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Why did North Hempstead split from Hempstead?
Short answer: They didn’t like each other, said North Hempstead Town historian Howard Kroplick. But then again, the American colonies were embroiled in the Revolutionary War, triggering a divide between the two areas.
Long answer: On occasions when Kroplick receives inquiries about Hempstead, he has to remind callers of their mistake: He is the North Hempstead Town historian, and Hempstead and North Hempstead are not the same.
But, he will tell you, they weren’t always separate.
Hempstead and North Hempstead have been two different towns for 233 years, nearly the age of the United States itself. This is no coincidence — the American Revolution was the reason for the split.
“Basically we didn’t like each other,” Kroplick, who wrote “Images of America: North Hempstead,” said of the separation. “The split really tells you about the big difference in opinions on Long Island.”
When the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, Hempstead’s residents had to choose a side: Patriot or Loyalist. The Dutch, who had settled in the northern portion of Hempstead, were Patriots. South Hempstead was mostly colonized by English Loyalists. Official allegiance was up to the Hempstead Town Board, which was dominated by the English Loyalists.
At a meeting that month, the town board announced Hempstead’s “true and faithful allegiance” to the English Crown.
The Dutch in the north were outraged.
On September 23, 10 months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, Hempstead’s Patriots drafted and signed a declaration of independence of their own — to break free from Hempstead. In their declaration, the Patriots wrote that because the Loyalists’ “general conduct is inimical to freedom . . . we shall consider ourselves as an entire, separate and independent beat or district.”
It took 9 years for the Hempstead Patriots to gain traction. When the Continental Army lost the Battle of Long Island in 1776, Hempstead was under British control.
“A lot of the Patriots had to go into hiding,” Kroplick said.
After the war, the young New York State Legislature obliged the Hempstead declaration of independence. In one of the state government’s first major acts, New York Governor and founding father George Clinton signed the Act to Divide Hempstead in 1784.
The portion of Hempstead “south of the country road that leads from Jamaica nearly through the Hempstead Plains,” the law said, would be called South Hempstead. The land to the north would become North Hempstead. Today’s Town of Hempstead dropped the “South” from its name in the 1800s. And the “country road” outlined in the law refers to today’s Old Country Road.
The Town of North Hempstead has not been able to find its declaration of independence, according to Kroplick. But the Act to Divide Hempstead is currently stored in the town’s archives.
Sources: “Images of America: North Hempstead,” the Town of Hempstead and the Town of North Hempstead