The Richard Floyd Account Book, 1719-1732: Insights into Changing Times in Colonial Brookhaven

John A. Strong and Mary Laura Lamont

Abstract: This article focuses on the second of two account books belonging to the Floyd family of Brookhaven, New York that are now at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. The first ledger, spanning the years 1686-1690, was the subject of a prior article by the same authors in the Long Island History Journal (2015), that illuminated economic and cultural engagements between Unkechaug Indians and English settlers in eastern Long Island during the late seventeenth century—especially as shore whaling, which relied on Indian labor, emerged as the region’s economic mainstay. The authors’ new research on the second ledger, which ranges from 1719 to 1732, reveals how those relationships changed during the early eighteenth century, especially with the precipitous decline of shore whaling. The article also documents a notable increase in women’s involvement in household-level textile production and the negative effects of growing Unkechaug debt and continued losses of their traditional homeland.

Keywords: Unkechaug, Richard Floyd, Pattersquash farm, Mastic, Brookhaven Town, Setauket, Indian debt, women, labor, textile production, shore whaling, North Atlantic right whale, Great South Bay, Moriches Bay, lay system, ledger books, barrier beach, William Tangier Smith, Manor of St. George, serge, carsey, pennystone, pipestaves

Articles VOL 27-1

By John A. Strong and Mary Laura Lamont


In 1999, the Huntington Library in San Marino, California acquired two account books which were identified as having belonged to “a Long Island merchant named Richard Floyd” of Brookhaven, New York. With further research, these ledgers have proven to be of major significance to early Long Island history. These two volumes—which span forty-six years (with some breaks)—provide strong archival evidence of the growing economic and cultural engagement between the Unkechaug Indians and English settlers in eastern Long Island from the late seventeenth to the early eighteenth century. The first ledger (RFL1), covering the years 1686 to 1690, was the subject of a prior article by these authors in the Long Island History Journal, which detailed the integral role of Indian labor in the rise of shore whaling as the region’s economic mainstay during the late seventeenth century. It also traced the Unkechaugs’ growing reliance on English manufactured goods which both transformed their material culture and enmeshed them in debt to Anglo merchants and landowners, like the Floyds.

Building on that scholarship, this article focuses on the second ledger (RFL2), dating from 1719 to 1732, to assess how these complex relationships changed over time, especially with the decline of shore whaling and the increase of household-based textile production by colonial women. By the mid-eighteenth century, English control over credit, labor relations, and the law left Long Island’s Native communities irrevocably mired in debt and further dispossessed from their traditional homelands.

The majority of entries in the first ledger were made by Richard Floyd Jr. (1664-1737.)[1] His father, Richard Floyd Sr. (1620-c.1700) was one of the early settlers in Setauket, on the north shore of Brookhaven Town, where he was listed as a “townsman” in 1668. As discussed below, Richard Sr.’s strategic land acquisitions—which often took advantage of disputes between his Unkechaug and English neighbors—ensured that his son, as well as future Floyds, enjoyed considerable affluence and social status. As a well-propertied merchant, Richard Jr. parlayed that inheritance into a prosperous enterprise by selling a variety of goods (often on credit) to Indians as well as his fellow English settlers; cumulatively, his multiple day-to-day transactions, many of which are recorded in RFL2, comprised a substantial operation. In due time, his sons joined the family business and began to record entries for their father in his ledger. Richard III (1703-1751) was sixteen when he made his first entries in RFL2. His signature appears several times, suggesting that, as a young man he may have been practicing his hand writing. There are several perfect matches of his penmanship in the William Floyd Estate archives. His younger brother, Nicoll, born in 1705, likely also made some entries. By contrast, Richard Sr. never learned to write and could only sign his name with a mark in the earlier ledger. As this suggests, the emergence of literacy among newly elite families like the Floyds accompanied many other economic, social, and political changes. Following in the footsteps of their father and grandfather, Richard III and Nicoll, were not simply merchants, both managed large estates. Richard III also held prominent political offices in the town and county. That family tradition continued into the fourth generation with Nicoll’s son, William, one of the four New York representatives who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and one of the newly-formed state’s first senators in 1777.

Fig. 1. Map of Mastic Peninsula showing approximate locations of Unkechaug villages and the William Floyd Farm and Estate Manor and the William Tangier Smith Manor. Courtesy Oklahoma University Press

Tracing the “Whale Design” in the Floyd Ledgers

Both of the Floyd ledgers include extensive references to “ye whale design,” as shore whaling was called in seventeenth-century documents. English settlers established private companies to hunt the North Atlantic right whales which migrated along the coast. They hired local Indian men, who had traditionally harvested whales for their own subsistence, to hunt the whales and provide the labor necessary to transform whale products (oil and baleen) into valuable export commodities. The whaling enterprise reached its peak in the years covered by RFL1, 1686 to 1690. North Atlantic right whales were easy targets for hunters because they swam slowly along the surface close to shore, feeding on dense aggregations of tiny copepods. Their spouts were clearly visible from shore, making them easy to locate. The pregnant females, who generally gave birth every three years, came close to the Long Island shore in November and December as they headed south to their preferred calving grounds in the warm waters off Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The females and their new offspring returned north during the spring . The young whales and their mothers were a relatively easy target for the hunters. The females with calves during the year-long weaning period remained in the cold northern waters where they were a lucrative target for the hunters. As a result the breeding stocks were gradually being depleted in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

By the time the second ledger was started in 1719, the breeding stocks of the North Atlantic right whales were rapidly declining as shore whaling operations took a severe toll. Many Unkechaug men who had worked for English-owned whaling companies, despite their exploitative contracts, now struggled to find employment in order to support their families. Consequently, their economic situation became more precarious as they had to rely increasingly on advances from their employers when harvests were lean.

Fig. 2. RFL 2 ledger, page 3v. Thomas Warsham (Warison) account. Courtesy of Huntington Library (original copy) and William Floyd Estate (digital copy). Fire Island National Seashore

Interwoven throughout the Floyd ledgers are the closely related themes of debt, indenture, and land alienation experienced by the Native American communities on Long Island, which clearly became more acute during the later period.

