Written BFD and the Baldwin Historical Society
The Story of Baldwin
THE BIRTH OF BALDWIN
Long Island has been forming for millions of years, and the hamlet now called Baldwin was nothing more than a small area of rocks, sand, water, and minerals for many ages before life as we know it existed. A glacier came from the north polar region and moved south over the New England area. It covered the area which is now Long Island, carrying earth as it moved. As Earth became warmer, the glacier slowly melted and retreated north again. Gradually, Long Island was formed.
The south shore was a washed out area, mainly sandy and flat. It was blessed with streams, rivers, and lakes that were fed by underground springs. As the temperatures got milder, living things began to grow including beautiful forests and the grasses of the Hempstead Plains. Our island became green with plant life and was a fine home for its first inhabitants.
At one time, the gray wolf, bobcat, black bear, white tailed deer, beaver, and rattlesnake traveled the land. Off Baldwin's shore were whales, seals, and otters. Many kinds of shore birds, as well as quail and turkey were neighbors to rabbits, opossum, and raccoons. In later years, the wolf, an enemy to the settlers' sheep, had a bounty placed on its head. Whales were hunted off the south shore beaches until there were very few left.
People may have walked this land over 12,000 years ago. The first known inhabitants of the area now called Baldwin were a part of the Algonquin nation.
Early Indians of this area hunted, fished, and farmed, growing crops, including corn, squash, and beans. These people lived in domed lodges made of young trees, tree bark, thatched grass, and mud. They dressed in animal skins and decorated themselves with feathers and shell jewelry. They did not live in tepees nor wear large feathered headdresses like the Sioux and other western Indian tribes. They were a peaceful group.
The Indians that occupied the Baldwin area were called the Merrick. Some of the Merrick Indians lived along Milburn Creek south of Merrick Road to the harbor.
We do not know when the first settlers came to Baldwin, but by the year 1660 the piece of land between today's Parsonage Creek near Oceanside, and Milburn Creek near Freeport was called Hick's Neck. It was named after John Hick who moved to Hempstead Town about 1654.
In 1664, the English captured New Amsterdam and started the Colony of New York. After this, our area became an English territory. The Hick's Neck area became a part of Queens County and remained so for many years.
Building a Community
In 1686, the town gave "mill rights" to John Pine. Mr. Pine chose five acres near the northeast corner of today's Milburn Avenue and Merrick Road and began to dam Milburn Creek to create a millpond. This gristmill encouraged farmers to settle in this area to take advantage of its valuable service, and a community began.
As Pine's Mill grew, so did the number of roads in our community. Hick's Neck Road ran from Hempstead Village to Pine's Mill and on to the harbor. Another road branched off this one and went to Oceanside. These rough roads were the beginning of Milburn Avenue and Grand Avenue. The South Country Road, later a colonial post road, traveled just south of Pine's Mill. Today it is called Merrick Road. At first these were all dirt and sand paths, some were used by the Indians. Frequent use by the settlers made the roads wider and also put deeper ruts in them. Rain and snow muddied them and made travel even harder. Later on, some roads, such as Milburn Avenue, were covered with clam and oyster shells, which made for good hard road surfaces. For short trips, the most common way to travel the roads was by foot. If you were fortunate, you might saddle a farm horse. However, early villagers took wagons, carts, sleds pulled by oxen, and sleighs in the snow. Later, horse-drawn stagecoaches ran on the major roads.
Most families made their living farming the land and the shoreline bays. As local farms grew, they planted corn, rye, oats, wheat, buckwheat, flax for linen, vegetables in house gardens, and fruit orchards. Salt hay cut in the harbor marshes and on the islands in the bay made good feed for their animals. Farmers raised cattle, oxen, sheep, hogs, chickens, geese, horses, and other domestic animals. "Baymen" (fishermen and shore hunters) took fish, clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, ducks, geese, plover, and many other game birds from the wild to use in kitchens for meals. The men and women worked together to make a good life for their families, and the children did their share by milking cows, gathering eggs, churning butter, and more. During the first years, Pine's Mill newcomers were settling, and wood lots were cleared to supply fuel and building materials as well as more planting fields.
The Revolutionary War
In August 1776, the British Army defeated George Washington's Continental Army in Brooklyn at the Battle of Long Island. Many Hempstead Town patriots left for the safe haven of Connecticut. For seven long years, until 1783, the British army occupied this area. During this time, many buildings were damaged by the troops living in them. The British army for its needs took a great amount of fencing and firewood, grains and other crops, and farm animals. When the Continental Army finally won the war and the British troops left Long Island for Nova Scotia, England, and the British West Indies, many local loyalists left with them for fear they might be hurt by returning patriots. Now Hick's Neck in Hempstead Town, Queens County, was a part of the State of New York and not a British colony.
By the late 19th century, Baldwin had grown to a small country hamlet and people from the city were beginning to travel on the South Shore Railroad for a weekend of fishing or relaxation. Baldwin began developing along Grand Avenue from the railroad south to the old stage coach "Plank Road," now called Merrick Road. It was on the corner of this intersection that Mr. Baldwin built a hotel and, on the opposite southeast corner, a large mercantile building which gave Baldwin its first General Store. This was the time before telephones, and the only way to report a fire was the reflection of the fire in the sky or a fast horseback rider. The surrounding fire departments would respond to save the rest of the village from total destruction.
baldwin fire department - 200
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