Friday, November 20, 2009

Carmen/Miller Cemetery Restoration Progresses

Today cleared up much earlier than forecast but given the ~2" of rain this morning and the wet ground I think we made the right decision to wait until Tuesday to resume.

According to most written accounts, Sam Carman, Daniel Webster and the tavern crew imbibed quite a bit. The day usually ended with Webster being carried upstairs to his room. Given the historical alcoholic haze though which the folks interred here saw things, this fence would look perfectly straight to them.

-- Marty

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good start installing Carmans fence

Monday, November 16, 2009
Today was a beautiful Fall day and Betty, Diane, Ron, Bob, Eben and I made good use of it by putting in nine sections of split-rail fence at Carmans/Miller. The posts for these sections are still loosely placed, we'll tighten everything up after we get the fence roughly placed. A County employee, Kevin, was there with two helpers grinding wood chips out of the bush pile we left in the field and just happened to have an auger with them. They put the holes in near the oak tree on right, in background, of below picture where the roots were thick. Depending on the weather, we tentatively plan to come back on Friday to continue. --Marty

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Work at the Carman/Miller Cemetery

It's taking a lot longer than we anticipated readying the Carmans/Miller cemetery for the split-rail fence. Diane, Ron, Eben and Marty spent another two hours on Friday removing logs, small hills, fence poles and leveling the two Miller headstones plus several foot stones. Ron and I will go back on Monday to remove a few more small trees, I think then we'll ask for the fence to be delivered. Here's what the scene looked like today- 

The below is in the Miller portion of the cemetery where the usual suspects leveled two mounds of dirt from uprooted trees:

We bought some crushed concrete with us, and a level, and straightened out the Miller stones:


In clearing out the debris from where the barbed wired fence was I found the missing piece to Warren's headstone:

Ron dug all the way to China trying to dislodge Anson Hard's fence pole (installed 80 years ago) to no avail-


At the end of the day there was a big pile of logs and brush and a cemetery that hasn't seen the light of day in many years: 


If only Sam's Club (Sam Carman's Inn, that is) were still in business we could have gone across the street to wet our whistle.



Helen Tiernan Murder 1937

It was a lovely spring day. The weather was fair and in the upper fifties on Sunday, May 16, 1937 as sixteen year-old May Savage of Brookhaven Hamlet was walking through the woods near her home about 100 feet east of Yaphank Avenue [this section now generally known as Old Stump Road]. But her pleasant afternoon was shattered when about 2:50 pm she discovered the body of a young girl whose throat had been cut and whose body burned.

Thus began an episode that brought to Brookhaven Hamlet notoriety that was front page headlines in newspapers across the country.

Finally, after several years of procrastination, I have finally gotten to posting this story on the Brookhaven/South Haven web site at

While the news stories appeared in many national and international newspapers and were carried by the wire services, the accounts here are mostly transcribed from local community newspapers. They were selected to “tell the story” from a more local community perspective.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cemetery Maintence, 1937

Found while perusing the Long Island (Patchogue) Advance, Sept 3, 1937, Brookhaven (hamlet) news, by Helen M. Ewing:

"The annual cleaning of brush from the graveyards is being carried on by the state through the Town highway department. There are 12 of these family 'bury-grounds' in this community, including South Haven."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Azel Hawkins Cemetery Renovations Update

I stopped in to see if the latest repairs at the Azel Hawkins cemetery held up after 4 cold, rainy days with the epoxy curing. All is well. Hollis expects to finish next week. The cemetery looks a lot different then when we started working on it more than a year ago. --Marty

Note that Hollis raised many of the foot stones:

Fall Harvest

Marty van Lith's Fall harvest, as interpreted by John Deitz --

  • Why is a Pumpkin patch better than the Town of Brookhaven Council?
    Each year you get a brand new crop to choose from.
  • What is a pumpkin's favorite sport?
  • Why do Jack-o-lanterns have stupid smiles on their faces?
    You'd have a stupid smile, too, if you had just had all your brains scooped out!
  • What's the ratio of a pumpkin's circumference to its diameter?
    Pumpkin Pi (3.1428571428571428571428571428571)
Picture by Marty, bad jokes by John.

Antique Fire Department

Shady Grove Antique Fire Department
Est. 1968

I recently received this email on a local Brookhaven Hamlet institution which I would like to share.

The Shady Grove Antique Fire Department was started in 1968 by Jim Verni of Brookhaven, Long Island, New York. Jim is originally from Baldwin, New York, where he was a member of Hose 2 of the Baldwin Fire Department in 1950. At that time, one of the fire trucks housed at Hose 2 was a 1929 American LaFrance type 92 which he responded to and sometimes drove to alarms.

He was later married to his wife Mary and purchased a delicatessen on Hastings Street in Baldwin. At this time he could no longer volunteer at the Baldwin Fire Department. Jim and Mary Verni moved to Brookhaven, New York and opened up another delicatessen in 1957 after selling the one in Baldwin. Years later in 1961, Jim Verni joined the Brookhaven Volunteer Fire Department.

