The origin of Long Island community names

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Have you ever wondered where Long Island towns got their names?

From Copiague to Quogue and everything in between, we've uncovered the origins of your hometown using municipal websites, information from historical societies and Newsday archives.

Do you have any fun facts about your community that you'd like to share? Email rachel.weiss@newsday.com.

Wading River

After being founded in 1671, Wading River received
(Credit: Marisol Diaz)

After being founded in 1671, Wading River received its appellation from the Algonquian name Pauquaconsuk, which means "the river where we wade for thick, round-shelled clams."

East Meadow

The origin of this hamlet's name isn't too
(Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

The origin of this hamlet's name isn't too surprising. East Meadow was named for its proximity to Hempstead. That's right: It's the meadow to the east of Hempstead.

Smithtown

Legend has it that in 1665, Englishman Richard
(Credit: Colleen Harrington)

Legend has it that in 1665, Englishman Richard "Bull" Smith was permitted by a local Native American chief to keep whatever land he was able to travel across while riding his bull, Whisper. The twist? He was given only one day's time. Utilizing that classic Long Island wit, Smith waited until the longest day of the year to complete this task; thus, Smithtown was born.

Of course, as years passed, historians have concluded that this tale is mostly bull. Records indicate Smith bought the land.

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Freeport

Original names: Great South Woods, Coe's Neck, Washburn's
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(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

Original names: Great South Woods, Coe's Neck, Washburn's Neck, Raynor South, Raynortown

Although Freeport was founded by settler Edward Raynor in 1659, the town received its current name in 1853 when postal authorities established the current appellation of Freeport with a post office. The name is believed to be inspired by the fishermen and transporters who preferred docking and unloading in the village's "free port," unlike New York Harbor, where duties were levied on cargo.

Ronkonkoma

Original names: Rockconcomuck, Raconkamucik The name Ronkonkoma comes
(Credit: Chelsea Katz)

Original names: Rockconcomuck, Raconkamucik

The name Ronkonkoma comes from a Native American word meaning "boundary fishing place."

Hicksville

Hicksville is named after Valentine Hicks, the second
(Credit: Frank Posillico)

Hicksville is named after Valentine Hicks, the second president of the Long Island Rail Road. Hicks, who also was known as a businessman in Jericho, revolutionized the LIRR by expanding the line into the prairie.

Melville

Original name: Sweet Hollow Melville may take its
(Credit: Steve Pfost)

Original name: Sweet Hollow

Melville may take its name from one of two origins: Either Herman Melville, the author of "Moby Dick," or "mel," which is the Latin word for honey. The latter plays on the huge population of honeybees in the area at the time. Melville, which has been Newsday's home since 1977, received its name in 1854.

Setauket

This town name comes from the Algonquian word
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

This town name comes from the Algonquian word for "land at the mouth of the river."

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Bellerose

In 1906, real estate developer Helen Marsh started
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

In 1906, real estate developer Helen Marsh started the process of transforming the acreage that would be ultimately incorporated as the Village of Bellerose in 1924. Although unconfirmed, it is believed that the community's appellation was taken from a sign on a bordering gladiola farm previously named "Bellerose." Joseph Rose, a flower farmer, also possibly had a daughter named Belle whose name may have been the inspiration.

Hewlett Harbor

Although the word
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Although the word "Hewlett" is inspired from the Hewlett family that farmed and lived in the area that today holds Hewlett and the incorporated villages of Hewlett Neck, Hewlett Harbor and Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Harbor received its distinct appellation from the Seawane Corporation, a company that acquired the estate once belonging to a celebrated lawyer named Joseph S. Auerbach. He originally purchased the land in 1900 for a summer residence. After the sale of his property in 1925, the Auerbach estate mostly remained country club grounds, but the new owners sold 2 square miles of the property to be developed for residential purposes, which became Hewlett Harbor. The Village of Hewlett Harbor incorporated that same year.

Island Park

Original names: Barnum Island, Hog Island, Jekyll Island
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Original names: Barnum Island, Hog Island, Jekyll Island

The Island Park-Long Beach Corporation company bought the property in 1921 that was then known as Barnum Island, a name bestowed by Queens County in honor of Sarah Ann Baldwin Barnum, who had purchased the island in 1874. Hog Island was a name used as early as the 17th century, possibly due to the presence of pigs introduced by European colonists. By 1923, the tract was renamed Island Park by its new owners, and that name remained after most neighborhoods within the community incorporated as a village in 1926.

Aquebogue

Aquebogue -- which is famous for Phil's Waterfront
(Credit: Lighthouse Marina)

Aquebogue -- which is famous for Phil's Waterfront Bar and Grill, pictured here -- comes from the Native American word meaning "land at the head of the bay" or "cove place."

Lynbrook

Original name: Pearsall's Corners Originally named for the
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Original name: Pearsall's Corners

Originally named for the owner of a general store located on the intersection of Merrick Road, Hempstead Avenue, Broadway and Atlantic Avenue, Lynbrook's name change came along in 1894. Many of the residents came from Brooklyn, and community leaders found inspiration from Brooklyn by co-opting the name but applying a syllable switch (Brook-lyn to Lyn-brook).

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Seaford

Original name: Seaman's Neck, Jerusalem South This Nassau
(Credit: Brittany Wait)

Original name: Seaman's Neck, Jerusalem South

This Nassau community was named to honor its founder, John Seaman. But the title doesn't derive from his last name: Seaman was a native of Seaford, East Sussex, in England.

