A safe distance, at Crane Neck

As we’ve discussed before, in May of 1710 Abraham Dayton, son of Samuel, petitioned the New York Council for charity and was referred back to the Justices of the Peace in Suffolk County, recommending that they provide for he and his family “as the nature of his circumstances require.”

Two years later in May, Abraham’s wife “Katherine” was mentioned by name for the last time in any known record. Without any mention of Abraham, the town of Brookhaven granted his wife and “eldest son” Jonathan the use of 20 acres of town land they had already occupied and were improving. The record says the property was about three quarters of a mile west of Flax Pond, placing the family on Crane Neck. She was roughly 44 years of age at the time the town acknowledged their need.

Crane Neck is the westernmost land seen in this Google© map. The red dot is between Crane Neck and Flax Pond, in its current shape and size. The pond could have looked much different 300 years ago.

There is no record of anyone pursuing Abraham to take responsibility for his family, as if they understood something unknown to us. The “nature of his circumstances” could indicate that he had become disabled either physically or mentally, as many did, from smallpox.

The selection of that particular plot of land the town lent to Catherine and Jonathan is very interesting because of its remote location, with its high bluffs along the Long Island Sound. It was probably because of its isolation that Old Field would be chosen for a hospital at the time of the 1770 eruption of smallpox and patients were ordered to remove to the place, “most safe and least dangres to ye inhabitants of this Town of Brookhaven.”

Twelve years after the town land was granted for Catherine and Jonathan’s use, 1724 Brookhaven Town Records say that Jonathan’s family was very ill, no doubt with smallpox. The epidemic had struck Boston in 1721 and had spread from there to Connecticut and Long Island. If Catherine was still alive, there was no specific mention of her since Jonathan was now of age—about thirty, with a family of his own.

The April 1724 and again in 1725, town record said,

Att ye same time voteed that Josefh Phillips shall bee payd for his Charg & truble in Doeing & prouayding for Jonathan Dayton & his famyle…

…pertickerlerly for Keepin Ionathan daytons famely In there Sickness.

It is assumed that most, if not the entire family, were suffering with smallpox and were in isolation.

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