The names in the ledger reflect a diverse demographic. There are nine Native American men, most of whom came from the Unkechaug settlements in southern Brookhaven, thirty-five English town residents, and possibly one African- American. Twenty-seven of the English names are male and eight are female. The appearance of women here is significant because no female names were entered in the first ledger. Apparently over the three decades between the ledgers, women had begun to take a more important role in the colonial economy on eastern Long Island. The seventeenth-century handwriting and idiomatic spelling, however, make some of the identifications problematic.[2] The Native American names are even more challenging. The English scribes, even those who conscientiously attempted to sound out the names phonetically, were often making “best guesses.” As a result, an Indian’s name could vary from document to document and even from page to page.

The decline of the lucrative whaling operations, which had enriched the elite families in the eastern towns, came at a time when the rest of the economy was growing. The population of Long Island doubled between 1703 (20,665) and 1723 (40,564) and added another 10,000 by 1731. Suffolk County increased from 3,346 in 1703 to 7, 675 in 1731.[3] Demographic growth spurred economic growth and prompted the emergence of a transportation system. A major highway project, proposed in 1704, eventually reached from Brooklyn to East Hampton. Roads connected farms to markets, enabling the Brookhaven farmers to expand and diversify their agricultural produce.[4] Of particular importance to the Floyd properties on Mastic was the improvement of the old road from Setauket south to Mastic in 1728.[5]

The roads carried Floyd’s produce to John Bennit (Bennet), who purchased thirty-three pounds of locally grown pork and two gallons of molasses imported from the Caribbean. Some of Floyd’s other customers included Richard Miller (sugar, wine, and rum), John Gooding (shingle nails, pork, and beef), John Mosier (shingle nails), Joseph Hulse (four bushels of wheat), and Nathaniel Brewster (forty-five pounds of beef).[6] The Floyd’s farm and, undoubtedly, the smaller Brookhaven farms as well were harvesting corn, wheat, rye, oats, flax, and timber for housing. They were shipping cattle, sheep, and hogs to markets at home and to the West Indies in return for tobacco, rum, and molasses.

Entrepreneurs among these farmers developed a timber industry from the diverse forests on eastern Long Island, producing wood for building, barrels, fencing, fuel, charcoal, and pine tar and turpentine. The tar produced at Tarman’s Neck, a short distance west of Floyd’s Pattersquash farm in Mastic, was lucrative enough to attract the imposition of a colonial tax.[7] In 1716 Richard Floyd II was appointed to collect the tax. For Floyd, however, the local textile industry, which produced a woolen cloth called “serge” was of particular importance. The success of textile production alarmed Governor Cornbury, who believed that the colonial economy should not compete with the mother country. In his report to the Board of Trade in London, he wrote, “…they already make a very good serges, linens, woolens, and in some places they begin to make coarse cloth…”[8] The availability of locally made cheap cloth, however, served Floyd’s economic interests because these products were highly valued by his Unkechaug employees.

The entries in the ledger related to textiles indicate that they were often produced by women in their homes as well as by professional weavers. Abigail Hulse, Mary Abor, and Mary Longbotham, who appear to have been engaged in a “cottage textile industry,” all purchased wool on credit from Richard Floyd. Mary Longbotham paid off her debt by giving Floyd three pairs of “worsted stockings.” In three other entries, Isaac Griscom, Doctor Genes (Geners), and Nathaniel Brewster purchased small amounts of wool, perhaps for their wives. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich notes that “By the late eighteenth cloth making was not only ubiquitous, it was the foundation of local patterns of barter and exchange that I call a ‘female economy.’”[9]

The records from Long Island, however, suggest that while many women were engaged in weaving, professional male weavers were also active. In the 1660s, the Town of Brookhaven set aside a plot of land designated as the weaver’s lot, “for anyone who would serve the town in the capacity for at least three years.”[10] In 1668, the town of Brookhaven invited Joseph Davis, a weaver from Southampton, to become the town’s weaver and provided him with the weaver’s lot for his home. The Floyd ledger indicates that the town continued that tradition. A professional weaver named Joseph Grey provided Richard Floyd with fifty-nine yards of “lining cloth for weaving,” thirty-two yards of lining and wollong [woolen] cloth, forty-three yards of unidentified cloth, fifty-six yards of “carsey,” and fifty-eight yards of lining cloth for woven blankets. “Carsey” was likely a reference to kersey cloth, a heavy woolen fabric for outdoor wear. In return, Gray received 100pounds of beef, an axe, a cow, one barrel of pork, a half-pound of powder, two pounds of shot, 15 gallons of molasses, and 12 shillings in cash.[11]

How Richard Floyd Sr., Acquired His Land

Richard Floyd Sr.’s purchase of the land at Pattersquash in 1684, although not addressed in our previous article on the first ledger, was one of the first large purchases of farm land on the south side of Brookhaven Town. The means by which he acquired the tract, however, brings into focus the problems faced by the Native American communities on eastern Long Island as they became engaged in the English economy. They became increasingly ensnared in debt—as seen in both Floyd ledgers—and suffered dire consequences when they defaulted; taking advantage of the resultant power imbalance and manipulating Indian debt, Richard Sr. and other English settlers were able to both control Indian labor and eventually take over their lands. This pattern, established by manipulating Indian debt also provides insights into the role of debt dependency in the loss of their lands and in the manipulation of their labor.

Fig. 3. RFL 2 ledger, page 8. Cloth carried to the mill. Courtesy of Huntington Library (original copy) and William Floyd Estate (digital copy). Fire Island National Seashore

Scholars continue to debate the primary causes of aboriginal land dispossession. Francis Jennings, in his classic Invasion of America, outlined several methods which he argued were used by the English to alienate Native American lands.[12] Writing in 1975, he cited instances wherein the English would befuddle Indian leaders with alcohol, engage in outright fraud, manipulate opportunistic sachems, or impose fines for a wide variety of offenses and seize their lands when the payments were not made. More recently, Jeremy Bangs, in his study of land transactions in Plymouth Colony (2002), although critical of Jennings’ emphasis on the use of alcohol, fraud and the manipulation of sachems, acknowledges that after 1670, “the use of debt and mortgage as a means to confiscate land…grew tremendously as tract after tract was acquired by the colonists.”[13] Stuart Banner (2005) agrees with Bangs’ assessment and notes that all this was done within the framework of the English legal system. “Law was always present,” states Banner, “but so was power. The more powerful the whites became relative to the Indians, the more they were able to mold the legal system to produce outcomes in their favor…”[14]

