HEWLETT-FAMOUS LONG ISLAND FAMILY

THE BOROUGHS OF BROOKLYN AND QUEENS
COUNTIES OF NASSAU AND SUFFOLK, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
1609-1924 by HENRY ISHAM HAZELTON

The name of Hewlett has been emblazoned in large letters on the life of Brooklyn and Long Island and since the Revolutionary days, when members of the ancestry, being wealthy and influential residents, owned beautiful estates.

Theirs was probably the most noted Tory family on Long Island, as well as one of the oldest. They were feared by the patriots, for they were among the most powerful Loyalists and leaders of the section. Like so many of the representative and cultured families at that time, they were in sympathy with the king's cause and looked upon the "rebellion" as unwarrantable impertinence to England and an unjustifiable assumption of authority.

Richard Hewlett of Hempstead heads this list. A noted ranger and fighter and a veteran of the French and Indian wars, he planned a coup that almost succeeded in capturing George Washington, after which Washington ordered that he be taken "dead or alive".

A story told of Hewlett when he was besieged at Setauket by General Parsons show his calibre. In a feeble entrenchment, surrounded by three time their forces, resistance seemed to offer poor success.

Hewlett asked his soldiers if they wished to retreat. Their response was a decided "No".

"Then I'll stick to you as long as there is a man left," answered the doughty colonel. The repulse of the assaulting party and its withdrawal from the island was the result.

Richard belonged to Brigadier General Oliver De Lancey's Third Battalion. After the war, in 1783, he moved to New Brunswick, Canada, and died near Gagetown in 1789.

Captain Stephen, a younger brother, served under him in the French and Indian Wars, and in the Revolution.

Another prominent Hewlett Tory was Captain Thomas, son of Richard, commissioned a lieutenant by General Howe in 1776. As a captain, he was the first to enter Fort Montgomery on October 6, 1777. He was killed in battle at Hanging Rock, N.C. in 1780.

Captain John, a cousin of Richard, was one of his Majesty's justices and Superintendent of Forage. He was placed on the duty of levying upon his neighbors for supplies for the British soldiers.

His son, Captain Charles, served during the Revolution also, as did a cousin, Daniel, a lieutenant in Captain Hick's company.

Thomas George Hewlett who died in 1856 from a wound received in the last battle of the Massaya while leading an advance guard of the Nicaraguan army. He was the Transit Rangers, and had served with General Walker in Lower California. He won laurels for himself and his company in the battles of Granada and Massaya, and was often selected for difficult service. He was the son of Thomas Hewlett and Mary (Howell) Hewlett, of Rock Hall.

Other Hewletts, or Hulets, came to America early. William Hulet arrived in Virginia abroad the ship "Constant"* in 1635 and his descendants are in the South Atlantic states. Others are near Hulet's Landing, Lake George; still others are in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

So active in community life and prominent have been the various branches of the family that the town of Hewlett and one of Long Island's beautiful bays have been named for them. Many important Hewletts lived on the northern side of the island, though the south claimed a quota. Two beautiful old houses are preserved in the historic Hewlett homestead, at Roslyn, and far-famed Rock Hall in Lawrence, probably the most perfect example of colonial architecture on the island. In 1924, the Hewlett's had possessed this home for one hundred years, George Hewlett being the official head of the family. More than a century ago it was it was Rockaway Hall. Because of the shortened name, some persons have surmised it to be of stone. But it is built entirely of oak, a quaint, hand-carved wooden railing topping its roof. Old residents have said the town rightly should be named Martins instead of Lawrence, for Josiah Martin, its first widely known owner. Long ago sailors used the house as a landmark, and referred to the neighborhood as Martins.

To Rock Hall's hospitable roof the various family groups of Hewletts make pilgrimages each year, and gay were the hours. Among those passing the summers there are Mrs. Aaron Allen Hand, of 68 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, a sister of the owner. To her efforts is due the fact that the authentic history of the place has been collected.

