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Conscience Point

Table of Contents
Introduction
History
Origin of Name
Shinnecock Pageant
Reenactment

Introduction

Conscience Point is the approximate landing place of the first English colonists who arrived here in June of 1640. The Shinnecock Indians lived around the harbor for many centuries before the arrival of the English who subsequently settled in the vicinity of the present Southampton Village. Both the early settlers and the Native Americans benefited from the productivity of the marsh-bordered land and harbor.

Conscience Point is owned by the Southampton Historical Museum.

History

1640

A small band of pilgrims set out from Lynn in Massachusetts in May, 1640, armed with a deed for eight miles square of land on Long Island and after a landing and attempted settlement at Cow Bay, near Manhasset, they were driven  off by the Dutch and in June they stepped ashore at a place on North Sea which has ever since been known as Conscience Point. By terms of their deed they were required to buy the land from the Indian owners and a temporary agreement was made at once with Shinnecock sachem Nowedonah, The Seeker. The white man was not a strange thing to the Great Sachem as his brother Wyandanch, Sachem of the Montauks and Lion Gardiner had become friends. Likewise, Poggatacut, a third brother, Sachem of the Manhassetts, had met at Council with a forth brother, Momoweta of the Corchake (Corchaug) in the attempts to arrange for protection with the English against the Pequots as early as 1624. The Pequots were continuously waging war against the Long Island Indians. These tribal wars were a great drawback to unity among the Indians and paved the way for a possible friendly relationship between the Indians of Long Island and the white man. 1

Both colonists and Natives were living in a new era. The Indian Deed of 1640 adequately served the needs of both peoples. Evidences are that the white men, from the very first, desired to live peacefully beside their Native brothers. Having lived for some twenty years in the atmosphere of the warlike Pequots and the Mohawks who were constantly threatening peace and life, it was natural for the settlers to engage in methods to disarm the Shinnecock.

“Noe man shall give or lende unto any Indians, either gunnes, pistols, powder, axes, shott, matches, swords or any other engine of war, whatsoever.”

Having taken these measures to somewhat secure their safety, the newcomers’ next concern was their food, which even to this day is similar to that which the Indians first taught them how to prepare and secure for themselves.

The informal agreement was confirmed by a deed of December 13,1640, which fixed the compensation at sixteen coats already received and threescore bushels of Indian corn to be paid upon lawful demand in September of the following year. There was also a clause whereby the English were to defend “the sayed Indians from the unjust violence of whatever Indians shall illegally assaile us.”2 The Indians were friendly and immediately released to the colonists sufficient land for their needs and allowed them to plant their crops and to postpone payment for the land until after the second harvest. English acquired the territory which is now Southampton. 3

The settlers reached their new home by way of Peconic Bay, landing at North Sea, and according to tradition on what has ever since bourn the name of Conscience Point, now marked by the boulder monument. The little

conscience-point-photo Conscience Point Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Conscience Point and Monument (Home Hills in Distant) Date taken and photographer unknown

harbor, better perhaps in those days than now, continued, as we shall see, to constitute their port, although the settlement was made at what is now called “Old Town,” about three-quarters of a mile east of the present Main Street of Southampton Village, and a little back from the ocean. The Sachem of the Shinnecock then lived at North Sea and it is likely that arrangements for the purchase of the land were made immediately, or at least permission to settle received leaving definite terms to be arranged later.

The names of the original settlers are legendary in town history – Howell, Farrington, Stanborough and Sayre are among them – and the actual colony appears to have been established by June of 1640.4 Exactly who were among these settlers, or their number, we do not know, but all the evidence points to there having been between one and two hundred people here before the New York. Winthrop means “forty families,” and Abraham Pierson, chosen minister of the new church, was here by the following month for he was one of the witnesses to the Indian Deed of December, so we can conclude that the colony was not only founded but fairy complete before the end of the year. 5

The band of pilgrims made their way through the forest on an Indian path from North Sea to Old Town Pond. They passed through the country of the Shinnecock who occupied the land from the present eastern bounds of Southampton Town to Canoe Place and perhaps as far as Westhampton. The old Indian trail is now known as North Sea Road.

5I5A4921-1024x683 Conscience Point Jeremy Dennis On This Site

1910

The trail leads to a commemorative monument placed on June 13, 1910 during the celebration of Founders’ Day by the Southampton Colonial Society.6

2000

In 2000, the Museum and the Town of Southampton completed a project to restore this location to a more natural condition and to conserve its resources for the future. 7

  1. Hunter, L. M. (1950). The Shinnecock Indians. Islip, NY: Buys Bros. pp 17
  2. Hunter, L. M. (1950). The Shinnecock Indians. Islip, NY: Buys Bros. pp 18
  3. Bailey, P. (1949). Long Island; a history of two great counties, Nassau and Suffolk. New York: Lewis Historical Pub. pp 112, 119
  4. http://www.southamptontownny.gov/207/Documents
  5. Adams, J. T. (1918). History of the town of Southampton (east of Canoe Place). Bridgehampton, NY: Hampton Press.  pp 51
  6. The Seventh Volume of Records of the Town of Southampton, Jan 1 1871. pp 363
  7. Southampton Historical Museum historical marker at Conscience Point

Origin of Name

Conscience Point received it’s name after a weary traveler, leaving the boat for the first time in months, reportedly looked heavenward and said, ”For conscience’s sake, we’ve hit land!” 1

Shinnecock Pageant

The first recorded pageant at Conscience Point that included Shinnecock people in traditional clothing happened in 1912, commemorating the landing of the colonists from Lynn, Massachusetts in 1640.

Frances-Marshall-Green Conscience Point Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Frances Marshall Green – Photo by Harvey Laudin

Frances Marshall Green (1891-1974) participated as a young woman in the 1912 pageant. Green was daughter of Nellie Cuffee (1869-1904) and Frank Marshall, and first cousin to Lois Princess Nowedonah Hunter. 1

  1. Stone, G. (1983). The Shinnecock Indians: A culture history. Stony Brook, NY: Suffolk County Archaeological Association. pp 319, 345

Reenactment

June 10, 2015

On the 375th anniversary of the settling of the town of Southampton, during the Founders Day celebration, a rededication ceremony took place to commemorate the settlers’ arrival. The ceremony was hosted by former U.S. Representative Tim Bishop. It featured a historical reenactment of the landing performed by members of the Southampton town and members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. 1

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