UNBROKEN HERITAGE SINCE INDIAN DAYS|
[The following article was adapted from the original:] North Shore Community Section Great Neck Record; Port Washington News; Manhasset Press; Roslyn News; Thursday, July 31, 1969; 1-A, 15-A
On a warming July morning, North Shore resident Thomas Dodge might have strolled out his front door and walked 50 yards down a gentle slope to a spring that gushed cool fresh water winter and summer, near the edge of a saltwater inlet. There he might have exchanged a few words with a seasonal visitor; a Matinecock Indian. The year, 1721.
Today, smiling and cordial North Shore resident Charles Dodge might stroll out that same front door, to chat with a visitor about the days gone by, of British troops on the family farm during the Revolution, of Bay men when fishing was at its height, of boats exporting Cow Bay sand for New York skyscrapers.
The same place, the same Dodge family, but 248 years later. The Dodge homestead, at 58 Harbor Rd., Port Washington, is prominent on the list of landmarks in that area now being compiled by the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society.
Cow Neck was the name used, for the peninsula by its early settlers, partly because its shape on a map looks vaguely like a cow's head and partly because it was enclosed by a fence built from water to water across the peninsula's neck, so that it could serve as a grazing land for cattle in the middle 1600's. A farmer was entitled to graze cattle according to the numbers of standing gates or panels of fence he made. There were 526 gates in that original fence, with 60 authorized contributors who were entitled to graze their cattle.
The Dodge homestead is a sturdy structure of wood and stone, with a shingled exterior, that nestles snugly into the rolling hills near the edge of the present Mill Pond. Although small wings were added or removed from the house during its long life, the central part of the structure is the original one. It has been host to the Dodge family only, from its earliest days. The present representative of the historic family, Charles Dodge, who lives here with his wife, is the last to bear the family name.
The family is indeed an ancient one, tracing its lineage as far back as 1306, when one of antecedents, Peter Dodge, was Lord Mayor of London.
Charles Dodge is a descendent of Tristram Dodge who came to America from England in 1620, with four sons, Israel, John, Tristram 2nd and William. Tristram settled in Taunton, Mass but left there in 1661. With 15 other persons, he bought the Island of New Shoreham from the Indians, It is now Block Island, part of Rhode Island. Tristram Dodge is listed in Block Island records as being the father of Thomas, Ebenezer, and Dorcas. His 1733 will, though, listed three more children, Tristam, Nathaniel and Hezekiah.
Thomas Dodge, the original Cow Neck homesteader, was born in 1684, and came here about 1709. He married Manhasset girl Susannah Hutchings in 1712, and bought 200 acres of land, extending from Cow Bay to Hempstead Harbor, to use as a farm. He died in 1775.
Tristram Dodge 3rd arrIved later, bought some property from his brother Thomas, and built a house. Thomas had built, meanwhile, a log cabin on the hill overlooking the harbor and then constructed a small house north of the present structure. The property, purchased from surveyor Samuel Clowes, was deeded on Feb. 18, 1718, "'in the 5th year of the reigne of our soveraigne Lord King George, & c. in the year of Man's Salvation 1718. The purchase price for 202 acres was 373 pounds, 14 shillings, three pence.
It is conjectured that the present house was built by Thomas' son Joseph around 1763, and that stone at the site, marked 1719, records the date of the land purchase. It may have been removed from the smaller house.
The house has low ceilings, heavy beams, wide-mouthed fireplaces and small-paned windows. The exterior shingles have been replaced over the years, with the last removed about three years ago. They were three feet long, made of heavy pine and fastened with handmade nails.
The present kitchen, in a wing to the right, dates from 1902 and occupies the space that served as a weaving room before the Revolutionary War. Some accounts hold that the family was forced to give up its weaving during the Revolution because Hessian troops were quartered in the room set aside for that purpose. Mrs. Dodge doesn't believe that story, however. She thinks the Hessians camped on the farm and not in the house. She says that they killed some of the livestock for food.
Before the American Revolution broke out, farmers in the Cow Bay area were Whigs who supported the Revolution, and large landholders farther south were opposed. Cow Bay and the rest of what is the present-day North Hempstead seceded in 1775 from Hempstead Town.
General George Washington, for whom Port Washington was named, was defeated in Brooklyn in August 1776, and the British embargoed Long Island. To help the Whigs attack and rob Tories, revolutionaries from Connecticut and Massachusetts sailed the Sound, and supposedly the sabotage continued until the early 1800's, when the last of the British withdrew from Long Island.
Connecticut and Massachusetts had commissioned whale boaters to "protect from foreign invaders in our waters," but that plan came to a bad end in the early 1800's when the boatmen killed a very young resident, Benjamin Mitchell. After much protest from Long Islanders, the commissions were revoked.
In the beginning, the present Mill Pond was a salt water inlet and boats came right up to the land in front of the Dodge House. A dam, across which Shore Road now runs, was built across the Inlet about 1795, to serve a mill later built at the site. Subsequent developments later dried up the fresh water spring used so often by the Matinecock Indians, who maintained a summer fishing village there.
In more recent history, the Dodges could look out into the Bay and see fishermen load their boats with oysters and clams for the New York market or watch laborers with wheelbarrows load "Cow Bay" sand and gravel into two-masted schooners resting in the mud at low tide. At high tide, the boats sailed to New York and beyond.
Seven generations of the Dodge family have lived here in the same house, and each generation left a story behind.. William Dodge, for instance, was appointed coroner of Queens County by Governor Morgan Lewis in 1805. A church-going man, he and his sister rode the distance in chairs placed on a wagon and then sat in the self-same chairs during the church service. Friends who visit the Dodges can still sit on one of the chairs.
It's been many years since the Matinecock Indians, under the leadership of Sachem Tackopousha of Long Island, shared the spring with the Dodge family, and the present Dodges, along with the Historical Society, want to remember. The Society wants to register all buildings on the Peninsula that are at least 100 years old, according to the Society's president, Dr. Milton Hopkins. Mrs. Hedley Donavan, a member of the board of trustees, said the Society plans a landmark registration book, with pictures and historical data, to be part of the Society's exhibit at its headquarters in the Bird home, 315 Main St., Port Washington, and later at the permanent historical exhibit in the museum planned for the Willets house, at 250-year old structure on Port Washington Blvd. The Society recently acquired title to the structure and plans to restore it...