First records reveal that on September 13, 1720, Samuel Carman, of Hempstead, sold to William Cornell for 570 "a certain parcel or allotment of salt and fresh meadow ground, including houses, outhouses, barns, orchards, woods, fences, ponds, spring water courses."

Carman had bought this property from William Valentine, John Dusenbery, and Moses Embrey. On September 21, 1767, John Cornell, evidently a son of William, sold the property to Josiah Martin, of Hempstead, foR 2,000. Now the question: Did Martin build a new house or enlarge and improve the one existing? Whoever built it brought the sandstone of the foundation from the New Jersey quarries on the Hudson. No date is scrawled on stone or beam, and in the words of its historian:

"It seems the architect must remain a mystery as deep as the one mentioned by the old records of N & S Hempstead, which say: "It appears by ye ancient Mouseaten Book, so called, that the list of proprietors was 50. By which catalog it also appears that three of the proprietors are extinguished or eaten out of ye said Book."

Josiah Martin, born in Antigua in 1699, came to Hempstead as early as 1730. He made frequent trips between Antiqua and Long Island, since his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was baptized in St. George's Church, Hempstead, in 1733, and in 1735, he married he second wife in Antigua. He owned property at North Hempstead on Cow Bay and had six slaves. In 1751, he subscribed 20 for erecting a gallery in Hempstead Church.

He did not like his home site, wishing to be nearer the ocean. So he bought the present estate, which comprised six hundred acres.

Reminiscences of those days exist in handsome portraits of him and his second wife, Mary Yeamans, painted by Robert Feke, which hang on the walls. His daughter, Elizabeth, married her cousin, Josiah, last colonial Governor of North Carolina.

In those troublous days, she, with her children, fled to her father's home at Rock Hall, where her husband joined her. Copley, the artist, went to the house and painted the portrait of their eldest child, Mary Elizabeth, in the "Child With Dog," which was hung beside that of her grandparents.

In 1778, Josiah Martin died at Rock Hall, and was buried in the chancel of old St. George's Church. He left 200 to his granddaughter, Mary Elizabeth Martin, subject of the portrait, "to buy her negroes," but whether she married, or where she went, has not been ascertained. The bulk of the fortune and the property at Rock Hall, he left to his eldest son, Samuel, a physician, who never married.

Dr. Martin, a Loyalist, was compelled during the Revolution to give a bond of 500 to behave "peaceably and refrain from harboring Tories in his house." Like his father, he interested himself in St. George's Church, serving as vestryman. He improved the Rock Hall estate, purchasing several parcels of land for wood lots.

The inventory at his death in 1806 showed wealth and luxury. The estate produced food, flax, many sheep, for clothing and food, and everything necessary for good living. He had nine slaves.

His estate he left to his sisters, Alice Martin and Rachel Martin Bannister, and his land at Antigua and his money and the library at Rock Hall, to his brother, William. Alice Martin mortgaged her portion to build a home in Jamaica, and Mrs. Bannister lived in Rhode Island.

Mrs. Bannister's daughter, Alice made the bit of embroidery "The Parting of Hector and Andromache," and painted the water colors,

"Brickeen Bridge" and "Mr. Nightingale's House," at Providence, which now hang on the walls.

She had married William McNeill, a spendthrift, who left her to shift for herself with four children. When Alice Martin died, she had left her property to this namesake, and sixteen cartloads of furniture were taken from Rock Hall to Jamaica to be sold.

Rock Hall's relationship with the Hewletts began when suffering from cancer, and money exhausted, Alice Bannister was turned out of doors by a landlady. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hewlett took her in and nursed her until her death, also keeping one of her sons, while the neighborhood cared for the other children.

Thomas Hewlett's parental home had been on a small farm between Woodmere and Hewlett. His parents were James and Sarah Greene Hewlett. He married Mary Halsey Howell of Westhampton.

