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At the eastern extremity of Long Island is a quaint old town called Southold; and one of the oldest and most interesting landmarks of the place is the Case House, which was erected in the year 1647, at which time the only communication with it was by water. A writer, in speaking of the house, has said: "Around this old building cluster many romantic legends and quaint stories, interwoven with the names of men and women who have figured in the early history of Suffolk County."
In those early times this house was considered quite an aristocratic affair. It stands about a mile south of Horton's Point, where the settlers of Suffolk landed in 1640. In 1673 the Dutch commissioners, supposing themselves, like Crusoe, monarchs of all they surveyed, paid a visit to this town for the purpose of making Thomas Moore high-sheriff; but, unlike Crusoe, they found they were not so, for the settlers, indignant at the idea of being made Dutch whether they would or not, protested against this aggressive measure and desired the authority of the commissioners to act in their regard; and they immediately voted to connect themselves with the commonwealth of Connecticut.
John Ledyard, a son of this old house, married the daughter of Judge Young, and afterwards removed to the township of New London, Conn.; the place near Groton is named Ledyard after him. His eldest son, also named John, returned to Southold and married the famous beauty of the time, Abigail, the daughter of Robert Hempstead.1 Mr. Ledyard engaged in the West Indian trade, but died at the early age of thirty-five years; Mrs. Ledyard retained much of her former beauty, and afterward married Dr. Micah Moore, the beloved physician of that section.
Her eldest son, John, afterwards known as Ledyard 1 The city of Hempstead is named after this family.
the Traveller, upon the second marriage of his mother, went to reside with his paternal grandfather in Connecticut. After making his studies he attempted law, but his mother, desirous of having him become a missionary to the Indians, had him placed at Dartmouth College with that intention. During his stay there he absented himself for several months, and upon his return he excused his absence as arising from a desire to visit the Six Nations and study Indian life. Whether it was the experience he had with them or a disinclination for the ministry that caused him to abandon the project, is not known; but he soon after presented himself at his mother's house, having sailed down the Connecticut River and across the sound, master of his own vessel; this original affair being a dug-out, or canoe made from the trunks of a tree hollowed out in Indian fashion. Soon after, his adventurous spirit caused him to run away from home and embark on a ship bound for the Mediterranean.1 Arriving in London as Captain Cook was preparing for his third voyage around the world, Ledyard was introduced to him and produced such a favorable impression upon the bold navigator that he readily accepted him as an assistant. Ledyard was with Captain Cook when he was killed by the cannibals. Although Ledyard remained in the British service, he refused to bear arms against his native country. In 1782 the manof-war to which he belonged arrived off Huntington, and, obtaining leave of absence, he paid a visit to his mother. Finding some British officers in her parlor, he did not make himself known; and he had changed so much during his eight years of absence that he was not recognized. During the visit some familiar ex
According to the Records of the Genealogical Society, Ledyard had "just cause" for leaving his relatives. A commentator remarks that the fact that people sometimes retain the property belonging to others is not calculated to keep those who are wronged around the ancestral home.
