Here is a picture of Fort Pond in Montauk, NY in Eastern Long Island that my friend, Aldona, photographed yesterday.
Isn’t it great?
Montauk is one of those special places of which I have very very fond memories (another is Nags Head, NC), particularly when I went there regularly on vacation in the 90s — before it became what it is today.
The place once was inhabited by a peaceful tribe called the Montauket, who used to have to pay tribute to a warrior tribe called the Pequot from Connecticut.
Alas, the non-violent Mountaket also had to suffer and pay tribute to the Narragansett and other aggressive tribes from Rhode Island who came by in their war canoes in search of wampum and animal pelts and probably wives.
Sad to say, but an ancestor of mine on the English side of the family came over on the Mayflower II. He was what today would be described as a blood-thirsty mercenary, and, as was typical in those days, and is not unknown today, absolved himself of genocide by falsely claiming justification in scripture. His name was Capt. John Underhill, and he was directly involved, if not in fact instrumental, along with John Mason, in the literal massacre and virtual extermination of the Pequot in CT and other Native American tribes in Westchester, NY, where I grew up.
On one of these vacations trip I once took with my husband to the tip of “lawnguyland,” I tried to find the grave of Chief Wyandanch, sachem of the Montauk in the 1600s.
(Wyandanch infamously “conveyed” a prized portion of the Montauket ancestral lands to Lyon Gardiner; this later became known as Gardiner’s Island, and was once home of the worst deer tick population on the planet, not to mention what I won’t get into here. )
I remember an older man, obviously the proprietor of the house where I had ended up after consulting historical records at the East Hampton library, gruffly remarking there were maybe a few weathered stones to be found somewhere about.
In the centuries that followed Wyandanch’s inexplicable and ill-advised conveyance, the good citizens of East Hampton (which was originally called Maidstone) severely restricted the grazing lands of the Montauk, all documented in ludicrously complex and detailed deeds, signed by illiterate tribal chiefs and wily betrayers of a people to whom the concept of land “ownership” was foreign if not unknown, and who inexorably became hated strangers on their own land.
The precious deeds were preserved in government buildings in Albany, and, by the 19th century, there were only a handful of Montauket left, many of whom, much like the neighboring Shinnecock, had intermarried with African Americans escaping the antebellum South — thus giving specious credence to the notion that there were no Mountauket remaining for oblivious settlers and unscrupulous land speculators to worry about making pesky claims of prior ownership. East Hampton had wiped them out.
I doubt even that remains today, or that any of the nouveau riche, youngish summer crowd, who now frequent what used to be a sleepy old fishing village, care all that much.
They still go to The Stephen Talkhouse, though, a classic music venue in Amagansett, dating from the time when the Stones recorded Memory Motel.
It is named after Stephen Taukus “Talkhouse” Pharaoh, a 19th century Native American from Montauk who was famed for his epic walks, so I guess something of the original Montauket still lingers, through historical osmosis and the prism of rock and roll.
Another tidbit worth mentioning is that a very talented needlepoint designer lives there still, as she has for years, when not wintering nearby where I live today in Florida.
It is, indeed, a small world!
© Erin McGrath and Needlepointland.com, 2012 – 2016