Mrs. McNeill was most graceful and accomplished, and great was the sympathy for her. Her singing was particularly remembered for such ballads as "Robin Adair." Grateful to her benefactors, she said to Mrs. Hewlett: "Polly, you have been so good to me. I have no remembrances to leave but the old pictures, and I want you to have them." Such portraits now so valuable, were at that time unsaleable articles and their value rated at almost nothing. In Samuel Martin's inventory in 1806, these three pictures and twelve others in a lot were listed "fifteen pictures $105."

William McNeill, tried to get possession of the property, but was unsuccessful. The portraits of the Martins had been taken to a nearby house, but the one of the child and a landscape were fastened into the paneling of the south and north parlors. In after years they were framed to protect them from dampness.

Mrs. McNeill's grave can be seen in St. George's churchyard at Hempstead. Her death occurred on Christmas eve, 1823, at thirty-six.

When Mr. Hewlett went to Jamaica to settle her affairs, her lawyer, Mr. Foster, interested him in the purchase of the property. It had been mortgaged heavily, and the 600 acres had shrunk to 125. Thomas Hewlett bought the house March 26, 1824, and moved in with his young wife, his father and mother, his sister Catherine, who had been married unhappily, and her child, Euphemia, who died at sixteen.

Thomas Hewlett's mother, Sarah Greene, was a woman of strong character, descended from General Nathanel Greene, while her uncle Daniel Greene, carried the American colors when the British evacuated New York. Two Windsor chairs now in Rock Hall and other furniture belonged to him and his wife.

Thomas Hewlett was a man of activity and resource. He interested himself in the advance of good government and matters to benefit the community. Every Sunday he took his family over heavy, sandy roads to St. George's Church at Hempstead, a drive of ten miles. And he was one of the founders of Trinity Church, Hewlett.

Moving into Rock Hall, was a dreary affair. Glass was out of the windows, plaster had fallen, a woodpile was in the south end of the hall, and the whole premises were out of repair.

Joseph Bannister, brother of Alice McNeill, his wife and family occupied the east side, but did not long remain.

Negroes, shooting cats underneath the barn, had set the building on fire and destroyed it. The outbuilding on the west, was occupied by an aged colored couple, Quaugh and Nannie, remnants of Dr. Martin's slaves. Their bones lie in the slaves' burying ground near the Lawrence station.

Mr. Hewlett made a straight lane as an approach to the house, formerly reached by a winding road. He set out cedars and horse chestnuts, helped by his little daughter Frances. When she remarked it would take a long time for the trees to grow, he replied: "Yes, but someone will enjoy them."

He built a barn, moved the detached buildings west of the mansion to connect with the main building, and, to meet his increasing responsibilities, took families to board during the summer. Some of the boarders, among them the DePaus, Foxes and Livingstons, proved firm friends, and the house became widely known.

Thomas Hewlett died when the youngest of his nine children was a few days old, in 1841. In 1870, James Augustus Hewlett, the fourth son, who had gone into business in New York, purchased the estate from the other heirs, built a new barn, took down the old structures to the west, and, building the new wing to the east in 1881, giving the house its appearance as it now stands, amidst a wealth of trees and shrubbery.

Of late years, the Hewlett family has been incorporated and has enrolled 200 members. A family reunion at which such plans were laid was held May 31, 1913, in the Hewlett homestead at Roslyn.

The guests viewed with delight the well preserved house, standing on land inherited from the first Lewis Hewlett, son of George Hewlett, first ancestor of the name in America.

The reunion, which drew 150 representatives from many prominent Hewlett families, was held at the invitation of Mrs. Henry Thorne Hewlett, the guests being received and entertained by herself, her daughter, Mrs. Timothy Tredwell, two brothers of the hostess and owners of the place, Stephen and Samuel Hewlett, Mrs. Samuel Hewlett and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hewlett Tredwell.

