The Collections of
Oysterponds Historical Society

OHS holds one of the most significant collections representing a single location on Long Island. The collection has more than 60,000 items dating to the earliest days of European settlement, nearly all collected from Orient and East Marion. The collection of documents and photographs has more than 11,500 cataloged items with many more awaiting inventory. The library consists of more than 4,600 books about Oysterponds history and that of the surrounding region.

Major strengths of the collection include:

  • Manuscripts and documents
  • Textiles including quilts, coverlets, etc.
  • 18th and 19th century furniture and ceramics
  • Early 19th century portraits
  • Late 19th century ship portraits
  • Scrimshaw
  • Logbooks and journals from whaling voyages
  • 20th century photographs, etchings, and engravings by William Steeple Davis
  • Journal of Augustus Griffin, who lived from 1767-1866
  • Large costume collection
  • Farming and fishing tools and equipment

In 2018 the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation awarded Oysterponds Historic Society a grant of $53,330 to develop a comprehensive collections care plan. (Read the press release here.)

Collection Spotlight


Maker unknown. Linen and wool, c. 1775-1790. 4 x 8 1/4 inches

This flame-stitch needlework pocketbook, or wallet, is one of the earliest and finest textiles in the OHS collection, most likely dating from the last quarter of the 18th century. It is a lovely example of early American needlework: colorful, very carefully worked, and in excellent condition. Pocketbooks such as this were popular from about 1740 to 1790 and were used by both men and women to hold valuables such as currency and documents. The flame-stitch, or bargello, design–with its characteristic zigzag pattern–is highly decorative and was very popular throughout the eighteenth century. The cotton binding and straps may be a later replacement. This pocketbook was a gift of Jean and Ruth Schneider of East Marion.

Blue Resist Quilt

Maker unknown. Linen, c. 1790. 77 x 69 1/4 inches

This wholecloth quilt dating from the late-18th century is a remarkable survival. The blue dye is indigo and the overall design is achieved by a technique called resist printing. Fabrics with a blue pattern on a white background are far less common than white designs on an indigo background. Both would have been very labor-intensive to produce and therefore very costly. Found mostly in America, they are generally referred to as “American blue resist” but textile historians have yet to discover exactly where and how these extraordinary fabrics were made. The quilt was the gift of Frances Martin. It had been purchased from the estate of Benjamin Dwight Latham of Orient Point. Many Latham families still live in Orient.

Double-Handled Pot with Lid

Maker unknown. Earthenware, 1800. 13 ¼ x 9 inches.

This important example of American earthenware pottery is inscribed: Captain Jonathan Terry / Oysterponds / October 6th 1800. We do not know precisely where it was made, but it is likely that it was made for Captain Terry on Eastern Long Island or in Connecticut. The pottery works nearest to Oysterponds was the Stirling Pottery Factory in Greenport, but it was not established until about 1819. The Terry pot is very similar to one in the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate in Delaware, which has an inscribed date–extraordinarily–just one day later than the Oysterponds Pot. The Terry family has been on the North Fork since the earliest European settlement in the 17th century. This pot was given by Marian Edwards and her brother Irving Latham. Their mother was a Terry.

Indenture Between Jack, “a free black man,” and Frederick King

November 17, 1811, 12 ¾ x 8 inches.

This document concerns an agreement between Jack, “a free black man,” and Frederick King, “mariner.” They agree herein that Jack’s young daughter, Julia, shall be “placed and bound out as a Servant” for 11 years–until she reaches the age of 18. A standard form used for apprentices was clearly adapted for this particular circumstance; in the section of the document referring to school, the word “arithmetic” is crossed out. Apparently this requirement was not considered necessary for a girl who was destined to become a servant: reading and writing were deemed sufficient. Julia was expected to keep Captain King’s secrets and “not embezzle, waste or lend” his goods. For his part, King agreed to provide Julia with “meat drink washing, lodging and apparel both woolen and linnen” and to send her to school at least one month a year. At the end of her term she would receive “a good English bible and a new suit of cloths.”

Miniature Portrait of Cleora Griffin

John Wood Dodge. Watercolor on ivory, c. 1830. 3 3/8 x 2 ¾ inches.

