Creation of Nassau County


The Creation of Nassau County  

The small rural towns in Nassau County eagerly awaited New Year's Eve in 1899 and the beginning of the 1900s. Frank Margot of  Plainview witnessed the great celebration as the new year was rung in and "the large pickle and cabbage salting factories set up a din with their whistles blowing a full blast and run by steam. There were whistles blowing at at the brickyard and the church bells rang for hours." It was a particularly memorable time for residents of the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, since the end of the old year marked Nassau County't first year of existences as an independent county. Less than two years before, on January 22, 1898, a public meeting had been called at Allen's Hotel in Mineola to discuss the creation of a new county. The hotel was crowded as P. Halstead Scudder called the meeting to order and indicated the alternatives that faced the residents of the towns. The possibility of annexation to Greater New York was dismissed, to the cheers of the audience, as entirely out of the question. Another, the idea of creation a new county by combining Queens County's easter towns with different towns of western Suffolk, seemed unlikely of adoption. Scudder concluded that the organization of a new county was the only solution to the problem which confronted them.

Before the general discussion began, the meeting choose officers, headed by Benjamin D Hicks of North Hempstead as chairman. Hicks had been a leader in previous attempts to create a new county. For his long years of work in striving for an independent county he deserves to be called the Father of Nassau County. A popular and successful Quaker banker, he was an intelligent and active partisipant in all types of community improvement, Archer B Wallace, son of the assemblyman, was chosen secretary of the meetings. Discussion began after J B Coles Tappen of Oyster Bay made the motion:

Resolved that it is the sense of this meeting that the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay withdraw from the county of Queens, and that a new county to include the said towns be formed. A few dissidents took up the question of alternative actions. North Hempstead resident W W Cock favored annexation to Suffolk County while John H Carll wanted to join New York City, but neither proposal received support. Inclusion of Huntington and Babylon in a new county was urged by Fred Herzog, Sr., of Oyster Bay. General James Pearsall of Glen Cove, who had been a member of the assemble in an attempt twenty years before to create a new county, declared it would be impossible to get such a measure through the legislature. Many of those in attendance felt, with Edward N Townsend of Hempstead, that "the county would be an inexpensive on to govern." James H Ludlam of Oyster Bay also stressed the economy aspects, indicating people from his area wanted lower taxes. In appropriate Long Island fashion, D N Munger closed the subject by stating that "they should consider not what should be taken in but what barnacles should be taken off."

The chairman called for a vote and Mr. Tappen's resolution was carried with only a few dissenting votes. James Ludlam of Oyster Bay then offered a motion which was unanimously adopted, as follows:

Whereas, It is for the best interest of the citizens of the towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay to withdraw from the county of Queens.

Resolved that......Supervisors Underhill, Smith and Denton be requested to obtain authority....to expend a sum, not exceeding $250. for each town in defraying any expenses.....in drafting and preparation of suck bills, as may be necessary to corry into effect the desire of the people to have a county free from entailing alliance with the great city of New York.

To pursue the action a committee was appointed composed of the following: P Halstead Scudder of Oyster Bay, Lott Vanderwater and William G Miller of Hempstead, Joseph H Bogert and Wilbur Lewis of North Hempstead, James Pearsall and James H Ludlam of Oyster Bay. The meeting closed with the proposal of several names for the count including Matinecock, Norfolk, Nassau and Bryant. Thus began the final and successful attempt to create Nassau County.

From the Book Nassau, Suburbia, USA, Edward J Smits copyright 1974