In 1968, a customer came into the deli and said he had just purchased an old fire truck that had been used on Fire Island for several years. Jim found out that it was the same truck that he had ridden on and driven when he was in the Baldwin Fire Department. It was in real bad shape but it still had the word “Baldwin” painted in big letters on the hood. Jim bought the truck for $500 and restored it with the help of family and friends and put it in local parades.

In 1969, Jim acquired a 1942 Ahrens Fox Piston Pumper originally from Harrison, New Jersey model #HT3457 and restored that also. Jim later found out that the Ahrens Fox had quite a history of its own. The Ahrens Fox Company stopped manufacturing fire trucks between 1942 and 1946 to build parts for the war effort. Only one truck was built during this time from spare parts in stock with serial # HT 3457. It was nicknamed the War Baby. Jim being an Army veteran that enlisted in 1946 was very proud to show of the War Baby and tell about its history.

Then in 1970, one of Jim’s friends found a 1924 Model-T Ford, which was already restored to a Chief’s car. It had the name Shady Grove Antique Fire Department lettered on the door, thus the Shady Grove Antique Fire Department was born. Later on in 1973, Jim, now being Chief of the Brookhaven Fire Department, purchased a 1926 American LaFrance Type 75 Pumper with a 1915 Tiller Ladder from Pennsylvania and again had his family, friends, and fellow firefighters help restore it. In 1976, Jim purchased a 1941 Mack L-Model 650 gpm Pumper from the Baldwin Fire Department and also restored that. In 1976, Shady Grove Fire Department was up to five rigs which appeared in musters and parades throughout the Tri-State area.

In 1981, Jim Verni sold the 1929 American LaFrance and the 1924 Model-T to a collector in Springfield, Missouri. In 1985, he sold the 1926-1915 American LaFrance Ladder Truck to a collector in Tennessee. In 1987, Jim sold the 1941 Mack to his son, Michael also of Brookhaven. In 1989, Michael also bought the 1942 Ahrens Fox from his father and sold the Mack to a collector in Boca Raton, Florida. In 1990, Mike bought a 1929 Ford Model-A and restored it into a Chief’s car. Jim never pumped the Fox while he owned it but Michael wanted to see how powerful the HT models were. Mike was able to get in touch with Kurt Nepper of Ahrens Fox. He had buildings full of parts and sold Mike all the parts needed to rebuild the pump. The Fox now pumps 1000 gallons per minute and participates in pumping events along with other Foxes at musters.

In 1997 Michael, without his father’s knowledge, found out where the 1929 La France was located in Missouri. He purchased it, brought it back to Brookhaven, and restored it yet again (sixteen years after Jim sold it). It was the truck that started the whole Shady Grove tradition. It was very important to Mike that the first fire truck that his father drove in Baldwin in 1950 stays in his family forever. Jim inspired his whole family to volunteer in the Brookhaven Fire Department. Mike Verni is a 34-year member and ex-Chief, his brother and brother-in-law are 35-year members and his sons and nephew are also members of the Brookhaven Fire Department.

The three trucks that now make up the Shady Grove Antique Fire Department are housed in a garage behind Michael Verni’s house and appear in local Fire Department parades and musters. The next generation is ready to take the wheel but Mike is not ready to retire any time soon he has too much fun just riding around town. For more history and pictures please visit our website at which is still under construction or email Michael Verni at

Friday, October 2, 2009

Newsday story on your Town government at work

This posting is not about you-know-what, but it is a great story about our helpful Brookhaven Town government and its employees.   It's a composite of several emails received today from members of the Fire Place History Club.

Who ya gonna call?

--- when you want help restoring your historic building?  House Busters (AKA the Town of Brookhaven, Department of Parks and Recreation).

Here are some quotes from the Newsday article (Newsday, October 2, 2009, click headline for article):

Coram Landmark LI House --- It's History

Bid to renovate an 1824 house turns to dust in Coram

The historic Mott House before the workers of Brookhaven Town came on Monday to help. They were going to clean it up and get it ready for restoration.

Now you see it, now you don't

The historic Mott House on Thursday, after the Brookhaven Town workers had finished their "clean up" job.

. . . the workers went in to clean the 185-year-old building . . . but then . . .

. . . workers over a period of three days removed parts of the building

. . . Community members watched workers remove the . . . windows and interior doors and the floor-to-ceiling cabinets.

"We went in there with the best of intentions," [Parks Commissioner Edward] Morris said. "It's an unfortunate incident."

According to two former parks department employees, a 2006 study determined that the Mott House was structurally sound.

"What I don't understand is the removing of things like windows and doors." [said Joel Snodgrass of Historic Construction Management.]

The Town had intended to put $89,000 toward the renovation of the site.

Gordon Heights residents had . . . drafted a federal Community Development Block Grant fund application . . . to restore the building. "Now we are in a situation where we have until Oct. 6 to put together a totally different CDBG application."

The site was quickly cleared. . . . In the haste to clear the site, Brookhaven squandered an opportunity to examine the debris . . .

Supervisor Mark Lesko said that he would launch an investigation. "I don't know what happened here, but we need to find out."

[Deputy Parks Commissioner Carol] Bissonette did not return repeated calls for comment.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert offered a resolution to have experts help the town with its historic sites.

