased some of the land to Nicholas Godfrey for sand removal. Godfrey built several structures and the area became know as Port Eaton. Later the Steers Sand and Gravel Company leased the site and renamed it Sand City, a name that still
applies today, though the mining of sand ceased in 1964. To obtain additional money, she leased Locust Grove (today, Valley Grove) to Benjamin Mitchell who opened a dance pavilion and hotel, with a dock, picnic area and carrousel. The facility primarily catered to excursion steamboats from New York City. Mary had six children who later inherited the land. In 1920, her daughter Rosalie installed a toll gate where the firehouse stands today and charged people $1 to park for the day. She also allowed people to build and use summer bungalows on the estate for a yearly fee. In 1953 the estate was subdivided and later sold to the Eaton’s Neck Sound Corporation for $360,000. The Eaton’s Neck Sound Corporation then resold the individual subdivided building plots.
The information presented above was compiled and summarized from the following two sources:
“History of Eaton’s Neck” by Mary Voyse, 1955
“Faded Laurels - The History of Eatons Neck and Asharoken” by Edward A.T. Carr, Heart
of the Lakes Publishing, 1994.