With season 4 of Turn: Washington’s Spies beginning in just two days, here’s a little bit of information about our ancestors in Brookhaven and Setauket in relation to the story as depicted in the AMC series. For me, it gives life and extra meaning to the story.
Disclaimer: Although most of the main characters were real people and the series does present the Culper spy ring in Setauket in an acceptable manner, AMC has taken some liberty with historical fact.
I believe that the grave of Henry Dayton, who died about 1759, was probably in the burying ground of the Setauket Presbyterian church. As depicted in Season 1, Episode 10 The Battle of Setauket, British soldiers and loyalists under the command of Colonel Hewlett occupied the church building in 1777, removing and destroying its contents in order to use it as a stable and fort.
Also depicted as part of the fortification, soldiers and loyalists dug a defensive trench around the building, through the burying ground, unearthing the remains of Brookhaven forebearers. Grave markers and headstones were piled up as barriers, destroyed and were scattered around Long Island, repurposed in all manner of service.
As Henry Dayton and his father Abraham were members of the church, it is very possible that their remains suffered the same desecration, being unearthed and their markers pillaged (see Bayles, 1985).
Other connections to the drama are also interesting.
According to Ross (1902), when the patriots who launched the attack came across the sound before day break, they chose to land at Crane Neck, near that remote spot where Abraham Dayton’s family once lived (see Post, 1877 and Brookhaven Town Records).
Samuel Dayton, Abraham Dayton’s father, interacted on a regular basis with Richard Woodhull Senior, the grandfather of the central character in the TURN program, Abraham Woodhull. This Richard was the father of the Richard Woodhull character portrayed in the series.
After 1776, during the time the Setauket Spy Ring operated, the record of Henry’s son, David Dayton Senior falls silent until his death sometime before June of 1782. The circumstances of his death are unknown, but there is strong evidence that he and Ann had remained somewhere in the town of Brookhaven.
For more about Abraham Woodhull and the Culper Spy Ring, see History Close at Hand http://www.historycloseathand.com/index.php?pr=Home_Page