And we want these people to maintain our historic cemeteries? The timing of the Town Parks Department's incompetence being exposed couldn't be better for the Fire Place History Club.  Sometime this month the Town has to respond to our cemetery maintenance lawsuit. The article also reminds us that we, the FPHC, need to come up with ideas on how to preserve some of our own historic buildings outside of the Fire Place Historic District, such as the Barteau house in front of the Barteau cemetery along Montauk Highway. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brookhaven/South Haven Cemetery Projects nearing completion

Marty van Lith forwarded to the members of the Fire Place History Club the following update on this Summer's projects:

Our work in the Hamlet of South Haven is coming to fruition now that Hollis' repair work is completed. It would be nice if we could figure out a way to clean the headstones without damaging them. We still have two tasks in front of us to complete our work there - put up a split-rail fence and get the Town to maintain this cemetery. Pictures below were taken this morning (23 October 2009).

Carman Family Cemetery

These first two are of the recently completed Carman Family cemetery.

South Haven Presbyterian Church Cemetery

The mysterious workings of the Town never cease to amaze me. The front part of the South Haven Presbyterian cemetery is being maintained, right up to a point where a fellow named Hodges left off one day in early June promising to come back the next day to finish. He never did and the automatons who followed just continued mowing the area Hodges cleared.

Houston! We got a problem. This big, old, rotten maple tree is headed straight for some headstones that Hollis just repaired:

Azel Hawkins Cemetery

Meanwhile, three miles to the west, Hollis started repair work on the Azel Hawkins cemetery off Stillwood Lane, in Brookhaven Hamlet.

That son-of-a-gun even managed to repair Selah Hawkins' headstone, something I've tried to do several times over the course of two years:

There's a yellowjacket nest under the white piece of cardboard, which may have caused an early exit for Hollis and George.


Carman/Miller burying ground

The following email was recently sent by Marty van Lith to members of the Fire Place History Club.  Marty is the "project manager" for the Brookhaven/South Haven cemetery conservation and renovations projects sponsored by the Club and funded by Town of Brookhaven Caithness Community Benefit Funds.  This particular site is the small Carman/Miller burying ground in South Haven, NY.

"George Hill Moore Peconic Monument Works" is the name of our stone mason, Hollis Warner's company.  I believe that Hollis' office and workshop on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead was built in 1843 by George Hill.  Imagine Hollis' surprise when he found inscriptions on two of the headstones in Carmans cemetery with his company's name on it.  Here are some pictures taken this morning:



Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fred Gillespie. 1916-2009

Sad News

Dear All,

Frederick Joseph (Fred) Gillespie suffered an aortic aneurysm ~7 pm Thursday, August 13, held on, conscious, through night, died at 9 am Friday, August 14th.

Fred's wake will be Sunday and Monday, 2-4 and 7-9 at Robertaccio's Funeral Home, 85 Medford Avenue (Rt. 112), Patchogue, N.Y. 11772.  Phone: 631-475-7000.  My understanding is that there will be a 10 AM mass Tuesday at St. Joseph The Worker Church, 510 Narragansett Ave., East Patchogue, [NOTE CHANGE OF CHURCH] and the burial at Oaklawn afterward.  Fred's family asked me to pass the word along to you thanking everyone in the history club for all that we are doing and that for the past 6 years Fred really enjoyed working with us.


Also visit Ken Spooner's remembrances of Fred by clicking here

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Gillespie Place, Brookhaven, NY

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Birth Certificate

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - 1924 Elementary School Roster

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - 1928-1930 School Picture, Brookhaven, NY

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - 1924 Elementary School Picture, Brookhaven, NY

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Family Picture

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - World War II Picture

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - World War II

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - WW II memorial cap

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Memorial Cannon
Fred spearheaded the upgrading and maintenance of the Memorial Triangle.  When he was a kid working for Charles Valentine, and when things were slow in the Brook store, Valentine sent him out to help the mason lay the foundation (with rocks) for the original placement of the cannon.  One of the "triangle" legs was named after him.

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - First Brookhaven, NY Fire House
Fred was an active member of the Brookhaven Fire Department.
Pictured is the first Brookhaven Fire House.

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Yvonne, Fred's wife
Yvonne, Fred's wife

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - Fred and his wife Yvonne
Fred and Yvonne.

Frederick Joseph Gillespie - at Rose cemetary
Fred actively participated in the Fire Place History Club, recounting stories of early Brookhaven.
Here he is discussing the restoration of the Rose Cemetery.  His family farmed the Ireland property containing the the cemetery.

Frederick Joseph Gillespie

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

David Hawkins Cemetery Maintenance

David Hawkins Cemetery Aug 11, 2009

From Marty Van Lith

Getting the permit was half the fun, but the David Hawkins Cemetery is in relatively good condition located in a bucolic setting deep in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge woods. Eben Ludlow, George and Meg Koch and I cleared it in about an hour and then excavated four headstones for our stonemason, Hollis Warner, to evaluate. More pictures from Meg to follow.

Click picture for enlarged view.

Pictured Eben, George and Meg