The experience of Mahaine, an Unkechaug “chief man” with close kinship connections to Tobacus, the Unkechaug sachem, provides a window into the use of debt to obtain Indian land on eastern Long Island [see map]. In the early spring of 1682, following the annual whaling season on eastern Long Island, Mahaine found himself in serious debt. When the East Riding (now Suffolk County) Court of Sessions met in Southampton for its three-day session beginning on March 1, 1682, they imposed a fine on him that they surely knew he could not pay.[15] There is no record of the cause nor of the amount of fine, but it was well beyond his means.[16] Mahaine turned to his sachem, Tobacus, and two “chief men” of the Unkechaug, Wauphague (alias Porrig) and Rowepone, for help.[17] Three weeks later the Unkechaugs agreed to mortgage a 500-acre tract of land on Pattersquash Neck to satisfy Mahaine’s debt, perhaps because Mahaine had close family relationships with one or all of the Unkechaug men. It is also possible the Court of Sessions had demanded that the Unkechaug tribe pay the fine. Tobacus, who had been the Unkechaug sachem for nearly three decades, was well aware of the precedent for such an action by the English.

In the summer of 1657, for example, the Shinnecocks, whose lands lay to the east of the Unkechaugs, were fined 700 pounds for the damages caused by three Shinnecock men and an African-American woman who burned several houses and barns in Southampton. The fine was paid by John Ogden, a wealthy land owner in Southampton, who then took a large tract of Shinnecock land as a partial payment.[18] Ogden continued to pressure the Shinnecocks for full payment over the next decade, complaining in 1667 that the tribe still owed him forty pounds.[19]

The imposition of a large fine on a whole tribe was again employed in 1668, when the colonial Commission of Indian affairs imposed a fine on the Montauketts, whose villages were located on the far eastern end of Long Island. The commission levied a fine of 400 bushels of corn on the tribe for refusing to turn over a member who had been convicted by the colonial court of attempting to rape an English woman.[20] In this case, John Mulford, one of the commissioners, and two associates put up a bond guaranteeing the payment of the fine. Three years later they took a hundred-acre tract of Montaukett lands to settle the matter.[21]

These experiences suffered by their eastern neighbors must have weighed on the minds of the Unkechaugs when they met with John Youngs, the high sheriff of East Riding, in June of 1683 to negotiate a settlement. They knew how the English system worked and came prepared to protect their interests as best they could within a legal and economic structure that was stacked against them. The Unkechaugs brought along their own translator, who identified himself as “Tom Francis, Indian.” He made his mark as a “T” on most documents. Tom (aka Monoges) had, on several occasions, served as a translator for the Unkechaugs. His name also appears in the first Floyd ledger.[22] The tribe had been involved in contentious relations with the English for nearly three decades and, as a result, were knowledgeable about the basic workings of the English legal system as well as the English concept of property. The Unkechaugs agreed to “give, grant, bargain and sell …unto the said Captain John Youngs his heirs, executors, administrators all the upland being and existing in Pattersquash.” Youngs was apparently acting on behalf of the Court of Sessions.

It must have been a very difficult decision for the Unkechaugs. The 500-acre tract of meadow land on the Mastic Peninsula, called Pattersquash Neck, lay in the heart of the Unkechaug homeland. According to local folklore, Pattersquash may have been named for Paterquam, an Unkechaug who may have lived there at the time.[23] To the east lay Winecroscum’s Neck, named for a prominent Unkechaug sachem who was closely allied with Tobacus. Directly to the west of the meadows, across a small stream, was Unkechaug Neck, the likely site of Tobacus’s own village. Patersquash Creek and the other freshwater streams separating these necks of land all flow into Moriches Bay, forming an ecosystem that had sustained the Unkechaug people for thousands of years [see map].

The Unkechaugs knew that the offer would be eagerly accepted by the English. Moriches Bay and the Great South Bay were separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a barrier beach stretching for miles along the south coast of Brookhaven Town on eastern Long Island. These beaches were often the final resting place for whales that had died at sea or floundered ashore following a storm. The Native people celebrated these occasions by sacrificing the fins and tails in a ritual expressing thanks to Manitou for the gift. The English, however, saw the event as a commercial opportunity. The oil and baleen harvested from these drift whales were sold on the global market for hard currency.[24]

Fig. 4. North Atlantic right whale, Drawing by Jennifer Lucas.

By 1670 English entrepreneurs in the eastern towns of Southampton and East Hampton were no longer waiting on shore for the whales. They had formed whaling companies, hired Shinnecock and Montaukett whalers and begun launching whaleboats off these beaches to hunt the North Atlantic right whales.[25] The English, who had covetous settled west of Southampton on the north shore of Brookhaven in the 1650s, were now casting covetous eyes southward to the Unkechaug’s meadows and Atlantic beaches. The 1681-82 season had been one of the most successful in the recorded history of Long Island shore whaling. Fifteen companies placed 180 Indian whalers under contract. Two of these company owners recruited Unkechaug whalers for that season. In January 1681, John Throp (Thorp) of Brookhaven hired twelve Unkechaug men and in September, Joseph Fordham, a Southampton resident, contracted four other Unkechaugs for his company.[26] One of those whalers was quite possibly Mahaine.

Fig. 5. Indian crew flensing whale. Drawing by David Bunn Martine, Shinnecock Nation.

On June 7, 1683 Tobacus, unable to pay off the mortgage, ceded the Pattersquash tract over to the East Riding Court of Sessions. Two months later in August, Mahaine, now free from debt, signed a whaling contract with Joseph Davis of Brookh aven for the 1683-84 season. Here we can see a possible explanation for the debt that Mahaine had incurred. Although Davis gave him an iron pot and a shirt for signing, Mahaine would be charged for any other goods or alcohol provided by Davis. If those charges exceeded the value of his share of the oil and bone harvested from the whale catches, he would end the season in debt, a common experience for Indian whalers. The contract had another clause that put Mahaine at risk for even more debt. He had to agree that “if I the said Mahaine shall not attend when there is sea weather, I am contented to pay for every day soe missing tenn shillings and to the true performance of the same I doe here unto sett my hand this 16 day of August 1683.”[27] Unlike many contracts, this one did not oblige the whalers to continue working for the company until all debts were paid. Mahaine, who may have ended the season in debt, was free to seek out another employer. He signed on the next season with Obadiah Seward, a company owner who did not impose fines on his whalers.[28] Yet again, he likely ended the season owing his employer for goods and alcohol.

