Aunt Helen's Ninety Years 1899

Reminiscences of Easthampton's Oldest Inhabitant at Four Score and Ten.
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First Postmaster's Daughter

Tomorrow week, October 29, Mrs. Helen Stratton, the oldest inhabitant of Easthampton, will receive the congratulations of her friends upon reaching the age of 90 years. The occasion will be the more auspicious as Aunt Helen is just recovering from the effects of a fall which disabled her for a time and compelled her to employ a wheel chair in her journeys around her garden during the past summer. Another cause for congratulation is her improved eyesight, which followed a recent consultation with an expert oculist and a change of glasses. Now she can see clearly enough.

Mrs. Stratton is the daughter of General Jeremiah Miller, the first postmaster at Easthampton, when that office was established. General Miller, who was a descendant in the severed generation from John Miller, an early settler in this town, died in January 1839, at the age of 62 years. His wife was Phebe Baker, daughter of Thomas Baker, who attained the age of 94. Their children were Nathan, Jeremiah, Mary, wife of A.K. Conkling: Phebe, wife of Felix Downing; Helen, wife of Henry D. Stratton; Rosalle, wife of Captain Edward M. Baker; Joan, and Theodorus, who was drowned at the age of 18 years while on the homeward bound voyage in the Indian Ocean in January, 1830. Mrs. Stratton's sister, Mrs. Rosalie Baker, now resides quite near her, in the homestead on the Amagansett road, which was built in 1818, the same year that the house at Fairlawn was commenced.

Mrs. Stratton was born in Easthampton on October 29, 1809, and was married in 1831 to Henry D. Stratton, and their golden wedding was celebrated in 1881. They had lived together fifty-eight years at Mr. Stratton's death. he was born on September 3, 1803. Their children were Theodore Stratton, for many years the genial host of the famous Third House on Montauk; Samuel Dayton Stratton who has resided at Sandwich, Ill., since 1856, and Mrs. Kate Van Fossen, the widow of a veteran of the Civil War. The latter is her mother's constant companion.

As a child she went to the village school in the old town house, which still stands in a corner of the front yard at Fairlawn, at a very early age, and she learned to read at an age when most children are still struggling with their alphabets. She clearly recalls events in the village from the time of the War of 1812 to the present day. She kept a daily journal from her eighteenth until her thirty-first year, but unfortunately this has been accidentally destroyed. Among her most interesting reminiscences is the story of how her father, Jeremiah Miller, was compelled with other residents of Easthampton to seek refuge in Connecticut during the British occupation of Long island in 1777. He was one of the signers of the document known as the General Association, by which the "freemen, freeholders and inhabitants" of Easthampton, Suffolk County, joined with the other counties of the province of new York in signing an agreement for union and common defense during the Revolution. Every male inhabitant in the town of Easthampton capable of bearing arms signed this document, which was worded as follows:

Persuaded that the Salvation of the Rights and Liberties of America, depends under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants, in a vigorous prosecution of the measure necessary for its safety; and convinced of the necessity of preventing the Anarchy and confusion which attend the dissolution of the powers of Government, we the Freemen, Freeholders and Inhabitants of Easthampton, being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the Ministry, to raise a Revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do in the most Solemn manner, resolve never to become Slaves, and do associate under all the ties of Religion, honour and Love to our country, do adopt and endeavor to carry into execution, whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention, for the purpose of preserving our Constitution and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary and oppressive acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation, between Great Britain and America on Constitutional Principles (which we most ardently desire) can be obtained, and that we will in all things, follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, and the preservation of Peace and Good order, and the safety of individuals and private property.

Her father, General Miller, was the postmaster when the regular mail service was first established to this village from Sag Harbor and afterward from Brooklyn. His daughter, Helen Miller, was his assistant and when but 14 years old she acted as post-mistress. Then the mails were carried on horseback from Sag Harbor, whence they were transported to and fro from Brooklyn by stages. In her youth the two-wheeled oxcart was the form of locomotion most in use on eastern Long island. She clearly remembers the introduction of the first spring vehicles and the first four-wheeled wagons, in those days, heavy merchandise was transported by water and messages and letters were forwarded by videttes on horseback.

Mrs. Stratton's early home was the house at Fairlawn, built in 1818. It was many years the post office and village inn. In the same year the foundations were laid for the old homestead on the Amagansett highway, at the eastern extremity of the village, where Mrs. Rosalle Baker, Mrs. Stratton's sister, now resides. This last homestead, with its surroundings of fine shade trees and broad lands, is a type of the old Long Island mansions, now fast disappearing before the rapid changes of the Manhattan cottage builders. The ivy-covered well, with its old wooden buckets, which now forms an ornament of the front yard at Fairlawn, formerly stood in one corner of the kitchen. Like the Session House, just across the street, and the Hunting homestead, which once stood in its place, the Fairlawn mansion has had its migrations. Formerly it stood quite near the line of the street, like all the older Easthampton houses: In the early days, before the picket fences were built, the woodpiles were located along the front of the houses, on either side of the broad main street, and most of the old homesteads were built with the end toward the street.

Some years ago the Fairlawn property, which General Jeremiah Miller purchased from Aaron Isaacs, grandfather of John Howard Payne, was sold by the heirs of General Miller to Edward DeRose. These heirs were Mrs. Helen Stratton, Mrs. Rosalie Baker and Mrs. A.K. Conkling. While in possession of Edward De Rose the place underwent extensive alterations and improvements all, however, along lines which retained and emphasized the colonial character of the mansion. Even the shingles used in the new additions to the place were transferred from other buildings, at an expense largely in excess of the cost of new material. The weather beaten, moss covered character of the Revolutionary homestead had to be retained at any cost, and it is said that $75,000 was expended upon the house and grounds when these changes were being made.

Last spring when the estate passed into possession of T.L. Manson, Jr., of Manhattan, some further changes were made in the exterior from designs drawn by I.H. Greene of Sayville, architect of the Maidstone Club house and neighboring inn. The most important of these changes was the broad circular piazza on the western front. So skillfully has the addition been made, however, and so closely has the character of the detail ornament been reproduced that an expert would have difficulty in separating the new part of the structure from the portions built in 1818.


Website: The History
Article Name: Aunt Helen's Ninety Years 1899
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 Brooklyn Daily Eagle October 22, 1899.
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