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Greenlawn to rename street for slave turned Pickle King

Samuel Ballton was born into slavery in Virginia

Samuel Ballton was born into slavery in Virginia and settled in Greenlawn in 1873. Besides pickles, he also grew cucumbers and cabbage.  Credit: Copy Photo

It’s a name befitting a king: Boulevard Avenue in Greenlawn is now going to be known as Boulevard Avenue/Samuel Ballton Way, in recognition of the Pickle King of Greenlawn.

Huntington town officials are taking the recommendation of the town’s African-American Historic Designation Council to rename the street, east of Taylor Avenue,  in honor of one of its trailblazing African American residents.

“I am elated that Samuel Ballton is finally getting the recognition he deserves,” said Irene Moore, chair of the African-American Historic Designation Council. 

Ballton was born into slavery in Virginia. During the Civil War he escaped with five other slaves, surviving on bacon and flour, and later served as a Union soldier in the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry. He settled in Greenlawn in 1873 just after the Long Island Rail Road arrived and worked as a tenant farmer.  

In the late 1890s while working as a sharecropper for the owner of the largest farm in Greenlawn, he grew a record 1.5 million pickles in one harvest, earning him the moniker Pickle King.

In one season Ballton also grew a record number of cucumbers and cabbages.

Despite the oppressive times for African Americans in which he lived, Moore said Ballton was very accomplished. He was able to farm his own land and use his profits to build homes and sell them to others, contributing to the development of Greenlawn. Some of the homes still exist.

“He is remembered as an outstanding founding member of the Greenlawn community,” Moore said.

Ballton died in 1917. 

In the 1920s, when a white pickle blight turned the cucumbers white and stunted their growth, the pickle industry died in Greenlawn.

In 2016, town officials dedicated two historic markers highlighting Balton’s contributions. The markers are in the municipal parking lot between Broadway and Gaines Avenue and at the intersection of Taylor and Boulevard avenues.

“I have been proud to highlight many individuals whose contributions to the history of our town have been overlooked for too long,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.  “Samuel Ballton is a perfect example of someone deserving of greater recognition.”  

No date has been set to install the sign or for its unveiling.

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