Good Evening
Good Evening
TravelLong Island GetawaysHamptons

Historian touts North Sea's forgotten port past

Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical

Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum, stands next to the Scott House in North Sea on Thursday, June 4, 2015. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

In the late 1600s, it was not only the most active port on Long Island but the third-busiest in all of the colonies behind Boston and Philadelphia. In recent decades, though, Feversham has eroded from memory, even in Southampton Town, where it was located.

Now a local historian has embarked on a campaign to rekindle interest in the settlement that had a huge but unappreciated impact on the development of Long Island.

Tom Edmonds, executive director of the Southampton Historical Museum and Research Center, noticed references to Feversham several years ago while examining town records and began researching it. The result is a pamphlet he will distribute Saturday at a Founders Day event in North Sea, the hamlet around Conscience Point on Peconic Bay once called Feversham -- pronounced Fev-er-sham.

Saturday's celebration marks the 375th anniversary of settlers arriving from Massachusetts at Conscience Point in 1640 to settle farther south in what is now the Village of Southampton.

Feversham's story starts 10 years later. Named for a small port town in England, it was the handiwork of entrepreneur John Ogden, who was given a land grant by Southampton officials in return for a promise to settle 23 families along the town's northern shoreline.

Ogden had lived in Connecticut, building a stone church there and another in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, later New York City. Ogden didn't stay in Feversham long, but moved on to help settle Elizabethtown, New Jersey, Edmonds said.

Edmonds said he has gleaned that the community had several farmhouses clustered plantation-style, two taverns, a warehouse, a brick kiln and a customs house -- all there because of the harbor. "Southampton and the East End thrives because of Feversham," he said.

"Long Island in the 17th century was full of virgin forests [for timber] and people were raising cattle and other goods on the rich fertile soil," the historian said. "The pioneers were able to grow really great crops, and they would ship flour and timber to England and take in rum and sugar from Barbados."

By the 1680s it was exporting whale oil to Boston and London, and cordwood to North Carolina. Edmonds said one entry in town records shows 1,000 pounds of dried pork sent to Virginia.

Passengers traveled from Feversham to Connecticut, Boston, London and Barbados. "Feversham was also like a little Ellis Island," Edmonds said. Settlers landed there, then moved across Long Island or inland.

The harbor was too shallow to dock large ships, so smaller boats ferried cargo to and from shore. Still, Feversham was the only major port for Long Island until after 1700, Edmonds said. He cited Robert Morden's 1680 map of New England, which shows Feversham with no other communities in the area, no Southampton, no East Hampton. "Feversham is important enough to stand alone on the end of Long Island," Edmonds said.

Sag Harbor, settled in 1730, didn't see major development until the end of the century, about the time Feversham disappears from maps, he said. Sag Harbor supplanted it because of its deepwater harbor and the growing whaling industry. The last map Edmonds found showing Feversham was from the early 19th century.

Feversham became a sleepy farming community. "They grew apples," Edmonds said. "That was about the most exciting thing happening."

The area known as Feversham, or Northampton for a time, eventually became North Sea.

Now all that's left of the development from Ogden's time is a 1661 farmhouse and the foundation of brick kiln from the 1600s. The house was owned by the family of Capt. John Scott -- a 17th century royal adviser, military leader and land speculator who wanted the Island to be the 14th colony with himself as governor -- until the early 20th century. It's still a private residence.

As for Feversham's lack of current notoriety, Edmonds said that "people used to know about it. It was commemorated in earlier anniversaries" of the town's founding. In 1940 organizers made a model of Feversham, and it was mentioned in a book for the 1965 anniversary.

John Strong of Southampton, a historian of colonial Long Island, said: "A lot of interesting things happened there. A lot of interesting people ended up there and went out to other areas and founded towns. But it's just one of those things that dropped out of sight."

Top Travel stories