Mrs. Joseph Willets read a history she had complied concerning the Hewletts descended from George, forefather of most of the Long Island Hewletts. She said Hewlett homsteads were peculiar in possessing neither "Mayflower" furniture nor "Washington" chairs because of the royalist tendencies of their owners whose ancestors were still content under English rule when the "Mayflower" sailed, though tradition had it that they went to Leyden, Holland, before coming to America.

George Hewlett, ancestor of the Long Island family, was born in 1634, and died at Hempstead in 1722. He was the son of Lewis Hewlett (Louis Hulet) of Buckinghamshire, Enlgand, who was in the Massachusetts colony in 1636. He went to New Amsterdam where, in 1648, he married for a second or third wife Caroline Marwin.

George had two brothers and one sister. John, infirm, lived with him at Merrick, while Lewis owned land and resided at Great Neck. The sister, Jane married Adam Mott, of Essex County, England, at the Old Dutch Church in New Amsterdam. In 1655 they lived in Hempstead, owning land adjoining George Hewlett's.

In tracing dates of Colonial days, there is often confusion, since the legal year in the English settlements on Long Island, New England and the New Jersey colonies began on March 25 are the calendar year January 1. Dates between January 1 and March 25 are frequently set down as of the previous or legal, year; and in some instances, both years are given.

Another difficulty in Long Island records is the Dutch spelling of many names, as for instance, Jane Hewlett is recorded as Jenne Hulet.

The first Hewlett settlement, it is believed, was on Riker's Island. George

lived ther with his first wife, widow of Guisbert Riker until, the Indians becoming troublesome, the made their escape one afternoon. The redmen the following day destroyed their house and all their belongings. They settled at Hempstead.

The island was granted to William Hewlett, and later to Abraham Riker, but retained the name of Hewlett's Island. It is thus recorded on a map made in Revolutionary days for the British Army. One of Abraham Riker's descendants in his "History of Newton" denies that such a person as Guisbert Riker existed, but Albany records show he owned property bordering on the grant to Abraham in 1638. George Hewlett's second wife was Mary Bayles, whom he married at Gravesend in 1680. Justice (Sergeant) James Hubbard, who performed the ceremony had married Mary Bayles' sister, Elizabeth, as his second wife. Prior to coming to America he was an officer in the English service in Irleand, as was also Nicholas Stilwell, husband of another of the Bayles' sisters-Rebecca. All were daughters of John and Rebecca Bayles, of Jamaica. Sergeant Hubbard was leader of Lady Moody's party in the settlement of Gravesend in 1645, first English settlement in New Amsterdam. Lewis Hewlett, of the party, was a relative of George.

George, on December 5, 1660, was made a "townsman of Hempstead," and is recorded as a "proprietor." He served on committees to treat with the Indians, and was constable of Hempstead. His five children, all from his marriage with Mary Bayles, settled on Long Island, some in the north about Cow Neck, and some in the south near Merrick and the Rockaway district--Hewlett, Lawrence and East Rockaway.

They were George, who married Hannah Smith and to whom the father gave land at Mad-Nan's Neck (Great Neck); John, who died early, but who married Mary Smith; Mary, who married Dr. Charles Peters, Sr., and was given property in Hempstead village. Lewis, who married first Grace Hewlett, second Hannah Kissam, was granted land by his father at Cow Neck, still owned by Stephen R. and Samuel L. Hewlett, at the time of the family reunion. The last son, Daniel, married Mary Jackson and was settled at Merrick on property still retained in the name of George M. Hewlett and the family of William E. Hewlett.

The ancestor George died in 1722, his children with the exception of John, surviving him. John died in 1717, leaving a son John and a daughter Mary.

Although this grandson was but 16 years old when his father died, George, his grandfather, had given him a home which included a house and fifty acres of land at Rockaway, known as George Hewlett's Point, now part of Hewlett.