The debts could accumulate. Artor, a Shinnecock whaler, found himself so deeply in debt to Joseph Fordham, a whaling company owner, that he had to indenture himself to Fordham. Artor and fourteen Shinnecock whalers had signed a two-year contract with Fordham and Richard Howell for the 1677-78 and 1678-79 seasons. The whalers agreed “…that if any of us do not …go to sea when the major part doth go, they shall be fined for their neglect therein according to the owners discretion and likewise for all attending all opportunities of cutting out whales and hauling up to the high water mark shall be left to the discretion of the owners.”[29]

In January 1679, before the season ended, Artor and three other crew members broke with Fordham and Howell and signed a contract for the 1679-80 season with a rival company owned by Richard’s brother, Edward.[30] They may have made the move because Edward’s contract did not have a clause imposing fines on the whaling crew. Artor apparently attempted to leave Fordham without clearing his debt. Fordham, whose sister, Mary, was married to Edward, intervened. The elite English families on eastern Long Island were connected by a web of intermarriages that made them a dominant force in the politics and economics of local towns. Fordham demanded that Artor clear his debt before he sign on with another company.

Artor had no choice but to settle with Joseph Fordham: “I not knowing how to make satisfaction for the debt, do voluntarily of my own accord engage and promise faithfully to go to sea from time to time and from year to year…until I have fully satisfied and paid my debt.” He agreed to join Fordham’s whaling crews from season to season until he had finally cleared his debt.[31] Mary Fordham Howell was a witness to the indenture. Her husband, Edward, had to look for another whaler. Artor did manage to break free from Fordham in 1682, when he signed with James Cooper to hunt whales.[32]

In October 1683, shortly after Mahaine had signed his contract with Davis, forces outside of Brookhaven Town disturbed local affairs. The newly appointed governor, Thomas Dongan, was instructed by the crown to establish an elected colonial assembly and to institute a county system of local governance. Brookhaven and the other eastern towns were included in the newly formed Suffolk County. The Court of Sessions, however, continued its operations with little change. Local officials, such as John Youngs, continued to serve, providing a stable transition.

Six month later, on March 24, 1684, John Jennings, the Southampton town marshal, sold the five hundred-acre tract to Richard Floyd for the modest sum of nineteen pounds. Jennings stated that John Youngs, the high sheriff, acting for the Court of Sessions, had turned the tract over to him in payment for “several fees owed to me…” for services rendered.[33] A week later outside forces again intruded into the affairs of Brookhaven. On March 31, shortly after Mahaine finished his whaling obligations to Seward and about a week after Jennings recorded his receipt of Floyd’s payment for Pattersquash, the officials in the Suffolk County towns were alarmed to hear that the governor had ordered them to apply for new town patents. It was a blatant scheme to raise funds for the colonial coffers by charging application fees and raising the towns’ annual quitrents. The local officials objected to the costs involved, but were even more concerned about the requirement to produce copies of the deeds they had negotiated with the Indian proprietors when the towns were established. Many of these purchases, made under questionable circumstances, were vulnerable to legal challenges.

It may have been concerns about Floyd’s purchase that prompted Youngs and Jennings to enter statements on the reverse side of the 1683 agreement between the court and the Unkechaugs. On June 17, 1684, Youngs testified that he had sold his right and title to the tract “for a valuable consideration” to John Jennings of the town of Southampton. Underneath Youngs’ statement, Jennings, on June 26, 1684, dutifully added the wording from his March 24, 1684 testimony: “I John Jennings, of Southampton, Marshall, having several fees due me from the county… the Worshipful Court of Sessions having given me … the land that was fallen unto the Court of Sessions for the default of Mahaine an Indian by his non-payment of his fine and court charges…”[34] He then acknowledged his sale of the tract to Richard Floyd. Neither Youngs nor Jennings entered the specific amount they had received for the tract. Although we can not say for certain it seems likely that the three men, Youngs, Jennings, and Floyd, had discussed this matter and come to an understanding sometime in March before the agreement between Jennings and Floyd was written.

The purchase enabled Floyd to expand his estate from his holdings in Setauket on the north shore to the Mastic Peninsula on the south shore with its fertile southern meadows and its Atlantic barrier beaches. A 1693 survey of the Mastic Peninsula shows an inlet to the south west of Floyd’s acquisition that would allow whale boats easy access to the ocean. Floyd may have been launching whaling crews off the beaches south of Pattersquash even before he obtained possession of the tract. A 1670 map by Robert Ryder, a Setauket schoolmaster, of the barrier beach a few miles west of Pattersquash Creek, shows Whalebone Creek flowing into the bay directly north of a channel opening to the ocean. A notation on the map reads “Whale fishery upon the beach.” Another reference to whaling in that area describes a house and a whale watch tower called “Bayley’s Stage,” established by Stephen Bayley for his whaling company in 1690. This location was at Cupsogue Beach, southeast of Floyd’s tract. In January 1677 Floyd and other entrepreneurs were certainly in the whaling business. Floyd sold his interest in two whaleboats, warps and irons, located at the time on the south beach, to William Bayard of Huntington for seven pounds of pork and “goods equivalent” to be delivered the following May. The other shareholders in the whaling equipment were Edward and Thomas Higbe of Huntington and Richard Smith of Smithtown.[35] Floyd, who had lived in Huntington before moving to Setauket, may have been acquainted with these men.

Fig. 6. Indian bailing whale oil into cooling vat. Drawing by David Martine, Director of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum.

