History

The names of the North Fork towns have evolved many turns from its earliest native American proprietors' names, to the early Anglo-European designations, to changes mandated by the Post Office Department of the United States. Even the coming of the railroad, connecting eastern Long Island - New England's southern tier - with New York City's western development, influenced many present day names.

"Village" refers to a community of people and their homesteads which had a church spire, or two, within it. More than just a place of worship, it was a piece of governance and community. "Hamlet" was reserved for a very small village, or cluster without a church or "spire."

Within a dozen years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, mostly English settlers gradually ventured south to a place named Yennicott. Throughout the 1630's, pine plantations gave rise to a thriving industry producing pine pitch and turpentine, and more and more settlers gradually infiltrated into the area. In 1640, a clergyman, Rev. John Youngs was commissioned by the Governor of the New Haven Colony to organize the Yennicott plantation. He named it after his father's vicarage in Southwald, England, which found favor as the modern name today of Southold.

In it's earliest years of new settlement, the North Fork, from Orient Point and the islands in the east to Riverhead and Wading River in the west, was all called Southold under the New Haven Colony jurisdiction, with its New England lineage.

Due to the long travel distances to town meeting, and after much debate, on March 13, 1792, the New York State legislature divided the two town in two, at Middle Ground, or Middle District. The survey line was drawn at the "eleven o'clock" line, as one's shadow falls on the line about one hour before the farmer's dinner time. From this line, all north and south lines run parallel to the 'eleven o'clock" line.

As the Franklinville Academy was located in the Middle District, the name Middle District soon became Franklinville. However, as there were Franklinville's located elsewhere, the Middle Ground became Laurel. Today, the hamlet of Laurel includes the Post Office Building, Farm stands and other unique businesses.

Mattituck, believed to mean "the great creek" from native America, Mattituck is at the head of the North Fork's only harbor on the Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson - twenty miles to the east.Mattituck divides the North Fork in half, reaching to within five hundred yards of head waters to the Peconic Bay to the south.

Mattituck, was needed for second generation expansion of the new settlers in 1662, more than two decades after the first settlement at Southold. Today, Mattituck is the second largest village, behind Greenport. While land use is predominantly agriculture focused, the shorelines have been populated by seasonal and year-round housing.

Cutchogue is situated in the widest land mass between Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. Originally named Corchaug meaning "principal place" was one of the first new lands designated for settlement. This much needed agricultural expansion in 1661, was to house the second generation of settlers, and was ideal due to its broad fields and woodlands.

Located in the Village Green is the Old House, originally built in Southold in 1649 and moved to the Green in 1661. Dissassembling and moving houses was a common practice, as it was more economical than building a new house.

Today, Cutchogue's farm lands, occupy at least half of the Town of Southold's farming acreage, and remains the North Fork's principal agricultural zone.

In 1820 New Suffolk, whose street plan was laid out that every street terminated at the water's edge, became the western terminus on the Peconic Bay for steamers en route to New York City. A small brickyard and oyster company were the predominant industries along the waterfront.

In 1900, the Holland Submarine Company opened a plant at New Suffolk before moving in 1905 to Groton in Connecticut. Today, New Suffolk boasts a thricing sport fishing area, with a fleet of over 200 boats in its harbor.

Peconic, meaning "small place", became prominent through its location on the railroad in the early 1840's. Each stop was determined to be one hour's walking distance apart from the next. Peconic was equidistant between Southold and Mattituck, yet was in the middle of nowhere, but for a small cottage occupied by an eccentric bachelor, hence the stop became named "Hermitage." However, the hamlet never grew into a village, so it's original native American name was restored, and is known today, as it was then, as Peconic.

The creek lying to the east of today's village of Greenport was first known to boatmen as Winter Harbor. It rarely froze in winter, unlike most other creeks. Later, the creek, and the village became known as Sterling Creek, getting its name from the first land patentee in Long Island.

By the 1800's, after nearly two centuries after the arrival of the first settlers, mail arrived on horseback from Brooklyn - once a week at Sterling's post office, which was located in a school house just west of today's Moore's Lane, on the King's Highway (today's North Road). After the Post Office encouraged settlers to rename the town, as there were other town's with the same name, the name Green Hill and then Greenport, was finally adopted in 1823. A villager, Captain John Clark, became the new postmaster, and the post office was moved to a village hotel, Clark House, becoming one of only twenty-four post offices on all of Long Island at that time.

At the estern tip of the North Fork, joined by a sand bar and a highway, lie Orient and East Marion. Originally named Poqutuck, the area ideal for oyster growing (due to its natural topography), became known as Oyster Ponds Upper Neck (today named East Marion) as it was closer to Greenport and Lower Neck (today named Orient).

As with Cutchogue and Mattituck, as the need for expansion grew, Oyster Ponds became designated with five, arguably six families in 1661.

Upper Neck, renamed after General Francis Marion, and Lower Neck, renamed Orient, as it was further away from the hub of activity.

From the native Americans, to the new settlers led by their search for religious freedom, to the Post Office, the coming of the railroad, the names of the North Fork villages and hamlets have evolved by tongue, pragmatism, and even whimsy.