John added to this tract by purchase and in 1739, wishing to remove to East Woods, now Woodbury, to be near his friend Barent Van Wyack, he sold the Rockaway property to his uncle Daniel, of Merrick. The place was known as the "House at the Head of the Vly," and Daniel transferred the property by gift to his eldest son Daniel, who married Elizabeth Dusenberry. The latter owner added to it a property purchased from Richard Green and moved into the Green house, which thus became a Hewlett home and has so continued.

The "old house at the head of the Vly" was southeast of the Hewlett homestead at Hewlett, across the road and on the knoll facing the meadows. A generation or two later the frame was removed to the west of the homestead, and after 200 years' service it constituted the larger part of George T. Hewlett's carriage house.

When Daniel bought the Green property and for years after the house and outbuildings were nearly surrounded by virgin growth of timber. An immense gate on the Rockaway main highway opened to an inviting lane which, flanked by tall trees, led to the house. It is still told that Lewis S. Hewlett, a descendant of son Lewis who was settled here, said when he reached that gate on his way to court Hannah Hewlett, he felt it was the 'gate to Heaven." They were the great-great-grandparents of the reunion hosts.

When Daniel died in 1778 the homestead and land went to his eldest son Daniel, who in 1767 married Mary, daughter of Henry and Hannah Mott. Under its roof this couple reared a family of eight children. The older and younger sons having been provided for on the death of Daniel in 1816, the homestead and surrounding land went to his fourth son, George Mott Hewlett, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Oliver and Sarah Titus Hewlett. They were th parents of fourteen children, of whom Mr.s David Brewster Willets and George T. Hewlett were the last survivors.

From the branch of the family that removed from Rockaway to Woodbury has been retained a handsome china closet now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The descendants live at Cold Spring Harbor.

Of the Great Neck branch descending from George's son, George, there were few remaining. A representative name was that of George M. Hewlett, of Huntington, L.I.

Among interesting family relics is a carved English oak cupboard. This, of a middle seventeenth century pattern, was brought from England by George, the ancestor, and was possessed by George M. Hewlett, with several portraits of the earliest ancestors. A Dutch kas, also brought by George, was owned by Mrs. William E. Jones. Colonel Richard Hewlett's red silk army sash is at the Hewlett homestead at Hewlett, while the cannon given him by Governor Tryon from the British ship-of-war "Asia" on November 30, 1755, is at Cold Spring Harbor.

In the quaint Hewlett house at Woodbury notable, besides the china closet, for its secret stairway and trap doors, there were odd contrivances for hiding and sly escapes. The home was erected at East Woods about 1740 by John Hewlett 2d after his marriage to Hannah, daughter of Colonel John Jackson. The closet, secret stairs and trap doors must have been constructed with the house though probably not put to use until the American Revolution when the owner was captain of a local militia company. .."Justice John Hewlett" and "John Hewlett, Esq.", he it was who had been appointed Superintendent of Forage, and he was most zealous and diligent in his Majesty's service, levying on the patriots for supplies for the British army.

He had many Loyalist defendants in his family, among them the Townsends, his wife having been Sarah Townsend, while his principal source of protection was Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hewlett's battalion, stationed near, and Captain Charles Hewlett, serving under Richard.

John Jackson's family also being a power among the Whigs, the capture of Justice John was long delayed. He escaped arrest several times by disappearing through the small closet next to the china closet by the door that formed its rear wall, ascending the secret stairway through the trap door to a room above. Another set of stairs from a trap door led to the ground floor in an additional pathway to freedom. But in 1780 a negro man servant betrayed him to searchers, and he was located by the tick of his noisy watch and captured in his hiding place.

He was taken to Poughkeepsie and held for five months. The price he paid for his loyalty was high, for one civil suit after another was brought against him by the Whigs to recover the value of the supplies he had procured for the British. Since his mother country neither rewarded nor paid him, he was compelled to refund personally in every case. Having removed to Jamaica, he died there, but was buried in the family plot he had named Mount Nebo, near the old home at East Woods.

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Edited and Transcribed © Linda Pearsall Harvey