It is possible that Floyd may have had a hand in the mortgage arrangement with the Unkechaug back in 1682 that opened the way for his purchase from Jennings two years later. Although there is no record of Floyd’s direct involvement in the affair, he and Richard Woodhull clearly played a primary role in relations with the Indians in Brookhaven. In the summer of 1684, for example, a few months after he purchased the Pattersquash tract, Floyd served as a liaison between the Setauketts and the town in the confirmation of an earlier agreement negotiated with the help of Richard Woodhull. He had certainly established a close working relationship with Wauphague by the fall of 1685. In December, prior to the 1685-86 whaling season, Floyd gave a gun to Wauphague with the understanding that he would pay for it with a barrel of whale oil and twenty pounds of baleen at the close of the season. The goods were to be delivered “at the landing place of Jonathan Rose at Ocombomuck” (now Bellport).[36] That amount of oil and baleen came to about two pounds eleven shillings, enough to buy two guns at market prices, according to the estate inventories for the 1680s in the Court of Sessions records.[37]

Fig. 7. Indians mincing whale blubber. Drawing by David Martine, Director of the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum.

Wauphague continued to play an important role in the dispossession of Unkechaug lands over the next decade. He signed off on eight land transactions alienating or confirming the prior alienation of tribal lands from 1682 to 1694. In most of these cases, the burden of debt was a factor pressing the decisions by the sachems. The use of Indian indebtedness to obtain land appears to have been as successful, and probably more wide spread, than the use of alcohol or fraud. This pattern of economic manipulation—that so benefitted the elder Richard and so undermined the Unkechaug community—continued over the next two generations of Floyds and into the eighteenth century. The two ledgers record a pattern of indebtedness related to Floyd’s whaling operations beginning in 1686 and continuing to 1732.

Fig. 8. RFL 2 ledger, page 16. Account for Surroot Indian. Courtesy of Huntington Library (original copy) and William Floyd Estate (digital copy). Fire Island National Seashore

Floyd and the Unkechaug Whalers, 1719-1732

In 1718, a year before the first journal entry in RFL2, Richard Floyd Jr. purchased a 4,400-acre tract of land between Odell’s (Woodhull’s) Creek and the Forge River from his neighbor, William Henry Smith, whose father “Tangier” Smith had founded St George Manor. The tract was probably intended for his second son, Nicoll Floyd who was only thirteen at the time. Although Richard was likely improving the tract, young Nicoll probably did not occupy the property until his marriage with Tabitha Smith in 1729. The purchase included the 150 acres divided into four separate tracts of land that William’s father, William “Tangier” Smith, had granted to the Unkechaugs “in perpetuity” in 1700.[38] Although Floyd may not have fully developed the agricultural potential of his new acquisition, he was now able to launch his whale boats from several locations on the Mastic Peninsula.

The Floyds’ journals and indentures indicate that they hunted whales continuously from 1684 to 1746. During the decade covered in RFL2, the names of nine Unkechaug men appear: Harry Indian, Jacob Indian, James, Nimrod, Philip, Thom Washam (Warishon), Surroot, Lewey, Phillip, and Will (aka Umpatrina). These men, as was the case with Tangier Smith’s Indian employees, probably were engaged in various agricultural duties as well as whaling. Thom Washam may have been the son of Worishone, an Unkechaug whaler in the 1680s. Floyd’s method of payment, however, is difficult to determine from the scattered entries in the ledger. Some are brief and do not appear to be related to whaling. Jacob Indian, for example, if he was the same Jacob named in the first journal, would have been at least twenty years old when he signed the agreement with Tangier Smith in 1700 and in his forties during the years of the second ledger. If so, he probably worked at less strenuous tasks around the farm. Jacob was charged for small amounts of powder and rum and a yard of cloth.

Fig. 9. RFL 2 ledger, page 4. Account for James Indian (April 30, 1727). Courtesy of Huntington Library (original copy) and William Floyd Estate (digital copy). Fire Island National Seashore

Because they had a year-round arrangement with the neighboring Unkechaug villagers, Floyd and Smith did not have to recruit whalers each season, nor did they have to compete for labor with other owners. On at least two occasions the two families joined together on a whaling enterprise. In 1719, the year after he purchased the large tract, Floyd paid William Henry Smith, eighteen pounds and nineteen shillings for his share of the profits from a whaling season.[39] Two decades later, Richard Floyd delivered a sum of eight pounds to Smith, which satisfied a debt owed by a whaler named Indian Jack “on account of whaling.”[40] Entries for James, Phillip, Surroot, and Thom Washam are similar in form to the whaling accounts in the St. George estate records. They are all dated in the spring, suggesting a relationship to the previous whaling season. Floyd, however, did not enter an estimated monetary value of the goods. Washam’s account on April 5, 1720, followed a fairly successful season, with the London records indicating that an estimated fourteen whales had been killed off Long Island.[41] Washam ended the season in debt for twelve quarts of cider, fourteen pecks of corn, six quarts of rum, a new homespun shirt, and a yard of blue pennystone (Peniston) cloth.[42] Brightly colored blue and red coarse woolen cloth from the small village of Peniston in Yorkshire had become an essential item in the eighteenth-century Indian trade.[43] By then, textiles, powder, shot and rum had replaced wampum as the primary currency of the Indian trade. Floyd had these items readily available for the Unkechaugs working on his farm.

After Washam paid off his debt, Floyd made a large X through the account and drew a line underneath the entry. He returned to the book two years later, at the close of the 1721-22 season, and made entries for three men: Phillip, James, and Surroot Indian.[44] The season had been disappointing. Only eight barrels of oil were shipped to London. The previous season eleven whales had produced 500 barrels. Surroot’s account raises some puzzling questions. The items taken by Surroot far exceed those received by Washam and the other whalers. The list fills the bottom half of the page and continues on all of the next page. Surroot received, in small measured portions, a pound and a half of powder, five pounds of shot, pork, seven and a half pecks of corn meal, leather for shoes, two quarts of molasses, four gallons of rum, pennystone cloth, lining cloth, a shirt, stockings, and a Dutch blanket.[45] There is no indication of a time frame for the receipt of the items, but the measured portions suggest they were not dispensed all at once. The rum, for example, was parceled out in ten individual units, usually one or two quarts at a time.

