|Table of Contents||Introduction|
In exchange for reconfirming previous land deeds between the Unkechaug and colonist Colonel William Tangier Smith, Smith granted in perpetuity one hundred and seventy-five acres of land to the tribe on Mastic Neck.
The grant stated that the Unkechaug, “their children and the posterity of their children forever shall without molestation from me or my heirs or assigns shall and may plant and sowe forever” and added that the Indians could not sell, convey, or alienate this planting right or any part thereof to any persons whatsoever.
The bounds of the deed were unfortunately blurred, and the Unkechaug now only retain fifty of the original one hundred and seventy-five acres, including the tract of the historic William Floyd Estate. Unkechaug people are recorded as living on the estate during the early 1700s and later archaeological reports confirm wigwam and planting grounds.
History of the Floyd family and House
The William Floyd House, also known as Nicholl Floyd House and Old Mastic House, was a home of William Floyd, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, in Mastic Beach, New York. It was his home from 1734 until 1803. The Mastic home is “reputed to be the best preserved and oldest manor house” in its part of Long Island.
The home was built by Nicholl Floyd, who was William Floyd’s father and was given to William’s son, also named Nicholl Floyd.
This Floyd family originated in Brecknockshire, Wales. The founder of the family in America, Richard Floyd (ca. 1620-1690), first appeared in American records in the late 1660s as a leading landowner on the North Shore of Long Island, first in Huntington, then in Setauket.
A half-century later, in 1718, his son Richard Floyd II (1665-1738), bought over 4,400 acres of property from William “Tangier” Smith of the Manor of Saint George. The property stretched six miles north from Moriches Bay and approximately one mile west from the Mastic or Forge River. It included use rights for the Great South Beach on what is now Fire Island. Richard Floyd II gave this property to his youngest son, Nicoll Floyd (1703-1755).
The first Floyd to live on the estate, Nicoll Floyd built the first portion of the “Old Mastic House” in 1724, constructing a two-story, six-room shingled wood frame house. He developed the land into a prosperous plantation, using both slave and free laborers to raise grain, flax, sheep, and cattle. Nicoll Floyd expanded the home as his wealth and his family grew. Nicoll Floyd’s oldest son, William Floyd(1734-1821) inherited the property in 1755 at the age of 20.
William Floyd became an important plantation owner and was active in local politics. In 1774, he was a delegate from New York in the First Continental Congress. As a member of the Second Continental Congress, 41-year-old William Floyd was the first of the New York delegates to sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. After the Revolutionary War, William Floyd (who was in exile from 1777 to 1783) moved back to Mastic, and enlarged the house, making it suitable for entertaining such national leaders as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Floyd moved from Long Island to Westernville, New York, in 1803, where he died in 1821, leaving the Mastic property to his son Nicoll Floyd II (1762-1852).
Subsequent owners included John G. Floyd, Sr. (1806-1881), John G. Floyd, Jr. (1841-1903), and Cornelia Floyd Nichols (1882-1977).
These next generations of Floyds continued to operate the plantation and kept the land intact until the 1870s. As the family’s business interests shifted from agriculture to politics and other business activities centered in the New York City area, the lands were used for outdoor pursuits like hunting and fishing. During this time approximately 2,200 acres of the property were sold. In 1881, the remaining 2,200 acres were divided among five brothers and sisters, four of whom used their property for summer homes and winter hunting trips. The Old Mastic House was inherited by William Floyd’s great-great-granddaughter, Cornelia Floyd, who lived on the property with her children and grandchildren and donated it to the National Park Service.
From 1724 to 1976, eight generations of the Floyd family lived in the Old Mastic House and loved this land.1
The Unkechaug Indian Nation petitioned to become part of the Indian school system of New York State based on legislature passed in 1804 and April 30, 1846 for Indian education. The establishment of the school at Poospatuck was fiercely opposed by the Floyd family.2 The Floyd family understood that involvement by the state in the education of the Unkechaug represented a fundamental acknowledgment of the tribal existence and community rights of the Unkechaug nation and thus a limiting of the family’s unilateral control of the Indians which had gone on for generations. The 19th-century legislature sought to facilitate civilization among the Indians was a means for the state to manage Indians affairs independent of the federal government and reflected the national policy of cultural assimilation across the United States.3
The house is now owned by the National Park Service as part of Fire Island National Seashore.