History

History resources for the visitor are apparent as one moves around the Hamptons villages and hamlets, what with the myriad local societies maintaining old buildings and even the fall Whalers Festival in Sag Harbor in which rowing teams compete in ersatz hunts. East Hampton’s Main Street, from Town Pond to Hook Mill, is dotted with centuries-old structures, some open to visitors.

Amagansett has the town’s marine museum. Southampton and Bridgehampton have fine historical museums. Montauk’s historical society has exhibits at the Lighthouse, and a group is working on opening a facility dedicated to the region’s Native Americans, whose presence on Long Island dates to at least 10,000 years ago.

Traces of the Native American presence from its earliest days here are few. Archaeologists have estimated the age of a few artifacts associated with Paleo-Indian hunters at 8,000 to 10,000 years, when the last glaciers were melting. Later settlements tended to be near bays and harbors, where shellfish were found. Agriculture arrived on Long Island much later, about 3,000 years ago; sites excavated in East Hampton show evidence of domesticated gourds, pokeweed, and sunflowers, among others, followed later by the introduction of beans and corn.

There is evidence that about 100 years before Europeans arrived on the scene, Native Americans here had begun to build what appear to be defensive fortifications on high ground. One, on what is called Fort Hill in Montauk, was known in Colonial times and was the site of many Native American burials. Many of the Montaukett and Shinnecock Tribes remain residents of the region today.

Europeans sailed past Long Island in the mid to late 16th century but did not come to live in what would come to be known as the Hamptons for many decades. Lion Gardiner is thought to be the first non-Native American resident, having been granted the island in what is now East Hampton Town in 1639 as a thank-you from the crown for his role in the Connecticut Pequot Wars.

More colonists followed, most English or Welsh, setting up an initial village along the Northwest Harbor shoreline in East Hampton in 1648. East Hampton first was called Maidstone, after the English district from which many of the early colonists had come in the great Puritan migration. During this time, eastern Long Island was part of the Connecticut Colony, culturally and linguistically separate from the Dutch influence around Manhattan.

East Hampton Main Street was laid out around Town Pond and a central commonage for livestock. A few of the lots remain in the hands of descendants of the original families. People subsisted on agriculture and fishing mostly, with the occasional whale hunt to extract the valuable oil, which could be rendered out into barrels and shipped to market by boat.

Mulford Farm, which c