Category: Revolutionary War

Treading Clams

National Poetry Month is almost over but we have time for one more power ballad. This time, we’re looking over the body of work of Paul Bailey. Bailey was a newspaperman from Amityville (founder of the Amityville Sun) as well as the publisher of the Long Island Forum. His dedication to Long Island history ran deep as he was also president of the Suffolk County Historical Society and Suffolk County Historian. He wrote a syndicated column on Long Island History and was a sought-after public speaker on the topic.

So it’s no surprise that his posthumous book of poetry, Treading Clams (1965) is filled with light verse on all aspects of Long Island. Today we read through excerpts of three of the poems, “The Midnight Rides of Austin Roe,” “Shoes from the Sea,” and “When Prohibition Came.”

Born in 1885, Bailey actually spent some time out west before settling down to his newspaper career. He worked on cattle ranches and possibly in the movies – enough experience, at least, to fuel a number of Western stories that he wrote for pulps like Argosy later on. He also struck up a friendship at home with nearby neighbors Will Rogers and Fred Stone. Stone was an actor and comedian and the first person to play the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz (in the 1902 Broadway version).

Our reader today is Dr. Josh Gidding, Professor of English at Dowling College. Thanks, Josh! And we hope you’ve enjoyed our spelunking through poetry history. Make sure you check out our other Long Island Power Ballads and leave a comment on what you thought.

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Long Island Power Ballads


Monument to Woodhull in Cypress Hills (proposed but never built). From Marsh, L.R. (1848). General Woodhull and His Monument. New York: Leavit, Trow.

It’s National Poetry Month and we’re celebrating with a series of poetry/history mashups that we like to call Long Island Power Ballads. We’re dusting off some deserving yet obscure poems (and poets) dealing with Long Island history and giving them another look. Over the next few weeks you’ll hear stories of broken hearts, tragic deaths, and the indomitable human spirit. But when we say obscure, we mean obscure. If you’re looking for Walt Whitman, seek ye elsewhere.

Today’s episode deals with “The Death of Woodhull: An American Ballad” which tells one version of the death of Nathaniel Woodhull, American patriot, Brigadier General and brother-in-law of William Floyd. Learn the history of the man and the story of the legend that sprung up around his demise. His connection to AMC’s Turn is also explained.

Hear our fearless poetry reenactors bring this ballad back to life amid fanfare, galloping horses and flashing blades. Many thanks to Anne McCaffrey, Frances Schauss and Kristine Hanson.

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Holding Court with Peter Fox Cohalan

Peter Fox Cohalan was named Suffolk County Historian in 2012 but in many ways he’s been preparing for the role his whole life. In fact, the Cohalans and history go way back. The first Cohalan in America arrived with Lafayette during the Revolution. One branch of the family led to a Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall, another to the first Catholic priest on Long Island. In his own storied career, Peter Fox has been Islip Town Supervisor, Suffolk County Executive, and State Supreme Court Judge (one of five Cohalans -including his father-  to reach that position.)

With the historian’s eye for detail and the Irishman’s gift for storytelling, Peter Fox can discuss the Sayville of his youth as easily as the quarrels of the early Federalists. On this episode of the Project he recounts the Sayville of the 1930s and ’40s along with his father’s time as coach at the La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale.  We’ll also hear about preservation efforts he spearheaded (like the Islip Grange in Sayville) as well as his family’s connections to the unforgettable Robert David Lion Gardiner.

Join us next week for Part 2.

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The Lost Lords of the Manor

Historical Papers on Shelter Island and Its Presbyterian Church, with Genealogical Tables. N.Y, 1899

Sylvester Manor from Historical Papers on Shelter Island and Its Presbyterian Church, with Genealogical Tables. N.Y, 1899

We’re back for part II of our interview with Dr. Gaynell Stone, executive director of the Suffolk County Archaeological Association and now accomplished filmmaker. Her connection to Stephen Mrozowski’s work at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island led to her first film, The Sugar Connection: Holland, Barbados, Shelter Island in 2012.

The story of manors on Long Island is a tale that grows in the telling, however, so Dr. Stone has mapped out an ambitious series of documentaries encompassing Gardiner’s Island, Eaton’s Neck, the Manor of St. George and more.

Today you’ll get a glimpse of the stories that were uncovered: alchemists on Fisher’s Island, what lies buried on Plum Island, the forgotten patriot John Sloss Hobart, and pirates sailing out of the Connetquot River. You’ll also hear about the struggles to get these documentaries off the ground and seen by the public.

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The Truth Behind the Spies: Decoding AMC’s Turn

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Historian Bev Tyler of the Three Village Historical Society

Bev Tyler, historian with the Three Village Historical Society, walks us through the true story of the Culper Spy Ring that operated out of Setauket and Manhattan during the Revolutionary War. Made up of a small tight-knit group of friends and relatives, the Ring provided valuable information on British activities that helped George Washington outmaneuver and out-spy a much more powerful enemy. All of this was conducted in occupied territory, a Long Island beset by British troops with no love for the population they were meant to protect and raiders from the Sound who preyed on Loyalist and Patriot alike. We also discuss the AMC series Turn which depicts a fictionalized version of the Ring. Find out where the story strays from the history and which facts and characters stay true to the historical record. From Abraham Woodhull to Robert Townsend, Anna Strong, and Caleb Brewster, find out what they were really like and their fate after the war. Turn starts its second season in the spring of 2015.

North Shore of Long Island, 1780

North Shore of Long Island, 1780. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

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