Surroot likely had a special relationship with the Floyds, perhaps because of his skills as a whaler or his status in the Unkechaug community. His name appears on seven pages in the ledger, whereas the names of James, Washam, and Jacob are each entered twice and the others’ names just once. Surroot’s accounts document his receipt of a disproportionate amount of goods, particularly rum.[46] He was allotted a total of ten gallons over a two year period (1722-24) in contrast to a gallon or less for each of the others. Surroot may have distributed the goods and the rum to meet family obligations, thereby enhancing his status just as the alliance sachems had a century earlier or, perhaps, he was re-selling them as a business of his own. Floyd would have found it useful to have such a liaison with the Unkechaug workers. On May 1, 1722, a few days after Floyd entered one of Surroot’s accounts, he recorded a smaller list of items for James and Phillip. James received rum, molasses, leather for shoes, a yard of pennystone cloth, and a “fine shirt” and Phillip received a nearly identical set of goods.[47]

The uncertainty of the whale design was evidenced sharply by the seasonal catches from 1721 to 1726. In 1723, 10,000 gallons of oil were harvested from about eight whales recorded for the Long Island area. That year Surroot was advanced a gallon and three quarts of rum, a Dutch blanket, sugar, bread, and meal.[48] The next season, however, brought in only 560 gallons, about 16 barrels, perhaps from seals or other small sea mammals. Surroot’s account for that season had five separate entries for rum, and four listings for corn, suggesting that the items were given out over a period of time, as was the practice for whalers during the hunting season. Surroot also received a Dutch shirt and a knife.[49]

There are no entries listing goods advanced to Indian whalers for 1724-25 and 1725-26. James Indian has an entry for April 30, 1727, that lists two quarts of molasses, a half a bit’s (small denomination coins based on the Spanish reales) worth of pipes, three quarts of cider, two more quarts of molasses, four gills of powder, two gills of shot, and twelve pots of cider.[50] There is no data in the London customs record for that season and the numbers for the next five years never exceeded one whale catch per year. The entry for James is the last one in the ledger related to Indian whalers.

Three of Floyd’s whalers, James, Phillip, and Will, became involved in a land transaction while they were working for Floyd. In 1730 Richard Floyd III’s brother, Nicoll, bought a hundred-acre tract from the Unkechaugs that Tangier Smith had granted them “in perpetuity” 1700.[51] The purchase raises serious questions about the legal status of the transaction. The language used by Smith is clear: the land could neither be sold by the Unkechaugs nor purchased by a third party. Smith purposely chose those terms to protect the Unkechaugs from losing the last of their traditional lands. He was well aware of the tactics often used by English entrepreneurs to obtain Indian land.[52]

Nicoll sought out Sachem Wacus, who had hunted whales for Tangier Smith in 1697 and led the Unkechaug representatives in their negotiations with Smith in 1700. Wacus was joined by his son, Richard, and thirteen other Unkechaugs, most of whom were probably well known to the Smith and Floyd families. In addition to the three Floyd whalers, there were three other Unkechaugs: Weramps, Robin (Reuben), and Awanose, all of whom had hunted whales for English companies. The Unkechaug delegation, therefore, included a majority of whalers and a sachem’s son, all of whom had worked for English employers at one time. Nicoll offered the Unkechaugs twenty Dutch blankets, four barrels of cider, and three pounds in “current money of New York.” Not surprisingly, the Unkechaugs accepted the offer that reduced their reservation to 75 acres. By the end of the century, only 50 acres remained.[53]

This transaction between Nicoll Floyd and the Unkechaugs, who were dependent on the Floyd family for their livelihood, brings us back to the circumstances faced by Tobacus in 1682. The sachem’s successor, Wacus, and his “chief men” found themselves in a compromised position in the negotiation with their employers. The Unkechaug were not alone. The names of Indians on similar agreements alienating their lands can be found on labor contracts and indentures throughout eastern Long Island. In Brookhaven alone, over sixty Unkechaugs who signed deeds disposing of their lands from 1680 to 1718 were employed by English settlers.

Fig. 10. Ryder Map of western Brookhaven Town (1760) that Robert Ryder, a Brookhaven schoolmaster in Setauket is believed to have drawn. Courtesy of Barbara Russell, the Brookhaven Town Historian.


The two ledgers left by the Floyd family open a window into the world of colonial Long Island. The growth of infrastructure, the nature of agricultural productivity, the rise and fall of the “whale design,” and the relationship between the English and the Unkechaug are documented in the pages of this invaluable resource. The participation of women in the growing economy, was first observable in the second ledger, suggests that during the years between the ledgers from 1690 to 1719 women were becoming more active in the economic life of the community outside of the home. This is consistent with the experience of such women as Martha Smith, who took over the family whaling operation after her husband’s death in 1705.[54]

The declining days of the lucrative shore whaling enterprise during the early decades of the eighteenth century occurred as the Floyd family was expanding its estate to include nearly one half of Mastic Peninsula. The Unkechaugs in the second ledger appear to have been in the process of shifting from whaling to other tasks on the Floyd farm. In our conclusion to the first ledger (RFL1), we cited the example of the 1705 purchase by Richard Floyd Jr. and Jonathan Rose, which suggests that the Unkechaugs who continued their employment with the English must have found themselves at a disadvantage when they came to negotiate land sales and deed confirmations. We found a similar example in the 1730 purchase of the tract where Nicoll Floyd probably built his manor house. These examples, along with Mahaine’s loss of the Unkechaug tract, support the arguments made by historians Stuart Banner and Jeremy Bangs asserting that the primary cause of dispossession was the English legal system itself, which was stacked against the Native American inhabitants of the New World.


[1]John A. Strong and MaryLaura Lamont, “The Richard Floyd Account Book, 1687-1690: A Search for Authorship and Historical Significance,” Long Island History Journal 24, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 1-2, 4. That account book will hereafter be cited as RFL1 and the second, the subject of this article, as RFL2. Richard Floyd Sr.’s purchase of his Pattersquash property was discussed further in a paper presented by John A. Strong at the Ethnohistory Conference, Oct. 14, 2017. The references to Indians in the two Richard Floyd ledgers informed the manuscript of his forthcoming book, America’s Earliest Whalers: The Indian Shore Whalers on Long Island, 1650-1750 (University of Arizona Press, 2018).

