Editor’s note: This article is part of a series in which Newsday attempts to answer questions from Long Islanders about life on the Island. If there’s a question you want us to answer, send it to us here.
How did Lynbrook get its name?
The short answer: We get a lot of questions about how various Long Island communities were named. Of course they all have their own stories, and they are often related to the person who founded the area, to communities in England, and to Native American roots.
The story of Lynbrook stood out for going through 10 names. Its many different identities took inspiration from Native American tribes, from people who lived in the area and from New York City.
The long answer: It took 251 years and 10 names before anyone ever heard of the Village of Lynbrook.
Rechqua-Akie and Rokawanhaka were the first names in its recorded history. Both are derived from the Delaware-Munsee language, according to Lynbrook historian Art Mattson’s book, “The History of Lynbrook.” Rechqua-Akie means “A Sandy Place,” in reference to Long Island’s soil. Rokawanhaka means “Our Place of Laughing Waters,” a specific reference to the Mill River.
The very first name changes began in 1643, when the English settled in the area. They purchased the land from the Native Americans, naming it Rockaway, after the original name Rokawanhaka. Today, we call the entire area the Town of Hempstead.
As the colony’s population rose, the town began splitting into hamlets, and in 1670, Near Rockaway would be used to describe the present-day Lynbrook, Rockville Centre and East Rockaway area. “Near” referred to the hamlet’s proximity to town hall just north, in today’s Village of Hempstead.
Near Rockaway would last as a general term for the three hamlets for the next 200 years. Most of the colonists lived on the Mill River, naming their particular enclave “Clink-Town,” after one of the last Rockaway Native American chiefs.
“The Mill River banks are the birthplace of Rockville Centre and Lynbrook,” Mattson, 73, said.
Clink-Town split up in 1790 — those on the northeastern side would establish Rockville Centre. Those on the northwestern side began moving toward Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue intersection, where the Old Sand Hole Church was located just a quarter of a mile away. The church, the cultural center of the town, stood on the site of today’s Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook. With a parsonage on the grounds, the new village became known as Parson’s Corners.
The village would go through four more name changes from 1853 to 1894 before it finally settled on Lynbrook. The first was Bloomfield, which appeared in newspapers and records for two years.
The reasoning behind Bloomfield is lost to history, Mattson said, “other than this was simply a field out here.”
But with the Village of Hempstead to the north and East Rockaway and Hewlett developing in the south, a man named Wright Pearsall saw a business opportunity in around 1830.
Pearsall bought 50 acres in the fields and at the intersection of Hempstead Avenue and Merrick Road, today’s Five Corners.
“It became a transportation hub,” Mattson said in an interview. “He built a general store, he encouraged others to come, and other businesses to come. Little by little, it became a town out of a blooming field.”
Bloomfield was renamed Pearsall’s Corners in 1855, and would later be simplified to Pearsallville and, later on, Pearsalls.
Are you keeping track? That’s nine names.
In 1867, the South Side Railroad opened a rail line that ran from New York City through southern Long Island, including a stop in Pearsalls — a line that would evolve into today’s Babylon branch of the LIRR.
With an easy commute to the city, Brooklyn residents began moving to Pearsalls, according to Mattson’s book.
There was just one problem: The newcomers didn’t like the town name.
A referendum was held on April 4, 1894, according to Mattson’s book. A month later, a new name appeared at the train station and in the U.S. Post Office’s records. It was the winner of the referendum, a name never before introduced in America.
It was Brooklyn transposed: Lynbrook.
Source: Art Mattson, author of “The History of Lynbrook”