Riverhead celebrates history of its creation

Town councilman John Dunleavy, left, with Town of Town councilman John Dunleavy, left, with Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter as he reads the 1792 resolution outside Town Hall. (March 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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Addressing an oversight of more than two centuries, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter stood in front of his Town Hall this week and read aloud the resolution that split the Town of Southold in two, creating "River Head" and marking the town's long-overlooked birthday.

"We're going to read this every year," Walter proclaimed on Wednesday.

Town historian Georgette Case rang a small brass bell to begin the brief celebration. "It's 9:30 and all is well," she said, slipping into the role of town crier and announcing "great news has arrived from Albany."

The news was that the State Legislature had voted to divide Southold, Long Island's only North Fork town, after receiving petitions from Wading River residents, who complained it took too long to get to Town Hall in Southold hamlet.

"By horse and buggy, it took nearly a day," Case explained. "It was very inconvenient." Wading River is the westernmost part of modern-day Riverhead, and the river itself forms the town line separating Riverhead from Brookhaven.

The division was uneven. Riverhead was formed from what had become known as the Aquebogue Purchase, the first major land buy by settlers of Southold, who acquired the property from the Corchougs, a native Algonquin tribe, in 1649.

The law creating the new town was passed on March 13, 1792. Town officials said they will commemorate the anniversary every year, but -- if March 13 falls on a Saturday or a Sunday -- they might celebrate a day early or a day late.

Walter's proclamation noted that the first official meeting of the new town took place in the house of John Griffing on April 3, 1792.

The event was a second celebration of sorts for Case, who has written a book on the supervisors of Riverhead town. She included a page of background information on each of them, but gave special notice to only a few, such as John Leonard, who served from 1972 to 1975 and opened a new Town Hall and Riverhead's first recycling plant. "I wanted to be fair to everybody," she said.

Riverhead has had 61 town supervisors, with several serving multiple terms.

Case's part-time town office is the somewhat worn down East Lawn building, at 542 E. Main St. in Riverhead hamlet. It was built about 1850 by Hubbard Corwin on what was then 50 acres of farmland.

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