Monday, September 15, 2014

Richard “Bull” Smith, founder of Smithtown, NY (52 Ancestors, #31)

Richard Smith > Job Smith > James Smith > Temperance Smith > Keturah Tuthill > Elizabeth Lamoreaux > Samuel Ransom > Jameson Harvey Ransom > Charles Francis Ransom > Lillian Emma Ransom > Charles Lloyd Walters

The early life of Richard remains unclear, although tradition says he was born in York, England and that his father fought alongside Cromwell. After coming to the colonies, Richard may have resided in Boston for a short time before moving to Long Island.

According to the History of Long Island, Richard was a resident of Southampton, NY until 1656 when he was ordered to leave due to his "unreverend carriage towards the Magistrates." From here he moved to Setauket, NY before settling in an area on Long Island that would come to bear his name, Smithtown.

Richard is sometimes referred to as "Bull" Smith and there are several legends surrounding the man and his nickname. One tradition says he was called “Bull” because he rode a bull instead of a horse. Some stories carry this further, saying that before the founding of Smithtown, the local Native Americans’ told Richard he could have whatever land he could encircle from the back of a bull. Whatever the truth behind his name, it has become a piece of the history of Smithtown and a statue of a bull can still be found, in honor of the city's founder.

There was some disagreement over the rightful ownership of the land Richard claimed was his. In a document signed May 4, 1665, Richard states that he bought the land from Lyon Gardiner, a prominent settler and soldier. Meanwhile, some of the Native Americans said the land belonged to them, while others believed the land had been rightfully sold to Richard. In the end, Richard "thought good to buy the land" for which he paid one gun, one kettle, ten coats, one blanket, three hands of powder and three hands of lead.

Richard and his wife Sarah had at least 9 children. Richard probably died in 1693, as his will was proven on May 2, 1693.

Below I've included Richard’s entire will. It is a typical will of the day, “misspellings” and all. (Standardized spelling didn't come along until later, even in proper names. The will belongs to “Richard Smith” but it is signed “Richard Smyth.”)

One thing I noticed with Richard’s will that differs from other wills I've read, is that it seems to be written from both Richard and Sarah. The will asks that “our” bodies received a decent burial and items are given to “our children.” While Sarah’s name and seal are included at the close of the will, there is no mention of her in the will itself. Usually, when the wife is still alive, there are some provisions made for her. Maybe it was thought that Sarah wouldn't long outlive her husband, but in actuality, she outlived Richard by a number of years.
The will opens with Richard saying he is “of sound and perfect memory” and gives the reminder that it is God’s will that determines how long everyone lives.

When reading these old wills, I always find it interesting to see the differences in what each child is given. As was fairly common, the eldest son, Jonathan, was given a larger portion that his siblings. Also fairly common, and sadly so, two of the sons were each bequeathed a slave. Most of the children were given a specific piece of land along with “a share of land in division with the rest of the children,” however son Adam only received a share of the land. I wonder why he was given such a smaller portion. (There could be a number of reasons for this. Maybe there was a disagreement in the family, or maybe Richard had simply given Adam his share prior to his death.) 

Richard’s two daughters received land as well as his clothing which suggests how valuable clothing was in the day, especially when it was the only household item singled out in the will. Sons Jonathan and Richard were named executors and it was their duty to pay Richard’s debts and see that the estate was divided among the children.

The Will of Richard Smith
March the 5th 1691-2. In the name of God, Amen.

I Richard Smith Sen'r of Smithtown in the County of Suffolk on Long Island, in the Province of New York, being sick & weake in body but of sound and perfect memory, thanks be to God, calling to mind the uncertain state of this life and that we must submit to God's will when it shall please him to call us out of this life, doe make constitute and ordain this our land will & testament, hereby revoking and anulling any former or other Will or Testament made by us either by word or writing.
Imprimis. We give our soules to God who gave them & our bodyes being dead to be decently buried in such place and manner as to or Executors hereafter named shall seem convenient, and as for the lands, goods & Chattels wherewith it has pleased God to endue us withal, our just debts & Legacyes being first paid, we order and dispose in manner and forme following.
Item. To Jonathan Smith our oldest son we give & bequeath our house, barn and orchard joyning to his home log, and the homestead as far as the old fence Northward and halfe way from the said house to Samuel's house; and thence to the West ende of the barn, and the wood close on the East side of the little brook over against the house and forty acres of land more than his equall share in division with the rest of our children, and that lot of meadow over against the hiss on the West side of the River.
Item. To our son Richard we give and bequeath our negro Harry and an equall share of land in dividsion with the rest of our children.
Item. To our son Job we give & bequeath our negro Robin for the terme of tweleve years and an equall share of land in dividsion with the rest of our children, and at the end of sd twelve years the said Robin shall be free.
Item. To our son Adam we give an equall share of Land in division with the rest of our children.
Item. To our son Samuel Smith we give and bequeath the orchard Southward of the house, & half the pasture bounded by the little Creek, the Eastward parte thereof, & the lower or northward most fresh Island on the east side of the river, with an equall share of land in division with the rest of our children, and the swamp called the North swamp, with the land on the East side which is fenced.
Item. To our son Daniel we give and bequeath the other halfe of the pasture Southward of his house, the westward part of it, and an equall share of land in division with the rest of our children. & our will is that James Necke shall be and remaine for the use and improvement of my six sons above said and their heires forever.
Item. To our daughter Elizabeth Townley we give & confirm that land and meadow at a place called Sunk Meadow as it is mentioned in a deed made by us, & also the one half of my cloathing.
Item. To our daughter Laurence we give & bequeth an equall parte & share of land in division with the rest of our children where it shall be most suitable & convenient, also the other halfe of my clothing.
Lastly we doe hereby nominate and appoint our beloved sons Jonathan & Richard Smith, Executors of this our last Will, & Testament, to pay all our just debts and to make an equall partition amongst all our children, of all the goods & chattels & what moveable estate shall be left.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the day and year above named.
Richard Smyth [seal]
Sarah Smyth [seal]
Sealed & delievered in presence of
John Roe
Jonathan Lewis
Thomas Helme
Proved May 2, 1693

Sources: A History of Long Island by Peter Ross, 1902; Portrait and Biographical Record of Suffolk County (Long Island) New York, from Google Books; will and other documents from Records of Smithtown, (In the will, “the” was written as “ye” but I changed it to make the reading smoother).

1 comment:

  1. Was wondering if you were a descendant of Richard Smith I couldn't signbinvwith out google
    Kori Connelly Steinhouse/
    please let me know...