Around the Island

Historical Society Service at Union Chapel: A look at Island’s shipbuilding past

Everyone is welcome to Historical Society Sunday when Nanette Lawrenson, executive director of Shelter Island Historical Society (SIHS), is the featured speaker at the service on July 2 at 10:30 a.m.

Ms. Lawrenson will talk about the Lord Family of Shipyard Creek. The colorful history of the “peculiar” family of three sea captains and two maiden sisters is the basis of this summer’s SIHS community musical fundraiser, “The Lords of Menantic.”

Along the way, she will touch on the history of the Island’s Menantic Peninsula and American shipbuilding. Sweet Island Dulcimers will perform under the direction of Union Chapel Music Director Linda Betjeman.

“Lords by name and Lords by nature” described this Island family of aristocrats during the 19th century, according to Ms. Lawrenson. They owned a beautiful estate on the Menantic Peninsula. The captains built ocean-sailing vessels hewn from Shelter Island white oak.

In 1804, during the Napoleonic Wars, one of their ships, Paragon, ran through the French blockade, delivering American grain to England. Captain Sam became a hero, though his hero status may be a bit questionable.

Ms. Lawrenson will give an overview of American shipbuilding during the 1800s, and on the Island, at the Lords Shipyard, as well as including a brief history of Menantic Peninsula, now known as Montclair Colony. How and when was Montclair Colony established and why are the streets named as they are?

“Our mission is to share the history of our Island through presentations and exhibits,” Ms. Lawrenson said of SIHS. “We encourage Shelter Island families to donate originals or copies of their family history to continue to build the archive collection. The more information we have, the more exhibits and programs we are able to share.”

“The Shelter Island Historical Society continues to be grateful for Historical Society Sunday at Union Chapel,” she added.

The Society sponsors the popular outdoor Havens Farmers Market on Saturday mornings throughout the summer. For tickets to the summer musical, which runs from July 20-23, or the July 29 1970’s Dance Party, visit

About Ms. Lawrenson

Ms. Lawrenson came to the Island with her family in the mid-1950s; they eventually built a family home in 1964. She worked for 30 years in corporate retail, and has held numerous board and committee positions with arts, cultural and environmental nonprofit organizations before becoming SIHS Executive Director in 2012.

About Sweet Island Dulcimers

Ms. Betjeman formed Sweet Island Dulcimers four years ago, teaching and playing Appalachian dulcimers, also called “mountain dulcimers.” These uniquely American instruments, originally built and played by early Appalachian settlers, surged in popularity in the last 20 years, and there are now dulcimer groups across the country. 

Sweet Island Dulcimers specializes in traditional early American hymns, ballads, and folk music but also play cowboy songs, world music and The Beatles. The group has performed for churches, children’s groups and passersby on Crescent Beach, where members often practice during the summer. They meet weekly year-round and anyone is welcome to join.

Instrumentalists include Susan Ahlborn, Diane Blagburn, Wendy Clark, Anne Danforth, Vicky Kotula, Linda Kraus, Charity Robey, Leah White and Linda Betjeman. 

The interdenominational service on Sunday, July 2 begins at 10:30 a.m. and is open to all. An outdoor reception, catered by Stars Café’, will follow the service.

Next week: Elizabeth Sternlieb, cantor of Temple Beth El in Westchester, will lead the Shelter Island Yacht Club Memorial Sunday service on July 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Union Chapel’s commemorative book, “All Are Welcome: 150 years of Shelter Island’s Union Chapel in the Grove,” by Carrie Cooperider, is available for purchase after every service, at Finley’s Fiction or by contacting Trustee Kathy Dinkel.