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Islip has come a long way in 335 years

Main Street in Bay Shore in the late

Main Street in Bay Shore in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Credit: Martin Anderson

Islip Town Clerk Olga Murray said that when she compares today’s town board meetings to records from the earliest ones, “probably the only thing missing is a beer.”

That's because the earliest meetings were held in taverns. The issues before the board were, of course, different: roaming livestock caused a huge hassle. The high cost of maintaining the poorhouse prompted officials to briefly shut it down and hire its residents out for work. A witchcraft accusation is believed to have launched a short investigation.

But the meetings still feel the same because "people don’t change” and are still seeking to make the town better, Murray said.

As town officials this week mark the 335th anniversary of the land deal that launched Islip, here is a look at its varied history, according to town historian George Munkenbeck:

Nov. 29, 1683: William Nicholl purchases about 50,000 acres of land from Chief Winnequaheagh of Connetquot. He named it Islip Grange in honor of his hometown of Islip, England. His family controlled the land for about 200 years.

Dec. 5, 1684: William Nicholl receives official royal patent for the land from King Charles II. Four patents for other land were later granted to Andrew Gibb, Stephen VanCourtlandt, John Mowbray and brothers Richard and Thomas Willetts.

1704: First record of elections for town board.

Nov. 25, 1710: Government forms in the “Precincts of Islip” with a Colonial Assembly law.

April 5, 1720: The first recorded town board meeting is held under Supervisor Benjamin Nicholl.

1732: Islip is directed to build its first road, which was laid out in 1735.

Nov. 25, 1783: British occupation of Islip ends.

April 6, 1790: Municipality is called “Town of Islip” in meeting minutes for the first time.

1790: George Washington stays at Sagtikos Manor in Bay Shore. Wealthy families also begin to vacation in the town, leading the Vanderbilts to later build an estate in Oakdale.

1826: First Fire Island Lighthouse is erected. The current lighthouse was finished in 1858.

1844: Long Island Rail Road comes to Islip Town.

1857: Schoolhouse for Modern Times, a Utopian settlement in Brentwood, is constructed.

1870: Town hall is built.

Oct. 12, 1883: Town seal is designed and presented to officials in a letter. The Latin motto translates to: “Have confidence but be careful in whom you confide."

Jan. 16, 1917: The Zimmerman Telegraph, which helped launch U.S. involvement in World War I, was transmitted through the Telefunken Wireless Radio Station in West Sayville. The telegram, which was intercepted by the British, said that Germany would seek a secret alliance with Mexico if the United States got involved.

1950s: New York City residents move to Islip after World War II. Big suburban development does not begin until the 1960s.

1987: Islip makes national headlines when the Garbage Barge goes out to sea with more than 3,100 tons of trash from Islip and New York City.

Celebration starts next week

Town officials will mark the anniversary in a yearlong celebration, including:

  • A kickoff, which will include a parade and lighting ceremony, at 4 p.m. on Nov. 29 at town hall.
  • People will dress up in period clothing during a “Living History” event at Islip Grange in Sayville on June 8
  • A family fun day and free pool use at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on Aug. 29.


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