About Roslyn

Bryant Room Local History Collection

excerpted from Roslyn Then and Now

The Name Roslyn
On September 7, 1844, forty-two residents signed a resolution which read in part: "We the undersigned, inhabitants of Hempstead Harbor, Queens County, Long Island, State of New York, finding a serious inconvenience in our village, particularly in our Post Office arrangements, from the similarity of names between Hempstead, N. Hempstead, Hempstead Branch and Hempstead Harbor, several miles distant from each other and on different post routes, so that sometimes from misdirection of correspondents and editors, but oftener from that of distant post masters, it is about an equal chance whether letters or papers arrive at one or another of the above mentioned places... do therefore resolve, that the above mentioned Post Office and Village shall hereafter be known by the name Roslyn..." The Post Office Department approved the change on October 24, 1844.Ebenezer Close, a signer of this resolution, stated that the rules set up specified a short, pleasant-sounding name which had not been chosen for any Post Office in the United States. Of the names proposed, only ten fitted the rules. Of these ten, the name Roslyn, said to have been proposed by Mr. Cairns because our valley reminded him of Roslin, Scotland, received the most votes and was subsequently approved by all.In spite of this evidence, a legend has grown up that our village was named Roslyn because of the unhappy love affair of a village girl who failed to escape with her soldier lover when his Scottish Regiment left the "Harbor" at the end of the Revolutionary War with bagpipes playing "Roslin Castle," a popular song of the day.
First Settlers
It was in the year 1643 that John Carman and Robert Fordham sailed into these waters. Can you imagine what they saw? Look at the Harbor and pretend that there are no houses, no buildings of any kind, no boats or barges, no sand pits, no power lines, no roads, only water, sky, and heavily wooded hills.They may have seen Indians on shore or in canoes. There may have been small Indian settlements on shore. We do not know.John Carman and Robert Fordham were looking for a favorable place to settle, for themselves and for their friends, who had recently come from England and were staying with settlers who had come from England before them and settled in Stamford, Connecticut.It is believed that these two men landed somewhere in Roslyn Village and proceeded inland to explore the country. I should have said "at the Head of the Harbor," for there was no Roslyn Village; in fact, it was not called Roslyn until many years later. At first, it was just the Head of the Harbor and later Hempstead Harbor.They probably took the easiest way south, which was what is now Main Street and Roslyn Road, but these roads at best would have been only Indian trails through the woods. They traveled south until they came to the vast level expanse of grassland or prairie which began around Hillside Avenue or Jericho Turnpike and covered that part of the Island included in the villages of New Hyde Park, Mineola, Garden City, Westbury and Hempstead, and which became known as the Hempstead Plains. THey were pleased with this grassland, for they would not have to clear the land of the forest before they could plow and sow. It also provided excellent pasture for their cattle.Near the location of the present Town Hall in Hempstead they selected the site for their village. They chose this spot, it is said, because there are two small brooks joined to flow south into the bay. They were afraid of prairie fires, and for that reason built their homes on the banks of the streams so that they would have water. The streams would also serve as fire breaks, so that all would not be lost in a single fire.The following year, 1644, the settlers came, and the village of Hempstead was settled. As there were no roads in those days, all goods and supplies were carried as much as possible by water, and the water nearest Hempstead to the north is Hempstead Harbor. A quick look at the map of Long Island will show this. Some will ask, "Why not go south from Hempstead to the water? It is shorter and the land is flat, while you cannot get out of Hempstead Harbor without climbing a hill."Look at the map again. The only way they could go by boat from Freeport or Baldwin to either New Amsterdam to the west or the English settlements in New England to the north-east would be to go out into the open ocean. Using the harbor to the north they could sail to the New England ports on Long Island Sound or west to New Amsterdam through sheltered waterways. Have you been to Jones Beach? Do you remember the waves? Also, the harbors on the north shore of Long Island were deeper than the bays and inlets on the south shore, so larger boats could be used.We can imagine, therefore, that from the year 1644 on, there were more and more boats to be seen in the harbor at which we are looking.About 1701 the Grist Mill was built, and the seaport for Hempstead began to grow in importance. The farmers living inland brought their grain to the mill, where it could be ground into flour and shipped right from the mill to New York or the New England ports.
Permission to reproduce, publish or display whole text articles must be obtained from the Bryant Library Archivist.