[2]On page two of the ledger, for example, there is a woman identified as a “Mrs. Serles” who owed a small debt to Floyd in 1732 (RFL2:2). There is no such name in the town records, but there is a Sills family that is spelled variously Sells, and Silles. Benjamin T. Hutchinson, ed., Records of Brookhaven up to 1800 (Patchogue, N.Y.: Patchogue Advance, 1880): 98, 112,147, 154, 163; William Floyd Estate, National Park Service, 20 Washington Ave. Mastic Beach, N.Y., FIIS 9665, Box 1, folder 6.

[3]W.W. Munsell, History of Suffolk County, New York with Illustrations, Portraits, and Sketches of Prominent Families and Individual (New York: Munsell, 1882) Outline History of the State of New York, 15. Note: In Munsell, each section is paginated separately.

[4]William Pelletreau, The History of Long Island, Vol. 2 (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903), 53.

[5]Munsell, Town of Brookhaven, 20.

[6]RFL2: Miller, 13v; Gooding 13, 14v; 11v, 12v. Mosier, 12v; Hulse 2v; Brewster, 13.

[7]Munsell Town of Brookhaven, 15.

[8]Munsell, History of Suffolk County, 61-62; Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan and Berthold Fernow, eds. Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York 15, vols. (Albany, N.Y.: Weeds, Parsons, 1856-87), 5: 59.

[9]RFL2: 6, 6v, 9v, 10v. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), 4, 59.

[10]Belle Barstow, Setauket, Alias Brookhaven: The Birth of a Long Island Town (Bloomington Indiana: Belle Barstow 2004), 213.

[11]Archibald Weeks, ed., Brookhaven Town Records Vol. 1 1662-1679 (New York: Tobias Wright, 1924), 156; RFL2: 8v, 9.

[12]Francis Jennings, The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1975), 144-45.

[13]Jeremy Bangs, Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002), 224.

[14]Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 4.

[15]William Floyd Estate Archives 9665, Box 1, Folder 17.

[16]There were actually two likely explanations for the fine. If Mahaine had been employed on a whaling crew he might well have incurred debts from fines or from purchases that exceeded his share of the oil and baleen, a common experience of whalers. A second possibility was that he had been involved in an “unlawful” harvest powwow. There had been reports that such a gathering was planned at Huntington. On September 27, 1681, Governor Brockholls warned that participants in “any such disorderly riotous and tumultuous meetings or assemblies in any town or place on Long Island,” should be apprehended and bound over to the Court of Sessions. (O’Callaghan and Fernow. 14: 762). The order had been sent out to all justices of the peace, constables and other such officers. The order failed to resolve the matter. A year later, again in the fall, the Court of Assizes issued a general order for the whole colony citing the “…the many great evils and inconveniences …occasioned, committed and done at frequent meetings and gatherings in great numbers on the Lord’s Day and at other unreasonable times…” Peter R. Christoph, and Florence A. Christoph, eds., New York Historical Manuscripts: English, Records of the Court of Assizes for the Colony of New York, 1665-1682 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. 1983), 293. Fears of such gathering of Indians had been expressed during King Philips War. (O’Callaghan and Fernow, 14:709).

[17]Wauphague played a prominent role in Unkechaug affairs from 1670 to 1709. He and his “associates” had sold a tract of “upland” and a meadow called Pattersquash to John Tooker and Daniel Lane on Sept. 16, 1670 (Weeks, Brookhaven Records, 1924: 118). Four years later, on September 19, 1674, he and Tom Indian witnessed the sale of meadowland in that same area. (Hutchinson, ed. Brookhaven Records, 32-33). The agreement granted “all of the mowable meadowland whether high land or lower, that lieth between a river called Conitticut (later renamed the Carman River) to another river called Mastic (later the Forge River). Tobacus gave the town residents the right to set up houses near the meadows and guaranteed free “egress and regress” to the meadows. Wauphague had apparently developed good relationship with several prominent Brookhaven freeholders in addition to Richard Floyd and Jonathan Rose (Brookhaven Town Historians Archives, Shaw Notebooks, Dec. 9, 1685). On November 8, 1688 he granted a tract of meadow land west of the Connecticut River to Samuel Terrill “in consideration of the good will and affection which I have and do bare unto Samuel Terrill,” (Hutchinson, Brookhaven Records, 70-71). Terrill, a blacksmith who had moved to Brookhaven from East Hampton, gave Wauphague a token piece (a bit) of silver. According to the Terrill family history Wauphague made the grant, in part, because Terrill had married an Indian woman from Nissequogue. Audrey Terrill MacLellan, Samuel Terrill of East Hampton Brookhaven, Suffolk County Register (Winter, 1996). The following May Wauphague joined with Tobacus and seven other Unkechaugs on a grant of land on Sebomuck Neck west of Unkechaug Neck (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks, May 12, 1689). Wauphague was a party to four more land transactions on June 10, 1690 (Brookhaven Archives), Dec. 8 1690 Osborn Shaw, ed. Records of the Town of Brookhaven, 1679-1756, Book B (New York, Derrydale Press,1932) 470-71), April 19, 1694 and May 10, 1709 (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks).

[18]John A. Strong, “A Fatal Friendship: Lion Gardiner and Wyandanch, Sachem of the Montauketts,” in Origins of the Past: The Story of Montauk and Gardiner’s Island, Thomas Twomy, ed. (Bridgehampton, N.Y.: East End Press, 2012), 147-195; see 165, fn.58.

[19]William Pelletreau, Records of the Town of Southampton, 8 vols. (Sag Harbor, N.Y.: J.H. Hunt, 1874-77), 1:166-167.

[20]John A. Strong, “The Imposition of Colonial Jurisdiction over the Montaukett Indians of Long Island,” Ethnohistory 1994, Vol. 41 (4): 576.

[21]Strong, Ethnohistory 1994, Vol. 41 (4): 581-82; O’Callaghan and Fernow, 14: 652).