Cleora Griffin, daughter of Augustus and Lucretia Griffin, was born in 1799. She was married in 1830 to James McNeil, who died at age eighty-three on February 14, 1864. Cleora died the very next day. By their very nature, portrait miniatures are personal and intimate, often tokens of love or affection. This was painted about the time of Cleora’s marriage to McNeil and was very likely a gift from one to the other. The artist, John Wood Dodge, was born in New York in 1807, studied at the National Academy of Design, and was exhibiting there at the age of twenty-two. By the 1830s he was one of the most prominent painters of miniatures in New York. This miniature is a gift of Fred Griffin Prince.

July 4, 1776

J. A. Woodside. Oil on wood, 1832. 54 ½ x 45 ½ inches.

This painting celebrating Independence Day is dated July 5, 1832–56 years and one day after the momentous event it commemorates. At five feet framed, it is the largest painting in the OHS collection and was the gift of George Latham. The center of the painting is dominated by a large, winged female figure. At the time it was painted, no single allegorical figure had been definitively established to represent the ideals of the new republic; the figure here, however, most likely represents Liberty or Columbia. Forming a circle around the central figure are 13 roundels, each depicting the state seal of one of the 13 original colonies and arranged counterclockwise in geographical order, beginning with New Hampshire at the left of the central ellipse that frames the date July 4, 1776, and ending with Georgia.

Logbook of the Ship Lucy Ann Bound on a Whaling Voyage

Captain Edwin P. Brown. August 31, 1847, to July 7, 1849. 12 ½ x 15 ¾ inches.

Captain Edwin P. Brown was Orient’s only whaling captain. Captain Brown was born in Oysterponds in 1813, one of 10 children. Master of his first ship by the age of 28, he married Martha Brewer of Southwick, Massachusetts, in 1843, following his first voyage as captain of a whaling vessel. After his very successful career in whaling, he retired to Orient in the 1850s. Captain Brown died in 1892. The voyage on the Lucy Ann recorded in this logbook lasted just under two years. Captain Brown was accompanied by his wife, and her account of the voyage makes for one of the most interesting diaries in the OHS collection. At this point, he had left his wife in Honolulu to await the birth of their child and was seeking whales in the North Pacific. The four whale stamps with blanks record the number of barrels of whale oil taken from each whale. The tails of diving whales indicate whales pursued but lost. The logbook was a gift of Captain Brown’s granddaughter Mildred Prince and great-granddaughter Barbara Hughes.

Civil War Diary

John Henry Young. 1865. 5 ¼ x 6 ½ inches.

John Henry Young was born in Orient in 1840 and enlisted, as did so many young men from Orient and East Marion, as a Union soldier in the Civil War, serving with the 127th U.S. Volunteers. Although injured in the war, he survived and returned to Orient, where he became a farmer, living until 1921. His diaries were given to OHS by Beverly Lomas. This volume for the year 1865 begins on January 1: “The new year which today begins its accustomed round finds me severely wounded in the Field-Hospital at Deveaux Neck. Cousin George [Latham] lies by my side also severely wounded.” His cousin died on January 12. On January 30: “A lot of Sherman’s men came to the Hospital.” Then, on February 19, a momentous event, written in large letters: “Great news. The Fall Of CHARLESTON..”

Bug Light

William Steeple Davis. Photograph, undated. 3 ¾ x 4 ¾ inches.

William Steeple Davis (1884-1961), a painter, illustrator, printmaker, and photographer, spent most of his life in Orient. His legacy of thousands of glass-plate negatives and vintage photographs is remarkable and forms one of the most significant collections within the holdings of OHS. These photographs provide an important record of the physical appearance of Orient and East Marion over many decades in the first half of the 20th century. They frequently capture the mood of Oysterponds, with its ever-changing light, as he patiently photographed the same scenes at various times of day and in all seasons. Bug Light is a charming mansard-roofed lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach in Orient Harbor. It was destroyed by fire in 1963 and rebuilt some years later. The sloop shown on the right is the Black Eagle, a well-known Orient fishing vessel owned by several local families. This photograph was the gift of the William Steeple Davis estate.

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