Rocky Point Historical Society
Thursday, July 13, 2023
VFW Post 6249
King Road Rocky Point
The North Fork Project team will present their research on
Enslaved People of the North Fork. The team has been
researching the history of slavery on the North Fork for the past
several years and will discuss their findings. The team includes
Steve Wick, Executive Director of the Times Review News
Group; Sandi Brewster-walker, independent historian
specializing in the history, culture, and genealogies of Long
Island people of color including the Native American
community; Richard Wines, independent historian specializing
in the history of Riverhead; and Amy Kasuga Folk, Southold
town historian. Mr. Wines will also discuss the Hallocks of
Riverhead and their relation to the Hallocks of Rocky Point.
Copies of the Society publication “Slavery in Rocky Point” by
Jim Higgins (2007) will be available for sale for $10. All are
welcome to attend. rockypointhistoricalsociety.org
North Fork History Project: Slavery, an ignored
part of our history
March 8, 2018
By Steve Wick
They were here, nearly from the founding of Southold Town in the mid-17th century. Their
presence has not been widely discussed or been part of the conversation in either Southold or
Riverhead towns, where the stories of the founding English families have dominated the
narrative for generations as if theirs were the only stories worth telling.
But there were African slaves here. They are part of the history. They were African-born and
bought at slave markets in New York City, and they were locally born and traded between local
farmers. Their numbers were small, but that doesn’t change the reality of their presence.
Some of their names are known. Most are not. You won’t find a plaque or monument to them
that acknowledges their presence.
There is a slave cemetery in Orient, which may not be a slave cemetery at all, as there is no
record of the names of the slaves buried there by a branch of the Tuthill family. That well-
marked slave cemetery may be more folklore than fact grounded in history and primary sources.
But even as folklore, it is an important part of the puzzle pieces that make up Southold history.
There is a wealth of information about slave history, African and Indian, at Sylvester Manor on
Shelter Island, which was a large northern plantation and will be the subject of the next story in
the North Fork History Project on March 22.
This story addresses slavery in Southold Town, which in the early days encompassed what is
now the Town of Riverhead. Until recently, local historians have not focused on the story of
slavery in Southold. Amy Folk, the Southold historian appointed in 2017, has made one focus of
her work an accounting of slavery in the town.
“I have always had historical questions I wanted answered about the town and this is the perfect
opportunity for me to dig deep,” she said. “The first thing I wanted to do is create fact sheets,
little essays that were Southold specific … I tackled slavery early on.
“I have come across about 160 names of Southold slaves over the span of slavery in the town,”
she said. “These are from church records, manumissions records, other sources. It was the 1680s
to 1820s. Most owners had one or two slaves; the most was six.
“In 1686 there were 27 slaves held by 12 owners,” she continued. “By 1698 there are 41 slaves.
At the end of slavery in New York State, in 1827, there were 11 left and 28 freemen in Southold.
I would like to get that information in our schools. I would like the town to understand its
history, and slavery is part of the story.”
Along with Ms. Folk, some local researchers like Bob Stanonis, a retired social worker, Dan
McCarthy, an archivist at Southold Free Library, and Richard Wines in Riverhead have dug into
records and made their own important discoveries. Perhaps their most significant contribution is
the addition of slaves’ names to the narrative. Names such as Kedar and Cloe, owned by a
William Albertson in Hashamomack; Pomp, a slave owned by Ben Sawyer; Dorcas, who was the
property of James Reeve; Cuff, who was owned by John Gardiner; and Jack, who was born in
Africa in the early 1700s and freed at the end of his long life when he became too old to work.
The Wickhams of Cutchogue — Joseph Wickham bought what is now the Old House and
hundreds of acres around it in 1699 — were slave owners for several generations. The names of
three of the family’s slaves are known from records: James, York and Osbons. Where did these
three come from? Perhaps they were bought at the slave market in New York, or, more likely,
from other North Fork owners.
A granddaughter of Joseph Wickham, Elizabeth, married a man named James Reeve. She seems
to have taken some of the Wickham slaves into her marriage and four of them — York, Osbons,
Catury and a child named Joseph — drowned on June 6, 1781, research shows. There is no
record of where the accident occurred or whether the bodies were recovered and where they were
buried. The shimmering mirror of history often reflects back very little.
It is through this line that we find the remarkable story of Lymas Reeve, a Southold-born slave
owned by Elizabeth Reeve. In the early 1800s, Elizabeth Reeve owned a broad swath of land on
what is today the Wickham Fruit Farm. A document shows that on June 25, 1812, Elizabeth —
who was called Aunt Betty Reeve — freed Lymas and a slave named Jenny and gave them an
acre of land on a part of the farm called Shell Bank that ran alongside what is today called