[22]Monoges (Meneges) is first identified as a man who understood English during the tensions at the time of King Philips War. Tobacus sent Tom to convey a message from him to Governor Andros in 1675 (O’Callaghan and Fernow, 14: 695). Tom’s name appears on ten documents related to land transactions. Tom had been a party to the sale of meadowland on the Mastic Peninsula to the Town of Setauket the year before, (see note above) but was not identified as a “translator” on the document (Hutchinson, Brookhaven Records, 32-33). On the June 7, 1683 document he made his mark with a “T,” presumably his initial. He is identified as the interpreter on transactions dated Sept. 3, 1687, and January 17, 1688, in which his name appears as “Tom T. Francis, Interpreter.” Thomas Cooper, ed. The Records of the Court of Sessions of Suffolk County in the Province of New York, 1680-1688 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books. 1993), 252-54, 289-90.The family name “Francis” is a puzzle. There are a few examples of Indians who took the family names of their employers, but there is no English family in the Brookhaven Town records with that name. Two years later, on June 10, 1690, Tom was identified as “Tom the interpreter” (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks). Later that year (on Dec. 8) he was identified again as Tom “T”. Francis (Hutchinson Brookhaven Records, 75-76). On May 25, 1691 (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks) and on deeds dated April 8, 1692 (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks), and April 9, 1693 he is identified only as “Indian Tom” but his mark is in the same location on the bottom left of the document, apart from the other signatures, suggesting that he was the interpreter (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks). Another deed dated 1693 is damaged but Indian Tom’s name appears in that same location. The day and month on the 1693 document are missing. (Brookhaven Archives Shaw Notebooks). The last transaction with his name was in 1709 (Brookhaven Archives, Shaw Notebooks) May 10, 1709). His name was entered in RFL1:2.

[23]William Wallace Tooker, Indian Place Names on Long Island (Port Washington, N.Y: Ira Friedman, 1911), 180-181.

[24]John A. Strong, The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011), 56.

[25]John A. Strong, “Indian Whalers on Long Island, 1669-1746,” Long Island History Journal 25, no. 1 (2016).

[26]Shaw, Records of Brookhaven, Book B; 62-63; Southampton Town Clerks Office Archives, Book D2: 72-73).

[27]Shaw, Records of Brookhaven, Book B: 175.

[28]Shaw, Records of Brookhaven, Book B 197.

[29]Southampton Town Clerks Office Archives Liber A2: 113.

[30]Southampton Town Clerk, Archives 121.

[31]Southampton Town Clerk, Archives 131.

[32]Southampton Town Clerk, Archives 103.

[33]William Floyd Estate archives F115 9664, Box 1, folder 17.

[34]It is possible that the men were concerned that the modest price assigned to the tract might arouse suspicions about the whole transaction. In his estate record for example, Samuel Clark, listed a 14 acre plot of meadowland that was valued at 30 pounds. Cooper, Court of Sessions, 86. In 1689 William Henry Smith paid Tobacus 20 pounds for 100 acres, Brookhaven Town Historian’s office, Shaw Notebooks, May 30, 1689.

[35]Weeks, Brookhaven Town Records (1924) Vol. 1:40-41.

[36]In June 1684 Floyd “In behalf of the township,” accepted a confirmation of an agreement negotiated with the Setauketts and Woodhull on Nov. 19, 1675 Brookhaven Records, Hutchinson 44-45; Southampton Records 5: 301-302. In another instance Floyd, along with Woodhull and Tangier Smith purchased a 1,500 tract on the north shore where Belle Terre is located today (BTH Archives, New York Herald Nov. 8, 1908). On May 30, 1689 (BHT Archives, Shaw Notebooks) Richard Floyd and Richard Woodhull endorsed William Smith’s purchase of a hundred-acre tract from the Unkechaug for twenty pounds. The exchange with Wauphague is recorded in the Osborn Shaw file in the Brookhaven Town Historian’s office (Shaw Files, Dec. 9, 1685). “Ocombomuck” or Acombamack is a neck of land where the village of Bellport is now located. Tooker believes that Acombamack is an Algonquian word meaning “fishing place.” Tooker, Indian Place Names, 4-5. The agreement was witnessed by Timothy and Daniel Brewster. Rose had purchased the land from Zachariah Hawkins.

[37]Cooper, Court of Sessions, 17, 65, 160.

[38]Strong, Unkechaug Indians, 89-90, 111, 289. Wm Henry Smith had been in the process of selling off parcels of his patent for some time. I n 1716 he sold Isaac Halsey Halsey Manor (Pelletreau 258) for 65 pounds (14,000 acres) which was then broken up into smaller farm lots. In 1721 he sold Warratta Neck to Thomas Conkling for 40 pounds.

[39]Brookhaven Town Historian, Shaw Notebooks. Whaling receipt, Aug. 31, 1719.

[40]Brookhaven Historian, Shaw Notebooks whaling receipt to Indian Jack, Dec. 18, 1738.

[41]Randall R. Reeves, Jeffrey M. Breiwick, and Edward Mitchell, “History of Whaling and Estimated Kill of Right Whales, Eubalaena glacialis, in the Northeastern United States, 1620-1924,” Marine Fisheries Review (June 22, 1999), 29.


[43]Cory Willmott, “From Stroud to Strouds: The Hidden History of the British Fur Trade,” Textile History 190-239, 2005, 30 (2): 205.

[44]RFL2: 4v, 5.

[45]RFL2: 5-5v.

[46]Surroot received corn meal, powder, shot, pork, leather for shoes, molasses, pennystone cloth, an old shirt, old stockings, a Dutch blanket, a Dutch shirt, a pair of shoes, lining cloth, an old coat, a knife, and three quarts of cider, RFL2: 4v, 5, 5v, 6v, 7, 14, 16.

[47]RFL2: 4v.

[48]RFL2: 14.

[49]RFL2: 7.

[50]RFL2: 4.

[51]Strong, Unkechaug Indians, 115-116.

[52]Munsell, History of Suffolk, 66.

[53]WFEA, FIIS 6928). Although it is not possible to determine the market value of the hundred-acre tract, it does appear that the Unkechaugs did not receive a fair settlement. Pelletreau notes that 400 acres of meadowland on Pine Neck sold for 1,000 pounds and a 20-acre plot of land on Acombomack Meadow sold for 80 pounds in 1697. In 1702 Jonathan Rose purchased 45 acres of meadow land in the same area for 30 pounds and another plot of 20 acres for 80 pounds. (Pelletreau, History of Long Island, 267-69).

[54]Strong, “The Pigskin Book: Records of Native American Whalemen, 1696-1721,” Long Island Historical Journal Vol. 3 (1) Fall 1990, 17-29.

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