Long Island, NY Fires, May 1862


Immense Destruction of Property.

Over 100,000 Acres of Woodland Devastated.

The disastrous fires in the Pine woods of Suffolk county, Long Island, last week, have been briefly alluded to in our telegraphic columns. The first fire broke out near the southwestern line of Brookhaven, at a place called Rock Hill, about noon of Wednesday, May 7. It was caused by a man burning brush in clearing up some new land; and the high, cold, dry winds which have prevailed over the island for a fortnight past, to a degree seldom known, having rendered the combustible material with which the woods were littered as inflammable as tinder, it swept down upon the village of Speonk, in Southhampton, threatening its entire destruction, which was only averted by energetic efforts on the part of the residents. In its way it consumed a barn and out buildings, with some cattle, belonging to MR. EBENEZER JAYNE. The fire was finally got under on the same day, but not until it had extended over some 8,000 to 10,000 acres, and done damage to the estimated amount of $40,000.

The same dry and high winds continued during the remainder of the week, and the danger of ignition from accident or carelessness increased. On Friday forenoon at an early hour, MR. J. L. G. SMITH, residing at St. James, near the eastern line of division between Smithtown and Brookhaven, and about twenty-eight miles west of Riverhead, in burning some brush on a field he was clearing lost control of the fire, which communicated to the adjoining woods. An alarm was raised and men promptly collected to stop its advance; but, aided by a fresh wind from west-northwest, it rapidly spread in an easterly direction, taking in its course the tract of timberedland, mostly pine, which stretches along between the North and middle country roads, and known as the “North Plains,” being from three to five miles in width and covered with a varying growth of pine, mixed with some oak. Along this plain the fire extended, before it was subdued on Saturday night, to the extreme eastern limit of Brookhaven, or to near Wading river in Riverhead town, a distance of twenty-three to twenty-five miles. Over this entire space it raged and revelled[sic] in unabated fury. Nor was this all. When towards nightfall of Friday, after some hours of strenuous but unavailing exertions to arrest the headway of the flames, the people of the region round about found that a fork of fire had shot ahead of them to the northeast some one and a half miles, and was menacing New Village, Selden, &c., they despaired of checking the outward movement of the fire, and turned their attention to confining it, as far as they could, to the woods, thus saving their buildings, enclosures, &c. In this they were partially successful, and by constant watchfulness and untiring assiduity all that night, it was kept pretty near in line of the “Plains.” At five A. M. of Saturday it passed back of Coram to the north, and here it destroyed the first building, a barn belonging to CHAS. RIDER. From this time the wind, which had been fresh from west-northwest, began to increase in violence, and blew a gale, carrying the fire before it to the east with terrible fury. It had reached opposite East Middle Island by eight A. M., and still kept on east, crossing the valley of the picturesque little stream called, on the old Long Island records, East Connecticut river, and reaching “The Ridge” on the middle country road, opposite Yaphank, at about twelve M. Its broad columns of lurid red light, wreathed with dense volumes of odorous but suffocating smoke from the resinous pine wood, still drove one before the wind; and now, say at three P. M. when its head had penetrated beyond a line drawn north from Manor station, a new and yet more formidable aspect of the already frightful calamity arose.

Continued on page 2