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HICK'S NECK
The Story of Baldwin

INTO THE 1800's, part I

The First Half of the Century
Throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries, sheep-partings on the Plains made holiday for Hempstead farmers and their families. The flocks were long a profitable business for the Island. South from the rolling hills of the North Shore to the northern limits of present day Baldwin, was a grassy plain.

Hick's Neck continued to grow after the Revolutionary War. It gradually became a prosperous agricultural area. If the farm children could be spared from their chores, they attended the one-room schoolhouse north of Hick's Neck Road called Bethel. This rough old building had been built long before 1838. Classes were held six days a week. This first schoolhouse was located just west of Grand Avenue on St. Luke's Place. A plaque marks the site today.

A map made around 1838 shows the size of Hick's Neck. The only roads shown are what are today, Merrick Road, Milburn Avenue, and Grand Avenue. Grand Avenue ended just south of Merrick Road. On this old map twenty-four small dots show buildings. They were not all houses. One was Pine's old mill, one a hotel, one a wool mill. Other marks on this 1838 map stood for a general store and barns. The first known use of the name Milburn for this area of Hick's Neck was in 1839.

South of Merrick Road, near present day Church Street and Milburn Avenue, was the Inn of John Lott. It was a large building that may have been built (before his time) in the 1750's. Mr. Lott ran the Inn. The Inn was a favorite resting place for out of town sportsmen who hunted and fished. It also served the local people using Lott's landing just southeast on the Milburn Creek then called Lott's Creek. Lott's Inn had many names through the years including The House of the Whispering Winds, Milburn Hall, and Craigie Manor.

Lott's Landing was also called the Port of Hempstead. By the 1830's this was a very busy place, large enough to dock six ships at a time. Brick was sent from Haverstraw, New York, and lumber from Albany, New York. Sugar, molasses, and liquor also came to this port. But Lott's Landing had by now seen its best days.

Shipping cargo by railroad was becoming cheaper and faster than by water. By 1858, the use of the port and landing had declined. This once important seaport was located just north of today's Atlantic Avenue on the west side of Milburn Creek. However, this was not the end of Neck's waterways. Many local captains who had sailed from this port still did so in schooners, sloops, and smaller skiffs, which were important to transport cargo, passengers, and visiting sportsmen. Operation of the railroad from Long Island City east to Patchogue began in 1868, having passed Baldwin a year or two before. Trolleys were still thirty years away; the auto, a little more than a rumor, and the airplane dismissed as an impossibility. At the close of the century, Hick's Neck was still a rather isolated farming and fishing community partly lost in the bulrushes about the bay.

The Baldwin Family
Thomas Baldwin (1795-1872) was a 6th generation member of the family in Hempstead Town. He lived in Hick's Neck by 1830 and had married Susan Bedell (1789-1865). Thomas farmed the land and operated a sawmill on Silver Lake. It was then called Baldwin Pond. By 1840, he owned and operated a hotel at what is now the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Grand Avenue. On the northwest corner stands an inn, the Baldwin House. The Baldwin House was destroyed by fire and others including C. Freevort and Henry Hebenstreit later owned a second hotel at the same place. Tall trees nod above the low roof; fly-pestered horses stamp and jingle their harnesses at the hitching post before the veranda. Up Grand Avenue from the bay, a swaying load of salt hay creaks past; the village doctor in his high-wheeled rig pulls up at Thomas Baldwin & Son's General Store diagonally across the street. Beyond was the Great Wood - oak and maple, chestnut, beech and birch; dense verdure, dark shadows, stretching indefinitely east and west, north to the Hempstead prairie.

Nature was responsible for the wreck of the passenger packet "Mexico" in 1837. More than one hundred souls were aboard, most of them immigrants from England and Ireland looking forward to a new and happier life on our shores. As the ship was about to enter New York Harbor, it sprang a leak, became uncontrollable, and was swept onto a reef off Jones Beach. The sea was filled with floating ice, the temperature freezing; farmers and fishermen of Raynorstown and Milburn shivered on the beach, pondering ways to save the helpless folks aboard. Captain Raynor "Rock" Smith, wrecking master of the district, called for volunteers; five men of his clan stepped forward; Jophar Smith, two Oliver Smiths, Willard Curtis Smith, and James Smith. They got past the surf, took one boatload of passengers and went back for another; but the sea was angrier now, and they could not again get near the vessel. All the next day, gray combers ferried in frozen corpses. The bodies were carried to the barn in the rear of John Lott's Inn. In haste, they were stacked there like so much cordwood; there was no time for reverence. Daniel Tredwell tells of the funeral procession. Fifty-two farm wagons bore the dead to the Sandhoe Cemetery in Rockville Centre, where a monument stands to the memory. Captain Raynor "Rock" Smith was personally responsible for saving eight from the icy seas.

Thomas' son, Elisha B. Baldwin (c. 1824-c. 1866) married Jane Bedell (c. 1825-1871). In 1850, he made clothing in the store he worked and owned with his father. It stood near the southeast comer of Merrick Road and Grand Avenue. Elisha also served three terms as the Queens County Clerk before his death in the 1860's.

Thomas' son, Francis B. Baldwin (1816-1890) married Mary Wood (1837-1904). He was a New York clothing maker as well as an architect. He built many fine homes here including his own, which overlooked Loft Lake. Francis was a breeder of horses and Jersey cattle on his estate. He also had a steam locomotive named after him. The "F.B. Baldwin" used to travel the railroad line past the village. Francis served the public for one term as a New York State Assemblyman and for three terms as the Queens County Treasurer. He gave property he owned to the school system to build a new school in 1883, and like his father, had given property to the Methodist Church when it needed to grow. Mr. Francis Baldwin, was a kind, genial man, with a pleasant word for everyone and a big, generous heart. He never failed to respond to any call... for anything that was to be of benefit to the village and its people.

The members of the Baldwin family had done so much for Hick's Neck that the village was named Baldwinsville in their honor.

To join the Baldwin Historical Society, please call (516) 223-6900.

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Church Street,
1900

 

Prospect Street

 

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Merrick Road,
1920

 

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Church Street,
1925

North Side of Church Street looking west from Milburn Avenue.

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Baldwin,
August 3, 1919

(R.M. King photographer, Albert Heinrich pilot). Merrick Road in foreground. L-R: Rockwood Avenue, Pershing Blvd., St. Christopher's Church, Gale Avenue, Grand Avenue, business section, Mill Road forking off of Merrick Road to Milburn Pond in background.

 

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Grand Avenue,
1920

North from Merrick Road

 

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Merrick Road
East of Harrison Avenue.

 

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Merrick Road looking East from Grand Avenue,
1920

 

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The Five Corners

 

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Ground Avenue looking South

 

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View overlooking Reservoir

 

Grand Avenue looking North

 

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Grand Avenue,
1930
Looking South from Sunrise