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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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