Oyster Bay

According to the Town of Oyster Bay website,
(Credit: Nicole Bartoline)

According to the Town of Oyster Bay website, voyager David deVries penned the following entry in his diary in 1639: "On June 4, I anchored in a commodious haven on the north of Long Island. We found fine oysters there, from which the Dutch call it Oyster Bay." The rest is history.

Islip

In 1664, the settler Matthias Nicoll named the
(Credit: Erin Geismar)

In 1664, the settler Matthias Nicoll named the town after his village of Islip in Northamptonshire, England.

Deer Park

Original name: Huntington South Due to the amount
(Credit: Alexi Knock)

Original name: Huntington South

Due to the amount of scrub oak, pine trees and general wildlife in the area, one early resident referred to the town in a diary entry as "the Deer Park." Be careful what you journal!

East Rockaway

Original names: Near Rockaway, Clinktown The Rockaway peninsula
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Original names: Near Rockaway, Clinktown

The Rockaway peninsula is believed to have coined its name from the Recouwacky tribe of Native Americans that inhabited the area at the time when the first European settlers arrived.

One of its original names, Clinktown -- an identification that also covered what is today Lynbrook -- either referred to a man named Clink, a Native-American of the Rockaway tribe who once lived in the area, or to local boat-building (clinker is a manufacturing technique).

Rockville Centre

The bustling village was named after a local
(Credit: T.C. McCarthy)

The bustling village was named after a local Methodist preacher named Mordecai "Rock" Smith. He was also known as a blacksmith and a farmer in the community.

Glen Cove

Original name: Musketa CoveWhen John Carpenter of the
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(Credit: Johnny Milano)

Original name: Musketa Cove

When John Carpenter of the Colony of Rhode Island purchased a large tract of land from Matinecock Indian tribe chiefs Suscanemon and Werah in May 1668 with the goal of building a home and a sawmill, the purchase retained its Matinecock-given designation of "Musketa" (which, when roughly translated, refers to its shoreline location and meadowlands) and was named Musketa Cove.

However, when 1830s-era residents showed concern that its name (which sounded a lot like "mosquito," and was occasionally misspelled as such) could be detrimental toward developing the village as a summer resort spot, a name change became a point of consideration. There is a debunked legend that tells a tale of a local with Scottish ancestry who suggested re-using the name of an area in Scotland named "Glen Coe;" when his suggestion was misheard as "Glen Cove" (and the area was already known well as a "Cove") the misunderstood appellation gained favor. However, it's now held that as the village was in a glen, the name Glen Cove was inspired.

Whatever the naming route may have truly been, by 1834 the community (incorporated as a city by 1918) became Glen Cove for good.

Huntington

Huntington was most likely named in honor of
(Credit: Alexi Knock)

Huntington was most likely named in honor of Oliver Cromwell's birthplace. At the time of the community's founding in 1653, Cromwell was known as the Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Lawrence

Original names: Rockaway Neck A trio of brothers
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Original names: Rockaway Neck

A trio of brothers -- Newbold, Alfred and George Lawrence -- saw potential in the expanse between Far Rockaway and Woodsburgh known as Rockaway Neck that at the time was not much more than a stretch of farms and thick woodland. The siblings started buying up the area in the 1850s with plans to transform their purchase into a luxurious residential district, which was always tagged with the surname of the three operators of the fraternal development company. The Lawrence brothers' plan came to fruition, and the Village of Lawrence incorporated in September 1897.

Merrick

The word Merrick comes from the Algonquin word
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

The word Merrick comes from the Algonquin word Meroke, which means "peace." The tribe had formerly inhabited the area before European settlers founded the town in 1643.

Montauk

While the spelling of the town varied, Montauk
(Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

While the spelling of the town varied, Montauk was named after the Montaukett tribe, which inhabited the easternmost tip of Long Island before European settlers purchased the land.

Yaphank

Yaphank was named after a creek stated in
(Credit: Carl Corry)

Yaphank was named after a creek stated in the original deed, which dates to 1664.

Cedarhurst

Original name: Ocean Point The name Cedarhurst itself
(Credit: Ian J. Stark)

Original name: Ocean Point

The name Cedarhurst itself was inspired by a thicket -- or "hurst" -- of cedar trees within the community's boundaries. It was known as Ocean Point when its first Long Island Rail Road station was built in 1869.

Lindenhurst

Original name: City of Breslau This tale of
(Credit: Alexi Knock)

Original name: City of Breslau

This tale of two Long Island businessmen could make for a compelling screenplay someday. Thomas Welwood traveled from Brooklyn in the 1860s to what is now known as Lindenhurst. He acquired land in the region and then met a German immigrant named Charles Schleier. By 1869, they teamed up and began selling 25-by-100-foot lots of land. Lindenhurst was originally called the City of Breslau, named for Schleier's hometown in Germany.

After years of collaboration, the Welwood-Schleier partnership deteriorated. They even fought each other in court, which led to some people losing their homes. This led to so much resentment in the town that residents fought to change the name. In 1891, Lindenhurst was selected in honor of the linden trees on -- you guessed it -- Wellwood Avenue. The misspelling of Welwood's last name is the only noticeable result of the founders' feud.

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