The Summer of 1872
The 1872 Summer season at the new Prospect House must have been a very exciting one, and heady for the incorporators. Between this first season and the season of 1873, over 100 lots were sold.
The son of the Reverend Hill described boat loads of potential purchasers arriving to participate in auctions for lots. The most popular lots were by the sea and around the Grove. The Camp Meeting in the Grove that summer attracted 2,000 people.
In the spirit of Wesleyan Grove on Martha’s Vineyard and Cedar Grove on the New Jersey shore, the original lots in Copeland’s plan had been very small. But, the needs of the middle class people who came to the Island that first summer were changing. Although they would not build very big houses, they wanted houses that would require more lots, so most purchasers purchased several adjacent lots at a time.
The ferry between the Island and Greenport had been owned by Benjamin Sisson, but he sold it to Frederick Beebe in October 1871. Beebe purchased a small steamer which had been used in the Menhaden fishery. He refitted it and put it into service as a ferry during the summer months. It was called the “Cambria.” Beebe sold the ferry franchise to his brother-in-law Isaac Reeve who turned it over to the Grove and Camp Meeting Association in 1873. Reeve continued to captain the ferry for several years.
The first sales of lots took place on December 20, 1872 to Jesse Barker, Alexander Lovell, and Herbert Lovell, all of Brooklyn.
Next were 50 deeds all dated on February 10, 1873. Probably no one appeared on Shelter Island in February. All summer and fall, people had picked out their lots, signed purchase contracts, and then, when things were quieter in the winter and the money was in hand, a clerk drew up all the deeds and dated them February 10, 1873.
An End Note: William B. Hill created a notebook in which he recorded all of the deeds out of the Shelter Island Grove and Camp Meeting Association from 1872 through the rest of the century.
The listings are by date deeds were recorded in Riverhead. This book was duplicated, by typing, probably in the 30s. Both books, handwritten and typed, are in the possession of the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners’ Association. A computer data base of these records was created by the authors, together with a data base of all deeds and mortgages referred to in this paper.