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Smithtown founding family is subject of new book

Legend has it that Richard Smith, a member

Legend has it that Richard Smith, a member of Smithtown's founding family, rode his bull, Whisper, along what are now the borders of the current Smithtown Town. Whisper's statue is seen standing on Aug. 5, 2010. Credit: Colleen Harrington

The town’s founding family is the subject of a new book to be published next month by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

St. James-based author Claire Nicolas White explores the answer to the question “What does it mean to be a Smith?” in her new book “The Land of Smiths: A Collection of Personal Memoirs.”

White, who is a Smith by marriage, conducted numerous interviews with Smith descendants in the 1970s and reviewed written memoirs before that time, according to the heritage organization's communications manager Marie Gilberti.

“She’s a big historian. The book itself — there’s obviously a lot of connections between the Town of Smithown, the Smith family, and even Stony Brook,” Gilberti said.  “Jonas Smith in the 1800s actually lived at the Three Village Inn. It’s now obviously a restaurant. During his time, he was a big maritime captain.”

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization owns the inn, she said, adding that Smith would entertain captains from all over the world who shared maritime tales there.

White’s book is the first to be published by the organization, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, Gilberti said. Next year is also the 350th anniversary of the Town of Smithtown.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization plans to host a free reception and book signing from 3 to 4:30 p.m. March 30 at its Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., in the Stony Brook Village Center.

Gilberti said the gathering will offer residents a chance to learn about the history of Smithtown, St. James, Stony Brook and Head of the Harbor.

White, who has written more than 20 books, will lead a discussion about the Smiths at the event, which also includes a special theatrical presentation of her book.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase. For more information, call 631-751-2244 or visit


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