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This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Sifting through the sands of time at Mashomack, Dr. Kent Lightfoot of Stony Brook University and his students uncovered artifacts offering clues to the lives of Native Americans who occupied Shelter Island long before Nathaniel Sylvester arrived.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Sifting through the sands of time at Mashomack, Dr. Kent Lightfoot of Stony Brook University and his students uncovered artifacts offering clues to the lives of Native Americans who occupied Shelter Island long before Nathaniel Sylvester arrived.

50 Years ago:

American youths were listening to the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night”But the top two songs of the day among the entire population were “Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes in the

number two spot and while  “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys was number one

John Huston’s “The Night of the Iguana” was pulling in movie audiences

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” with Tippi Hedren was released

And two fun facts came from the Poke My Birthday website: If you hadn’t cut your hair from August 8, 1964, to the present, it would be 7.286 miles long; similarly, your fingernails would be 1.8 miles long

50 YEARS AGO
Beach-road proposal could be on November ballot

In August 1964, residents were debating the wisdom of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to raise the roadway between Big Ram and Little Ram about 12 feet by pumping up sand from Coecles Harbor.

A yes vote in November would have created a public beach about 2,000 feet long. But in November balloting, the people said no by a vote of 404 against to 344 in favor. The Ram Island Association fought the plan calling it “a boondoggle” that would create “a Frankenstein” from which taxpayers would never recover.

POSTSCRIPT: In more recent years, the Highway Department had to shore up the roadway that was flooded during Superstorm Sandy and Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr. has had several projects on the books for which there hasn’t been limited money to address improving low-lying roadways around Shelter Island that are compromised by major storms.

30 YEARS AGO
Scientists in search of Island Indians’ past

In 1984, Stony Brook Assistant Professor Kent Lightfoot and students conducted at five-week study at Mashomack searching for clues of how Indians used the area long before Nathaniel Sylvester ever resided on Shelter Island. What they discovered was that Mashomack appeared to represent hunting grounds for the Indians, who likely didn’t live on the land there, but chose coastal settings for their main camp that gave them access to fresh and salt water.

But the Mashomack area revealed that cooking and tool making likely occurred there based on the discovery of shell fragments there.

POSTSCRIPT: In recent years, Sylvester Manor has been the site of archeological digs by University of Massachusetts graduate students under the direction of Dr. Stephen Mrozowski.

For eight summers beginning in 1997, the grounds were excavated, uncovering a wealth of artifacts, including wampum production and other evidence of Native American occupation as well as African pottery, Dutch building materials and English coins. Smaller digs have continued after 2005.

20 YEARS AGO
Voters to decide on Fire Department pension

Just 20 years ago, Islanders were debating the efficacy of establishing a pension fund for their volunteer firefighters. The “Length of Service Awards Program” was geared to providing a payment to retired firefighters who had responded year after year to a specific number of emergency calls.

But when the vote occurred later in August 1994, residents turned down the program by a narrow margin of 182 to 151. It took until 2005 for the Fire Department to win public support to establish a pension fund for its members that is still in force today.

POSTSCRIPT: In 2012, it was EMS workers who sought voter approval for a similar program for its volunteers and that went smoothly with 92 percent of voters giving the plan their approval.

10 YEARS AGO
Town warned of a cut at Reel Point

Residents living in the area of Coecles Harbor near Reel Point warned the Town Board back in August 2004 that erosion on the spit of land that extends into Coecles Harbor was becoming badly eroded, the result of both weather and drivers bringing vehicles onto the site, causing it to become increasingly fragile.

It was suggested that vehicle access be closed, limiting people to hiking on Reel Point. But there was no immediate move to close the point with some skeptics insisting there weren’t as many as 20 cars a day making their way onto Reel Point. Instead the town opted to survey the problem and make a later decision.

POSTSCRIPT: Last year, in an emergency move, the Army Corps of Engineers and Highway Department workers combined forces to dredge the opening to Coecles Harbor and deposit spoils from the dredge onto Reel Point so they could be spread to areas experiencing serious erosion.

j.lane@sireporter.com

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