pression attracted the lady's attention; and, after scrutinizing him for a moment, she pressed him to her heart, forgetting the presence of strangers, so great was her joy; their astonishment was considerable until the matter was explained. In 1785 Ledyard visited Paris, and was received most kindly by Mr. Jefferson, United States minister at the time, and also by Lafayette. Desirous of fitting out an exploring expedition, he found Captain Paul Jones a ready co-operator in his plan; but circumstances prevented their carrying it into effect. During one of his journeys he attempted to cross the Gulf of Bothnia on the ice, but upon reaching the middle he found open water, and was obliged to alter his course and walk around the whole coast of the gulf, although it was the dead of winter. By the time he reached St. Petersburg he had journeyed upwards of fourteen hundred miles in seven weeks. At Irkootsk he was arrested as a spy, and thought he got off very easily when the empress ordered two guards to accompany him to the frontiers of Poland, and there dismiss him with the threat of being hanged if he ever entered Russia again. It is most probable that he did not. After travelling over the most of the then known part of the world, he died at Cairo, as he was preparing to cross the African continent westerly from Sennaar. It is said of him that he was adventurous beyond the conception of ordinary men, yet wary and considerate; and he appeared to be formed by nature for achievements of hardihcod and peril; for capacity of endurance, resolution, and physical vigor, he was one of the most remarkable of modern travellers; and had he possessed means equal to his zeal, his name would doubtless have been associated with important discoveries, as it now is with wonderful and romantic, but unprofitable adventures. Writing to Mr. Jefferson, he utters a beautiful and refined compliment. Expressing his appreciation of the
former's kindness while in Paris, he writes: "I shall never think my letter an indifferent one when it contains the declaration of my gratitude and my affection for you; and this, notwithstanding you thought hard of me for being employed by an English association, which hurt me while I was in Paris. You know your own heart; and if my suspicions are groundless, forgive them, since they proceed from the jealousy I have, not to lose the regard you have in times past been pleased to honor me with. You are not obliged to esteem me, but I am obliged to esteem you, or take leave of my senses and confront the opinions of the greatest and best characters I know. If I cannot therefore address myself to you as a man you regard, I must do it as one that regards you, for your own sake and for the sake of my country, which has set me the example."
His relative, Freneau's wife, used to tell an amusing story of an unexpected visit from him upon his return from one of his perilous adventures. She was seated by a window in Middleton Point engaged in reading, when she heard the hasty galloping of a horse, and suddenly felt herself embraced most warmly, and then heard the retreating gallop of the same down the street; and all in shorter time than it takes to tell it. Her feeling of indignation cooled down later on, upon learning that the author of the affair was her wild, funloving relative; for no one could be angry with Jack Ledyard.
After the battle of Long Island, in which, as we
1 A biographer of Ledyard has written, "Ledyard gave Jefferson a great deal of valuable information, which, for political reasons, Jefferson did not publish, but which was of great benefit to him in the conduct of foreign affairs when he became president." He likewise says that the success of the administration in pushing forward the contest which made the Pacific the western boundary, in opposition to the Hudson Bay Co., and also in opposition to a great many American Congressmen, was partly due to information given by Ledyard in the early days.
have seen, the patriots were defeated, the British. occupied the eastern extremity of the island, making their headquarters at the Vail1 house, which was not far from Mrs. Moore's residence. The officers frequently visited that lady, probably attracted by her charming daughters. Mrs. Moore was a thorough patriot, but nevertheless entertained her guests most hospitably; keeping, however, a sharp eye on her young people. A ship lay at anchor in the sound in sight of the house, whose commander very frequently was a guest of the lady. Her third and last child by the name of Ledyard, Jerusia, looked favorably on her suitor, although he wore the uniform of a British naval officer, and was fighting against her country; but her mother looked less favorably upon his suit. One day Jerusia was missing, and the ship gave tokens of a sudden departure. Summoning some men, the determined mother had herself taken in a boat alongside the ship, and demanded her daughter; but gave her consent to the nuptials, provided the ceremony was performed in the little Puritan church in the village, which was done.
The oldest daughter by Mrs. Ledyard's second marriage, Rebecca, married Captain Jonathan Landon, who commanded the brig "Georgia" of historic fame; and Julia, the youngest, became the wife of Matthias Case and succeeded her mother as mistress of the Ledyard-Moore-Case house. The latter name it bears at the present day. For years the town meetings were held at this house; and whenever there was a question of a vote it was taken on the lawn in front, the voters being drawn up in lines.2
1 Both this house and the Case house are yet standing.
2 Connected with this family are: Rev. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, D.D., Lewis Cass Ledyard, Horatio Seymour, John Seymour, Ex-Gov. E. D. Morgan, Thomas Seymour of Connecticut, Governor and Congressman, Senator George Ledyard, and the Baroness von Kettler.