There was a time many years ago when if you were in New York City you might say I’m going out to the Hamptons, and mean by that the Villages of Bullhead, Maidstone, Good Ground and Franklinville. I know that sounds a little goofy, but that was the case.
The Village of Maidstone was, in fact, what is now the Village of East Hampton. The first English settlers named it Maidstone when they got here in 1648. There’s a charming English town by that name, and they were of a mind to name it that just to make them think of the old country left behind.
However, different English settlers, from Lynn, Massachusetts, landed in what is now the Village of Southampton in 1640, and they named it Southampton, because there was a Southampton left behind. From there, with the Shinnecock Indians at their back, new settlers arriving in Southampton went east.
They founded a town next door they called Bullhead in 1644, but soon thereafter built a bridge across from Bullhead to Maidstone. The Bullheaders then decided to call their town Bridgehampton, and so after that they refused to call Maidstone anything but East Hampton. East Hampton was east of Bridgehampton and Southampton. It was all in a row. The Maidstoners felt the pressure and after a while got in line and decided to rename the place East Hampton just to keep things orderly.
Other settlers came to Southampton from Lynn and went west—the Shinnecocks watched them pass by—and soon came to a place on the other side of an inlet they called Good Ground. But after a while, seeing East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Southampton on the map, they decided in 1922 to dump the name Good Ground and instead call it Hampton Bays.
So Hampton Bays is what it is today, although in the early 20th century when it was still Good Ground somebody built a granite two-story hardware store downtown and etched the name Good Ground up high on its side. For a long time “Good Ground” has looked down on Main Street, Hampton Bays.
The Village of Franklinville existed for countless years on the North Fork, as the easternmost hamlet of the Town of Riverhead. In 1890, with the railroad now built through to Greenport, the postal service decided to put a post office at Franklinville. But when the postal service looked into it, they realized that there already was a Franklinville, New York, upstate.
Having two Franklinville post offices would be confusing, and so the local residents—there were only a few dozen of them living along the main street there—decided the name ought to be changed. One group wanted to call it Sequana. Another group went for Laurel. A vote was taken, probably in the post office. The vote was Laurel 13, Sequana 9, so Laurel is what it became and has been ever since.
Every day when I leave my house on Three Mile Harbor Road and want to head down to the Montauk Highway in Amagansett, I take Abrahams Path, which goes from Three Mile Harbor and ends at the Montauk Highway at the other. It crosses three intersections in getting down there, and on two of them the continuation of Abrahams Path goes straight along. But the third cross does not.
Heading toward Montauk Highway about halfway along, Abrahams Path just ends. If you turn right at this intersection, however, about a hundred yards down you make a left and you are back on Abrahams Path. It seems to suggest that when the people built Abrahams Path, one group started it at Three Mile Harbor Road and headed south while another group started at the Montauk Highway and went north, and when these two groups of road builders met at this intersection—it is the Springs-Fireplace Road—they could see each other, but things didn’t line up properly. Rather than fix it, they decided to just finish the job with this jag in it. People would get used to it. Frankly, I never have.
This kind of jag happens in several other places in the Hamptons, and every one of them likely happened because of poor surveying. In these other cases, however, we do not have a clue whose fault it was. In the case of the one here near my home, we do. Right, Abraham? Shame on you, Abraham.
Incidentally, in recent years, the Town of Southampton has been trying mightily to improve a rather down-at-the-heel part of that town known as Flanders. Improvements are already underway. And I hear tell that they are considering changing the name Flanders to Flanderhampton. Speaking personally, I think that is just one big bad idea and I hope they don’t do it.