Old Times In Commack
The Brooklyn Eagle
Saturday April 4, 1908.
Commack sixty years ago was a prosperous though
small village. It contained a unpretentious hotel, a thriving general store,
were every thing from New England rum to a paper of pins could be bought. All
the freight came from Northport, and it's said that James Waters the proprietor
of the store had more stuff brought from New York than all the stores in
Northport. The hotel was kept by Matthew Gardener. The general training day was
sometimes held at Commack, on which occasion the Militia, both on horses and
foot, met and went trough various evaluations, winding up with a good dinner
washed down by a draft of pure cider or something stronger. General training day
was one of the red letter days, and like General Putman, the militia left the
plow in the field and the cattle to care of the women, and they decked out in
all there glory, mounted the best horse and went to general training.
Some of the swords and articles are to be found in
various homes in and around Commack. Some polished and proudly hung on walls,
others stored away in attics.
Besides the hotel and general store, there were two
churches, both Methodists, one being the Stillwellit, a blacksmith’s shop and a
wheelwright’s shop, two small school houses and a post office. The postmaster
was Charles A. Cutting, one of the older members of the well known Cutting
family, of New York. He was a courtly and cultivated old gentleman, and was
looked upon as an authority, especially on pronunciation, by the less educated
of the citizens. He retained his position as long as he lived literally, dyeing
Among the inhabitants was an Honorable Charles A Floyd,
member of the assembly, county clerk of Suffolk County, also Supervisor of the
Town of Huntington. He was an able lawyer, and he and his wife were among the
best known and respected inhabitants of the vicinity, Mrs. Floyd being a leader
in society. Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Smith were also much respected. Dr. Darling B.
Whitney was a well known and much liked physician. He went to the Assembly for
one year returning to Commack to practice the healing art again. Smith Burr,
father of Carll S Burr SR, had a small hotel and was much interested in breeding
Sixty years ago Commack got its mail only twice a week,
and consequently there were no daily papers taken, most of the inhabitants
contenting themselves with a weekly. Some years later a weekly Tribune was taken
by quite a number, and every four weeks there was an installment of “Dumbey and
son” sent from England, which was read with avidity by some, while others
thought it poor reading. Such is fame.
There was two district school houses, about 3/4 of a
mile apart. During the summer months a woman teacher usually held sway, while in
the winter, when the “big boys” came to school, a man presided. This constant
change of teachers was very bad. Sometimes the pupils were fortunate enough to
get to have the same teacher for several consecutive winters, but the women
seldom came the second year. Of course, this was changed after a few years, but
this was the state of affairs sixty years ago.
This change of teachers was a waste for the dull and
idle children, but those who were bright and studious did succeed in getting a
common education in the rudimentary branches, and in spelling. I am shore the
boys and girls of sixty years ago would have out striped or out spelled the boys
and girls of today. There were often spelling matches, and the old Webster
spelling book was poured over and studied so thoroughly that on the day of the
match there were few spelled down, for if a word was missed the one who missed
sat down, having nothing further to do.
One of the teachers in the south school was Thomas W.
Conklin who afterward studied medicine and took his diploma, but later went back
to his old vocation and was principle in one of the New York public schools for
a number of years. He finally retired and spent the evening of his days at his
summer residency in Naugatuck, Connecticut were he died in the 1890’s.
Another teacher in the South School was Uriah Hinds, a
native of Main, and a good teacher and well liked by his pupils.
The inhabitants of Commack at this time were mostly
farmers, leading quite, uneventful lives. They were men of sterling character,
honest, and kindly, and doing there duty as they saw it. Among these were three
brothers by the name of Harned- Amos, Joel and John. They were all highly
respected and there memory is kept green in the hearts of there decedents and
the hearts of many still living who recall their sterling worth.
Far from the madding crowds and
Their sober wishes never learned
Along the cool,
sequestered vale of life,
They kept the noiseless tenor of
There was little poverty and no
great wealth, and all were on about one plane in society. Mrs. Floyd and Mrs.
Smith were the leaders in social matters, but all were on equal terms, a state
of affairs which is said to still exists in a measure in the quite little
village. The name has undergone a change in spelling, as it used to be spelt
Comac. Some say the change was because it sounded so much like Coram, a village
in the same county, that many letters went astray. Others say the name is of
Indian origin and used to be called Winniecomack. Some of the inhabitants of
Commack sixty years ago are still living, well advanced in years. One DR. A.F.
Jaynes is living in Centerport, with a mind as vigorous as a man half his age.
He met with a serious accident a number of months ago, which crippled him
physically but left his bright intellect undimmed.
One of the two Commack churches, the south church, for
lack of support ceased to be represented in the conference, and ministers of
various denominations spoke there at different intervals, until finally the
congregational synod took it in hand and for awhile a minister was installed.
While under the Stillwellites they had a minister by
the name of James Smith, a native of the North Ireland, and a determined and
outspoken man. One Sunday, after having failed to arose the sinners as he wished
to do, he began to berate them in know measured terms. He said “I have preached
in many of the United States, and in several of Her Majesties dominions, but I
have never met before such a Heaven daring and hell deserving set as I have
found in Commack. This so aroused his hearers, though not in a way he wished,
that he did not remain much longer in that church. Just a few miles east of
Commack is the beautiful little pond from whose clear depths Daniel Webster used
to delight in drawing the speckled trout. This distinguished orator and
statesmen spent many hours enjoying his favorite sport of fishing, and numerous
are the tales still related of his wit and good fellowship during these
There are many still living who can verify these
rambling notes, as they will recall with pleasure the old times of sixty years
ago in dear old Commack, and drop a tear on some of the graves in the little
churchyard by the old North Church.