Lifestyles of Shelter Island’s ‘rich and famous,’ circa 18th century

SCOTT FEIERSTEIN PHOTO | Karen Kiaer and Joy Bausman of the Shelter Island Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution during their April 3 presentation for the Women’s Community Club.

SCOTT FEIERSTEIN PHOTO | Karen Kiaer and Joy Bausman of the Shelter Island Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution during their April 3 presentation for the Women’s Community Club.

On April 3, members of the Shelter Island Women’s Community Club were treated to a Power Point presentation by Joy Bausman, honorary regent of the Shelter Island Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and Karen Kiaer, chapter historian, offering a historical overview of some of the patriots and founders buried in the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church colonial cemeteries. The event was held in fellowship hall at the church. This is the first of several activities planned to celebrate the 275th Anniversary of the Presbyterian Church. 

The rich and famous of the colonial era — or the one percenters of 18th century Shelter Island — built elaborate monuments called tabletops to mark their graves. The DAR chapter has sponsored five years of restoration and repair work to these tabletop memorials and historic gravestones. It is important to note that because the school burned in the 1820s and the town clerk’s home burned in 1883, all town records were lost. What remains are these gravestones, which now function as the early town records.

Some of the founders discussed at the event were Nathaniel Sylvester and his wife, Grissel Brinley, the first European settlers on Shelter Island. Also mentioned were James Havens, Daniel Brown and Thomas Dering, who were chosen to represent Shelter Island in the various Provincial Congresses held in 1775 and 1776. James Nicoll Havens served as a member of the New York Assembly and Washington’s First Continental Congress. Many other names were mentioned during the talk.

The program finished with a view of a copy of the Shelter Island Declaration of Independence dated May 1775, which was signed by the male heads of households. The document was signed just one month after the battles of Lexington and Concord and one month before Bunker Hill.

 

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