Island history comes to life at SIHS exhibit

COURTESY PHOTO | Image by Louise Tuthill Green.

COURTESY PHOTO | Image by Louise Tuthill Green.

The Shelter Island Historical Society will host a presentation and an exhibit, “Race and Ethnicity: 1652-2000,” with Dr. Nancy Jaicks on Saturday, March 1 at 1 p.m. in the front parlor of the Havens House.

Dr. Jaicks described the program: “The Shelter Island Historical Society is drawing from its rich archives to present “Race and Ethnicity: 1652-2000.”

Because many of the families who settled here centuries ago have descendants still residing on the Island, numerous narratives, memoirs and documents that tell our story have been given to the society. Among those are not only Nathaniel Sylvester’s inventory of “goods,” including slaves, but certificates of manumission [the act of freeing a slave], and the death certificate of James Madison Hempstead, a whaler, who volunteered to fight for the Union. Mr. Hempstead died in the service of the 29th Regiment, Company D, U.S. Colored Troops.

“In the 20th century the exhibit follows Albert Scott, who although born a slave in Petersburg, Virginia, moved with his wife Elizabeth, a “full-blooded Montauk,” to Sachem’s Neck (Mashomack) in the 1890s and founded an important Island family. Through marriage, Mr. Scott’s family became the well-respected Chase family. Ben Chase, the last of that family to reside on the Island, was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard in 1998. In this exhibit, Island events are set in the larger sweep of U.S. history.”

Space is limited. RSVP to 749-0025 or email

The exhibit runs through March 22 and includes documents and artifacts such as Native American tools, photographs, books and a video loop. A corresponding booklet authored by Patricia Shillingburg will also be available.

Light refreshments will follow this free talk. Donations are appreciated.

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