Around the Island

Historical Society Sunday on July 4 at Union Chapel

Join us for a rousing Fourth of July at Union Chapel in the Grove at 10:30 a.m., for Shelter Island Historical Society Sunday, featuring the South Ferry Clark family.

Bill Clark III will talk about the family’s history, going back 300 years on Shelter Island. Our Chapel Organist Linda Betjeman will play patriotic hymns, joined by guest musician, baritone Thom Milton.

Family historian Bill Three, as he’s called within the family, will tell how Jonathan Havens (great-grandfather times six of Cliff and Bill), started a sailboat ferry soon after his arrival on the Island in 1700. Descendants of the Havens family ran the ferry until Samuel Gibbs Clark purchased the property and its ferry operations in 1833. The Clark family has run the ferry since then.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the South Ferry story,” Bill said. “I never tire of sharing how our ancestors built the operation from rowboats and sailboats in the 1700s to the company it is today. I feel that it’s a great honor to work at the ferry and always enjoy talking about our wonderful history.”

Cliff Clark, president of South Ferry, described helping to run a longtime family business: “The South Ferry Clarks, including our grandparents, parents, uncles and cousins, were all raised with a deep sense of commitment to service to the customers,” Cliff said. “The financial bottom line was never the center of the conversation. We were taught courtesy and service as our reason for being.”

In recent years, Shelter Island Historical Society Sunday has featured speakers of various and eclectic topics. Executive Director Nanette Breiner Lawrenson chose the speakers. “The tradition has enabled our organization to partner in sharing specific histories of Shelter Island people and places,” she said, adding, “The Society continues to be grateful for Historical Society Sunday at Union Chapel.”

Past speakers included David Lichtenstein, Ph.D, president of South Ferry Hills Association, who spoke in 2019 about the Smith-Ransome Bridge. “A Treasure Hidden in Plain Sight,” told of the history of the graceful bridge arching over a man-made lagoon in South Ferry Hills, as well as the story of Francis Smith, the “Borax King,” at the turn of the 20th century.

A familiar face around the Island, Angelo Piccozzi told stories in 2018 about the “Life and Times of Jake and Augie Piccozzi,” the history of his family and the evolution of their businesses here.

In 2017, Chris Fokine, president of Fokine Construction, and responsible for much of the recent renovations in the Chapel, as well as the construction of the Shelter Island History Center at the Historical Society, educated the audience about the Quaker cemetery, “Quakerism and the Declaration of Independence.”

Beth Auman, (2016), historian and expert on the history of Walter Cole Brigham, spoke about the local artist who created the beautiful Chapel marine mosaic windows, crafted of local seashells, stones and chunks of broken glass. Her talk was “Brigham’s Marine Mosaics: The Consecration of Common Things.”

This Sunday’s presentation traces the history of the South Ferry, and how it impacted the Island, about which Cliff said, “The honor and responsibilities of being part of a family business that is more than 300 years old, and continues to be an essential part of this special community, is not lost on us.”

As Union Chapel in the Grove looks ahead to 2022 and its own 150th anniversary, we celebrate our unique island history, shared with Shelter Island Heights, which also turns 150 next year. Please join us for our interdenominational service at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 4. Happy Independence Day.